I have also discussed the Trinitarian argument using 1x1x1=1 here. Here is a simple and Biblical way to explain the Trinity. Yet each thing in a way includes his whole being: All of the man is the subject, and all of the man is the object, and the thoughts (though in a lesser sense) are thoughts about all of himself as a person.We said above that no analogy teaches the Trinity perfectly, and this one has several shortcomings as well: this man remains as one person; he is not three persons. Thanks DavidW! See the article linked above) but only that it’s not revealed in nature per se, i.e., the doctrine of the Trinity cannot be deduced from nature. I thank God for that too. It really is like saying 1+1+1=1. He is not three gods, but three persons in the one and only God. He brings all light and life to the world. He says that while no analogy will ever be complete ("I'm slightly resistant to your term 'bad illustrations' because it suggests that some are good"), to give them up completely would be a mistake. Speaking personally, because I feel the need to at least try to help the young people I work with have an understanding of the Trinity. This natural revelation we must also affirm against those (e.g., Barth and oddly even some conservative Reformed and evangelical writers) as truth. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. Again, the Trinity does not teach that there are three gods. Since our discipleship rests on our growing knowledge and love of God, it seems to me that we have to be particularly wary of using these poor understandings of God in the way we communicate to children. Perhaps an illustration of the futility of analogies is in order. You also forgot William Lane Craig’s 3 headed dog but, that might be covered by a 3 headed man. I am of the same essence in all three roles. No analogy can fully explain God–I think that’s important to stress in any of our examples–but they can be helpful in beginning to wrap our minds around a similar concept. Some passages clearly indicate the unity of God. Yes, all analogies fail in some way or the other. It seems to be an unwritten rule that whenever an analogy for the Trinity is given, one must begin with the disclaimer that “all analogies break down.” The reason, though, that all analogies break down is simply because analogies compare things that are not exactly alike (if they were, it would not be an analogy!). Uh oh. There was one particular CD that the preacher explained the Trinity at a level that even my children could understand. of well-intended analogies that have been used to help us understand the doctrine of the Trinity. God does reveal himself in nature but there are limits. We must accept the truths found in the Word of God by faith even though we ourselves cannot comprehend them fully; read Hebrews 11:1, 3, 6 and 1 Corinthians 2:5-10, 14; 13:12. Analogy is the theologian’s best friend in explaining the mysteries of the Faith. Any analogy will compromise the Biblical vision of God, so I stay clear of these. How Do You Explain the Trinity? The problem with #10 is that though the Trinitarian persons do indeed bear distinct relations to each other, they do so as three persons, not one person. Using this categorical distinction we should say that the doctrine of the Trinity belongs to special revelation (holy Scripture) along with the two natures of Christ, the incarnation, the obedience, righteousness, death, resurrection, and glorious bodily return of Christ. The Expression of the Trinity in Scripture . Explaining well is an important aspect of highly interactive learning of all kinds. Many errors in understanding or describing the Trinity result from the attempt to present a philosophical explanation for how it is possible that one God can be three persons, who are distinct yet indivisible in divine unity. So the human analogy fails to describe the Trinity and would in fact confuse this doctrine if we took the example seriously. But are distinct. So, while I agree that the developed “doctrine” of the Trinity is found only in Scripture (and even there it is only gradually revealed in the process of redemptive history culminating in the Incarnate Christ), I think we have to be careful not to give the impression that natural revelation somehow reveals a different God than does special revelation. How does that fit with the egg analogy? Likewise, a man can be a father, a son and an uncle, however, he is only one person. It is a great joy to teach children the deep truths of the Christian faith. For this reason, I encourage children’s leaders to develop appropriate metaphors, analogies and other ‘shorthand’ for concepts that they will be using frequently with children. I intended but failed to reply earlier. They do not share the same essence or being or divine attr ibutes. St Augustine of Hippo was a theologian and philosopher in the early Church. All analogies fall short and are insufficient in different ways. Without committing heresy. So St. Patrick tried to break this concept down for us by saying that a shamrock is like the Trinity because it has 3 petals, but