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    Bad Trinity Analogies

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    Nathan James Norman
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    Bad Trinity Analogies

    Post  Nathan James Norman on March 23rd 2013, 10:15 pm

    I'm a week late on this . . . but this youtube video is FANTASTIC and humorous look at erroneous/heretical analogies often used to describe the Trinity. It also contains a great definition of the Trinity as well.

    Go check it out:

    DNArington

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    Re: Bad Trinity Analogies

    Post  DNArington on March 24th 2013, 1:02 am

    I think since the Trinity is something we can't fully understand, it is OK to compare it to something like the sun, as long as we realilize that it is an imperfect analogy. There is nothing like God other than He Himself, so anything we compare Him to is imperfect.

    That is a great video though!

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    Re: Bad Trinity Analogies

    Post  WhiteBoy on March 24th 2013, 2:19 am

    Funny, good video. Thanks, Nathan. I actually learned recently that water can exist in all three states simultaneously. It's called a triple point. This is a pretty good analogy, and takes care of the modalism problem with the water analogy.


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    Re: Bad Trinity Analogies

    Post  Nathan James Norman on March 24th 2013, 2:15 pm

    DNArington wrote:I think since the Trinity is something we can't fully understand,


    I'm glad you worded this the way you did. It drives me nuts when I hear people (pastors in particular) say things like "no one understands the Trinity" because it basically communicates "stop asking questions and just believe it . . . because it will never make any sense."

    I've dived (both personally and in seminary) into the doctrine and I'm comfortable saying I have a good understanding of the Trinity, although no one fully understands the Trinity.

    DNArington wrote:it is OK to compare it to something like the sun, as long as we realilize that it is an imperfect analogy. There is nothing like God other than He Himself, so anything we compare Him to is imperfect.

    That is a great video though!

    I agree that God is completely other, so it makes sense that we would not find a ready analogy in the natural world. However, I think we need to be super-careful (even when talking to children) about why these analogies are deficient. The sun - light - heat one (Arianism) is regularly used by the Jehovah's Witnesses to demonstrated Jesus' greatness, while simultaneous denying his divinity. If we teach our people these analogies with out clarification, then when they face folks with a false-orthodox, they are much more likely to adopt these heresies.

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    Re: Bad Trinity Analogies

    Post  Nathan James Norman on March 24th 2013, 2:29 pm

    WhiteBoy wrote:Funny, good video. Thanks, Nathan. I actually learned recently that water can exist in all three states simultaneously. It's called a triple point. This is a pretty good analogy, and takes care of the modalism problem with the water analogy.

    Actually using "Triple Point" wouldn't be modalism, but would be a form of partialism . . . which I'm pretty sure I will hence-forth refer to as "the Voltron Heresy".

    In Triple Point (main article) this occurrence in water is described as follows:

    The single combination of pressure and temperature at which liquid water, solid ice, and water vapour can coexist in a stable equilibrium occurs at exactly 273.16 K (0.01 °C) and a partial vapour pressure of 611.73 pascals (ca. 6.1173 millibars, 0.0060373 atm). At that point, it is possible to change all of the substance to ice, water, or vapor by making arbitrarily small changes in pressure and temperature.

    As I understand Triple Point, it is not that one molecule is existing simultaneously in a gas, liquid and solid state . . . it is that you can have a molecule of gas, another molecule of liquid and another one a solid under the same temperature/pressure conditions. So this would be partialism because there is not unity in the substance.

    I'm not trying to be contradictory here ... just very precise in our understanding.

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    Re: Bad Trinity Analogies

    Post  Nathan James Norman on March 24th 2013, 2:38 pm

    The Athanasian Creed is a great document that helps towards our understanding of the Trinity. I've found this chart is very helpful as well (and is derived from Athanasius' creed).



    I find this very helpful because we can clearly see the distinction of each of the persons in the Trinity (The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, The Spirit is not the Son etc.) But we also see that each of the persons is God and God is one, undivided substance. The Father is not 1/3 God, He is completely God, and the Son is completely God, as is the Holy Spirit.



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    Re: Bad Trinity Analogies

    Post  WhiteBoy on March 25th 2013, 9:58 am

    Gotcha, thanks for that clarification. Yes, that chart is a very good chart to use.


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    Re: Bad Trinity Analogies

    Post  Nathan James Norman on March 25th 2013, 3:55 pm

    WhiteBoy wrote:Gotcha, thanks for that clarification. Yes, that chart is a very good chart to use.

    Again, I'm not trying to be contrary, just specific. And there really aren't any good Trinity analogies.

    The only one I've come across was given by a seminary prof. (and I think the 19th century theologian W.G.T. Shedd) but he wasn't too keen on it either because it has a lot of caveats.

