I've spoken briefly about this with my pastor and it's the question of who we worship. As Trinitarians we believe that God is one being who shares 3 persons. And these 3 persons are as fully God as each other and we say that this doesn't go against monotheism because although they are 3 separate persons who are all fully and equally God they still share a single divine nature/essence. If this is the case then when we say God does that mean, unlike the Muslims or Zoroastrians, we are not talking about a single person but some abstract nature or essence that they all share? When we say God we aren't referring to a person but some unifying characteristics that all 3 persons share and so when we use this term it's somewhat misleading. Also, how does one defend monotheism? Even if they share a essence or nature so do humans. All humans share a single human nature, essence or ousia so how come we also aren't considered one? Also, before anyone @'ts me the early church fathers used this analogy to demonstrate what ousia means. But although I believe it I find it hard to call myself a monotheist since even if they are unified by some abstract concept they are still 3 independent individuals who have a hierarchy and under the subjugation of one and other as well as there being the possibility of one person actually exalting another and crowning him with some high title such as we see in Philippians 2:9-11

How dost one reconcile this?

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Human nature is not one.

"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." - 1 Thess 5:23


As for the Trinity, it's going to be a mystery while we are here. As the scripture says, we see through a glass darkly.

But those who deny the Trinity deny that they need Christ to know God. It always come down to denying Christ somehow. That was the original controversy sparked by Arius - the dispute on the nature of Christ - the more developed awareness of the Trinity came after this. But the original impetus that alarmed the Church was the diminishing of Christ. And it's still the same today - anyone who denies the Trinity will eventually let it slip out how little they think of Christ.

So instead of trying to wrap your head around the Trinity per se, just think about Christ. Where do you place him? As he asked: "Who do men say that I am?" Answer Christ's question and then you'll know where you stand on the Trinity, whether you understand the details or not.

Spirit Soul and body are what humans are comprised of but more abstractly all humans share a human nature like the 3 person of the trinity share a divine nature. This is how the early church described it and nicea was not concieved to defend monotheism but just to prove that the Son was a part of the same nature as the Father.

John 4:22 says

No, this is not right. You're thinking of "God" as being the name of the shared essence and as being synonymous with "Trinity". You're thinking of God the Trinity as a monad, "God in general", and then God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as a triad, "God in particular". But that is simply some kind of semi-Modalism.
As Trinitarians, we believe that there are 3 types of qualities in God:

- The "essence" is the nature of God, shared by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; it is the set of attributes that defines the nature of "God". The three persons of the Trinity are all "God" like how every person posting in this thread is "human". We share the same nature, the same "set of attributes" that defines "human". But when God is concerned, His essence is absolutely beyond reach, because His essence is not simply an essence among others to be studied or theorized about, but it is super-essential, it is beyond itself, it is the absolute greatest thing imaginable (or rather not imaginable). In that sense, God is infinitely distant from us.

- The "energies" are the attributes of God, and His acts upon the creation, so to speak. The essence is supremely far, but God manifests Himself in His energies (or even "energy" as He is simple). God's energies are the "potential" of His essence, acting upon the world; but because He is God, His energies truly and fully convey His nature, so that it can truly be said about God that He pervades the world and sustains it with His own being, without falling into pantheism (the doctrine that the universe is God). When we say that God's essence and energies are distinct, we do not mean that God does not convey His true nature and divinity to us; or that there is "God in the world" and "God in Heaven". What we mean is that God's grace sustaining the world is truly God Himself, not just God acting through a created intermediary. In that sense, God is supremely near to us.

- The "hypostases" (or persons) is how the essence and energy are "actualized". If "essence" refers to the common attributes, "person" refers to the unique attributes. "Essence" is the nature itself, and "energy" is the potential realization of this nature, but "hypostasis" is how the essence and energy are actually made manifest and existent. Note also that hypostasis is ontologically before essence - for instance, there is no such thing as "humanity" if there isn't a "human" first to actualize it. Likewise, it is incorrect to speak first of God's essence then of God's persons - first of all, there is one God because there is one Father, not because there is one essence.

