## Understanding the Christian Trinity

• 7
The Trinity is a theological concept I’ve always had trouble understanding. In the Bible, The trinity seems to be explicit in descriptions of God’s nature. For example, in Matthew 28:19, it is written “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”. The Godhead seems to be described as a three-in-one relationship between three different personalities, all of which participate in the same divine identity.

However, this relationship is incredibly difficult for me to make sense of, especially since it feels logically contradictory. Christianity claims to be monotheistic, yet the Trinity feels more like a pantheon, or maybe a relationship hierarchy or some sort.

My argument against the logic of the Trinity looks something like this

1.A monotheistic God is one distinct being
2.The Trinity is three distinct beings
3.God cannot be both one and three distinct beings
4.Therefore, the Trinity is contradictory

Perhaps my understanding of the Trinity is incorrect - maybe the Trinity really is just three different forms of expression, all conducted by the same being. If this is the case, why does each form of the trinity act as if it were its own distinct being in the Biblical narratives? There are accounts of Jesus seemingly conversing with “The Father” as if they are two different entities, one in service to the will of the other. The Holy Spirit seems to act in a similar way, as if it has its own personality and substance that is unique compared to the natures of the other two representatives of the Godhead. Can God have three different forms, while each only participates in only one ultimate form?

If any of you have thought through this issue and have come to make sense of it in your own spiritual walks, I would love to hear any analogies or descriptions that have helped you to make sense of this confusing element of the nature of God.
• 3.7k
in Matthew 28:19, it is written “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”.

One can read this in light of the later doctrine of the Trinity or in the plain sense of this, that, and the other, that is, three separate but related things. For example, "In the name of God, Country, and our Community.

However, this relationship is incredibly difficult for me to make sense of, especially since it feels logically contradictory.

One can take the position of Credo quia absurdum

The doctrine of the Trinity does not make sense because it is an attempt to combine the monotheistic God of Judaism with the pagan belief in a man who is a god.

A more pious view might regard it as pointing to the limits of human understanding which cannot comprehend the divine. Or as something to be contemplated rather than something to be rationally understood.
• 2.7k
The Godhead seems to be described as a three-in-one relationship between three different personalities, all of which participate in the same divine identity.

However, this relationship is incredibly difficult for me to make sense of, especially since it feels logically contradictory. Christianity claims to be monotheistic, yet the Trinity feels more like a pantheon, or maybe a relationship hierarchy or some sort.

My argument against the logic of the Trinity looks something like this

1.A monotheistic God is one distinct being
2.The Trinity is three distinct beings
3.God cannot be both one and three distinct beings
4.Therefore, the Trinity is contradictory

The way I see it, it is describing them as ‘beings’ that leads to contradiction. The Trinity refers to three aspects of our potential relation to ‘God’:

1. Father: this is the concept of infinite possibility, and its relation to us.
2. Son: this is the concept of our human potentiality in relation to infinite possibility.
3. Spirit: this is the concept of the relation itself.

Christianity has spent far too much time trying to reify these concepts, trying to make ‘God’ appear more substantial. There’s no need. There is an interchangeable symmetry of logic, quality and energy in this triadic relation.
• 8.1k
The Hydra Riddle

The Hydra, a mythical polycephalic beast, was considered as one creature. Quite unlike how the dicephalic parapagus twins Abby & Brittany Hensel are treated as two individuals.

The same issue is found in Hinduism, Ravana (the 10-headed demon) is one person and so is Brahma (4 heads) of the Trimurti.

Methinks this is a case of confusion in re personhood. Just picture Yahwheh with 3 noggins and bewilderment is unavoidable. Sancta Trinitas, Unus Deus.
• 8.1k
The transitivity property of equality doesn't hold.

So, if F = The Father, S = The Son, H = The Holy Spirit, and G = God then,

1. F = G
2. S = G
3. H = G

but

4. F $\neq$ S
5. S $\neq$ H
6. F $\neq$ H

The law of identity has been shot to pieces.

7. G $\neq$ G (substitute G for F, S, H in 4, 5, 6 above)

Negation has a different, unconventional meaning. For example,

8. F $\neq$ S doesn't imply that F = S is false.

:zip: Wriggle finger. — Cratylus

Apart from the unsavory truth that God's a mother f**ker, I'd say we may need to explore:

1. Temporal logic
2. Identity & Change (Metaphysics).
• 837

Many different people heard different meanings in those words in Matthew.

