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Doctor Steuss

Trinity, Trinity, Trinity.

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I have never comprehended the orthodox concept of the Trinity. In a large part, this is due to my own misconceptions of the belief. I don

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I've actually been listening to an entire philosophy course which I downloaded and as a result I feel that I have finally begun to understand the doctrine of the trinity. Infact, while I personally do not accept it, this new found understanding has helped me to better understand why many people do accept it and I now do not find it such a strange idea.

I'm looking forward to the comments that will be posted in this thread and I hope they can help me to increase my understanding of the concept of the trinity.

From the course I have been listening to I have come to understand the trinity as the one God who is best described as a single essence (this philosopher actually used that term) composed of 3 persons.

The only point which I feel would cause some disagreement with those who hold this belief is the following: "The rays are not as glorious or radiant as the source, but they are still comprised of the same essence and substance." It would seem to me (and I too would appreciate correction if I am misrepresenting) that many would argue that the "rays"-as you put them-are still as glorious as the essence from which they come.

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Doctor Steuss,

Kudos to you for sincerely trying to understand a foreign belief.

Unfortunately, there are two stumbling blocks preventing us from currently obtaining a perfect understanding of God's Triune nature.

The first obstacle is our limit of understanding, as Paul says, we "see as through a glass, darkly".

The second obstacle is that God is unique, which necessarily means that there is nothing for us to compare Him to, by way of analogy. So any attempts of "God is like a/an..." is doomed from the start, having fatal flaws, always being limited.

As to your Sun and sun's rays analogy, I don't really like it, as it seems to make the Father the "substantial" aspect of God, and the Son and Holy Spirit simply tangential components. Also, the analogy sounds too much like the LDS understanding of the Godhead for my tastes.

The "water" analogy doesn't work.

The "moutains" analogy does't work.

The "three hats" analogy doesn't work.

There is no adequate analogy, not because the Trinity is false, but simply because god is unique, and there is nothing with which to compare Him.

It seems to me that the biggest stumbling block is to try to get past the assumption that "one person equals one god", as it is something not taught in the Bible, and seems to be an assumption that non-Trinitarians always bring with them.

The terminology can also be a stumbling block. It seems that when Trinitarians speak of the "persons" of the Trinity, or "personages", others assume it to mean something like "bodily being". In the Trinitarian context, all it means is that there are distinct (notice the difference between distinct and separate) identities with personal attributes. Rhino might be able to expound on that a bit better.

Hope that helps.

Theophilus

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Theophilus,

Thank you, it does help a bit. I would really like to gain a better understanding, as I often feel that many of my reservations and criticisms are do to a misunderstanding or a lack of knowledge.

It does make sense that since God is unique, and that there is nothing comparable to Him here in our mortal existence, that any analogy will ultimately fail. Maybe because the sun analogy is

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Oh no, not another Trinity thread!! :P

Hey, I think I like this one. First of all, Doc, let me thank you for being willing to approach it with an open mind and willingness to learn. I really appreciate it. So, on to your explanation:

God is more of a divine essence, or divine substance (I will be using the term

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I would really like it if a Trinitarian could explain the Trinity using mathematical notation. Something like:

F is a subset of G

S is a subset of G

H is a subset of G

F is not equal to S

S is not equal to H

H is not equal to F

But then again, perhaps even the abstraction of mathematics would not suffice. I say that because it is a mathematical contradiction to assert

F = G

S = G

and

F =/= S

The only way around this is to change the meaning of = one possibility being my subset example.

This may also be a bit too much, but do the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have distinct consciousness, or is it all one consciousness--God's consciousness. Maybe that question is silly and doesn't even make sense. I grant that I don't even fully know what consciousness is let alone what it would mean for God.

I'm not saying Trinitarianism is nonsense. I'm just trying to understand it in my language as it were.

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Rhinomelon,

Thank you. Already this thread has helped me immensely.

Hopefully I

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Good points, Theo, I was hoping someone would touch on the analogy thing a bit. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes about that very issue, and then goes on to propose some very interesting analogies about the Trinity, and about other aspects of God's nature. Then he takes it further and shows how each analogy eventually breaks down. Like Theo said, this is understandable, because if God is absolutely unique, as we believe He is, then all analogies based on our human experience will eventually break down. I do find that many analogies are helpful in explaining chunks of the doctrine, but none can really provide a good picture of the whole.

For instance, one of my favorite analogies of the Trinity is comparing it to Time. Time is one thing, but made up of three distinct but inseperable and interrelated components; past, present, future. If you take away any one of these, time is meaningless. Of course, this analogy breaks down in terms of God's personal nature, as well as the whole thing about the future eventually becoming the present and then on to the past. Other analogies do a good job at showing the personal aspects of the Trinity, but break down when showing the unity or something.