Orthodox (together with most Eastern Christians) and Catholics (together with most Western Christians) disagree on two things: energy (Catholics would disagree that there is a real distinction between essence and energy in God) and hypostasis (Orthodox would disagree that the hypostatic property of the Holy Spirit is to proceed from the Father and the Son, and would rather say the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone). But either way, I belive that what I said here is agreeable to both, without getting into those details.

So, "God" isn't the essence. "God" is the Father, and the Son is the "Word of God", and the Holy Spirit is the "Spirit of God". But by virtue of coming forth from God the Father, the Son is co-eternal and co-equal with Him, and so He is also fully and really "God", and likewise, the Holy Spirit is fully and really "God". Indeed, if the Son really has to give us the Father's divinity, He must also be God, and if the Spirit is really to lead us to the Son, He must also be God.

So, "God" is not an essence, but a person. And "Trinity" isn't a monad, and certainly not the name of an essence, but the description of the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
There is a reason that the Orthodox consider the New Testament icon of the Trinity to simply be Jesus Christ. In Him we see the Father and from Him we receive the Holy Spirit.

Imagine three persons chopping down a piece of wood.
If these three persons are just swinging the axe at the same time, in co-operation with each other, then this is tritheism - three "persons" (in the English sense of the word, not in the sense of "hypostasis") co-operating in the same movement. Something closer to the confines of orthodoxy exists, called "social trinitarianism", which recognizes that the Father is the arche, that there are 3 consubstantial and co-equal persons, etc. but considers that there are 3 wills in the Trinity.

If these 3 people are doing one single movement, and not three collaborating and equal movements, but turn out to really just have the same body but three heads, this is modalism. It means that you have the one God Who manifests Himself as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit. Something closer to the confines of orthodoxy exists, which is what I criticized in my first post - this idea of "God in general" as "the Trinity" or "the essence" and then "God in particular" as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

A more proper analogy would be that there are 3 distinct persons (and not one person with 3 faces) but 1 single movement common to them (and not 3 movements that coincide). That is what distinguishes the consubstantiality between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to the consubstantiality between Peter, John, and James: unlike the men, the three divine persons have one energy, one will, one act, one "movement" so to speak.
Everything done by God is done by the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. It's not possible to isolate any one of Them. You cannot speak of the Father without also implying the Son and the Holy Spirit, because the Son is begotten of the Father and the Spirit proceeds from the Father, and St Irenaeus calls them the two "hands of God" even. You cannot speak of the Son without also implying the Father and the Holy Spirit, because He is the image of the Father and the sender of the Holy Spirit. You cannot speak of the Holy Spirit without also implying the Father and the Son, because He is the Spirit of the Father and the Son, proceeding from the Father and resting on the Son (or proceding from the Son if that's what you like), being the image of the Son.
And this, precisely, is the definition of "Trinity", the tri-unity between the three divine persons which are one God. "Trinity" is to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, what "marriage" is to the husband and wife. It's a description.

There is no subjugation in the Trinity. Jesus was exalted in the same sense that He was lowered - He took upon human nature, and therefore He was lowered; He was glorified in His human nature and returned to the right hand of the Father, and therefore was exalted.
And because Jesus has took on flesh, He has become our High Priest, the "ladder of Jacob" linking heaven and earth, the sole mediator between God and man, because He is both God and man. That is why, in the economy of salvation, there is a "hierarchy" of Father>Son>Holy Spirit: the Father remains unseen and far out of reach, yet the Son becomes incarnate as a man, and He sends us the Holy Spirit, Who remains hidden and hard to grasp yet infinitely close to us, "reeling us" back to the Son and through the Son to the Father, if you will.

