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 Post subject: Trinitarian Analogies
PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 4:46 am 
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Does anyone know of any good (read: non-heretical) analogies describing the Trinity? I recently wrote an article on my website discussing some of the more common analogies, showing why they all misrepresent what God is like at best and espouse heresy at worst.

I'd ask that you at least skim my article before replying--if you don't, you'll probably reply with one of the analogies I address in the article. I'd really love to have a theologically accurate and simple analogy describing the Trinity, but so far I haven't found one.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 5:06 am 
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The trinity is like water at its triple point. It exists in all three stages at one point. They are distinct and not each other, but they are all water.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 2:06 pm 
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Not being a science-y kind of person, I've never heard of the concept of a triple point before. Nevertheless, that does seem to be a pretty good representation of the Trinity--it avoids the heresies that so many other analogies fall into. I may use that!

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 9:02 am 
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Actually, that's still the traditional heresy of modalism. Looking for a physical or commonsense analogy is fairly futile, I think.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 1:59 pm 
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David Roth wrote:
The trinity is like water at its triple point. It exists in all three stages at one point. They are distinct and not each other, but they are all water.

I don't really know enough about water's triple point to know whether it's a sound analogy… I do know that semi-complicated scientific analogies aren't always the best ones to use in an apol speech because first you have to explain the science to the judge and then you have to explain how it connects to the concept you're illustrating. It's lengthy and tends to lose the judge at some point.

I actually tend to agree with HadouKen on this one… I've never heard of an analogy that adequately explains the Trinity.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 2:55 pm 
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Regarding the triple point: At the triple point, water can exist as either a gas, liquid, or solid, BUT not all three at the same time.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 3:57 pm 
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Okay--I'll assume that you people are correct that water cannot be in all three forms at the same time. That seems most logical. Sigh...and I was hoping that I'd finally found an analogy that wasn't heretical.

I no longer use any analogies in my Trinity card. I think the best option is to simply explain the Scutum Fidei, or "Shield of the Trinity" as it's better known. It's not as good as an analogy but at least it's not heretical.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 4:23 pm 
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anorton wrote:
Regarding the triple point: At the triple point, water can exist as either a gas, liquid, or solid, BUT not all three at the same time.

Wrong. The Triple Point is defined as the Temperature and Pressure at which the three phases coexist.

There is obviously everyday situations where the three phases can coexist. Have you ever dropped Ice into boiling water?

However, the analogy I gave was not entirely serious. You aren't going to find a perfect analogy. Physical things cannot adequately represent God. I still think analogies are useful as a means of introducing the subject, they can always be clarified once the person understands the gist of it. I do not think nitpicking them actually accomplishes anything, other than throwing away one of the most simple and effective tools for explaining theological mysteries.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 01, 2012 10:48 pm 
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I found this one interesting:

Quote:
We’ll perform a sort of theology that might be called “casting” or “molding”. We’re going to take something that we know is not like the Trinity, and which suffers serious inadequacies in representing it, but which nevertheless has a kernel of truth, and then we’ll try to knock away everything but that kernel of truth. When you cast a candle in a die, for example, you have a large iron mold that looks nothing like a candle, but which has within it some likeness to a candle. You use the die like a scaffolding that allows you to get to the point when you pull the die itself apart and are left with only the wax center that was within it. Here is what is going to serve as our die for understanding the Trinity: the action of using a paintbrush to make a line going from left to right. It’s a very simple idea but be sure the image is clear in your head. We’re talking about this… (Takes out paintbrush, makes a stroke from left to right.)

Now what am I doing when I do this? Notice that you can isolate three different things that happen:

1.) You desire to start at some point, say here (points at some location, sets the brush down there)
2.) You pull the brush left to right (do it).
3.) Then a third thing happens as a result, namely you not only get a line that goes left to right, it also has a top and a bottom. Now all you wanted to do was have a line that went left to right, but you find in doing this that you give rise to a top and a bottom too.

Now not everything in this image can be taken as illuminating something about the Trinity, but I want to draw your attention to the nature of this process. Note first that we can isolate a left-right relation which necessarily gives rise to a top-bottom relation. These relations are different and arise in a certain order. We want to draw the left before the right, and we get a result out of this that was outside our intention to have this horizontal distance. Nevertheless, while there is an order among the relations they are nevertheless all simultaneous: you cannot isolate a “pure left” or a “pure right”, nor can you keep this left right line from being a top that has a bottom. You have one undivided reality that admits of three distinct relative oppositions.

