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This question arose from the understanding that God being one nature and three persons. Though (I am trinitarian myself), I observe that in these discussions it is presupposed that humans have one nature and one person (here and here).

So I ask: Is there a single human nature or there are multiple human natures?

  • If you answer one human nature = multiple human persons, how come that (unlike God), we speak of humanity as "beingS" and not "being"? but;

  • If you answer one human nature = one human person, what then do we mean when we say "human nature" in a collective sense (ex. "It is human nature to XYZ.")? What do we make of the similarities of our own individual natures? And is it right to say instead that we have "multiple yet similar human natures"?


UPDATE: I was looking through this few days back, and I think I found resources that profoundly helped me in this question.

Here's a Catholic Exchange article discussing 'individuation', to quote:

"Remember, Aquinas says, that a person is “an individual substance of a rational nature.” On first blush that seems to work quite well. But hold on. Something shouldn’t sit well with us in thinking about individuals within God. Surely Father Son and Holy Spirit are not three individual persons having the divine nature in the same way that John, Joe, and James are three persons having a human nature.

Aquinas readily recognizes this objection. He notes that ‘individuation’ only happens when we’re talking about matter—which we have, but God doesn’t. So when it comes to God, we have to recognize that we use the word ‘person’ with a meaning somewhat different than when we talk about man. In the case of God, Aquinas says we have to use Richard of St. Victor’s definition of a divine person as “the incommunicable existence of the divine nature.”

Another resource I found is James E. Dolezal's All That is in God - a subsection in Chapter 4 called Real Distinction among Divine Persons. (albeit just a Google Books preview. One has to click it as the text can't be copied).

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    I share human nature with other humans. We are alike. But I am a separate individual. I don't understand what the problem is. Some more explanation, clarity and detail would help, I suggest. There is another aspect when one is born again, in one Spirit, and one is part of One Body in Christ. That is a totally different subject and another question. For that is another humanity than that which came of Adam.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 8, 2023 at 13:05
  • @NigelJ I suggest reading the first two links to help understand the context. I've read there that God is a single divine nature/essence/Being and yet is three persons. Then, they have also implied that no single human person have the same nature/essence in the way that God has; therefore, do we have a single, separate, similar natures for each person or not? And if not, how come the whole of humanity is not considered a single being?
    – ohteepee
    Feb 12, 2023 at 7:44
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    I repeat. I have human nature. But I am a separate person from my neighbour. We do not share the same body. We are discrete. Yet we both have human nature since we both are descended from Adam. But the nature of Deity is not such. Yet do we, if we are of faith, become one in Spirit with Deity, through one Holy Spirit. You are covering many concepts in your question and your comments. But you lack clarity.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 12, 2023 at 10:12
  • @NigelJ I guess a better phrasing could be this way: The Father the Son and Spirit are three distinct Persons that have one Divine nature and therefore is one Being. By comparison, Tom, Dick, and Harry are three persons, and (according to you) share one human nature, but they are considered three beings. I was wondering why. (Note: In the links I've included, it is mentioned or implied that "...one nature can be possessed and operated in only by one person" and "...where every different human "person" is a different being as well". Hence the second bullet in my original post.)
    – ohteepee
    Feb 13, 2023 at 15:04
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    You confuse matters by using the term 'one being'. Father, Son and Holy Spirit share one divine nature. 'Being' is confusing. 'Person' is more clear. Three persons share one nature is how I choose to word the matter.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 13, 2023 at 15:11

1 Answer 1

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Human nature is not a "thing", but it is identifiable in humans who can be seen to be humans (instead of, say, insects.) There are particular characteristics of humanity that are common to all humans. But there is nothing you can pick up and say, "This is human nature". You cannot put it in a box, for examination.

With divine nature - that of the nature of the one God - it cannot be picked up, contained in a box and examined. God is Spirit, for a start. Humans are flesh and blood. God creates life. Humans can only procreate. God is the Creator. We are the created. God was never created. Immediately, it should be seen that to ask whether there are multiple human natures, and to ask if "the divine nature is in three individual persons", is to ask questions that are based on misunderstanding. Pardon me for saying that, for I do not wish to criticise you, personally. It's just that trying to grasp the immensity of the divine nature will never be helped by comparing that to human nature. It's not so much trying to compare apples with oranges, as trying to compare the Creator with the creatures he created. God is immortal, uncreated, and Spirit. We are mortal, created, and fleshly. Why do we try to understand God by looking at ourselves first, to compare God with ourselves?

There is, indeed, one human nature and many individual humans. And there is one divine nature with three Persons sharing that one divine nature. That is the essence of the answer.

If you take as a starting point, "Three Persons share divine nature. The Father and the Son share the one, divine nature, with absolute unity of the Spirit in that nature" - then you might begin to make headway. But for as long as you've got your eyes on sinful humanity, apparently trying to equate holy deity with that, you will just go round in circles.

God is not like us.

The Catholic Exchange article you quoted from is helpful. It shows the danger of thinking of God in terms of "three individuals".

Polytheistic religions promote such thinking, as in the Hindu Trimurti - Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, presenting the impersonal Brahman in three forms. But a triad is not a Trinity. That triad requires three distinct gods. The Trinity requires one God.

So, to summarise the answer: There is one human nature which billions of individual humans have in common - all this created by God. The one God has one divine nature with three Persons sharing that divine nature - never created but eternally existing as the one God.

This may give rise to a plethora of further questions, which will need to be posted separately, as this site is for answering one question at a time. And when the topic is the most immensely complex doctrine in Christianity, you might be helped by looking at the many previous posts on this (if only to avoid posting duplicate questions.)

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  • "There is one human nature which billions of individual humans have in common - all this created by God. The one God has one divine nature with three Persons sharing that divine nature - never created but eternally existing as the one God." I understand this and agree, and so with this question I was attempting to ask "Why is that (the case in God, but not in humans)?". In the update I wrote, Aquinas gives individuation as the reason, and in Dolezal's book discussion about the Persons is also very helpful.
    – ohteepee
    Mar 4, 2023 at 14:57
  • @ohteepee That is why I said, "God is Spirit, for a start. Humans are flesh and blood. God creates life. Humans can only procreate. God is the Creator. We are the created. God was never created". This is why the nature of deity is so different to human nature.
    – Anne
    Mar 4, 2023 at 15:04
  • Addendum: I'm not sure if the word "sharing" (the Divine nature) can be accurately said of the Persons (ie. Father is NOT 1/3 of God, etc), so I revoke my agreement.; As for your comment, yes we already know that God is different from us. I was asking about something more specific.
    – ohteepee
    Mar 4, 2023 at 15:09
  • @ohteepee Agreed, there are no 'parts' in the Godhead; there is but one divine nature, and all three Persons have that divine nature equally.
    – Anne
    Mar 4, 2023 at 15:59

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