Curious what Christian theologians or the Bible may have said about this. It seems like Jesus speaks in terms of his father's will as if it is not quite his own, which suggests separate minded-ness.

And what of the Holy Spirit ? Is the Holy Spirit thought to have a mind in the same way Jesus and God the father are thought to (since they are considered "persons" in some sense of the word).

Maybe there are ways it could be a bit of both shared and separate.

There may be no obvious answer on this and it could be just up for speculation, and if so, I'd be interested in learning that fact at least.


6 Answers 6


I asked a similar question pertaining to will within the Trinity.

Given that the Triune God is one in nature and three in person, and that I consider the mind to be a part of the person, I would conclude that each of the three persons has their own separate mind.

However, because they share the same perfect and infinite nature, their is never any dissent or discord among the persons of God. In a sense, though they are of separate persons each with their own mind, they are of "one mind", in unity of purpose and being.

Also, scripture talks in different places about the "mind of Christ" (e.g. 1 Cor 2:16) and the "mind of the Spirit" (e.g. Rom 8:27), quite distinctly at least implying two distinct minds for those two of the Holy Trinity.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

1 Cor:2:14-16

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Rom 8:26-27

  • While I might be mistaken, this answer sounds a little to close to the heresy of Partialism...
    – ericg
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 11:00
  • @ericgorr: I think you misinterpret my meaning; orthodox Christian doctrine is that God is one in nature (essence), but three in person and this answer does not contradict that. It certainly does not intend to imply that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are 3 different parts of God (that would be to divide his essential nature).
    – user32
    Commented Apr 22, 2013 at 18:33

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit have three minds.

The Father knows something that the son does not:

Mark 13:32 KJV But of that day and [that] hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.

Jesus had a will different than the Father. He did not want to die. At Gethsemane and through his tribulation he learned obedience.

Luke 22:42 KJV Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

Hebrews 5:8 KJV Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;

The love God commands us is defined as putting another ahead of yourself. If the wills of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost were identical, then Love could not have been expressed before creation. This would make God a needy God, rather than self-sufficient.

Jesus recognizes our dual nature of flesh and spirit. When he command us to love others as we love ourselves [1], he is not giving merit to self-love. He is commanding us, in the same way that Paul did, to put off the old man and put on the new[2]. He has told us that we cannot serve two masters [3], therefore we cannot have two loves. We are to replace the self-centeredness of the flesh with the love of the spirit.

[1] Mt 19:19 Honour thy father and [thy] mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Mt 22:39 And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Mr 12:31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

[2] Ro 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Eph 4:22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; Col 3:9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;

[3] Mt 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Lu 16:13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

  • Christ commands us to "love your neighbor as you love yourself." If it is possible for me to love myself, is it not also possible for God (with a single-person/mind/will) to love Himself? This seems to invalidate your definition of love as "putting another ahead of yourself" unless you mean to suggest I can somehow put myself ahead of myself.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Oct 27, 2011 at 21:29
  • Changed content to reflect the definition of love more clearly. Self-love isn't love at all, it is the self-centered nature of the flesh which we are commanded to 'put off'.
    – Bob Jones
    Commented Nov 27, 2011 at 15:02

While I can't find any source that would say about "mind" of God (I'm not even sure if Church Fathers ever used the word "nous" as something that God possesess), the notion of will of God is resolved by the theology of the First Ecumenical Councils.

Especially the 6th Ecumenical Council (3rd Constantinople) which was opposing the heresy of monotheletism explained that if there is a difference between Christ's will and Father's will, it is the human will of Christ. The God will of the Trinity is one. But the Word Incarnate having two full natures of God and of man has also two wills.

