Explaining the Trinity

With the idea of the Trinity being so easy to say “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” I want some pointers on how to begin explaining to somebody that doesn’t understand (as much as I try to). How do you correct people that say that there can’t be the three separate things and one God?

I think that any attempt to enter into conversation about the Trinity is better than dismissing the question. The Bible does not fully outline what it means to understand God as Trinity, but the Bible is our starting point and ultimately the best resource for learning about God’s revelation in Jesus Christ.

Trinitarianism is a part of the structure of the gospel. It is expressed in the baptism of Jesus as found in the Gospels.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17, TNIV

The baptism of Jesus occurs in all four of the Gospels and provides an example of the Trinitarian nature of God. Jesus is the Son as referred to by the voice from heaven. The Son implies that there is a parent. This is the one who pronounces the words upon Jesus. The Spirit is seen descending like a dove. For other scriptural references you might check here.

Another way that you might approach this question is to think of the relationships between the persons of the Trinity as what brings life and a deeper way of understanding. Each of the persons is given shape by the relationship to the other (For more a more detailed explanation check out deviantmonk‘s comment on Physics of the Trinity)

How else would you respond? What have you found to be helpful in your own understanding?

This question came out of a young adult small group taster last Sunday morning in which I taught about the question “What is the Trinity?”

Grasping the Trinity

How do you feel about the Trinity? How long did it take for you to start to get a grasp of it?

I feel good about the Trinity. I agree with deviantmonk in the comment on Physics of the Trinity.

As far as I’m concerned, [the Trinity is] the bedrock of Christian theology, worldview, ethics, and whatever else.

As far as getting a grasp of the Trinity, I believe that there is really only a continual journey deeper into the mystery. The more I think I know the more I realize I do not know. However, I would say that beginning to grasp the concept of the Trinity started thinking about analogies (some of which were mentioned at the taster), such as neapolitan ice cream, a shamrock, water in three phases. However, I do caution these comparisons as greatly lacking and should not be the end of seeking to understand. I think that the most faithful way of understanding the Trinity is to begin with the narrative of scripture.

Different forms of this question were common – look for some additional thoughts on this topic soon.

This question came out of a young adult small group taster last Sunday morning in which I taught about the question “What is the Trinity?”

Belief in the Trinity

Do you think it is important to God that we believe we understand the Holy Trinity or do you think He wants us to constantly be trying to understand?

I think that it is important that we have faith that seeks understanding of the Trinity and many other theological concepts – atonement, salvation, forgiveness. Some of these we experience, some of these we seek to understand, and for many of them we do both. In regard to the Trinity, I believe that it is more important to seek a relationship and experience interaction than to think about or try to understand.

I do not think that it is a faithful response to say that we fully understand the Trinity. I think that there is a balance between knowing / understanding and fully understand the Trinity. Our journey at Resurrection is one of knowing, loving and serving God and this is a journey that will likely not be complete in this life.

This question came out of a young adult small group taster last Sunday morning in which I taught about the question “What is the Trinity?”

Immanent and Economic Trinity

Could you explain further immanent and economic Trinity? I am still confused about the difference and how they relate. Are they two different Trinities or just two aspects of one Trinity?

There is one Trinity and the terms immanent and economic are ways for us to think about the Trinity. Referring to the immanent Trinity is a way of referring to God’s eternal existence and the internal relationships between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Referring to the economic Trinity is a way of considering God’s activity in creation.

One way of thinking about the economic Trinity is to think of the…

  • Father as creator.
  • Son as redeemer.
  • Holy Spirit as sustainer.

I think that these descriptions may be helpful but at the same time do not leave much room for mystery. I am not satisfied with this way of assigning tasks to each person of the Trinity, because in the unity of the Trinity all persons are active in each of these roles as well as in many different ways

I believe that the way that God exists eternally (immanent Trinity) is the way that God is active in the world (economic Trinity) and vice versa. I do not believe that God acts in creation in a different way than God exists eternally.

What do you think?

This question came out of a young adult small group taster last Sunday morning in which I taught about the question “What is the Trinity?

Physics of the Trinity

Please walk me through the physics of the Trinity.

I believe that the Trinity exists in a way of being that is quite different from the way of existence that we understand as humans. I do not think that there is any way of understanding the Trinity in terms of physics. I would certainly not claim to be able to articulate the physics of the Trinity.

The Trinity certainly has the ability to act outside of the laws of physics. For example, the belief in creation out of nothing is something that God accomplished yet is far outside the understandings of modern physics.

What do you think? This is the best I’ve got…

This question came out of a young adult small group taster last Sunday morning in which I taught about the question “What is the Trinity?”

Rublev’s Icon – The Three Visitors or Trinity

Have you looked at Rublev’s icon as an image of the Trinity? The picture of the table and an empty seat as an invitation to us to participate in God’s community? It also illustrates a non female / male image because it’s difficult to tell the difference. Interested to hear your thoughts.

I have looked at Andrei Rublev‘s icon as an image of the Trinity. It is one of my favorite icons and I had the opportunity to see the original at The State Tretyakov Gallery while on an immersion trip through Wesley Theological Seminary.

There is rich symbolism in this icon which depicts both the three visitors to Abraham (Genesis 18) and the Trinity. There is a great deal of thought and study about the possibilities of which person of the Trinity each of those in the icon represent. You can find an in depth exploration of the icon here or many other locations online.

I had not before considered the empty seat (where the viewer is) as an invitation to be in relationship with God, but now that you have brought it up I agree. In this icon gender is not clearly evident and I believe that we cannot characterize God as being either male or female. I believe that the Son, Jesus, is male. I believe that Father is an appropriate term for God and I also believe that mother would be an appropriate description for God. God exhibits characteristics of both genders in relating to all of creation.

This question came out of a young adult small group taster last Sunday morning in which I taught about the question “What is the Trinity?”

Thanks for the picture.

What is the Trinity?

Great question. I had the great opportunity to talk about the trinity with a group of young adults at a Sunday morning small group taster this morning hosted by the Couples in Christ class which meets at 9:00 AM at Resurrection.

I tried to touch on what what it means to be a theologian, the practice theology and the concept of the Trinity in less than 20 minutes allowing time for small group discussion. It was a bit of a challenge for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

At the end of the class time, I invited each person to write a question on a post-it note and turn it in and I would respond here at Thoughts of Resurrection. So look forward to a week of theology and thinking about the Trinity. I am looking forward to reading the comments and conversation that you will add. If you are interested in receiving each of these posts – please subscribe using the links on the left side of this page. You can choose to receive the posts via RSS or email.

Couples in Christ and all people at the taster – Thanks for allowing me to be a part of your group this morning. It was a blessing!