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I am an Atheist from a Muslim background, I would like to know exactly how do Christians think of Trinity (Especially the Holy Spirit)?

Most Muslims see "Trinity" as three separate persons or entities (God, Christ and the Holy Spirit), although they truly believe (according to the Qur'an) that Jesus is a prophet (human), and that he was supported by the Holy Spirit (Ruh Al-Qudus روح القدس in Arabic, or Ruah Ha-Qodesh רוח הקודש in Hebrew).

The reason Muslims think Christians believe in three Gods, is because Qur'an says so, although it does not necessarily reflect what the doctrine of Trinity stands for.

Anyway, the way I think of it personally is as if God is a man (the father), deliberately controlling the movement of a puppet that looks like a human body (Jesus). And that Jesus is not independent of God as a person, in my own understanding of this idea, is that Jesus and God are actually one person, it is just that unlike other humans, who control their own bodies, Jesus is controlled directly by God Himself.

That is an analogy of what I understand when a Christian tries to explain it.

But I still fail to understand the role of the Holy Spirit? is it like the strings used to connect the Body (Jesus, Son) with the Soul (God, Father) ?

Am I wrong here? Thank you.

Note : Although the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the Qur'an, it does not give a definition or account for the word. The Qur'an only states that God sent Jesus as a human prophet, and that He supported him with/through the Holy Spirit.

By the way, there is also a Hadith in Islam, that states that all humans sin, except Jesus.

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    No, your view is incorrect. The Trinity says that there are three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in one being. And Jesus is one person with two united natures, divine and human. He is a complete human being, with a human body but also a human soul, mind, and will, and he also shares the divine nature with its mind and will. – curiousdannii Jan 25 at 13:09
  • Thank you, I am trying to get my head around it, as I have this tendency to think that what you mean is that Jesus is a person that is different from God, which makes two persons ? thank you – SmootQ Jan 25 at 13:32
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    This here is an answer I gave to another question which brings in the subject of Old Testament Trinity that continues in the New Testament. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/37973/… In short Trinity is three persons (G-dhead-Father Son Holy Ghost) that are echâd (United as one). Please read the link and if you require a longer answer specific to your question let me know. Thank you – Autodidact Jan 25 at 19:19
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    Possible duplicate of What is the doctrine of the Trinity? – curiousdannii Jan 25 at 23:17
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    @SmootQ best not to call them "myths" given the site you're on. The Christian view of the trinity was an extension of the dual plurality and singular nature of Yahweh in the Old Testament. – Stephen Feb 1 at 2:08
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The Trinity declares that there is only the One Being of God. A Divine Being is not to be confused with a human being. Also, God is Spirit. Before Jesus came to earth to born as a human, he existed in heaven alongside God (the Father) and the Holy Spirit. John chapter 1 verses 1 to 3 and 14 explain it this way:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Before Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, by the Holy Spirit, he was the eternal and uncreated Word of God. The Word became flesh and dwelt with us. That’s Jesus. So the first thing to understand about the Trinity is that Jesus was no mere mortal, born of a woman, but came from heaven to earth to do the will of his Father, who sent him. His humanity (physical body and nature) came from Mary but his divinity came from his pre-human being. He was fully human and also fully divine.

Genesis chapter 1 describes how, at the creation of the heavens and the earth, God said “Let us make man in our image.” God was not speaking to the angels (who already existed) because humans are not made in the image of created angels. God (the Father) was speaking to the Word (the pre-mortal Son) and to the Holy Spirit. Here is a brief extract from an article that explains it:

On the last day of creation, God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). Thus, He finished His work with a “personal touch.” God formed Adam from the dust and gave him life by sharing His own breath (Genesis 2:7). Accordingly, humanity is unique among all God’s creations, having both a material body and an immaterial soul/spirit.

The image of God (Latin: imago dei) refers to the immaterial part of humanity. It sets human beings apart from the animal world, fits them for the dominion God intended them to have over the earth (Genesis 1:28), and enables them to commune with their Maker. It is a likeness mentally, morally, and socially. Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/image-of-God.html

Within the One Being of God subsist the three persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Not three Gods. Here is a brief description of the roles each play within the Godhead:

The Father is the ultimate source or cause of the universe (1 Corinthians 8:6; Revelation 4:11); divine revelation (Revelation 1:1); salvation (John 3:16-17); and Jesus' human works (John 5:17; 14:10). The Father initiates all of these things.

The Son is the agent through whom the Father does the following works: the creation and maintenance of the universe (1 Corinthians 8:6; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17); divine revelation (John 1:1, 16:12-15; Matthew 11:27; Revelation 1:1); and salvation (2 Corinthians 5:19; Matthew 1:21; John 4:42). The Father does all these things through the Son, who functions as His agent.

