1+1+1=1, or What's Up with the Trinity?

Ok, exactly what is supposed to be going on with the Christian Triune God? I have heard that the differing persons of the Godhead are really personas, “masks” of the One God–which means they’re really all the same person, right? No, I am told, it doesn’t mean that.

I am told that it is the same God, only having different functions, like 3-in-1 oil. But still, then it is one thing, only doing different things, while Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit are supposed to be different persons.

I am told that the three-and-yet-one is an attempt to express God’s essential ineffability, that it shows explicitly how we cannot understand God by having God be so manifestly un-understandable. Yet if this is so, God being both invisible and pink would be just as useful for that purpose (to pull an example out of thin air… :wink: ).

Perhaps, I think, the persons of God exist in the same manner that different persons exist within a person with Multiple-Personality Disorder. Yet, if Jesus and God the Father and The Holy Spirit are all God and Perfect and One, how can they be different? How can one have something that another does not possess? And if they are not in even the slightest way “different” and they are all One God existing fully within each other, how are they separate persons?

Christians—any help? Jews, Muslims—any opinions? Various heathens, pagans, goddless infidels–any amusing observations?

It was explained to me once like this:

Liken God unto H2O…
Depending on the temperature of the H20 it may take the form of steam, water, or ice, but it is still H2O. The three facets of God have different roles, but they are all God.

It kind of makes sense to me, though I eagerly await Polycarp’s input on the subject. I am certain he will have a well reasoned explanation of the concept.

In less than eighty paragraphs?

Try here: http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/believe.html#Father

You might want to skip ahead to Article 1, paragraph two: The Father

“The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life.” etc.

I don’t think that explanation (ahem) hold water, Mars. H[sub]2[/sub]O is still H[sub]2[/sub]O, regardless of what state it’s in. In the Trinity, God is still God, except He’s not.

Gaud, I do think it’s an “ineffable” thing. In theory, you’re right that an invisible and pink god would convey the same thing, but in the evolution of the faith they just ended up with the three-in-one.

You know, 1+1+1 = 1 is no mathematical impossibility, because what we’re talking about isn’t math. One engine + one body + one electrical system = one car. 50 states = 1 country.

I don’t know the Christian party line on this, but I have personally always thought of the Trinity as being akin to a person being made up of body, mind, and soul. Each is separately identifiable and serves a different purpose, but they are all part of a single larger whole – and only one larger whole, not three. I consider Jesus, as the human Son of God, to be the manifestation of God in flesh. I consider the Holy Spirit to be manifestation of God in spirit. And I consider God to be, well, God – inclusive of Himself, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.

But frankly I don’t give it a ton of thought. I worship God, in the name of His Son, but I don’t try to separate out God from the Holy Spirit, for example. I do not worship Jesus (though I revere Him and though I do not believe it would be a sin if I did); I worship God.

Since you asked.

The “dual natures of Christ” is at least as mind-boggling. I guess a Christian could argue that three Gods for the price of one is no more bizarre or incomprehensible than, say, light being both a particle and a wave. I don’t understand the Trinity, but then I don’t really understand wave-particle duality, either. But the two natures of Jesus–that he’s supposed to be both completely divine and entirely human–seems to me to be even more untenable. If Jesus is God–the Judeo-Christian God–then by definition and by his very essence, he must be perfectly omniscient, omnipotent, etc. On the other hand, if he’s human, then an inseparable part of the nature of being a human being is not being omniscient. Did Jesus have perfect knowledge of all things, past, present and future, or didn’t he? Did he have this perfect knowledge as a baby? While he was still in Mary’s womb? I don’t see how the God of Christianity can not have perfect knowledge of all things, past present and future, and I don’t see how any entity which can reasonably be described as being human can be omniscient. Classical Christian creeds and dogmas about this mostly just seem to make a lot of contradictory assertions, as if by repeating themselves with enough emphasis, they can somehow clear the whole thing up: “Jesus is both very invisible and very pink, without any confusion or contradiction between his eternal invisibility and his perfect pinkness; neither visible, nor any color other than pink; and there is no contradiction here–pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”.

Well, I think this is how I remember it…
God the Father, God the Son, and The Holy Spirit are three seperate and distinct people. HOWEVER, they are of the same mind and heart. So what the Father wants, the Son wants. But they are three seperate people.

It’s a mystery. . . .

And, fortunately or unfortunately, I’m not making that up or being flip.

Starting as a Jewish heresy, Christianity is tied to the concept of only one God. As the early church (take your pick) accepted-the-revelation-of-Jesus-as-God, came-to-understand-that-Jesus-was-God, or developed-a-theory-that-Jesus-was-God (with the additional aspect of Jesus speaking of His Spirit as separate-from-Him), it was faced with the dilemma of having three “persons” while acknowledging the ancient Jewish truth that there was only one God.

Any statement that describes the Trinity is an effort to describe that which is utterly foreign to humans. Humans cannot understand the mechanics of this reality. Therefore, no explanation makes sense.

If God is Triune, we will never understand it in this life. If Christians invented the Trinity to let Jesus be divine, then there is nothing to understand.

My favorite opening line to the homily on Trinity Sunday (which I have heard from more than one priest) goes:
“When I was in the seminary, my theology professor, Fr. X, very carefully explained to us that each year we would get up and preach one sermon that was heresy, because regardless what we say on this day, we are going to get it wrong.”

Was Jesus talking to Himself when He prayed? Who was He talking to when He asked God to take His task from Him? If Jesus was God, how could He be the Son of God?

I say the questions pretty much sum up the reason why I don’t think Jesus was any more Divine than any of us. He merely, mistakenly believed that he was the Son of God. He was only human, no more capable of miracles than any of us.