  • 3
    Could you expand a bit? This answer really seems to be on the right track since it is talking about both the Trinity and the human/Divine will of Christ, and not speculating based on the Bible but instead talking about major meetings of theologians and views that opposed them.
    – Alypius
    Commented Apr 23, 2013 at 7:25

The Persons of the Trinity are not three individuals but three persons; we, because of our personal experiences (every person I've met today is also an individual), tend to consider them synonymous, and may think of there being three separate minds and wills in the Trinity. But the differences between the Persons of the Trinity are only in their relation toward one another; They share one mind and will, yet each Person is self-aware (the Father knows He is the Father, He knows the other two Persons, and He knows of the other two Persons as distinct yet one with Him; and so on).

The Godhead has one rational nature; each Person of the Trinity shares that rational nature in a distinct way.

The following quotations come from Karl Rahner's The Trinity, and anything in bold is my emphasis; italics are present in the original. Note that he ultimately teaches a heretical view of the Trinity due to his claim that creation was a necessary action on God's part and the generation of His Son was in preparation for creation. I'm not using any of that here.

Rahner agrees with Aquinas's definition of person: That which subsists as distinct in a rational nature (Summa Theologica, Q 30, A 4). Whereas we normally think that a person has a mind, by this definition it's the opposite: minds contain persons.

He begins with a high-level discussion of the relation between each Person of the Trinity, summarized here (also see this question):

It follows that we must say that the Father, Son, and Spirit are identical with the one godhead and are "relatively" distinct from one another. These three as distinct are constituted only by there relatedness to one another, so that the axiom which asserts the identity of the essence and the distinction of the three may also be formulated (as Anselm was the first to do and as done by the Council of Florence) as follows: in God everything is one except where there is relative opposition (DS 1330).

So the Father is fully God, the Son is fully God, and the Spirit is fully God; we do not have an additive relationship, where Father + Son + Spirit = God; neither do we have a single Person revealing Himself in three different forms, but we have three Persons "relatively" distinct. Each Person sort of comprises the "God essence" in a distinct way.

Rahner then begins to discuss the relations in more detail, preparing to take a closer look at each Person within the Trinity:

Let us first make it clear that in the official doctrine of the [Catholic] Church this term [person] says nothing which has not yet been said with the word "hypostasis." This is already evident from the fact that both words are used as synonyms. Furthermore, it is evident that the element of consciousness, which nowadays and from long ago almost spontaneously connected with the concept,28 does not belong to it in our context, insofar as it expresses the formal moment of this concept as distinguished from the essence of God. Otherwise the "three" would also have to be said of this "element of consciousness." But there exists in God only one power, one will, only one self-presence, a unique activity, a unique beatitude, and so forth.29 Hence self-awareness is not a moment which distinguishes the divine "persons" one from the other, even though each divine "person," as concrete, possesses a self-consciousness. Whatever would mean three "subjectivities" must be carefully kept away from the concept of person in the present context.20

28: This is also often tacitly, but wrongly, presupposed in some "demonstrations" by which biblical theology tries to establish the "personality" of the (immanent) Son and Spirit, when they wish to demonstrate a "personality" of the Son and Spirit which is distinct from that of the Father.

29: Cp. DS 3, 71, 73, 144f, 172, 177, 415, 421, 441, 451, 490, 501, 542, 545f, 572f, 680, 851, 3350. We must, of course, say that Father, Son, and Spirit possess self-consciousness and that each one is aware of the other two "persons." But precisely this self-consciousness (as subjective, not as understood in its objectivity) comes from the divine essence, is common as one to the divine persons, is therefore a moment of the concrete person, so that he may be defined as "a distinct subject in a rational nature." But it is not a constitutive moment of the "person" as such, as distinct from the "essence" (nature), although it must be mentioned if we wish to explain the difference between a "hypostatis" with self-awareness and a subhuman thing-like "hypostatis."

30: Hence within the Trinity there is no reciprocal "Thou." The Son is the Father's self-utterance which should not in its turn be conceived as "uttering," and the Spirit is the "gift" which does not give in its turn. Jn. 17, 21; Gal. 4, 6; Rom. 8, 15 presuppose a creaturely starting point for the "Thou" addressed to the Father.