The Great Schism between the Western and Eastern churches highlighted whether the Nicene Creed should say the Spirit comes from the Father (as was originally agreed upon) or whether it should say the Spirit comes from the Father and the Son.

I figure centuries of religious wars within 'Christianity' should make referring to it as an identifiable object more problematic than is commonly done.
• 8.1k
Here's another way of approaching the Christian Trinity. I call it the credit/blame theory and it goes something like this:

If something good is Christ's doing or can be ascribed to the Holy Ghost, it can also be said to be God's benevolence in action. In short, God gets the credit for Jesus' and the Holy Spirit's kindness. The Father is the Son is the Holy Ghost.

However, if Jesus had flaws or the Holy Ghost slipped up, God can't be blamed because the Father is neither the Son, nor the Holy Spirit.
• 9.1k
1.A monotheistic God is one distinct being
2.The Trinity is three distinct beings
3.God cannot be both one and three distinct beings
4.Therefore, the Trinity is contradictory

This doesn't follow. What follows is that if the trinity is true, polytheism is true. This means that the trinity is inconsistent with monotheism, but not that it is self contradictory.

Polytheism isn't necessarily inconsistent with Christianity.
https://mormonchurch.com/668/are-mormons-polytheists
• 2.7k
However, this relationship is incredibly difficult for me to make sense of, especially since it feels logically contradictory. Christianity claims to be monotheistic, yet the Trinity feels more like a pantheon, or maybe a relationship hierarchy or some sort.
I suspect that the concept of a trinitarian deity resulted from 2nd & 3rd century theological debates over the nature & status of Jesus. The Jews, and most likely, Jesus's own disciples were strict monotheists. But after his unexpected & humiliating death, various rumors arose to explain why he didn't fulfill his messianic role of re-establishing the kingdom of Yahweh in Jerusalem. One speculation (based on cherry-picked scriptures) was that he had further work to do on the spiritual plane, so had to return to heaven. But that would require him to be a god himself (or a reincarnation of Elijah), instead of a mere sword-wielding human leader (messiah = royal descendant) of a political rebellion. Some of his recorded statements were sufficiently vague & provocative that various interpretations could apply.

But, for polytheistic gentile converts, monotheism was not inherent in their tradition. So they didn't consider the god-man concept to be blasphemous or sacrilegious (e.g Pantheon). Also, Jesus had made metaphorical references to the Holy Spirit as-if it was a person, not just a divine force. As the Catholic Church was being cobbled-together from a variety of Jesus cults, their contradictory myths became an obstacle to unification within the Roman empire ("catholic" = universal). So, the leaders from various places began to hold unification meetings in order to hammer-out their differences. Since it was mainly a political argument, they didn't depend on a sign from God, but merely debated & voted, and the majority opinion became the "Truth"

Unfortunately, their good intentions were frustrated, and in order to establish a single authoritative myth & origin-story of the new religion, they were forced to vote the heretics out of their club. But first they had to legally define what beliefs were orthodox, and which were heresy. Ironically, a crux of the debate was on the vexing question of Jesus' role in the religion : god apparition, or inspired prophet, or pretender to the throne, or god-man avatar. Since the latter option was unacceptable to monotheists, the Jewish Christians soon found themselves expelled as reverse Gentiles (literally, not God's people).

Therefore, instead of a continuation of the Abrahamic genetic-tribal heritage of the Jewish religion, Christianity became a distinct new faith-based religion, excluding the Chosen People of the Old Testament God, in favor of the the uncircumcised "Gentiles". With the Jews rejected from their own religious movement, there was no one left, in the radically new Roman imperial Church, to point-out the logical contradictions found in the authorized scriptures of the official state religion. Besides, mystical mythical paradoxes were not unusual in ancient religions. And, the gentiles were typically not as piously legalistic as the Jews. So, even as the theologians continued to debate privately, for the sake of unity, they decided to convince the uneducated common people that a piece of physical (material) bread could also be a metaphysical (spiritual) hunk of flesh. To some, that was a divine spiritual insight. But, the paradox-vs-precept debate continued on the fringes to this day. :smile:
• 11.2k
I find the Trinity to be a stumbling block and and an altogether unhelpful piece of theology. I guess that makes me a unitarian--one God, Jesus not God, no Holy Spirit.