But why isn’t that enough? Many other human beings have sacrificed themselves for their beliefs; why does he have to be different?

Is it because so many people want to believe that Jesus sacrificed himself so they could live forever in paradise? Is it because they can’t love or respect or admire his act if there was nothing in it for them?

*Originally posted by andros *
**I don’t think that explanation (ahem) hold water,

:slight_smile: **very nice

Wasn’t St. Patrick cannonized for explaining the ‘Trinity’ to the Irish? What we need here is a shamrock.

The problem I have with the H[sub]2[/sub]O analogy is that we are talking about persons here, not chemicals. I do not become an entirely different person when my physical form changes; saying that it is like water changing to ice while remaining water is like saying I switch to one of three entirely different persons when my physical form changes while remaining the same. It is well established that a thing can stay essentially the same thing although its physical form changes. It is not similarily clear that a, um, being can remain the same yet also be a different person. God is supposed to be an actual different person in each of His manifestations.

I think invisible-and-pink is a much more fun way on conveying ineffability. :slight_smile: Of course, we’d still have people being killed if they believe that God is invisible but would be pink if ever manifested rather than beleiving God is wholly invisible and wholly pink. Eh, perhaps I’m rather miffed that Christians have three personas of God and not a one that is referred to with a female pronoun. (Some sociologists credit the lack of female deities with Mary’s high importance. Oops, I’m hijacking my own topic.)

jmullaney: So it’s a mystery. Are you going with the “ineffable” explanation above?

Jodi:Interesting. So Jesus is a part of God, like the engine of a car is a part of a car, but not God. Just as my body is a part of me, but not all-that-I-am. Is that what you mean?

MEBuckner: Sure, let’s go over the Wholly God and Holy Man thing, too. Why not? :slight_smile:


I kinda wonder why we are offered any explanations at all, then. Why not just read the relevant passages from the Bible and not elaborate on them at all (we will assume for the nonce that the Bible is wholly correct)? I certainly do not attempt to teach something I know I will get wrong.

I don’t like the “wholly incomprehesible mystery” thing, really. I can accept “well, things might be this way, we can’t prove different” explanation for God’s Mysterious Ways; I can see that if I did have enough information the Mysterious Ways could make sense. There are many explanations as to why bad things can be good overall, and though I do not accept them they at least are comprehensible. But the consensus seems to be that there is no way to make genuine sense of the traditional three-and-one God. I feel like a parrot to repeat “the Christian God is three persons and one God” or “God is One and God is Jesus and God the Father and the Holy Spirit and all are wholly God, not missing one part” without understanding; I’m just memorizing phrases and when to use them. If Christians do not understand it either, do they feel like parrots too?

Well, the word omniscient, even the words “all knowing” don’t appear anywhere in the Catholic Catchechism. Apparently, they don’t believe God is all knowing.

Notwithstanding that, you might want to remember Jehovah means “I am he who am” not “I am was and will be he who was am and will be.” This would seem to imply the Christian God, exists in the present, although he always has and always will exist.

Well, the Catholic Church doesn’t seem to to teach that. Maybe you are thinking Orthodox, or perhaps, as I suspect, this is a recent Protestant believe going back not much further than Calvin.

Did the concept of the Trinity form before or after the Bible was written? i.e., was it written into the Bible that way, or did it come from interpretations of the Bible?

I don’t think that necessarily follows, Joel. Just because the words aren’t used doesn’t mean it’s not the case, does it?

And anyway, wouldn’t omnipotence include at least the ability to know everything? From your link: “We believe that his might is universal, for God who created everything also rules everything and can do everything.”

Whether or not He does know all, He certainly can.

It isn’t so much ineffable as it is complicated.

Certaintly not. Now I will parrot a little more of that link without adding anything:

Does that help? Economia rather than theologia might help you clear things up. That image of Trinity may be exactly that God with which we can attain that perfect unity, although if invisibility is more your bag…

… I mean, the trinity of Love, Lover, Loved is that image of God we are meant for, having been made in that image to begin with. Circular I know, but so be it.

I have a vague memory that Jesus’ divinity wasn’t accepted as official church doctrine until 200 A.D. I’m willing to bet that the Holy Spirit wasn’t considered for Godhead until JC got the nod, since three is a considerably more powerful number in western mythos than two. The bare reading of the Bible does not necessarily support any more than a metaphorical interpretation of the Holy Spirit and Jesus being God’s son, IMHO. Tom, do you know when it became “official”?

Actually, it’s damn hard to find a reference to God being all-powerful or omnipotent in the actual text of the Bible; at least my previous (rather cursory, I’ll admit)searches have not turned anything up. The Lord is powerful, mighty, etc., but I haven’t found “all powerful” or omnipotent. Does anyone have a cite?

I guess God is just schizophrenic. Perhaps there are other personalities that we DON’T hear about… perhaps there’s a pyromanic personality, who likes to make volcanoes go off and kill people… an unnecessarily-violent personality… a sociopathic personality…

Hey, I think I just answered the question “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?” God’s just nuts!

Hey Gaudere, try reading “Mere Christianity”, by CS Lewis. He actually gives a reasonable explanation of the trinity.

To quickly encapsulate, he states that the “holy ghost” represents the communion of man with God and that our worship is a manifest aspect of the supreme being.

I’ve been reading this tract on a dare, my friend is getting to read “The Origins Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind” by Julian Jaynes (one of my all time favorites). As revolting as the assumption of man’s inately evil character is, the rest of it is pretty clear stuff. It’s just going to take a lot more than that to convert me, though.

However, “Mere Christianity” is giving me some great ammo to lambaste my abusive Christian business partner.

Just thought I’d toss that one into the ring.

Nah, I was just going by Catholic Catechism. Don’t have my Bibles with me at the moment . . .