How does the trinity work?

This is a diagram of the trinity.
The Father is God.
The Son is God.
The Holy Spirit is God.
But none of them are eachother.

So 3 distinct persons in 1 entity.

How do we describe these “persons”? Are they like separate beings controlling one entity? Different personas as one Being?

John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.”

If Jesus is not the Father, then how can they be one? Are they referring to being one in God?

When Jesus was crucified and killed, would that mean that the other persons, The Father, and The Holy Spirit, also died? If they are all God, and Jesus is also God, would that mean that God technically was dead temporarily for 3 days, including the other beings?

What are the 3 persons like? What are their natures? How are they identical?

I have many questions, that I don’t know how to explain in words here. But my primary one is…
How does the trinity work, and is it a contradiction?
If you want me to elaborate on what I mean by contradiction, I’ll try my best.


I think you might do well, if you haven’t, to start looking at some carefully hammered out and worded confessional statements that describe the Trinity, that is the God of Christianity.
Have you done that so far?
I’m not sure where your beliefs are (so may people here to try to learn and keep track of), but for Christians a careful, as accurate as possible, compilation and description of the God we revere and obey is a big deal, not something to be taken lightly. Not a place for just sharing opinions.


The nice thing about churches that follow a liturgical calendar is that there is a Trinity Sunday. In the West it’s the first Sunday after Pentecost. It’s a day for pastors to attempt to explain the Holy Trinity, which has always been a mystery.

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We had a 12-week series of classes on the Nicene Creed with our theologian in residence. It was very informative.


The Trinity has always been promoted as an impossible mystery yet we take multitasking and multiple-use machines for granted. The problem is that there are some Christian documents that claim absolute authority and integrity to which all allegory and symbolism are required to abide. And if you go to another forum you will find an anti-trinitarian that takes great delight in trying to use these documents to confound Trinitarians.
The traditional ice, water, and steam illustration is modalism because a particle can be any of them depending on the temperature, and Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are defined as being separate. However it does illustrate the possibility of multiple forms within a single body.

A Mobile phone is a modern illustration because each app is separate but is also part of the whole and needs the central processor to operate (that being the Father) But, strictly speaking the central processor is above all else whereas the trinity is supposed to be equal. So instead we ignore the central processor and compare the trinity to the apps. Yes there are more than 3 but who cares? (the documents do! there are only three “persons” of the Trinity)

A chair has recognisable parts which are distinct but part of the whole: leg, seat, back. The same could be said about parts of a building. In the UK Big Ben is the recognisabe part of the Houses of Parliament but it is only one part of the whole. (USA the White House and the Oval Office?)

The other traditional model is the Body, Mind and Spirit.

I have also talked about different jobs or aspects of a person, being father, son, mechanic, Footballer and so on. All aspects of the same person. Part of the whole but distinct (can also be looked at as modalism though)

However you look, the idea of three in one is no longer impossible. But perhaps we do not need to fathom the Trinity to believe in it? It worked as a mystery for centuries so perhaps it can remain that way?

Just a quick summary of things I have talked about on Trinity Sundays past.


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One “what”; three "who"s.

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One God.
Three persons.

But, “person” has a specific meaning in the Trinity. it does not mean separate beings, ony separate identities within the whole.

The whole point is that the Trinity is not a trio of beings or even a three-headed Cerberus. The Trinity is how we rationalise the presence of God in at least two places at once while Christ was walkiing the earth.

The reason why the Trinity does not occur in the Old Testament is because Christ does not exist as a separate being there.

And yes, the word Trinity does not appear in the bible, although you will find direct references to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as separate identities.


The Trinity and the Nicene Creed

The Church Fathers worked out the Nicene Creed over many years in the ecumenical councils. It helped solve the Christological controversies that had come about in the early centuries of the faith. The creed united the mainline churches more or less. (The Orthodox Nicene creed doesn’t have the Filioque.)

Concerning God the Father the creed says:

I believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

Concerning God the Son, it says:

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

Concerning the Holy Spirit it says:

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

There is some variation in the wording of the creed. There are other parts to the creed as well, but these parts I listed concern the Trinity.


The Trinity means only God can be God and not suffer being alone.

Actually, this is pretty on point. The Trinity has been classically understood as three persons sharing one divine essence or being. If I get some time later I’ll find some quotes.


Trinity is a word that has done more bad than good. Many outsiders interpret it so that we worship three gods instead of one - that’s bad.

I understand that all professions have a need to develop special terms that summarize ideas that would otherwise take much space to tell. Trinity is theological jargon, an attempt to squeeze the teachings of the creeds about Father, Son and Holy Spirit to one word.

As the word is seriously problematic and is just theological jargon, I try to avoid the use of that word. Much better to use expressions that can be found from the biblical scriptures, or possibly creeds. Trinity may perhaps be used in company where others grasp the meaning. Use of the term when talking with people that do not know theological concepts is something I would not recommend.