it’s just one shamrock. This is especially true of believers who are unfamiliar with or have never really thought about the Trinity. Just as water can be in the form of a solid, a liquid, and a gas, God is in three forms: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Just a few notes of caution. For the record, I was also going to link to that hilarious video, but you beat me to it! Likewise, accompanying the word ‘sin’ with the active movement of ‘turning our back on God’ helps communicate that sin is a state of being and a posture of the heart, more than just the ‘bad things’ that we do. Instead, the totality of all three persons comprises the one God. For example, using ‘important leaders’ instead of ‘Pharisee’ is helpful. why do we want to find analogies of the mystery of the Trinity? If Apostle Peter says we should follow the steps of Jesus and Jesus used things of this world to explain deep spiritual subjects, then I follow that style. After all, we would no doubt agree that the God revealed in natural revelation is precisely the same God revealed in special revelation: namely, the one, true and living Triune God – the God of trinitarian monotheism. three headed dog Cerberus used by William Craig and J.P. Moreland in Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview)." There are at least two things I am trying to communicate to the children in my ministry. Christians are trinitarian, believing in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and yet one God. Stop overcomplicating everything. Critics of the Trinity will see this subordination as proof that the Trinity is false. Christian Trinitarians often use analogies to demonstrate that the Trinity doctrine isn’t after all as en-explainable as people think. When explaining the Trinity to non-Catholics, what are the best analogies? (I confess to having used the H2O water-ice-steam analogy for illustrative purposes, but have tried to be careful to immediately point out its inadequacy and its tendency toward the heresy of modalism.) But you try that with the Bible and you are on your way to seeing what it tells us about God. All analogies from nature are necessarily natural, ergo they’re invalid. each part of an egg is not independent or even considered alive. The doctrine of the Trinity is foundational to the Christian faith. The Trinity ultimately is a mystery, but it is revealed in scripture, so all Bible-educated and Bible-believing Christians believe in it, even though they may not understand it fully. All attempts to equate the Trinity with some analogy will miserably fail. But God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit all co-exist, at the same time. Regretably, they inevitably fall short of a faithful biblical explanation. Firstly, the accurate revelation of God from the Bible. Michael writes to say that he recently read an article I wrote in 1999 on the Trinity and to ask if I’m willing to consider an analogy for the Trinity. The Athanasian Creed is one of the clearest, detailed and yet (relatively) succinct expressions of the early church’s wrestling with the doctrine of the Trinity as revealed in Scripture. Receive notifications of new HB posts by email. To put it simply, “The problem with using analogies to explain the Holy Trinity is that you always end up confessing some ancient heresy.” I have found that analogies of the Trinity are a normal reaction from Christians who find themselves defensive about a complicated doctrine. Explaining the Holy Trinity of God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit will be needed at some point when explaining the God of the Bible to children, Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses and other non-believers. The Trinity Explained. The 3 Most Common “Trinity Analogies” (and their limitations) My Starting Point for Trying to Explain the Trinity. It is no wonder that we seek to find analogies to help make this Tri-Unity of God a little more comprehensible. However, the Bible tells us that God the Father is fully God, not just a part of God. THIS IS THE VERY REASON WHY MANY CHRISTIANS DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE TRINITY AND A PUZZLE AND FOOLISHNESS TO THE UNBELIEVERS AND THE SCOFFERS. The states of water can actally be the closest to a real analogy of God’s true nature. The Christian doctrine of Trinity is a great mystery, just as marriage is: "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. Our professor asked if we had any great ways to explain the concept of the Trinity – a word picture we might use when teaching a class. “YHWH is one,” so says Deut 6:4. If you’re anything like me, this all starts to hurt your head. In fact, I’ve found that analogies are extremely helpful because they fail. The desire to find analogies in nature for the doctrine of the Trinity is understandable but it’s misguided. Post was not sent - check your email addresses! Timely as always; I’m taking the church through the Athanasian creed at the moment, encouraging them to avoid analogies..Something of a first for the creedless and confessionless Baptists, (I’m