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. However, the Bible tells us that God the Father is fully God, not just a part of God. While these analogies have been somewhat helpful, they risk leaving the listener thinking mostly about the ideas communicated by the analogy or My preference is simply to let the children sit in the wonders of the mystery of our Triune God. 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. Some passages clearly indicate the unity of God. 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. This is an inevitable consequence of the fact that man is made in God’s image. Yet most Christians have difficulty explaining the Trinity clearly. Why do Christians believe this essential doctrine? God is infinitely greater than we are, so it should not surprise us when we are unable to fully understand Him. 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). He says that while no analogy will ever be complete ("I'm slightly resistant to your term 'bad illustrations' because it suggests … 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. You know, the Trinity is like water. Thus, we confess in article 14 of the Belgic Confession: And being thus become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways, he has lost all his gifts which he had received from God, and retained only small remains thereof, which, however, are sufficient to leave man without excuse; for all the light which is in us is changed unto darkness, as the Scriptures teach us, saying: The light shines in darkness, and the darkness did not apprehended it; where St. John calls men darkness. There have been many heresies regarding the trinity in the past, but today's 'version' has been around for a very long time. Then there is St. Patrick’s use of the shamrock. Just a few notes of caution. There’s a simple reason they don’t work: The Trinity, as such, isn’t like anything in creation. You also forgot William Lane Craig’s 3 headed dog but, that might be covered by a 3 headed man. Analogy is the theologian’s best friend in explaining the mysteries of the Faith. What varies is the role I play in my life and theirs. For example, using ‘important leaders’ instead of ‘Pharisee’ is helpful. It is either liquid or steam or solid ice. 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. Even the best metaphors fail to capture the complexities of God’s being. Augustine and De Trinitate. God does reveal himself in nature but there are limits. Does your head hurt thinking about that? 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. So the human analogy fails to describe the Trinity and would in fact confuse this doctrine if we took the example seriously. We can know about such mysteries because He has revealed them, but we cannot fully understand them. But God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit all co-exist, at the same time. It really is like saying 1+1+1=1. 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. 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. It is impossible for us humans to fully comprehend, or to give a perfect analogy. You’re right, Dr Clark … Analogies do *not* work for the Trinity …(!). Also, I would be cautious about using triads in nature, such as solid-liquid-gas, three dimensions, past/present/future as any proof of the Trinity (not th… Do All Analogies for the Trinity Fail? How the analogy goes: The trinity is Like a man who is a father, husband, and son. That’s not to say that it’s not reasonable to believe the Trinity (it isn’t! All exist simultaneously (particularly in the scientific understanding of space-time). why do we want to find analogies of the mystery of the Trinity? How does that fit with the egg analogy? I also agree that the “doctrine” of the Trinity is a doctrine of special revelation, not of natural/general revelation. The Trinity Explained. I intended but failed to reply earlier. Posted on February 16, 2010 Last night we had a great turn out for all three classes at City Seminary (thanks Justin! Honestly, no. This page explains more fully why it is not a contradiction to say that three persons share the same divine essence. 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. It is crucial for properly understanding what God is like, how He relates to us, and how we should relate to Him. When I teach, I use THE ‘SUN’ to help us understand or give us a glimpse of the TRINITY… Yep. Without committing heresy. Why Analogies for the Trinity All Fail Consider the list (states of water, shamrock, 1x1x1=1, etc.) Ah, the Trinity. He brings all light and life to the world. He is beyond us. beings. Without committing heresy. Regretably, they inevitably fall short of a faithful biblical explanation. By far the best of these analogies is one consisting of ice, water and vapor. Of course, the same is true for the Son and the Spirit. 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. 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 … Instead, the totality of all three persons comprises the one God. In classical Protestant categories, after the fall, what we know about God from nature is law or bad news. Polytheists don’t act like trinitarian Christians do in their worship and honestly polytheists theology just doesn’t look like trinitarian theology. Since all Three Persons of the Trinity are equally God, we may pray to any member of the Trinity. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. 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*. This therefore also falls into the heresy of Modalism. Analogies helps bring this error to mind quickly and then demonstrates why it fails. 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. I get that the shell, white, and yoke are all parts of ONE egg, but they are all SEPARATE parts of one egg. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. That's a heresy called Tritheism. 4. I don’t think it’s enough (particularly for the age group I primarily work with) to simply say: God is Trinity… The idea of God as three-in-one is indeed a mysterious concept, one that is difficult to understand. As a result, this analogy can easily lead to tritheism in which there are three different gods which might share some like substance. Learn vocabulary, terms, and more with flashcards, games, and other study tools. Here is a simple and Biblical way to explain the Trinity. ), 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). Not trying to attack or anything, but this never really made sense to me. It is the incomprehensible glory of the Godhead.” 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. As a matter of fact, these analogies do go some distance in explaining or at least make easier to comprehend the concept of Trinity. What is a good analogy for the trinity? 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. Historically, the heresy is called Modalism. each part of an egg is not independent or even considered alive. 