On a related note, when Jesus says "not My will but Yours be done", the Fathers undestand this to show the subjugation of Jesus's human will to the one divine will of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, rather than the subjugation of the divine will of the Son to the divine will of the Father.
Likewise, the sacrifice of the cross was not to the Father alone, but to the whole Trinity. We say that Jesus was the one being sacrified (as the Lamb), and the one doing the sacrifice (as the High Priest), and the one receiving the sacrifice together with the Father and the Holy Spirit (as the Son).
Or, as it is said in the Liturgy of John Chrysostom:

Oops, didn't see that I supported the essence-energy distinction there.
Look, I know Catholics condemn it as a polytheist heresy. Just disregard that part. That's not my point. My point is that the three divine persons are perfectly one in will and action.

Not OP but thanks a lot for these amazing answer. I'm sure it is a culmination of a lot of things (catechism, reading, participation in liturgical life, talking to your priest, etc) but is there any source you could recommend to gain this kind of understanding? A book or 2 maybe? Thanks man I really appreciate the time and effort put into those answers

My catechism actually says very little about the Trinity… I would say half of it is from prayer and meditating on the scriptures, and half of it is from reading articles written by clergymen.
I do not think that what I said is sufficient and satisfactory, because, again, there is the issue of the procession of the Holy Spirit, and the issue of the essence-energy distinction. I haven't read Aquinas or other post-schism Catholic doctors (I'm Orthodox in case that wasn't obvious) so I can't really take their trinitarian theology into account or approve or condemn it. And I've been called a heretic on here several times before for saying what I said here, too.
But that aside, some ressources:
- Chapters 1 and 2 of Metropolitan Kallistos Ware's "The Orthodox Way" gives a short but satisfactory description of Orthodox Trinitarian theology.
- Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew gave an address where he shows the relationship between essence, energy, and hypostasis: patriarchate.org/environmental-addresses/-/asset_publisher/47ISmr00STje/content/address-of-ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-to-the-summit-on-religions-and-conservation-religion-and-nature-the-abrahamic-faiths-concepts-of-creation-
- Although his terminology is extremely basic (and could therefore be read in an Arian way), Father John Behr's article on the Trinity is a good introduction: afkimel.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/john-behr-on-the-trinity/

This is what I mean. When we say God we are not referring to a person but a abstract nature that they all share.

But thanks for everything else it's very enlightening and although I'm a protestant Presbyterian I greatly appreciate what you have said.

No, we are referring to the being of God, which transcends personhood as exists in creation. Not a mere abstraction, but a personal being.
The human essence is a universal property. It is shared in common among all humans. The divine essence however is particular, the essence of an individual, and such things are not shared among creatures. There are things which make you you which I simply do not possess. This intimacy of the divine persons is seen in the doctrine of eternal generation; while all of us share the human essence, how many of us exist as expressions of each other's being?
They are unified by their concrete being
The hierarchy is not in an earthly sense like a king over another being, it is a real priority of origin within the being of God. The Son is obedient to the Father because He is from the Father. As you can see, so far from this hierarchy contradicting the Trinity, it proves it.
This exaltation occurs within time in light of the life of Christ, not eternally in the being of God, read the text before it.

To clarify, you and I do not share an identical essence, that's why we are not the same person. The persons of God share an absolutely identical and utterly indistinguishable essence. You might ask how it is then that they are different persons. The answer is that they are so unified that they would indeed be a single person, save for the fact they are really distinguished by the eternal relations of paternity, filiation, spiration and procession.

Then you shouldn't be hearkening unto this heresy from Constantinople, unless you would like to condemn our Reformed forefathers instead as heretics. I of course wouldn't expect everybody to understand such advanced theology, but I would think even the simplest of Christians should be irked by phrases like "there are 3 types of qualities in God" or "God's energies are the "potential" of His essence" or "by virtue of coming forth from God the Father, the Son is co-eternal and co-equal with Him". Did such fundamental denials of basic Christian orthodoxy not scandalize you? We know that the being of God is not composed of manifold forms upon which He is dependent, but that God is nothing but God Himself, self-existent and formless, absolutely perfect and changeless without possibility of alteration, subsisting in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit each of whom are autotheos.
After going over this I realize I might come across as rather stern, but if I do it is only because I wish to stress the importance of this warning.