sure a number had never even heard of the Athanasian Creed before) linking to our Lord’s Day studies in John 1. I also agree that the “doctrine” of the Trinity is a doctrine of special revelation, not of natural/general revelation. . An explanation that is so common, and seemingly does elucidate how something can simultaneously be three and one—can it really be that bad? There are not three gods, however, but one God in three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Why Analogies for the Trinity All Fail Consider the list (states of water, shamrock, 1x1x1=1, etc.) Paul affirms what can be known about God from nature: his existence and some of his attributes, “namely his eternal power and divine nature” can be perceived from nature. While these analogies have been somewhat helpful, they risk leaving the listener thinking mostly about the ideas communicated by the analogy or What is a good analogy for the trinity? Only one divine being, and yet three distinct and identifiable persons who are all truly and fully divine. Another analogy for the Trinity is that God is three in one, just as H 2 O can exist as a solid, a liquid, and a gas. Thank you for your comments. People try to explain it using analogies which generally don't match the doctrine very well. The Doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most central doctrines of Christianity. All exist simultaneously (particularly in the scientific understanding of space-time). The Trinity is Like a Man who is a Father, Husband, and Son. Louis Berkhof explains it this way: “The Trinity is a mystery… It is especially when we reflect on the relation of the three persons to the divine essence that all analogies fail us and we become deeply conscious of the fact that the Trinity is a mystery far beyond our comprehension. All analogies fall short. It is the incomprehensible glory of the Godhead.” The reason why the Trinity is such a hard concept to grasp is because it doesn’t make since logically to our brains. So they are without excuse (Rom 1:19–20; ESV). Now where this falls, as all analogies–and we have to understand that; every analogy we use of God is going to fall, because God’s infinitely beyond us, we can never fully comprehend Him. According to Holmes, absolutely not. Augustine’s: Lover, beloved, love (God is not three faculties of one soul, but three persons, One person bearing multiple relations simultaneously (aunt, mother, sister), Electromagnatism: light is a wave and a particle and has an associated magnetic wave always present with it but they’re inseperable, The Trinity is like Playdoh, one can take some apart but it’s the same Playdoh. However, since analogies of the Trinity are seeking to help us understand the very nature of God, faulty analogies are going to result in faulty knowledge of God. But the problem with all three analogies is they very easily fall into one of the ancient heresies that the church fathers and writers of the Athanasian Creed were so keen to distance themselves from. According to Holmes, absolutely not. God is kind of like a man who is a father, a son and an uncle, God is kind of like a three-leaf clover, or a triangle; one object, but three different, identifiable leaves, or sides*. One thought I wanted to share, although it’s absolutely true that no analogy can explain the Trinity, that doesn’t mean they aren’t helpful. St. Augustine searches for an analogy to help his listeners comprehend the oneness of the Trinity but the distinct works of each Person (though it’s important to remember that all Trinitarian analogies fall short). Since our discipleship rests on our growing knowledge and love of God, it seems to me that we have to be particularly wary of using these poor understandings of God in the way we … Then took a breath and followed with, “Why do you ask?” “My friend said we worship three gods, because we say ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.’” Aha. Below is the easiest way that I have ever heard it explained: God the Father is the sun. In short, one God in three persons. Time is past, present and future. The shamrock, like all such analogies, is misleading because each of the three leaves is only PART of the whole. Summary. But this would be like saying that natural revelation is a false revelation, since it gives us a false (unitarian) god. In classical Protestant categories, after the fall, what we know about God from nature is law or bad news. Here we have the three within the one, however, each ‘part’ is not a full expression of the one. Someone tossed out the “water” example. Polytheists don’t act like trinitarian Christians do in their worship and honestly polytheists theology just doesn’t look like trinitarian theology. But if each person is fully God and has all of God’s being, then we also should not think that the personal distinctions are any kind of additional attributes added on to the being of God . It seems like every time I hear a Christian explaining the doctrine of the trinity, they preface it with a few qualifications about how the trinity can only be understood by faith and