Some more thoughts that might help. I've found that many LDS can't grasp the Trinity because they have some of that "baggage" you spoke of in the way. You hit the nail on the head with the "embodied" part. Seeing "person" as something other than an embodied entity is a big step. Another one to keep in mind is the immateriality issue. Mainstream Christianity does not believe that spirit is refined material, as LDS do. Therefore, when we speak of "essence" , we are not talking about a material characteristic that the persons all share. This point doesn't matter a great deal when understanding the Trinity itself, but when one begins the think about how the Trinity works and acts in "real life", it becomes important. God being outside of time would be another aspect like that. Not too important when just looking at the Trinity, but when looking at the actions of the Trinity (i.e. in creation or the incarnation) it becomes vitally important.

Just so you have some nerdy theological terms to throw around at parties (:P), the two ways of looking at the Trinity I've just described are referred to as the economic Trinity (Who/What the Trinity is in itself) and the immanent Trinity (What the Trinity is in action). In short, the economic Trinity is speaking of Who God is, and the immanent Trinity is speaking of what God does. Just for kicks. Can you tell I want to be a college professor someday? <_< I feel sorry for you, reading through all this stuff!

Take care, everyone :ph34r: And thanks again for the thread, it's a real pleasure. Let's keep it going, shall we? :unsure:

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And ba81, good to hear that the Trinity is making more sense to you. I can accept people, including LDS, rejecting the Trinity much better when I am confident that they know what it is they reject!

That's funny because yesterday and today while I listened to lectures on this topic and pondered what was taught a thought very similar to what you expressed occured to me.

I felt like I finally understood it enough to actually give it a proper rejection/acceptance. I didn't feel like I was rejecting it because I thought it was stupid or incomprehensible. On the same token I also felt more respect for those who hold the belief and I felt a measure of guilt for being so flippant and idiotic about in conversations I've had in years past.

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I thought posting a definition of consubstantial might be helpful considering an annology of the sun and it's rays were offered to help us nontrinitarians develope an understaning of this belief. To me the sun and it's rays annology contradicts the definition of consubstantial.

consubstantial

(Latin: con, with; substantia, substance)

A translation of the Greek, homousios, chosen at the Council of Nic

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I feel sorry for you, reading through all this stuff!

:P

I'm actually finding it extremely enlightening.

I just scrolled up and noticed that asbestosman had asked this question, and I was wondering if there's an answer:

This may also be a bit too much, but do the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have distinct consciousness, or is it all one consciousness--God's consciousness.

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I thought posting a definition of consubstantial might be helpful considering an annology of the sun and it's rays were offered to help us nontrinitarians develope an understaning of this belief. To me the sun and it's rays annology contradicts the definition of consubstantial.

consubstantial

(Latin: con, with; substantia, substance)

A translation of the Greek, homousios, chosen at the Council of Nic

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I would really like it if a Trinitarian could explain the Trinity using mathematical notation. Something like:

F is a subset of G

S is a subset of G

H is a subset of G

F is not equal to S

S is not equal to H

H is not equal to F

But then again, perhaps even the abstraction of mathematics would not suffice. I say that because it is a mathematical contradiction to assert

F = G

S = G

and

F =/= S

The only way around this is to change the meaning of = one possibility being my subset example.

This may also be a bit too much, but do the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have distinct consciousness, or is it all one consciousness--God's consciousness. Maybe that question is silly and doesn't even make sense. I grant that I don't even fully know what consciousness is let alone what it would mean for God.

I'm not saying Trinitarianism is nonsense. I'm just trying to understand it in my language as it were.

As Theophilus said nothing in the created world is totally analagous not even mathematics.

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so far this thread is great. Honest, open exchange and no sniping (yet). Kudso to all.

One thing that helps me understand the necessity of the doctrine of the Trinity is this:

Any attribute that we give to God must not be contingent on anything else. God (by classical Christian understanding) cannot rely on something or someone else for definition or power. No one gives God power or characteristic except for God alone. He exist absolutely and completely whether anyone or anythng else does. I this is often condensed by saying that God is without passions.

I John clearly states that God is love. For God to be love, he must be loving someone. But if he has to have "others" to love, then his love is then contingent on someone or something else. So the answer to this seeming contradiction (God is love) is that God loves himself. The Father loves the Son loves the Spirit loves the Father.

God exist within himself in perfect relational unity.

Analogies consistently have big problems as explained earlier. Probably the best analogy the Bible gives about the Trinity is marriage. It explains that through marriage, two become one, and that this is a mystery. So how can two distinct persons be one? think about how it might be true through your union to your spouse.