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My experience is that the term is only problematic when taught incorrectly… most often by well meaning pastors who use analogies and illustrations that unwitting imply classic heresies. As for theological jargon, all technical disciplines contain terms that are open to misunderstanding. Should we avoid talking of ‘survival of the fittest’ because some people think it means ‘survival of the strongest’? In my view, education is the answer, not avoidance.


Education is possible in the case of people who visit churches. The global majority does not come to churches.

The guideline for telling about scientific studies for laypersons is to use an imaginery old lady from countryside as the model audience. To ensure that the message is understood, all jargon should be dropped and replaced with words even the lady can understand.

The same principle should be applied to theological discussions and presentations. The jargon can be reserved for communication with other educated Christians. For the rest of the global population, the use of jargon is like using Latin - few understand it correctly.

Better education is the answer.

It’s a theological term and not an attempt to squeeze the teachings of the creeds into one word!

You’re making it sound like Gnosticism with its secret teachings

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“How” is the wrong question. This is not something with working parts, that you can explain how the parts interact and make up the whole.

The important question is “why?”

It comes from an effort to take everything the Bible says seriously. Without the doctrine of the Trinity you have to ignore some of the things the Bible says or discount them in some way.

But it is quite correct to observe that the doctrine of the Trinity is not actually in the Bible. It is a conclusion we come to. And this is one of the reasons I like it. This doctrine which is so central to Christianity is not something you get by repeating back the words of the Bible like a parrot. The use of the human brain is required.

Another reason I like this doctrine is that it makes is quite clear that the God of Christianity is not a god made in our own image. There are ways in which this God is nothing like us at all. But it is because this God is MORE than we are not LESS!


Education is possible for everyone. And Christianity is a global religion. Plenty of churches are named after the Trinity. No harm done.

Do you think that Jews should stop using words like bris, seder, or kosher in public because folks on the street might not understand?

:smiley: Look on the bright side: the Doctrine of the Trinity ensures that trinitarian Christians won’t become Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Muslims, Jews, or Baha’i. And “the Trinity” confuses the heck out of anti-Christian anti-theists, too. IMO, I don’t see anything wrong with that. In fact, I think it’s a good thing, although it does befuddle the uninformed who imagine that we all worship the same god, when it’s quite clear that the Doctrine of the Trinity tells us that we don’t.

I tried to write (too) shortly and that led to misunderstandings. I am not a theologian, so I may say things in a way that sounds strange to those who have read much theology. I will try again.

If we think of the Christian doctrine of God, it started by relying on the teachings of the Jewish apostles. When there were misunderstandings and conflicting interpretations, the details that Christians of that time considered essential were formulated into creeds, Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. In the biblical scriptures or these two creeds, there is not the word ‘trinity’. Much later, the Athanasian creed included trinity. This makes me think that the word ‘trinity’ was taken into use somewhere between the formulation of the Nicene and Athanasian creeds.

Technical terms (‘jargon’) are used to squeeze concepts into one or few words. The background of the word ‘trinity’ is in the teachings within the biblical scriptures that were later canonized and the generally accepted summary of the crucial teachings, the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. It seems natural that the word ‘trinity’ was invented as a technical term that squeezes into one word what was considered accepted teaching about God. Accepted teaching at that time was pretty much what was written in the two creeds.

That is why I wrote that it is an attempt to squeeze the teachings about God to one word. In my vocabulary, this kind of theological terms are jargon.


Does the makeup of God change the fact that He is God? And just because you do not perceive God in the same way, can you not still be worshipping the same God?
Perhaps God has introduced Himself to other cultures in different ways? Christianity may seem to think it has a monopoly on God but I wonder whether God thinks that?

I do not think that God is subject to any creed whether it has an anathema attached or not. (The Nicene Creed used to have an anathema and the Anathasian one still does)

It is much more logical for God to approach each culture in accordance to the needs of that culture, rather than imposing one way onto all. Christianity would even deny the Jews access to their own God!


I think we are looking at the word from two different viewpoints. Your viewpoint fits to a society where a large fraction of the population are Christians and people get fairly good education, including some kind of education about Christianity.

My viewpoint could be called missionary. I think about the people who do not yet know Jesus as their Lord and have a weak and often distorted understanding about Christianity. Many live in countries dominated by other religions but an increasing proportion are agnostics and immigrants living in postmodern societies. Use of easily misunderstood terms form one kind of barrier for communication. I do not understand why we have to use complicated jargon when the message would reach these people much easier, if we would use ordinary words when possible.

I admit that the dual nature of Jesus may be difficult to grasp even when using ordinary words but trinity is a worse term. It would be interesting to ask a large group of Christians to define what the term ‘trinity’ means. I suspect that we would get an interesting variety of answers.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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