If you are any sort of Trinitarian, you believe at the very least that there are 2 types of qualities in God - essence and hypostasis. So, please elaborate as to why 2 is fine but 3 is evidently a problem.

That's… quite literally what "energy" means. And if you believe God is an essence without energies, then congratulations, you have reached the God of the philosophers, but you have yet to reach the immanent God. Even if you believe God's essence is His energies, it is absurd to be scandalized by the very idea that God has energies.

That's… the whole crux of the argument of the Fathers against Arianism and Macedonianism. Even if you're Protestant, you should at least respect the first two ecumenical councils, no?

What you mention is directly addressed in detail here:


"But some one will say that the proof of our argument does not yet regard the question. For even if it were granted that the name of Godhead is a common name of the nature, it would not be established that we should not speak of Gods: but by these arguments, on the contrary, we are compelled to speak of Gods: for we find in the custom of mankind that not only those who are partakers in the same nature, but even any who may be of the same business, are not, when they are many, spoken of in the singular; as we speak of many orators, or surveyors, or farmers, or shoemakers, and so in all other cases."

I leave you to read it, friend

There is one "quality" in God, which is God. The three hypostases are in reality nothing other than the essence of God, but seem different to us.
Energy literally means work, action or operation, not potential.
The "energies" of God are in reality the essence of God rationalized by human creatures, so God is both transcendent and immanent.
The objection is to the allegation of potentiality in God
The problem with the statement was that the Son is co-eternal and co-equal not by nature, but by virtue of generation from the Father, which would make Him a derivative being with a really distinct essence.

… That's hardcore Sabellianism. You can't call this "the basics of Christian orthodoxy" with a straight face.

I never said that the Son is not God by nature. You are the one making a weird statement.

But I'm not going to entertain a Oneness Pentecostal.

I'm surprised anyone even gives them a second of their time.

The absolute state of Protestantism. Fags and tranny preachers on the left, Unitarians on the right. Even those who call themselves "trinitarian" are heretics, like Wayne Grudem and the "new" Reform teachers (who teach the eternal subordination of the Son doctrine.. all in the misguided belief that the Trinity is some "symbol" for "biblical manhood and womanhood" and Christ is like a woman.. who must slavishly submit. Link: adaughterofthereformation.wordpress.com/2016/12/10/grudem-and-ware-double-down-on-the-eternal-subordination-of-the-son/). Not to mention all of the Gnostic and Arian inspired bible translations they're reading (I just touched on that in the recent translation thread).

Please forgive me for calling you a Oneness Pentecostal, I don't know what you actually are. But when you say "The three hypostases are in reality nothing other than the essence of God, but seem different to us", do you really not realize that you haven't even reached the Nicene doctrine of God yet? I cannot think of a single way to reconcile what you said with the Trinitarian theology of either Latin or Greek fathers.
Again, I am sorry. It is still Lenten season for me, it's likely Easter for you tomorrow, I should calm down. However it is true that I am not interested in that level of discussion.

Was Thomas Aquinas a "hardcore Sabellian"?
Yes you did, by making His Godhood derived from the Father.

I realize quite the opposite. I did not at any point deny the reality of the distinction between the persons themselves, but the reality of the distinction between essence and hypostasis in God. Person and essence can be the same, and each person hold the same essence, and yet each person be different, if the divine Trinity is itself the essence of God, since then while the Father and the Son remain distinct, the existence of the Son is nonetheless the essence of the Father. The alternative to this doctrine is that the persons do not share the identical essence, but at most compose it, each person holding a part.
I still needed to make a response, you understand.

You're not helping with the accusation that Filioquists are Sabellians.