The Trinity


1. Why do Catholics believe in the Trinity?

Because that doctrine is the only logical way to summarize what the Bible reveals about God and what our Tradition confirms for us. The Bible reveals three divine persons and insists upon one God. The idea of the Trinity takes that fact and accepts it in the only consistent way possible, and that is to say that these three divine Persons all have precisely the same divine nature and being.

2. The Trinity doesn't make any sense. Three can't be one.

Three isn't one, and the Trinity doesn't say it is. What the Trinity says is that three divine persons all have precisely the same nature and that therefore they are the same being, and this makes sense in light of what we already experience ourselves as men and women. As human beings we are many many persons, and we all have a very similar nature from one of us to the next -- similar enough that we can look at each other and identify the nature we have, with all of its differences, as human nature. Now the only thing different about the Trinity is, because it refers to God the nature in this case is indivisible, and cannot have differences. So if we see three divine persons, we have to conclude that they all express one divine nature, and are one indivisible being, just as when we see three humans, we see that they all express a variant version of our human and divisible nature and being-hood. The easiest way to understand the Trinity, or anyway to understand as much of it as we can, is to understand what it means to talk about "persons" and "natures," and luckily the Almighty has given us the status of personhood and has created us with an identifiable human nature so that we can experience those concepts up-close.

3. Three divine persons would be three Gods.

If the three persons are truly divine, they could not possibly be three gods, because the nature they share is indivisible and can't be divided up between different beings. This is where you have to understand what nature and personhood refer to. A nature is what a being is, and in human beings, our nature is like an umbrella that covers many different variants. Each of us has a slightly different version of human nature in proportion to the differences between our bodies and our souls. This is why all of us can have the same basic "nature" (accounting for its differences) but all be different persons. But the divine nature is not able to have differences because divinity is indivisible. From that we can examine the suggestion that there are three real Gods, and see that if they really share the same divine nature, then all differences between them collapse, and they are really only one God. Our nature describes what we are. You see someone divine? That means we know what that being is, and unlike human nature, what a divine being is cannot vary, because the divine nature doesn't vary. Three "Gods" is therefore impossible if three divine persons are revealed. If three divine persons really exist, and the Bible says they do, then the only possibility is that they are one being, precisely one nature which somehow encompasses the reality of three distinct Personalities. And that is the mystery of the Trinity.

4. Each Divine Person has everything necessary to be a being, so each should count for a separate being.

Not a separate being, there's no grounds for saying that. If each divine person has everything necessary to be a being, it follows that they are each a being -- not that they are each a separate being. In fact, if they are really "divine," it follows that they must be the same being, because the divine nature cannot have different versions for different divine beings to express. Grant the divine nature, and grant that there are three divine persons, and the Trinity follows, because the alternative isn't possible. The idea that there are three gods simply can't be true, because three gods can't be like men with subtle differences in what they are. They have to be the same, and that's where it collapses back into monotheism.

5. Three persons in one being is as meaningless as three stairwells in one staircase. It's just confusing.

It's only confusing because we have lost a grasp on what the terms mean. Three stairwells in one staircase takes two synonyms and just places them next to each other in a sentence, but the Trinity takes into account two things that have real differences between them, and those are, first, what it means to be a person, and second, what it means to be a being. A dog is a being but isn't a person. A man is a being and is a person. God is a being and three persons. It is not confusing, it's just above us how that can be so. But since the Bible reveals three divine persons, the inescapable conclusion is that the Trinity must be true, because the only other way to account for the existence of three divine persons is polytheism, and that idea doesn't work.

6. The Holy Spirit isn't even a person. You can't prove it, anyway.

The Holy Spirit is a person and I can prove it. First there's the fact that He is a spirit. A spirit has a mind, thoughts, a will, and a personality. What else do you think a spirit is? Angels are spirits, men and women are spirits and bodies united together, and what we see from that is that a spirit is a person in his or her non-corporeal nature. Well, the Holy Spirit is a spirit too, and it follows that He is a Person. Another way to prove that the Holy Spirit is a person is through the Bible. The Holy Spirit is called God in Acts 5:3-4 -- that makes Him a person. The Holy Spirit wants things (1 Corinthians 12:11), says things (Acts 13:2), is grieved by certain things (Eph. 4:30), and does other "person-like" activities (Acts 10:19-20, John 15:26, Rom. 8:26). He is also referred to as a "He" on various occasions (10 times in John 16), which is a personal pronoun and proves that He is a person. In short, we know He is a Person because the Bible says so and reason confirms it, and that's good enough evidence for us.

7. The Holy Spirit is just a divine force or influence God sends out to people.

A force or an influence doesn't want things or say things or think things and it doesn't have a mind or thoughts or a will. The Holy Spirit has those things because He is a spirit, not a force, and we see His personal activities in the Bible. Now you can either accept what the Bible reveals or you can do the contrary, but let's have none of this force or influence stuff that ignores the things the Bible says.

8. The Holy Spirit is just another word for grace.

The Holy Spirit is not just another word for grace, He is the giver of grace and the sanctifier of our souls. You can examine the Scriptures and see what it says about Him, and it's not that He is grace, it's that He is a spirit proceeding from God the Father and God the Son, and He walks with us daily to inspire us to do good and encourage us to avoid evil. He takes a daily part in a Christian's life and without Him we could not be Christ's disciples. And for that reason He is important enough to take a look at what the Bible says about Him and see that He is not just a word for grace.

9. The Trinity doesn't matter to a person's Christian walk. You can be just as good a Christian without it.

Not really, because in order not to believe in the Trinity you have to ignore or misunderstand certain things that the Bible says. A good Christian would want to avoid that. And look at it from another way: when you say the Trinity doesn't matter, you're not even denying that it's true, you're just denying its importance. But if it's really the nature of God, our creator and redeemer who loves us, how can you say that's not important? If you love someone, you should want to know more about them, and not say things are unimportant when they are basic to who they are.

10. You get so caught up figuring out the Trinity that you forget the real Christian message: holiness.

We don't need to get caught up figuring out the Trinity, we just need to accept it because it's what the Bible teaches. It's far above our comprehension anyway to understand how it can be true, but at least we can show a little holiness by correcting those who are ignorant about it and who think it's a confusing mess. Remember that holiness isn't incompatible with doctrine. In fact, you can't have holiness in thought if you aren't thinking about truth, so in that sense the Trinity helps us be holy in a very important way: by giving us a truth higher than ourselves to believe in.