The problem with analogies for the Trinity

This is a fabulous video on the problem of taking analogies for the Trinity too seriously. It's funny and it's right.


Anonymous said…
There are no analogies for the Trinity either in nature nor in the Bible. Why that doesn't give Trinitarians more pause is a wonder indeed.

Would that we gave Christ more devotion.
Robin Parry said…
Thanks blogforthelordjesus for your comments.

Two brief thoughts:

1. I appreciate your concern but I don't feel that it is a cause for worry. Fundamental to Christian theology is the notion that God is radically other, that as Creator there is nothing in creation that is exactly like God. So the fact that every analogy for God has weaknesses is no surprise. In the nature of the case one simply cannot eradicate mystery here for God is ... God.

2. I am more surprised at your second comment and I am a little unsure how to reply as I am unclear where you are coming from. What it sounds like (reading between the lines) is that you are saying that Jesus is not God (as you reject the Trinity) but that you wish that we would worship him instead of God. But surely that cannot be your point! So you will need to clarify or I'll just be talking in the dark. What was equally confusing about your second point was that it presupposes that Christians do not give Christ enough devotion. I am unclear as to why you would think this — Jesus is at the heart of all Christian worship.
Mike Watson said…
Thatis funny - so is the one where youtube tried to add auto-generated subtitles - and profound. Love it.
Sorry to put a damper on the joke, but I found this to be more arrogant and annoying than funny. Of course, all analogies are imperfect, but if we should dismiss them for that reason then we have to dismiss much of the Bible as well. The water-in-three-different-forms-analogy may be misleading, but it works as an analogy of the economic trinity where God certainly reveals himself in three different forms. Modalism is only wrong in that it reduces the persons to their modes and if we use this analogy we must point this out. The analogy of the sun, the light and the heat is certainly not arian. It is emanationist, but that is not so far off the classical understanding of the Trinity. The Father is the fount of the Trinity, the one source, the monarche of the other persons; Jesus is the Light that lets us see God and everything else and he is described in Hebrews as the reflection or effulgence of God; and as the heat proceeds from the sun through the light and gives life, the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son and gives life. I think it's a perfectly good analogy. It also makes sense of the fact that although the Father is the source of the Son and Spirit, they can be co-eternal, since the sun never has been without light or heat either. The images used in this analogy are not complete, they are impersonal and do not explain the oneness of substance, but there are other images that does that. As a tool among others to help explain what the Trinity is, it works perfectly well. The Athanasian creed (which is not part of the universal catholic church, only the western part of it) is to most people just incomprehensible, to use its own words.

There may be no analogies that can describe how God is in Himself, how the intertrinitarian relationships are to be understood, but that is not mainly what should concern us. That is why the Bible does not speak about the metaphysics of the Trinity, but about how the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit relates to us and our world as our parental creator and provider, as our Lord and redeemer and as our life-giver, sanctifier and fellowship-gatherer. Most of the Christians I know have no technical understanding of the Trinity whatsoever and can probably be best described as either partial modalists or binitarians (but they know nothing of these either), but I honestly don't think this matters much.
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Ok, I'm officially a bitter old theologian who takes this stuff far too seriously. That this should befall me at the tender age of 27, I never would have thunken. I need to get out more…
Robin Parry said…

You are correct about the sun analogy. I almost made that point when I posted the video and then I thought, "Nah, it would take the fun out of the video clip."


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