what is the trinity?

I have so many questions about the trinity, I’ve heard many explanations of the trinity that all seem to contradict each other, so I’d like to know, what is the true belief of the catholic church on God, The Eternal father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and The Holy Ghost. I’ve heard the explanation that one person can have three titles. For example, a man can be a father, a son, and a brother… But that made me wonder, how can Jesus be his own father? And why would he say that his Father is greater than him if he was just talking about himself? I’ve also seen a picture that says, none of them are each other, but that they are all God, that one makes more sense, three people with the same title. And I’ve also heard of a trinity that God is like water, can be solid liquid, or gas.That one means that God is a shape shifter and is one person but can change his form from The father, to the son, to the holy ghost, and back again. Also, why don’t catholics just use the biblical term for them, “The Godhead”? In my religion, we call it that and we believe that The Father has a body of flesh and bone. And has begotten The Son in flesh and bone. And that the Holy Spirit has not a body of flesh and bone Thanks for reading my question! Please respond!

The best place to get a full explanation of the Catholic doctrine on the Trinity is in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. CCC 232-267 would be the best place to start.

The Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith. It is foundational because it tells us about who God is. Since God is infinite and we are finite, we are never going to fully understand Him as He is. But He has revealed Himself to us, so we can know things about Him (such as the fact that He is a Trinity of Persons).

As such, one of the main ways we try to wrap our heads around this mystery is through analogy. But pretty much any analogy of the Trinity will lead you into heresy if you push it too far. For example, talking about the Persons of the Trinity as being three different titles is pretty much what the modalists said (that the Persons of the Trinity are just different “modes”). That’s a heresy. :stuck_out_tongue:

I think I know the picture you are referring to and, honestly, that’s the best image I can think of with regards to the Trinity. That’s the one I always use. But, again, it’s not perfect mainly because it’s hard to reduce God to a handy-dandy little diagram.

Ultimately, the Trinity is all about relationship. The three Persons are distinct from each other by their relationship to each other. But they are unmistakably One God.

Incidentally, I have heard plenty of Catholic theology professors use the term “Godhead” (and doing a word search of the Catechism, it is used four times there). I don’t think many Catholics use it in every day speech because it sounds a little odd to most. :o

God bless, and welcome to CAF! :wave:

What makes them the same and what makes them different? And thank you! I feel welcome :slight_smile:

The Father, the Son (Who is Jesus), and the Holy Spirit are the Three Divine Persons in the One and only God. They are consubstantial, co-eternal, and co-equal with one another in the One and only God and share one and only one Divine Essence. The Son is eternally begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. The Three Divine Persons are not each other, but are all fully God. It was only the Son Who took on a human nature and became man along with His eternally divine nature, with both natures hypostatically unified in one Person, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus says that the Father is greater than He, because, while in His divinity He is equal to the Father, in His humanity He is inferior and He wants to show us the importance of humility.

Yes, obviously Jesus, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, being both fully God and fully man, has a body and soul. But, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

There is absolutely NO SUCH THING as “shapeshifting,” so don’t you dare ever say that again.

Here’s an analogy I like: FIRE.

A fire consists of the flame, the heat, and the light. None can be said to be any of the others, and the fire can’t be a fire without any. Also, the heat and light both proceed from the flame (although there it admittedly doesn’t leave much room for the filioque, the belief that the Holy Spirit also proceeds from the Son)

Also, I remember a saint came up with that analogy, but I can’t remember which one.

Are you mad at me? Sorry I’m just trying to figure out what you believe. When you say consubstantial, do you mean they are of the same substance?

I’ve never heard that one before. I’m curious to know what the mystery is, not the answer to the mystery but just what you don’t know about the trinity. :o

I have heard it described before as God being one “what” and three “who”. He is one God and three persons. The divine God is what He is. Three divine persons are who He is.

Yes, consubstantial literally means “of the same substance”. In the case of God, it is of the same divine substance.

I think Richard must have misunderstood the shape-shifting comment. I just took it as you repeating some of the things you have heard in an effort to understand the Catholic position better. Some of us get defensive. :stuck_out_tongue: :o

It’s okay, I’ve met ruder catholics. You are a GREAT catholic! I swear I’ve never heard the word shapeshifter to describe the trinity, I just heard about the water analogy and that was what I came up with, I guess its true, there’s nothing new under the sun (:. But to clarify you refer to the one God as a ‘he’. Does that mean its like one person (Jesus) with three spirits, (his own, his fathers, and the holy ghost), and they all live in Christ’s body?

One of the most beautiful descriptions of the Most Holy Trinity you can find in the Athanasian Creed, written in the Vth or VIth century.

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Essence of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Essence of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood. Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood by God. One altogether; not by confusion of Essence; but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of the God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the living[16] and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies; And shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.

Actually, it would be more accurate to say it is one spirit (God) with three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

What you presented might be useful as an analogy, though. Is the Trinity similar to a person that had three distinct spirits inside them? I’ll have to think about that. My first instinct is one of caution, though. Rather than a “shape shifter”, it seems like “multiple personality disorder.” :stuck_out_tongue:

In talking about the Trinity, I think it can be helpful to use what is referred to as “apophatic theology”. That’s really just a fancy way of saying that it is often easier for us to understand what God is not rather than what He is. This plays out in the first four centuries of Church history where much of the doctrine of the Trinity was articulated in response to this or that person saying something about God and then the Church saying, “Well, no, it’s not quite like that.”

