Understanding how each Person of the Trinity wholly possesses the nature of God


Can someone explain to me how the three Persons completely own the nature of God (ie they do not share the nature of God, but each completley owns this nature)?


Have you read the Catholic Encyclopedia article on the Trinity?


Only God, of course, can fully comprehend His own nature. We will not fully comprehend it even in heaven.

The important thing is to realize that God is one. That is his nature, that’s his essence. But God is more than a “what.” Like us, he expresses his nature in personhood. He is also a Who. Let us call him Father.

It’s hard to begin to apprehend the Trinity without first studying the ‘attributes’ of God:
He is omnipotent, eternal, omnipresent, all-holy, etc. Like us, his nature possesses the faculties of intellect and will.

But, leaving aside creation for the moment, what does God know?
First, he knows himself. To use an analogy, he has an idea of himself.

Now, I have an idea of myself. But my idea is not perfect. It does not fully and completely express myself.

God’s idea of himself, however, is perfect. There is nothing in himself which is not in the idea, including even personhood. So God’s “idea” of himself is called Logos, or the Word. The Word is not a distinct entity, but rather a distinct Person. Father and Son (Word) are persons who both flow from the one nature of God.

And Father and Son, distinct persons, express mutual love, a love which is itself so perfect that it is a distinct Person, the Spirit. Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct persons (who’s) but not distinct entities (what’s): each possesses totally and completely the one nature of God.

Now this whole thing sounds like some kind of “process.” Father generates the Son through his knowing himself. Father and Son generate the Spirit through mutual love.

But recall God’s attributes: He does not exist in time. There is no instant at which God can exist ‘before’ knowing himself and generating the Son. There is no instant at which Father and Son can exist ‘before’ generating the Spirit through mutual love. It’s all a simultaneity, not a process.


You’ll never “understand” it.

All you can do is believe it and experience it in prayer and sacrament.


How do we know its the case then. How did the Church reach this conclusion?


1 How is it that that when the Father communicated the Word (or when the Father communicated to the Word by an expression of Himself?), He did not not communicate His own Personage?

2 I have read/heard this kind of thology before, but I was always wondering if this is an official teaching of the Church or just a theory?

3 Thanks for your effort, you explain clearly, but does this explanation actually tell us why/how each Person fully owns the nature of God? Sorry to be a nuisance, but why couldnt the Trinity perfectly share their nature?

4 In Catholic theology, do we believe that the Persons each own this nature, but each owns this nature without sharing it? It doesnt make sense to me. Could it be that each Person owns their own nature of God, but those natures are completely identical with each other, and are somehow one? (this doesnt seem to make sense either)

I also wanted to say that I agree that no one will understand God and His existance, but how come we are able to explain factually that God communicated His nature to the Son, and the Holy Spirit was generated between the love of the Father and Son etc.

How did the Church allow itself to teach this amount of knowledge about God as fact, but declare the rest to be a mystery?


May I suggest that you check out the Athanasian Creed. It is the third of the ecumenical creeds and lays out, as clearly as possible in the case of a mystery of faith, the relationships of the Holy Trinity.


Thanks, I have just read the Athanasian creed for the first time in full. However, it does not address the questions I had. I basically knew/believe the contents of the creed. Read my previous posts more carefully, not just the title of the thread :).

Btw, I was a little bit startled at the courseness of parts the creed eg. “Whoever does not guard it whole and inviolable will doubtless perish eternally” and “One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully”.



I believe that God cannot “perfectly share” His nature because He is infinte and we are finite. By necessity our understanding must be incomplete.



Perhaps your sticking point is the relationship between nature and person. For the purposes of the this post I would define a nature as what a thing is and which defines its capabilities, and a person as who a thing is.

We often, I believe, find ourselves in some difficulty when we try to map backwards from the experience of the relationship between our own nature and our own person. For us, usually, one person possesses one nature.

I say usually, because there was a case where one person possessed TWO natures. Christ, therefore was one person, with two principles of activity. He could act with (or in, or out of if you prefer) His Divine Nature or with His human nature.

Christ, of course was a infinite Divine Person – but I don’t think it completely absurd to contemplate a finite person posessing two distinct natures. It has never happened as far as we know, but it might be possible.

So much for one person having more than one nature. But how about one nature being the principle of activity for more than one person? That, surely is beyond our own experience as finite creatures.

We must be clear too, that in our case, although each person has a similar nature (i.e. human nature), we do not have the identical nature. I do not act with your body (part of your nature remember!). I do not think with your intellect or choose with your will. I think with my own intellect and choose with my own will. I operate with my own nature.

The Father operates with His own nature as well. So does the Son, and so does the Holy Spirit. Except, in their case, it is the very same Divine Nature. They do not “share” the Divine Nature because they do not partition it. There is no way to partition it, in fact, because it is utterly simply without any parts. In any event, they each completely possess the whole of the Divine Nature.

Those are my thoughts on this, poor and stumbling as they are.


Why did the Church come to conclusion that the divine nature could not be partitioned?

Is there some sort of analogy that can be used to explain how the Persons each own their divine nature but do not share it? If not, how did the early Church come to this conclusion, was it by Greek philosophy? How did our church define what it didn’t/couldn’t know?



Firstly, I think it appropriate to state that objections to saying that the Divine Persons “share” the Divine Nature are based on a concept of “share” which implies partitioning. If we were to use the word “share” in the sense of “has the same” then you will likely not raise an objection. (I say this because you will find some theologians that use the word “share” in this innocuous sense.)

But to “share” as to partition is utterly impossible. The Divine Nature is utterly simple and not composed of parts nor able to be broken into parts. No parts = no partitioning.

To “share” in this sense also would imply distinction in regard to nature, i.e. The Father’s share, the Holy Spirit’s share, the Son’s share. If either of the Divine Persons have a distinct nature then you would have another God. We know through Divine Revelation and through the use of reason that there is only one God.

What are your thoughts?


Okay, are you able to tie this together with the second question from my last post?:slight_smile:


Going to the essence of the thread again: What was the reasoning behind the church stating that the Persons **each **wholly possess the same divine nature? How did the Church fathers, not knowing anything like this phenomenon beforehand, say that the Persons possess fully possess the divine nature?

Is there some sort of example/analogy that would explain how three creatures for example could fully own the same thing, while each possessing it fully?


Do you mean regarding an analogy of “own but do not share”?



Sorry for posting twice. Please read my last post.

  1. As to the reasoning: The fact of and the nature of the trinity is one of divine revelation and is not knowable through human reasoning alone.

  2. One analogy that I’ve heard is that of the clover leaf. Even though each lob of the the leaf is unique, they are of one nature, that of a clover leaf.


Thanks for responding

1 How did the Church reason this then? What divine revelation are you talking about?

2 I think you are going down a slightly different track. Anyway, in your example, does each part of the leaf possess fully the nature of the leaf?


In the way that God has one numeric nature, not that I know of. Part of the problem is that the natures of creatures all seem to be individuated – creatures can be said to have the same nature only in the abstract sense, such as you and I having a human nature. But our natures are numerically two (although abstractly the same “human nature”).

Perhaps we have reached the end of my usefulness in this discussion!



The chuch did not, and could not “reason” it. This knowledge cannot be apprehended by rational thought. It must be shown to use by God. From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Revelation may be defined as the communication of some truth by God to a rational creature through means which are beyond the ordinary course of nature.

2 I think you are going down a slightly different track. Anyway, in your example, does each part of the leaf possess fully the nature of the leaf?

I would say yes as its only nature is that which belongs properly to the clover plant. It has none of the nature of a pine tree or chimpanzee.

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