I have never heard an understandable or persuasive explanation from a priest or pastor as to what the Trinity is. I don't find the trinity to be useful in terns of lived faith (which I pretty much don't have any more). The unitary God--omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omni etc.--seems to be fully sufficient. The Godhead and Jesus, maybe God became Jesus, the resurrection all present problems too, Never mind the virgin birth (and Mary still being virgin after giving birth to Jesus' brothers).

So, no. The Trinity doesn't do much for me. I don't think it (the concept) actually does much for anybody else, either,
• 8.1k
they didn't depend on a sign from God, but merely debated & voted, and the majority opinion became the "Truth"

Yep! That's it! Most of Christian doctrine were voted into "truths" (Councils).

A lot of time was spent/wasted on trying to then put these "truths" on a rational foundation much, much later. Unfortunately, those who were tasked to do this realized, to their dismay, that none of what made it through the numerous Councils made any sense.

This is a textbook case of backwards "reasoning" - first decide what one wants to believe in and, after that, justify 'em. Warped logic it is. Quite typical of faiths, won't you say?
• 802
It's just the essential unity tying God, the father, Jesus, the sin, and their holy spirit. So the trinity is essentially a unity. What's so difficult to understand about that?
• 8.1k
It's quite convenient actually. You can do harm to Jesus and the Holy Ghost and you could still be in good terms with God (they aren't the same) and, get this, if you like Jesus and/or the Holy Ghost, you're actually in love with God (they're the same). What a mind job, oui? You can eat your cake and have it too. I don't think deals get better than that!
• 11.4k
The trinity is Neoplatonism.
• 802
The trinity is Neoplatonism.

Christ being the shadow of God?
• 11.4k

Christ as the Nous.

• 802

Aha! :grin:
• 8.1k
Sancta trinitas unus deus.

Hallelujah!

(The Father)$\frac{1}{2} \equiv$ (The Son) $\frac{4}{8} \equiv$ (The Holy Spirit) $\frac{6}{12}$ [Equivalence]

(The Father) $\frac{1}{2} \neq$ (The Son) $\frac{4}{8} \neq$ (The Holy Spirit) $\frac{6}{12}$ [Equality]

The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit are indiscernible (to us); hence all 3 are the same (for us). However, they're distinct entities; hence the 3 are not the same.

They're like identical triplets you see. Bring them one by one in front of you and you wouldn't be able to tell one apart from the other. Nevertheless, each is a unique, different person.
• 5.9k
“Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”

Why couldn't those just be three names for the same person?

If this is the case, why does each form of the trinity act as if it were its own distinct being in the Biblical narratives?

A cube does not have the same properties as a pyramid. And a pyramid does not have the same properties as a sphere. They have contradictory properties: if something is a cube, it is not also a sphere etc.

But one and the same lump of clay can be all three at different times. It can start out a cube, become a pyramid, and then become a sphere.

Why couldn't it be like that? (I"m not a Christian and haven't read the bible, so I don't know).

For example, the term God is typically used to denote a person who has the properties of omnipotence, omniscience and omnibenevolence. But the person is distinct from the properties. They 'have' those properties. THey are not constituted by them. To qualify as God they have to have them. But they'd be the same person if they gave some of them up, just as the cube remains the same lump of clay if it morphs into a sphere.
• 5.9k
From what I can glean from the unreliable internet, there are several new Testament references to the trinity, none of which seem puzzling.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"

There's nothing puzzling here. The suggestion is just that there is one named person who qualifies as the Father, the son and the Holy spirit. It's no different from saying 'in the name of the chair of the board, the founder of the company, and the major shareholder (titles shared by Mr Rich Boss).

Another one:

"May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."

Again, if I said "you have the permission of the chair of the board, the support of the founder of the company, and the good will of its major shareholder" - and all of those were one and the same person - that's fine. No puzzle. No contradiction.

Here's another:

"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work"

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Chairperson distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same company founder. There are different kinds of working, but everyone is working for the same majority shareholder.

And so on. No puzzle. Note, even if it is true that the Chairperson has powers that the founder does not necessarily have, or that the majority shareholder does not have, even that is not puzzling once one understands that these are roles that one and the same person can occupy at the same time. It just means that Mr Rich Boss cannot, qua majority shareholder, do things that Mr Rich Boss, qua Chairperson, can. And so on.

