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The Holy Trinity

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Andrei Rublev's Trinity, representing the Fath...

Andrei Rublev’s Trinity, representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a similar manner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Christian theology, the Holy Trinity refers to the belief that God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit form a co-equal and co-eternal mystical union.

Each of the three parts is defined as a person. It remains somewhat mysterious as to just what this means.¹ Are the persons really human in form? Or do created human beings resemble the three holy persons of the Trinity?

According to one interpretation of the view that created human beings resemble the three holy persons of the Trinity, some individuals predominantly act as God’s hands, others as God’s mind, others as God’s heart and so on. Biblical support for this idea is often cited in Romans 12:4-6, 1 Corinthians 10:17, and Collossians 3:15.

The notion of different types of people corresponding to different parts of the Divine Body is found in Emanuel Swedenborg‘s (1688-1772) The Universal Human and Soul-Body Interaction. Swedenborg believed he was further delineating the connection between earthly people and their heavenly counterparts. But it remains unclear whether Swedenborg’s vision was identical to other Christian beliefs.

The belief that different types of people correspond to different parts of the Divine Body is also fundamental to Hinduism, a religion which some scholars say has its own kind of Trinity, one quite different from the Christian Trinity. The Hindu Trinity consists of Brahma (Creator), Visnu (Preserver of the Universe) and Siva (Cosmic Destroyer).

But again, to contend that the Swedenborgian, Hindu and Christian Trinities are identical is a gross simplification.

Holy Trinity, Tattershall, Lincolnshire by Brian

Holy Trinity, Tattershall, Lincolnshire by Brian

The idea that the diversity of human beings resembles the Trinity raises important questions about the relationship between God and humanity. For most Christians it does not mean that God is humanity, and nothing more. Rather, the idea is that God, as Creator, is reflected by and present in humanity but still transcends the human condition.

The Christian Holy Trinity is often dismissed as a socio-historical construction, but those claiming to have been granted a vision of the Holy Trinity say that its mysterious character can only be fully comprehended through revelation. Most Christian saints who have experienced a vision of the Trinity say that theological formulas only point the way. True experience of the Trinity apparently unravels the mystery or, perhaps, clarifies it.

Rev. Glenn “Mac” at GlennFrazier.com adds:

Since you mention Swedenborg, it might be worth pointing out that he explicitly spoke up against the idea of a trinity of persons. According to his theology (in, e.g., his book, True Christian Religion), Jehovah the Father and Jesus the Son were not only one God, but also the one and only one person of God. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is the activity of that person, and not a seperate person in its own right. This is somewhat similar to Michael Servetus’ ideas expressed a good deal earlier in his “Errors of the Trinity”. Swedenborg’s idea of a trinity of essentials, rather than of persons, should not be confused with modalism-the idea of there being one God that at various times takes on different functions or modes in sequence. To Swedenborg, the Father was literally God’s soul, the Son his body, and the Spirit his influence/activity, not by analogy, but actually.²

¹Wikipedia further outlines the standard theological wording, but it doesn’t really help much. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity

² https://earthpages.wordpress.com/2014/10/31/trinity-holy-trinity/#comments

Related Posts » Arius, Brahman, Faith, Holy Spirit, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Logos, Monotheism

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6 thoughts on “The Holy Trinity

  1. Since you mention Swedenborg, it might be worth pointing out that he explicitly spoke up against the idea of a trinity of persons. According to his theology (in, e.g., his book, True Christian Religion), Jehovah the Father and Jesus the Son were not only one God, but also the one and only one person of God. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is the activity of that person, and not a seperate person in its own right. This is somewhat similar to Michael Servetus’ ideas expressed a good deal earlier in his “Errors of the Trinity”. Swedenborg’s idea of a trinity of essentials, rather than of persons, should not be confused with modalism–the idea of there being one God that at various times takes on different functions or modes in sequence. To Swedenborg, the Father was literally God’s soul, the Son his body, and the Spirit his influence/activity, not by analogy, but actually.

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  2. Thanks very much for this excellent comment. You know, I started writing this dictionary about 10 years ago. And many of these entries are quite old. I find that my analytical capacities are sharpening with age. But even at the time of writing that entry, I probably knew that I was presenting a somewhat overly analogous assortment of ideas, something akin to what Joseph Campbell does. It really is a trade off. But you’re absolutely right. It’s essential to point out that each system – not just Swedenborg’s – displays important variations. And to just toss out apparent similarities really doesn’t do justice to the topic. We really do need both, I think.

    Now as for Swedenborg, do you think it possible that he still relies on the intellect a bit too much? I know he was a mystic. But he was also coming from a scientific background. Myself, I prefer to put faith first and intellect second.

    Note: I just edited the entry. And I plan to include some of your comments in the entry for Swedenborg. Much appreciated.

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  3. swedenborg was rational, a mystic deals with religion through the sensual, the old testament was ritual, the new testament sensual, the writings of swedenborg rational, the holy spirit is the rational mind of God, so there you have it, the 3 fold word, swedenborg was the final peace to the spiritual puzzle.

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    • I think Swedenborg’s rationality was colored by cultural beliefs. See, for example, this excerpt from the earthpages.ca entry about him.

      **

      Although interesting and presented in an orderly fashion, some of Swedenborg’s writings seem questionable. He writes, for instance, that spirits told him people lived in wooden buildings and tents on the planet Jupiter:

      Their dwellings were also shown me. They are lowly dwellings constructed of wood; but within they are lined with bark or cork of a pale blue colour, and the walls and ceiling are spotted as with stars, to represent the heaven; for they are fond of picturing the visible heaven with its constellations in the interiors of their houses, the reason being that they believe the constellations to be the abodes of the angels. They have tents also, which are rounded off above and extended in length, spotted likewise within with stars on a blue ground. They retire into these in the day-time, to prevent their faces suffering from the heat of the sun. They bestow much care on the fashioning of these tents of theirs, and on keeping them clean. In them they also take their repasts.

      Earths in our Solar System which are called Planets and Earths in the Starry Heaven: Their Inhabitants, and the Spirits and Angels there from things Heard and Seen from the Latin of Emanuel Swedenborg, Swedenborg Society, London: 1962, par 59.

      http://www.gutenberg.org/files/16044/16044-h/16044-h.htm

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  4. According to the Holy Scriptures (the Word of God), the Divine Creator God Who does not tell lies is an eternal Spirit Who has never been seen by man who would fall death if they would see God (John 4:24; Exodus 33:20; John 1:8) Jesus was seen by many who did not fall death. How can trinitarians consider the son of Mary to be God and belief he was tempted, though God can not be tempted and belief Jesus died for their sins whilst God can not die? And what would be the use of the god man dying? What could God proof to Satan if He (God) would come to earth to fake His death?

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