that it is beyond all human comprehension and they will never understand it. They reason that if Jesus were truly God, then He would be completely equal to God the Father in all areas and would not, therefore, be subordinate to the Father in any way; but this objection is not logical. Honestly, no. It is the incomprehensible glory of the Godhead.” We cannot know him savingly from nature. All analogies fail. He is beyond us. © Copyright 2020 YouthworksAnglican Youthworks is registered as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Donations of $2 or more may be tax deductibleChild Protection / Privacy / Cookies. Yep. We will explore just two of them here that I have found helpful. However, the joy of teaching deep truths does not take away from the complexity of the task. What we don't mean First of all, Christians don't believe in three Gods. Start studying Christian Beliefs by Wayne A. Grudem Units 1 - 7. Should we give up attempting to explain the Trinity and just accept that our language will never be able to fully embody all that God is? Do not worry about analogies. There’s a simple reason they don’t work: The Trinity, as such, isn’t like anything in creation. This, too, can be helpful in understanding that there is something about God that is one and something about God that is threefold. Why Analogies for the Trinity All Fail Consider the list (states of water, shamrock, 1x1x1=1, etc.) Would you be willing to comment on the breakdown of analogy #10 — that of one person bearing multiple relations simultaneously? He says that while no analogy will ever be complete ("I'm slightly resistant to your term 'bad illustrations' because it suggests … It is impossible for us humans to fully comprehend, or to give a perfect analogy. Should we give up attempting to explain the Trinity and just accept that our language will never be able to fully embody all that God is? Even the best metaphors fail to capture the complexities of God’s being. Moreover, God cannot be other than he is, for he is unchanging (see chapter 11 above). Does your head hurt thinking about that? I know clergy who take vacation days to avoid preaching on Trinity Sunday. Analogies helps bring this error to mind quickly and then demonstrates why it fails. It is not really correct to say that the three Persons of the Trinity are ‘parts’ of God—see also Is God ‘simple’? It is crucial for properly understanding what God is like, how He relates to us, and how we should relate to Him. in any case, the analogy fails miserable because the parts of an egg do not have the same correlation to each other as the three parts of the trinity do. I like a triangle; without any part of which it would no longer be a triangle. We Christians believe that God is knowable as far as he has revealed himself through Jesus Christ, the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit who lives in us, and other avenues like the creation. How the analogy goes: The trinity is Like a man who is a father, husband, and son. Christians believe that there are three persons in the Godhead, and yet we are not polytheists (believing in three gods). Here’s a common conversation in my children’s ministries: “The Bible tells us that when it comes to God, 1+1+1=1. God is infinite. True, we humans are image bearers but nothing in creation serves as an analogy for the Trinity because the Trinity is a doctrine of special (biblical) revelation not nature or reason.”, GW: I agree that all analogies and illustrations for the Trinity taken from nature end up in heresy, at least when left unqualified or taken to their logical end. I guess what I am wrestling with here is the fact that the “god” of unitarian monotheism is a false god, and thus if we completely divorce the reality of God’s Triune Being from the realm of natural revelation we end up with nature revealing a unitarian “god” and Scripture revealing the Trinitarian God. Pah-treck; seriously now Pah-trick… that’s become an inside joke in our family. Learn vocabulary, terms, and more with flashcards, games, and other study tools. Yet other passages clearly indicate that the Father is fully God (Eph 4:6), Jesus is fully God (John 1:1-4) and the Holy Spirit is fully God (Acts 5:3-4). The analogy in #10 fails because it is a form of dynamic monarchianism. Since all Three Persons of the Trinity are equally God, we may pray to any member of the Trinity. Each person is not a god which would make three gods. That’s what made it click for me. They do not share the same essence or being or divine attr ibutes. Paul teaches the Trinity explicitly but not here and not from nature. Louis Berkhof explains it this way: “The Trinity is a mystery… It is especially when we reflect on the relation of the three persons to the divine essence that all analogies fail us and we become deeply conscious of the fact that the Trinity is a mystery far beyond our comprehension. What varies is the role I play in my life and theirs. Without doubt enquiry and discovery are vital elements of learning; however, very often the most appropriate thing to do is to push ahead and cut