The Holy Spirit is the means by whom the Father does the following works: creation and maintenance of the universe (Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13; Psalm 104:30); divine revelation (John 16:12-15; Ephesians 3:5; 2 Peter 1:21); salvation (John 3:6; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:2); and Jesus' works (Isaiah 61:1; Acts 10:38). Thus, the Father does all these things by the power of the Holy Spirit. Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/Trinity-Bible.html

To get a better understanding of how Christians view the Holy Spirit, please read this: https://www.gotquestions.org/is-the-Holy-Spirit-God.html

The reason Jesus never sinned was because he was not merely a human born of a man and a woman. He was the eternal and uncreated Word of God who agreed to come to earth to save humanity from sin. His death and resurrection mean that our sins can be forgiven and we can look forward to spending eternity with the Lord God. No human could atone for the sins of the world. But Jesus did – because he was God incarnate, God with us in human form. It’s a big subject, but this article explains it well: https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-sinless.html

The Muslim view of Jesus does not agree with the Biblical view of Jesus. That’s perhaps the reason why your view of the Trinity is not right. Good question, and I hope you get some good answers.

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    Thank you , now I understand the idea better ... BTW, it seems to me that the Qur'an misunderstands Christianity after all, while it agrees with what you have just said on some points, for instance : Qur'an says that God is one (and that christians worship 3 Gods), while it says that Jesus is the Word of God, and that he does not sin, and that he is supported with the Holy Spirit, while stating that he is only a prophet. I think, the way Muslims look at it is little bit confused.... Thanks again +1 – SmootQ Jan 25 at 19:17
  • The Qur'an also says that Jesus is a Spirit (Rooh) from God ... – SmootQ Jan 25 at 19:20
  • The above understanding of the Trinity is believed by many people and taught by many denominations but it is NOT the only form of trinitarianism. Another very common form is found in the Athanasian creed en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athanasian_Creed There are others as well. However, all assert that there is ONE GOD ONLY. – user43409 Jan 25 at 21:14
  • @Mac'sMusings Are you saying that any of the above disagrees with the Athanasian Creed? – curiousdannii Jan 25 at 23:19
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    @Mac's Musings I believe I made it clear there is only One God and I do not think I said that there is a hierarchy within the Trinity. My understanding is that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have the same essence, nature, and glory, but each One has different roles or activities when it comes to God’s dealings with humanity. The Father sent the Son into the world (1 John 4:10), the Holy Spirit is sent by Jesus and “proceeds from the Father” to testify of Christ (John 14:26; 15:26), and when on earth Jesus submitted to his Father’s will (Luke 22:42; Hebrews 10:7). All 3 are co-equal. – Lesley Jan 26 at 10:39
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Our understanding of God need to go much deeper than that.

Let's not forget that He is the eternal self-existent substance that created the entire expanse of the universe, because, let's face it, matter can never create itself from nothing. Therefore, our understanding of Him need to be carefully gathered from His revelations. He cannot be explained with a few simple words, but instead will be our science and study for eternal ages.

The Godhead is made up of three persons sharing one nature, the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). The Bible claims them as equal and fully capable of having their own individual will.

"Christ Jesus: who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God" Philippians 2:6

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

The fact that they seem to defer to each other is rather an evidence of another powerful characteristic of God. Self renouncing love. A love that "seekth not her own" (1 Corinthian 13:5). The Father desires to give all things to the Son. The Son desires nothing but to bring glory to the Father. And, the Holy Spirit testifies only of the Son and the Father, and not of Himself. And yet all three are equal and act as one. (John 16:13-15).

The creation of intelligent being with free will was no small act for God. The plan to save man was laid down from before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). God foresaw sin's terrible existence, and had set up a plan of salvation to personally meet it. Through the light of the cross, and God's own sacrifice (both in the form of the Son for laying down his life and the Father for following through with a heart wrenching separation), we come to appreciate how justice and mercy met at the cross.

And what is the role of the Holy Spirit in all of this? He is the presence through which we can experience the love, grace, power and new life with Jesus. When Jesus was on earth, He aided Jesus in His earthly ministry, because Jesus never exercised divine power of His own unless it was for the benefit of others. When Jesus ascended to heaven to be our high priest, the presence of the Holy Spirit came to us with even more power. The Holy Spirit works tirelessly to quicken our conscience, rebuke our sins, reawaken our yearning for our Creator and Saviour, bring the gift of repentance, and give understanding to the scriptures (John 16:7-8). The Holy Spirit also works on our hearts, and helps us to better reflect Jesus' character (Galatians 5:22). The Bible even reveals that when we are incapable of praying properly,

"the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Roman 8:26).

Yet we know not almost nothing about Him personally, because He unselfishly testifies only of Jesus and the Father.