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. I think that analogies only postpone the inevitable: The Trinity is beyond our capability to understand. The shamrock, like all such analogies, is misleading because each of the three leaves is only PART of the whole. I thought each person in the Trinity was supposed to be fully God. The Trinity. Someone tossed out the “water” example. Danika T., United Kingdom [Commenting on Has the ‘God particle’ been found?] Pah-treck; seriously now Pah-trick… that’s become an inside joke in our family. 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? 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. Critics of the Trinity will see this subordination as proof that the Trinity is false. I have found that all of the analogies for The Trinity: states of water, the egg, a pie, etc. Water is still water no matter what form it takes, even though it is called by other names. Rather, each person of the Trinity has all of the attributes of God, and no one Person has any attributes that are not possessed by the others. only go to prove The Trinity doesn’t exist as they define it: “three seperate co-equal, co-eternal persons”. I am of the same essence in all three roles. That’s why they’re called analogies. God is not one person who bears multiple relations, he is one God, in three persons. But at the same time, would you not agree that the God revealed by natural revelation is precisely the same God revealed in special revelation — namely, the trinitarian monotheistic God of Holy Scripture — and not some unitarian monotheistic divinity? Start studying Christian Beliefs by Wayne A. Grudem Units 1 - 7. I like a triangle; without any part of which it would no longer be a triangle. 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. But even if you conquer the intimidating task of explaining the meaning of the Trinity, you may face an even more momentous … This includes trying to compare the Trinity to a human being who has intellect, feeling, and will. The Trinity is monotheistic since it is the doctrine that only one God exists in all space and time. Just as importantly, I am also hoping to model the humility of understanding that is required in the Christian faith. Summary. Any analogy will compromise the Biblical vision of God, so I stay clear of these. Explaining well is an important aspect of highly interactive learning of all kinds. The Doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most central doctrines of Christianity. 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. Christians believe that there is only one divine God, and yet we are not, strictly speaking, mere monotheists. 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. 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. Receive notifications of new HB posts by email. God the Son is the rays of sunshine. If you’re anything like me, this all starts to hurt your head. According to Holmes, absolutely not. Well the issue is, the water analogy is akin to the heresy of Modalism. In short, one God in three persons. 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. 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. 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!). And when it comes to the Trinity, there are many analogies to choose from. Let's start with the negative and work toward the positive. Hahaha! Again, the Trinity does not teach that there are three gods. They do not share the same essence or being or divine attr ibutes. That’s what made it click for me. Look to Scripture. Analogies often fall short. In the case of the Trinity, most analogie… 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. It is a great joy to teach children the deep truths of the Christian faith. 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. Perhaps an illustration of the futility of analogies is in order. The states of water can actally be the closest to a real analogy of God’s true nature. 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 is not the same as the Triune God who has three distinct centers of consciousness. And accusing all Christians who do believe in the trinity as necessary conceptual polytheism is unfounded because they don’t act like polytheists at all. This is especially true of believers who are unfamiliar with or have never really thought about the Trinity. But God is also beyond my understanding. 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). They do not share the same essence or being or divine attr ibutes. Likewise, a man can be a father, a son and an uncle, however, he is only one person. 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. 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? 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. 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. Thank you for your comments. But you try that with the Bible and you are on your way to seeing what it tells us about God. Each person is not a god which would make three gods. To think we will ever fully understand the Trinity is to make the mistake of thinking God is fully understandable. There are not three gods, however, but one God in three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Time is past, present and future. 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. … Augustine comes up with an analogy that is deep: the lover, the beloved, and love (The Trinity, Books VIII.14; IX.2, and XV.10). 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. We often begin explaining the Trinity by creating human or physical analogies. The introduction to this Creed states: That we worship one God in Trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither blending their persons nor dividing their essence. On the surface, these analogies do seem to help. Here we have the three within the one, however, each ‘part’ is not a full expression of the one. *A nice Australian variant on this one is talking about the three stumps of a wicket in cricket. He talks about the mind's ability to remember, to understand, and to will. . 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. However, one area where metaphors and analogies fail us is when we seek to describe the Trinity. beings. After all, if natural revelation presents us with a unitarian deity, whereas special revelation presents us with a trinitarian deity, would that not pit natural revelation against special revelation? That is the most important thing to explain to them - that there are mysteries of the faith that God alone can fully understand. 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. 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. We see in Colossians 2:9: However, Jesus is not the Father or the Holy Spirit—see also the ancient Trinity diagram. We cannot know him savingly from nature. 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