So each Person shares the Divine will, power, activity, and self-presence, all things that come from a mind. Yet each Person recognizes Himself as distinct from each other Person within the Trinity. Each Person's self-awareness and consciousness is not inherent to that Person (by nature of that Person being that Person) but comes from the shared essence.

Now this is not necessarily true; though this does explain the one-and-threeness without danger of imagining God as three Gods. We can only know of God what He chooses to reveal to us, and He didn't seem to think it necessary for us to fit Him into our little heads.

Nonetheless, the main difficulty regarding the concept of person in the doctrine of the Trinity is rather different, and we have already mentioned it several times before now: when today we speak of person in the plural, we think almost necessarily, because of the modern meaning of the word, of several spiritual centers of activity, of several subjectivities and liberties. But there are not three of these in God -- not only because in God there is only one essence, hence one absolute self-presence, but also because there is only one self-utterance of the Father, the Logos... There is in God a knowledge of these three persons.. a knowledge about the Trinity both as consciousness and as "object" of knowledge (as known). But there are not three consciousnesses; rather the one consciousness subsists in a threefold way. There is only one real consciousness in God, which is shared by the Father, Son, and Spirit, by each in his own proper way.

  • 1
    I appreciate your effort, but I cannot understand the Rahner quotes at all.
    – Chelonian
    Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 5:07
  • This was one of the most difficult books I've ever read. Was there something specific I can try to explain (I'll see if I can improve it overall tomorrow)?
    – Ryan Frame
    Commented Apr 21, 2013 at 21:24
  • 1
    I appreciate your offer, but I rather doubt you or anyone can decode that for anyone in a convincing way (and it's not your fault). There are just far too many terms that are ill-defined to make sense of Rahner's points. E.g., with such words italicized: "But precisely this self-consciousness (as subjective, not as understood in its objectivity) comes from the divine essence, is common as one to the divine persons, is therefore a moment of the concrete person, so that he may be defined as 'a distinct subject in a rational nature.'" I'd argue this is hopelessly abstruse.
    – Chelonian
    Commented Apr 23, 2013 at 3:31
  • @Chelonian Having read this answer about 20 times, it is very clear to me. He says that the Father, Son, and Spirit are one single God. The only distinction between the Persons is their relationships; The Son is the Son of the Father, the Spirit is the Spirit of God. “The element of consciousness … does not belong to it [the Person] in our context [the official doctrine of the {Catholic} Church].” “There exists in God only one power, one will, only one self-presence. … Hence self-awareness is not a moment [aspect?) which distinguishes the divine "persons" one from the other.”
    – Andries
    Commented Apr 27 at 6:18
  • @Chelonian Each Person possesses a self-consciousness, not because each Person has a distinct self-consciousness, but because each possesses “the ‘God essence’,” which is a single essence, which has that consciousness. Hence within the Trinity, the Persons do not address one another as “you.” “Each Person shares the Divine will … that come from a mind. … Each Person's self-awareness and consciousness is not inherent to that Person (by nature of that Person being that Person) but comes from the shared essence.”
    – Andries
    Commented Apr 27 at 6:20

I don't have all the references, but I'm quite certain that the Scriptures reveal that the Father, Son and Spirit each have mind, will, and emotions. We can "grieve the Spirit", Jesus was "willing" to make people clean, the Father "has compassion", God's "thoughts are higher than our thoughts", the Father has a will (as you mentioned), Jesus exhibited emotion when He wept...

So, each is a Person with mind, will and emotions, yet they are One (John 17).


At one point, the Scriptures do speak of the mind of the Lord, specifically Christ:

For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16 NASB


Jesus said He only did the things He saw His Father do, and that the Holy Spirit would speak of Him, so it would indicate that they have one will, even if separate minds. However it is important to remember: the Trinity is a mystery - but we are given an example within ourselves. We have a body, soul and spirit, and all think with the same mind. Unfortunately in our fallen state, our three parts don't agree (body and spirit war against each other), but if we take this on principle, the idea of the Trinity having one Mind becomes a bit clearer.

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