It seems to me, then, that any impression of a puzzle here has been generated by curious use of the word 'person' and an insistence that the trinity involves there being 'three persons in one [person]". That's manifestly incoherent. But it is not called for by any of the quotes from the bible (assuming the internet sites from which I got them are reliable).

I suggest to Christians concerned to be coherent that the trinity be understood either as one person occupying different roles - just as the founder of the company, the chairperson, and the majority shareholder can all be the same person - or that it is one person who has had three incompatible sets of properties at different times, or some combination of those two.
• 5.3k
I suggest to Christians concerned to be coherent that the trinity be understood either as one person occupying different roles - just as the founder of the company, the chairperson, and the majority shareholder can all be the same person

Nice work. So when Jesus says things such as - 'Father forgive them for they know not what they do...' is he reasoning with himself?
• 5.9k
Yes, there's no contradiction involved in that analysis. And it is a commonplace occurrence. "Forgive them, Bartricks" I often say, "for they know not how stupid they are".
• 8.1k
Nice work. So when Jesus says things such as - 'Father forgive them for they know not what they do...' is he reasoning with himself?

Nour Hadidi (Lebanese comedienne) [paraphrasing]: I talk to myself in Arabic so that if people discover me doing that I can always pretend I'm praying!

:snicker:
• 10.2k
"Forgive them, Bartricks" I often say, "for they know not how stupid they are".
:rofl: :yikes: :rofl:
• 5.9k
Would a clone refer to its original as "father"? Possibly. Would we consider some kind of continuation of personhood as well between a clone and its original? Probably. So obviously we were created by all powerful aliens in their image where only Jesus was a clone. Problem solved.
• 5.3k
:wink: Problem solved.
• 6.2k

Oh haha, Oh ha hee! Great job boys!
• 5.9k
Can a Christian explain to me, a non-Christian believer in God, why so many of you think there is 'three persons in one person'??

I mean, that seems an obvious contradiction. One person is not also three persons. A 'person' is a mind, a soul, a spirit, a subject of experiences. They're indivisible. So the idea that there can be two other persons 'in' a person, makes no sense at all.

But I can see no motivation to say such things. So far as I can tell, nothing in the bible calls for it. I mean, you could take certain passages to be consistent with the incoherent thesis, but why would one think they support it given that the thesis is incoherent? And there are alternative, coherent interpretations.

For example, let's say I say "I am in France and I am in trouble". Now, one could take that statement to be expressing a contradiction: that I am in two distinct places at the same time. But why would one give that interpretation, given it makes no sense? There's an alternative interpretation - I mean that I am located in France and that I have a problem (which is what 'I am in trouble' can express).

So, where in the bible is the incoherent notion of there being three persons in one person expressed? Or is it just that apparently incompetent interpreters have foist this silly view onto the Christian tradition? (To its detriment - as I understand it, those who subscribe to alternative religious worldviews typically give the incoherence of the trinity as the main reason to reject Christianity.....yet the incoherent version of the trinity is not in the bible!)
• 2.2k
Can a Christian explain to me, a non-Christian believer in God, why so many of you think there is 'three persons in one person'??

Don't sweat it. It's just religion. It's not meant to be taken literally or rationally. The concept of the trinity is meant to be a sort of brain teaser - the contemplation of the trinity is merely a practice that helps one to reduce dependence on reason. It is only for people interested in cultivating their religious faith.
• 5.9k
Well, I am just interested to uncover the reasoning. Are there statements in the bible that do not admit of any interpretation other than the incoherent 'three persons in one person' interpretation?

For example, someone above mentioned that Jesus supposedly said something about 'the Father' that made it sound as if 'the Father' might be a distinct person from himself. He said "forgive them father, for they know not what they do" or something.

But there's nothing incoherent about talking to oneself. We write ourselves messages and tell ourselves things all the time. So. it's more reasonable to interpret Jesus as doing that, than it is to suppose that Jesus is a person distinct from the Father who is nevertheless 'in' the Father or some such nonsense.
• 6.2k
The concept of the trinity is meant to be a sort of brain teaser

I don't think anyone had a master plan of what the trinity was "meant" for, whether a brain teaser or something else. It's a doctrine that arose out of the chaos of the post-Jesus era in which Romans were persecuting Christians because they saw them as "atheists", and Christian views on what would become theology were just as chaotic. And the canon wasn't even set yet. I don't see any need to worry about the trinity. It's a human construction.
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