through the confusion by delivering a sharp explanation that brings clarity and takes everyone forward to greater challenges that lie beyond. Here is a "partial attempt" to explain it. True, we humans are image bearers but nothing in creation serves as an analogy for the Trinity because the Trinity is a doctrine of special (biblical) revelation not nature or reason. The Father did not cease to exist in heaven, while Jesus the Son was active on Earth. Start studying Christian Beliefs by Wayne A. Grudem Units 1 - 7. Then took a breath and followed with, “Why do you ask?” “My friend said we worship three gods, because we say ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.’” Aha. Water is still water no matter what form it takes, even though it is called by other names. My intention is merely to address some common erroneous analogies, including water. In the case of the Trinity, most analogie… A. Maybe It Is Time To Think About About Planting Churches There Too? Of particular concern is trying to explain God by use of analogy, ... and I have never heard one to even remotely adequate to fully picture of the Trinity as alluded to in scripture (they give us a glimpse, but taken alone the picture is nearly always of a heretical understanding). The Good News of Jesus’ incarnation, life, death, and resurrection for the justification (free acceptance with God for the sake of the crediting of Jesus’ righteousness to those who believe, received only through resting, trusting in Christ and his finished work for sinners) is only found in Scripture. All analogies fall short and are insufficient in different ways. That's a heresy called Tritheism. The shell is useless once the egg hatches and the yolk and white disappear. I am a father (to my daughter), a son (to my father) and a husband (to my wife). (For example, we can observe both unity and diversity within the created order. Augustine and De Trinitate. All illustrations of the Trinity end up in heresy (usually modalism). The Bible is clear that God the Father is distinct from God the Son who are both distinct from God the Holy Spirit. That, by the way, is the number one question I have been asked about the Holy Spirit since writing Names of the Holy Spirit. Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all God yet are three separate persons, existing separately at the same time. The idea of God as three-in-one is indeed a mysterious concept, one that is difficult to understand. Then there is St. Patrick’s use of the shamrock. And when it comes to the Trinity, there are many analogies to choose from. If you try that in maths, you’ve definitely got the answer wrong. I’m not sure he realized that his question was, in fact, not so small at all, but rather monumental. That is why divine existence is the ideal of all personal existence – to be fully oneself, but only in dependence upon, and in adherence to, another in the communion of unity. Well the issue is, the water analogy is akin to the heresy of Modalism. Do All Analogies for the Trinity Fail? However, ice, water, and vapor are three modes of being of H 2 O. No analogy captures this truth. The problem with the leaf, triangle or wicket examples is similar, but different. In a recent podcast responding to White's criticism of the Cerberus analogy (Greek mythological … You know, the Trinity is like water. I know clergy who take vacation days to avoid preaching on Trinity Sunday. Why do Christians believe this essential doctrine? Dr. Clark wrote: “The Trinity, as such, isn’t like anything in creation. I've used the government to explain , I used a scenario to explain, I quoted scriptures , yet nothing . That’s not to say that it’s not reasonable to believe the Trinity (it isn’t! Our finite minds cannot understand or explain this mystery of God, which is nevertheless a fact. The Trinity. Analogies of the Trinity. Christians believe that God is a Trinity of Persons, each omnipotent, omniscient and wholly benevolent, co-equal and fully divine. In discussing analogies for the Trinity you will almost immediately get to the most common mistakes people will make in their understanding of the Trinity. As a result, this analogy can easily lead to tritheism in which there are three different gods which might share some like substance. Despite the fact that nothing in our world can fully illustrate the Holy Trinity, teachers and theologians through the years have offered several analogies drawn from the realms of nature and mathematics in order to help explain the unexplainable. He talks about the mind's ability to remember, to understand, and to will. However, since analogies of the Trinity are seeking to help us understand the very nature of God, faulty analogies are going to result in faulty knowledge of God. When I taught the doctrine of God course I used to keep a list. You can almost bank on the fact that they will think of the Trinity as modalism or partialism. beings. This page explains more fully why it is not a contradiction to say that three persons share the same divine essence. However, the doctrine of the Trinity says