  • Note that for most of history the great majority of Trinitarians have taught that there is only one divine will. Each person having an independent will is very much a minority position. – curiousdannii Jan 26 at 4:56
  • @curiousdannii Thanks, noted. It is almost semantics since they are one in divine character, and therefore the will will not deviate (except when Jesus possessed the weakness of a fallen human nature). However, to say at one point (or even today) that Jesus had both a divine will and a human will sounds almost like split personality to me. – Beestocks Jan 26 at 5:12
  • Well that's the mystery and miracle of the incarnation! The old phrase that what is not assumed is not healed is powerful to me - if I want my mind and will to be healed from sin, then it's essential that Jesus was a full human being, including having a human mind and will. Do you think it's common in SDA to say that each person of the Trinity has their own will, and that the incarnate Christ has only one? That would be very interesting to me - I haven't known a whole denomination that takes that position before, just isolated individuals. – curiousdannii Jan 26 at 5:16
  • @curiousdannii Thanks for taking an interest! The nature of God, its mysteries, is like looking through a glass darkly. Based on the writings of our founders, it would seem most would conclude each person of the Trinity has their own will, although not a doctrine focus. Ellen White also writes very touchingly about Jesus and his humanity in Gethsemane in Desire of Ages, pg 686, which leaves the impression of one will, although not explicit. Zechariah 6:13 about "the counsel of peace" between the Father and Jesus in heaven would be a Biblical basis we'd use for same but distinct will. – Beestocks Jan 26 at 6:17
  • Thank you for the answer, so what I understand from the idea is wrong after all. Thanks again +1 – SmootQ Jan 26 at 9:06
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Temporal terms used to describe eternal realities

When Christians speak of the Son being 'begotten' what they mean to convey is a relationship within the divine nature, between two aspects thereof, not a temporal event of literal begetting (as in the Qur'an, where God actually copulates with a divine consort to produce a son), or of something added to God which before He didn't have.

One must bear these limitations in mind.

Can one describe eternal relationships without using a temporal analogy, after all? I think not. All relationships on earth are described by way of a course of events which led to two things rather than one, etc. In God, these words of "beget" etc. are used only insofar as "beget" denotes full sharing of the nature of the begetter in that which is begotten. That's why we use it of the Son, because 'in Him dwells the fullness of the divinity' (Colossians 2:9). Could God ever be without thought, or ever without wisdom? This is how integral to the nature of God we believe the Son and Holy Spirit to be to the Father, the αρχη or source of this "Son" and his "Spirit"—'source' being used with the above qualification.

An analogy

It's comparable to fire. One can address simply "fire" (just as we Chritsians address 'the one God'), yet one can distinguish between the overall fire ('God'), and the light and the heat, for example, emitted. You don't have fire without the light ('the Son') or the heat ('the Spirit), but the fire as distinct from light and from heat can nonetheless be distinguished ('the Father'). But even if we say the light is 'emitted from' the fire and 'heat created' we don't mean to imply that there could have ever been fire, to which was then added light, or added heat, without said aspects, but speak of the causal relationship only. So it is with the Trinity: the begetting of the Son only tells us that God's nature is fully in what we name Son, not that an event took place literally in which God was without a Son and then gave birth to a Son. Son denotes the presence of the nature of God in what is called Son, not a literal offspring.

In keeping with the analogy with fire, we could say that the Spirit is the heat generated by the fire, via the light it emits ('the Son' John 16:15), so that the light ('the Son') is united to the αρχη or source of fire and the fire to the light via this intermediary effect of 'both together' and yet the fire or 'the Father' is the source, ultimately of both—again, 'source' in the 'what is the relationship between these?' not 'was without them and then created them' (because language is used like beget which in humans involves time, but with God, because it denotes only the relationship, does not). Nothing in fire 'comes first' inasmuch as fire isn't present without light or heat. Noting in the Trinity comes first because, once again, relationships are described using terms like beget or proceed only insofar as they are useful for describing how one person relates to the other.

Personality

As to why these 'light' and 'heat' 'effects' of God are personal, it's simply that what is God is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, etc. which are inherently personal things, and because whatever is eternal is God, and is synonymous with the nature of God by definition. There are no 'inanimate things' in God's nature.

To your question more specifically...

"God is not a man" (Numbers 23:19). If He were already a man, the incarnation (Latin for becoming flesh) wouldn't make sense. John 1:1 would read instead: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word with God, and the Word was flesh: ... and the Word remained flesh, and made His dwelling among us."

Nor is Jesus a human puppet. Jesus means "Saviour" and was the name given to the boy born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary. He wasn't a created person, but an eternal divine Person, the Word, "whose origins are of old, even from the days of eternity" (Micah 5:2), who became a man in the sense that He took on a human nature, not that the divine nature was mutated into a human nature, or that He gave up being divine. Inasmuch as the Word took on a human nature and a human soul, He would faint, get hungry, and die: that was quite the purpose of the Redemption, to become a man, "suffer many things ...and be killed" (Mark 8:31): "for scarcely will a man die even for a just man: but God shows the love He has for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:7-8).

There is a heresy called Docetism that says Jesus 'only seemed to be' human. This is rejected by historic Christianity as denying that Jesus has come in the flesh (2 John 1:7). A related heresy, and one you seem to have mistaken for the orthodox doctrine is Apollinarianism, which says Jesus didn't have a human soul, but was 'possessed' by the Word (like a puppet), instead of the Word having a human soul created to live like a normal human being, who vivifies and lives in His body by a human soul, while personally being the Word made a man.

What is the Spirit?

The Spirit is the mutual recognition of the Father and Son, which is often simply called the Love between the Father and the Son. They know each other to be the perfect God, sharing and being one nature, and so can only love each other; this is the Holy Spirit, the 'Sigh' ('רוח') of love between the two.

See the point about about Him being personal, and about none of this taking place in time, but being an eternal reality described using relational terms.

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