My favorite example of something approaching (but, as I've already indicated, not actually achieving) tritheism is the human being. This would be fitting if it is true since we are made in His image. As such, we should retain something "God-like" in our make up. I think this is at least part of it. I think we are sort of trinitarian in our existence. How? Well, Scripture lists three components of the human being. We all know the body part. We are physical bodies. But no one (almost no one -- certainly not Christians) doubts that we are more than "meat suits". What other components does the Bible list? One of the clearest spots for this is in Paul's first epistle to the church at Thessalonica.
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess 5:23)There are three pieces there -- "spirit and soul and body". All three need to be sanctified completely. All three will be sanctified by God Himself.
There is disagreement among Christians about that "spirit and soul" part. Many -- even some for whom I have a great deal of respect -- argue that we are dual in nature, not three. They hold that "spirit and soul" are one term, one concept. One reason is that Scripture often uses these terms interchangeably. The other reason is that there are those who, believing that spirit and soul are distinct, use this distinction to produce an unbiblical, even heretical condition where you can be what they call a "carnal Christian", where you are saved "in the spirit" (not the Holy Spirit), but it can have absolutely no effect on your soul. In order to combat this heresy, they eliminate the distinction. But we read in Hebrews,
The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Heb 4:12)So I believe that, while the division is perhaps difficult, it exists.
So, we know what the body is. That's the physical part. We know what the spirit is. That's the metaphysical part. That's the "essence". What is the soul? First, remember that the Bible often uses "spirit" and "soul" as interchangeable. So you may find references to "soul" that do not provide a distinctive to "spirit". As such, for instance, both are used to describe the animating principle -- what we call "life". We use it this way when we say, "There were 30 souls on board." Living beings. But that's the spirit. So assuming there is a division between soul and spirit, what is it? Well, the soul is often used to express desire (Prov 23:2; 1 Sam 1:15; Psa 42:1-2), volition (Isa 26:8-9; Prov 21:10; 2 Sam 3:21), and emotions (Isa 1:14; Jer 13:17; Psa 42:5; 1 Sam 1:15). Thus, the soul and spirit form the real life of the body -- the real person -- but the soul and spirit differ slightly in that the soul would constitute the mind, will, and emotions of the person. And we get this in our view of humans. There is the physical person that we see and know, but we all understand that there is a "real you", an underlying personhood that is formed of how you think and feel and what you choose. That's the "real you". Some people have "beautiful souls" with ugly bodies and others have beautiful physical appearance with "ugly souls". We get that. The spirit, then, is the bottom line, the absolute essence of human life.
Note, then, that the three are one. One being. Not three beings. They are three "parts" of one person. It is possible for the body to die, but the person isn't gone. The spirit lives on. The soul continues. And, in the end, the body is restored as well. A sort of "trinity". (Remember, no human representation of the Divine Trinity is completely suitable.) If this "trinity" is in the image of God, it would follow that each component corresponds to some component of God as well. And it does. We have, at our core, a spirit. In the Triune God, there is the Father. Closely tied and barely distinguishable to the spirit is the soul -- the mind, will, and emotions of each of us. In Scripture, the Holy Spirit is generally referenced in terms of the mind, will, and emotions of God. And, of course, we know that Christ is the physical manifestation of God just as our own bodies are our own physical manifestation.
Now, feel free to take all this with a grain of salt. I'm not offering dogma here. It isn't "agree with me or be found a rank heretic." I'm offering a parallel, an illustration. I think it makes sense. Further, I think it helps sketch out the Divine Trinity by finding an image of it in the creation of God that is in His image. All form one being. Each is distinct but not separate. All have one essence. I think it works. If it works for you, warts and all, you're welcome to it. If not, feel free to discard it. I think I'll hang onto it (lightly) for awhile.