    First, a person has to be a dichotimist (believing a person is a body and a soul/spirit) as opposed to a trichotomist (believing a person has three parts: body, soul and spirit). Then you have to subscribe to the belief that a soul has three essential attributes: intellect, will and emotion.

    So, with those (disputable) prerequisites . . . a person's soul is one undivided substance that is present where ever a person's boy is located and at every point of the body. The soul has an intellect, will and emotion. But these aren't divided into sections of the soul. They are essential attributes that are distinct, but comprise the whole soul.

    Now, this is probably the best analogy I've come across, but it's not without it problems:
    1. There are two rather large and arguable prerequisites.
    2. In the soul-analogy, we're talking about attributes, whereas with the Trinity we're talking about persons.
    3. The analogy only address how there can be "oneness", it does not really demonstrate distinction of the three attributes.
    4. Good analogies are simple. This is not simple at all.

    I suspect that we may never find a good and accurate analogy for the Trinity. As DNArlington stated . . . God is completely other than anything else.

    However, I still imagine that there might be a possible analogy out there. The soul-attributes analogy demonstrates a great deal of work based on centuries of theological study. If we continue to do the "science" of theology, we may yet discover an analogy . . . but I wouldn't put any money on it.

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    Re: Bad Trinity Analogies

    Post  DNArington on March 26th 2013, 12:00 am

    Nathan James Norman wrote:
    I agree that God is completely other, so it makes sense that we would not find a ready analogy in the natural world. However, I think we need to be super-careful (even when talking to children) about why these analogies are deficient. The sun - light - heat one (Arianism) is regularly used by the Jehovah's Witnesses to demonstrated Jesus' greatness, while simultaneous denying his divinity. If we teach our people these analogies with out clarification, then when they face folks with a false-orthodox, they are much more likely to adopt these heresies.


    Point taken. That gives me something to think about. Thanks!

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    Re: Bad Trinity Analogies

    Post  tmorrill on March 28th 2013, 7:50 pm

    That video (and the other vidoes on their channel)caused me to lose a day of work. I hope you're happy Nathan!

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    Re: Bad Trinity Analogies

    Post  Rickster on March 28th 2013, 7:55 pm

    I think the worse Analogy for the Trinity is my Mickey Mouse one.
    It takes 3 distinct circles to form one shape of Micky Mouse

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    Re: Bad Trinity Analogies

    Post  tmorrill on March 28th 2013, 8:20 pm

    Rickster wrote:I think the worse Analogy for the Trinity is my Mickey Mouse one.
    It takes 3 distinct circles to form one shape of Micky Mouse

    Wow, I've never heard that one before, that is pretty bad. Like I've said other places (but not here I think), as a recovering modalist-without-realizing-itist, I'm very very very wary of anyone who tries to explain the Trinity with an analogy.

    Like a few others have said, I think the best analogy for the Trinity is, the Trinity because there's nothing like it. Smile

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    Re: Bad Trinity Analogies

    Post  Paeter on March 29th 2013, 11:45 am

    I keep meaning to pull out Geisler's Systematic Theology volume that covers this and reproduce some of it here. He goes through and dissects several popular yet faulty analogies, and I think presents one that's pretty good, although a bit abstract if I remember. Which of course weakens its strength as an analogy. ;-)

    I'll try to remember, but if someone else has the set, have at it.


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    Re: Bad Trinity Analogies

    Post  tmorrill on March 31st 2013, 12:26 am



    Obviously this is supposed to be satire/insulting, but then again so was the sign on the Cross. Either way, I thought this was an interesting picture in light of this conversation.

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    Re: Bad Trinity Analogies

    Post  Nathan James Norman on March 31st 2013, 5:15 pm

    tmorrill wrote:

    Obviously this is supposed to be satire/insulting, but then again so was the sign on the Cross. Either way, I thought this was an interesting picture in light of this conversation.

    Actually this is a great example of the audacity of modalism. There are plenty of formal modalist groups out there today and a picture like this very clearly illustrates that there must be three separate persons in the Trinity. Otherwise Jesus is just praying to himself.

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    Re: Bad Trinity Analogies

    Post  45shiro45 on May 30th 2013, 9:15 am

    I know we're talking about bad analogies here, but I'm surprised nobody has brought up Lewis' treatment of the subject in Mere Christianity under "Beyond Personality"...

    His references to dimensional understanding as it applies to the Trinity was pretty effective. He may not have comprehensively explained the Trinity in this treatment, but he certainly illustrates why the Trinity is so difficult for us to fully understand...

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    Re: Bad Trinity Analogies

    Post  Paeter on June 5th 2013, 1:19 pm

    That vaguely rings a bell. I'd also HIGHLY recommend astronomer Hugh Ross's book, "Beyond The Cosmos" for more on the application of higher dimensional theory to the nature of God. Awesome stuff!


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