that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit share the same being or essence, and this is where the human example of the three patriarchs and the divine nature must part company. Without committing heresy. This is an inevitable consequence of the fact that man is made in God’s image. By far the best of these analogies is one consisting of ice, water and vapor. However, one area where metaphors and analogies fail us is when we seek to describe the Trinity. On the surface, these analogies do seem to help. ), where our aim is to make disciples who think theologically and live redemptively.My course is called Theology in Practice: Applying Systematic Theology to Everyday Life (you can check out the rest here). only go to prove The Trinity doesn’t exist as they define it: “three seperate co-equal, co-eternal persons”. also John 17:5, 24). It just doesn't compare to the complexities of the Trinity.---So what's the point in these illustrations? The side is not a full triangle. The analogy breaks down because the three cloves are overly distinct and cannot represent the unity of God. I thought each person in the Trinity was supposed to be fully God. We can know about such mysteries because He has revealed them, but we cannot fully understand them. So how do you succinctly explain the Trinity to a 15-year-old, or anyone for that matter? The Trinity, then, is (to use Platonic terms) the archetype of personality that human persons ‘copy’ or ‘imitate’. In fact, when Christians attempt to explain the Trinity, they often stumble into metaphors that sound suspiciously like the very heresies Trinitarian theology was developed to counteract! They can be ... To put it simply, “The problem with using analogies to explain the Holy Trinity is that you always end up confessing some ancient heresy.” I have found that analogies of the Trinity are a normal reaction from Christians who find themselves defensive about a complicated doctrine. To say that is rationalism (reason over Scripture) and eventually to universalism. This heresy is fittingly called Partialism. We see in Colossians 2:9: However, Jesus is not the Father or the Holy Spirit—see also the ancient Trinity diagram. Analogies often fall short. I can still recall moments when eyes have lit up with understanding or when brows, furrowed with concentration, have released as God’s truth has sunk deep into the minds and hearts of the children in the room. Any other suggestions-- or do all analogies fail in some way or other? If any analogy were to describe the Trinity perfectly, it would cease to be an analogy and it would become the Trinity itself. Here are some common analogies that Christians have used about the Trinity: God is kind of like water which can be ice, liquid and steam. beings. Of course, the same is true for the Son and the Spirit. My preference is simply to let the children sit in the wonders of the mystery of our Triune God. He is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers. And as natural revelation via the created order manifests, reflects and “declares” the Divine unity (“the heavens declare the glory of God”; “what may be known about God is plain to them through the things that are made”; etc. Let's start with the negative and work toward the positive. Others compare God to an egg, which is part shell, part white, part yolk. I get that the shell, white, and yoke are all parts of ONE egg, but they are all SEPARATE parts of one egg. But it does help us to get at this reality of relational distinctions in one being. Two of them here that I have found helpful doctrine ” of shamrock... Describe the Trinity doctrine isn ’ t mention the Shield of the Godhead. ” the Trinity to a young. Trinity with some analogy will compromise the Biblical vision of God course I used keep! 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He brings all light and life to the UNBELIEVERS and the SCOFFERS — that of person... Still obdurate about your opinion Craig ’ s why they ’ re.... Side note, the totality of all three roles crucial for properly understanding God! The trinitarian argument using 1x1x1=1 here my ministry a man who is Trinity... To the unity of God from nature are necessarily natural, ergo ’. Our Triune God when I taught the doctrine of God wicket examples is similar, but three:. Share the same is true for the Trinity is such a hard concept to grasp is because doesn. Any other suggestions -- or do all analogies fail in some way or other say that on a created this... Person who bears multiple relations us when we speak of the most central doctrines Christianity! Helpful because they fail not one person about about Planting Churches there Too and not from nature is law bad... Example or analogy of the faith that God the Father did not cease to in... A side note, the best of these a created level this reflects or bears to! Presented as Father, Son, and seemingly does elucidate how something simultaneously... Took the example seriously triangle or wicket examples is similar, but this would be like saying that natural is... In all three roles you are on your way to seeing what tells...