Hope that helps. :P

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I've actually been listening to an entire philosophy course which I downloaded and as a result I feel that I have finally begun to understand the doctrine of the trinity.  Infact, while I personally do not accept it, this new found understanding has helped me to better understand why many people do accept it and I now do not find it such a strange idea.

I'm looking forward to the comments that will be posted in this thread and I hope they can help me to increase my understanding of the concept of the trinity.

From the course I have been listening to I have come to understand the trinity as the one God who is best described as a single essence (this philosopher actually used that term) composed of 3 persons.

The only point which I feel would cause some disagreement with those who hold this belief is the following:  "The rays are not as glorious or radiant as the source, but they are still comprised of the same essence and substance."  It would seem to me (and I too would appreciate correction if I am misrepresenting) that many would argue that the "rays"-as you put them-are still as glorious as the essence from which they come.

Infact, while I personally do not accept it, this new found understanding has helped me to better understand why many people do accept it and I now do not find it such a strange idea.

Well it maybe new found to you but it has existed for all eternity. The Apostles taught it. It was alluded to in the Old Testament and lastly Jesus also taught it.

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As Theophilus said nothing in the created world is totally analagous not even mathematics.

Perhaps not. I chose math because it can be both very abstract and very precise. Take the case of the square root of negative one. It has no physical analogy. However, we have many ways to precisely describe it. The same holds of geometric objects that exist in 4-dimensional euclidean space such as the hypercube. I was hoping that the Trinity might at least have some definite properties at least for describing the relation between the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost using math.

Still, thanks for answering our questions.

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I John clearly states that God is love. For God to be love, he must be loving someone. But if he has to have "others" to love, then his love is then contingent on someone or something else. So the answer to this seeming contradiction (God is love) is that God loves himself. The Father loves the Son loves the Spirit loves the Father.

God exist within himself in perfect relational unity.

This is an extremely interesting concept that I've never heard before. It helps a lot.

Thank you... really!

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A quick question. Is there a book that any of you would recommend that you think explains the Trinity well? I

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A quick question.  Is there a book that any of you would recommend that you think explains the Trinity well?  I

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As long as his ministry doesn't go down to Temple Square and wave garments around while shouting through a megaphone, I don't have a problem supporting his ministry.

Actually, James has rebuked those people, and attempted to hold them to the authority of their own elders, but, alas... Sometimes there is no reasoning with some people.

Theophilus

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As long as his ministry doesn't go down to Temple Square and wave garments around while shouting through a megaphone, I don't have a problem supporting his ministry.

Actually, James has rebuked those people, and attempted to hold them to the authority of their own elders, but, alas... Sometimes there is no reasoning with some people.

Theophilus

Although I don't see eye-to-eye with him theologically, I do have respect for him. Especially for his admission that:

Instead, the loudest of the group chose to engage in what can only be called "street abuse."  This was not preaching.  It was rank abuse of LDS people, nothing more.

Seems like a stand-up guy to me.

Thank you for sharing this article, and for your help and comments on this thread.

Regards,

Stuart

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I John clearly states that God is love.  For God to be love, he must be loving someone.  But if he has to have "others" to love, then his love is then contingent on someone or something else.  So the answer to this seeming contradiction (God is love) is that God loves himself.  The Father loves the Son loves the Spirit loves the Father.

God exist within himself in perfect relational unity.

This is an extremely interesting concept that I've never heard before. It helps a lot.

Thank you... really!

As a lurker, I'm enjoying this thread. My priest was talking the other day how limited the English language was when it described the word "love".

In Greek, the word "agape" is a sacramental type of love.

The word "eros" descibes an ectasy type of love.

If you have the type of love that Jesus showed by dying on the cross for us, it shows both of these types of love that we as Christians are to try to attain in our marriages.

If you don't have the "agape" type of love in our marriage, then that "eros" type of love would be called lust and as Christians we should be avoiding.

Food for thought

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Is this a bad time to quote the old chestnut that if anybody thinks they understand the Trinity, then they don't understand the Trinity? Theophilus seems to come closest when he states flat out that none of the analogies work, his position being that God is completely unique and is therefore incapable of being compared with anything else. I admit that I am not an expert in the subject of the Trinity; but then, how can a person be an expert in a subject that by its own definition cannot be understood, except to understand that it is ununderstandable? It is my understanding that all attempts at making the Trinity understandable fall into one heresy or another, such as modalism or patripassianism. The Trinitarian God hence remains supremely other and supremely unknowable. Only heretical views of God may be known, comprehended and understood by mere mortals.

Am I warm yet?

--Consiglieri

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