In other words, we know a wrong answer when we hear one. But it can be hard for us to come up with the right answer. :slight_smile:

The heat is not the Fire and the light is not the Fire, as those are merely attributes of the Fire. The Son and Spirit are not attributes of God; they ARE God. So this analogy (just like every other one out there) falls apart.

I’m sorry! :o I didn’t mean to write that so harshly…when I was writing it out on my tablet, I realized that it sounded a little harsh, but my tablet acted up and wouldn’t let me edit it, so I had to go and turn on my computer. But, my family is getting ready to go somewhere and I had to go to the bank, so I didn’t have time to edit it before the 20 minute time limit ran out.

So again, sorry for my harshness of the “don’t you dare.” I realize that it was a little rude to say it that way, but I was just appalled at the “shape-shifting” comment that it really upset me! Please, just don’t ever say that again, because it is absolutely NOT true at all and is offensive to me and, most definitely, to God.

As to the word consubstantial, yes, it means that the father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one in being with each other in the one and only Divine Essence.

May God bless you and enlighten you with the Truths of the Catholic faith! :slight_smile:

Thanks for sharing the intriguing questions! First, Post #10 by anixx is excellent! :thumbsup:

Here is the Catholic Encyclopedia Article on the Holy Trinity --> newadvent.org/cathen/15047a.htm
Here are a few highlights:

  1. The Son is God through eternal generation.
  2. The Holy Spirit is God through eternal procession.
  3. There is also a section on the Trinity as a Mystery.

In the following link, Dogmas #34-42 of the Dogmas of the Catholic Church are excellent knowledge! A special highlight for me is the Holy Spirit is God through a single spiration.

In consideration of what makes them different, Catechism #255 is very helpful! The main highlight is that the distinction of persons from one another resides solely in the relationship to one another.

As for a personal understanding of the Holy Trinity from the application of the Catholic Faith, consider the Last Supper/the Mass.
In the supper, the Eucharistic Host is God. The person holding the Eucharistic Host is God made Man. The person who receives full communion with the Eucharistic Host is man made God.

Therefore, there are three distinct persons who are fully God. The first person is God. The second person is God, who becomes human in order to demonstrate to humans how to be God. The third person is God, who becomes God through the second person who becomes human in order to demonstrate to humans how to become God.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration! I look forward to further discussion!

Exactly - a fire is simply a chemical reaction that gives off much heat and SOMETIMES visible light (not all fires are visible - sometimes, as with charcoal, the light given off is primarily in the ultraviolet spectrum). The fire itself, though, is simply an extremely rapid oxidation reaction - it’s like the rusting of iron/steel on a much, much faster scale.

Regardless, whatever analogy we come up for for the Trinity will always come far short (and, as stated before, can easily lead into heresy - unfortunately, due to our fallen nature as humans, the Trinity is beyond what we can imagine and fully understand). What we do know is that the Trinity is consubstantial (of the same substance). The Trinity is coeternal. The Trinity is One. Each Person in the Trinity has different attributes (The Father creates, the Son redeems, and the Spirit sanctifies). And the Trinity is Love itself.

:shrug: I still prefer it to the modalism and/or partialism inherent to the clover and water analogies. (The water analogy being solid/liquid/gas)

Lutheran Satire- St. Patrick’s Bad Analogies

Okay, so it calls the fire analogy Arianism. But in a world where almost every analogy contains modalism or partialism, it’s nice to have one in your repertoire that doesn’t. Even if it (like every other analogy) contains some amount of heresy, since it is, after all, a mystery beyond earthly comprehension.

Here’s two videos that explains the Trinity…



All I know is that the Trinity is a mystery and our measly human brains cannot be able to wrap our heads around this great mystery. I would rather be left in the dark so to speak and be surprised in the end.

The Trinity is difficult to explain in fully human terms. This is mainly because two of the three Persons in the Trinity cannot be described in human terms. Jesus (the Son) took a human form, for many reasons but one of these was so humans could see and believe. No human has ever seen God the Father, and likewise no human has ever seen the Holy Spirit. Artists have tried to portray an image of God the Father, but to be truthful, most of these images show Him to have the appearance of what Jesus may have looked like if He had lived as a human to an older age. That’s likely the furthest extent that the limited human mind can rationalize, but to say that God the Father “looks like that” is complete speculation.

The way I understand the Trinity is to say that God is the Creator of all things, He is the Savior of the world, and He is the guide of all we are to do. Ascribing these 3 roles to one God leads us to recognize 3 distinct individuals. It’s not an easy to grasp concept, especially in a scientific era where only one of the 3 has undisputed scientific proof of existence. (Many people deny the existence of an almighty creator, many more deny the existence of a holy spirit, but there is no way to deny the existence of a man who was crucified by the Romans for the crime of blasphemy and for “being the King of the Jews.”)

I recommend this book which is a pretty basic introduction to such matters without getting into abstruse theological language.


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