Now in this metaphor, “Left” is the Father, “right” is the Son. So what about the Holy Spirit? Notice that we can say that in one sense he proceeds from the Father-Son together (so far as they form a “top” to which he is “the bottom”) and in another sense proceeds from the Father alone, so far as everything that follows “the left” proceeds from it. Both expressions isolate some feature of the same reality, and so depending on what questions we want to answer, it might be more useful to consider the Holy Spirit as arising from the single Father-Son source or from the Father alone. It is also useful to describe the Holy Spirit as “from” the Father and “through” the Son, but this is simply a third account of the same reality. The accounts are not distinct from one another by one being true and the others false.

So much for the kernel of truth in the metaphor – where is it inadequate? What part is the “die” that needs to get pulled off and set aside? It is an incredibly difficult removal: we must isolate the relations themselves apart from the parts of the quantity that we know them in. Talking about “left-right” is impossible for us apart from some image of a physical body, but we have to separate out the pure relation from the physical parts of which it is the relation. Though we must look at a body to see a left and right, we have to tell ourselves that we are only considering the left right and not the body. But how can we understand this, given that we certainly can’t imagine it? It helps to return to our consideration of the intelligible difference between parts (or most accidents) and relations. The quantity has parts that each exist of themselves, but the relation consists precisely the co-existence of things. Quantitative parts, to the extent it has its own existence, must destroy the existence of the whole. You can’t break off or isolate a part of a quantity and still have one and the same whole exist. But relations are different: because they co-exist, it is possible to have a multiplication of terms that is not repugnant to an absolutely unified whole. This co-existence is not contrary to procession of one thing from another – in fact, it can even be based upon such a procession.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 3:18 am 
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Green Tea wrote:
I found this one interesting:

...



That is very interesting. It's a bit too long to use in an Apologetics speech, but it's a way of looking at the Trinity that I've never considered before.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 19, 2013 1:28 am 
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Here is the one I use... I don't know if its heretical or not.... :P

The trinity is like a snickers bar. You have the chocolate, the caramel, and the peaunts... All three completely seperate, but all three only one great candy bar.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 19, 2013 8:38 pm 
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You don't know if that is heretical or not?

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 4:55 am 
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You probably shouldn't be using analogies who's hereticalness is undetermined :P

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 7:48 am 
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@BraveHeart96E

Technically and Biblically speaking, any human attempt to constrain our unfathomably awesome, triune God into human terms is heretical in one way or another. God is not compartmentalized by space, time, temperature, or any other physical ways of measurement. He is infinite, and that is the problem that most every analogy cannot overcome. Either the analogy is too simple in its description (and thus is heretical somehow), or it's way too complex (most likely very close to being completely Biblically accurate, but too intricate to practically help lead both saved and unsaved people to a greater understanding of God). Anything we can think of or encounter in the physical realm will never be exhaustively sufficient to explain our God's triune nature.

Over-analyzing analogies, however, misses the point of why one created an analogy in the first place. The point of an analogy is not to base your fundamental understanding of the Trinity upon. Trinitarian Analogies are simply supposed to simplify and illustrate concepts and help one try to understand the Trinity in terms all humans understand; they are not supposed to be the end-all source for Biblical truth. :)

BTW - food-related analogies are the most interesting ones. :)

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 8:39 am 
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I think you are perhaps overcomplicating things. Jesus Himself used (imperfect) analogies to make heavenly truths more understandable. For example, in Matthew 20:1-16 (parable of the landowner / overseer) you can parse out the representations of each of the characters in the parable and show how they lead to an incorrect understanding of the nature of God. Christ chose to speak in (imperfect) analogies anyway, in order to illustrate truths in a way we can grasp.

No analogy can be perfectly representative ... if it were so, it would be its own object. The purpose of an analogy is to illuminate or point the listener toward an idea.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 9:13 am 
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@debateohana :? With all due respect, that was one of my major points I tried to convey when writing my post. :) I wasn't trying to over-complicate things here.

Quote:
[Analogies can be] way too complex (most likely very close to being completely Biblically accurate, but too intricate to practically help lead both saved and unsaved people to a greater understanding of God)...Over-analyzing analogies...misses the point of why one created an analogy in the first place...Trinitarian Analogies are simply supposed to simplify and illustrate concepts and help one try to understand the Trinity in terms all humans understand; they are not supposed to be the end-all source for Biblical truth.


You do have a great point about Jesus' parables. The point of parables and allegories in the Bible are to be symbolic representations of spiritual concepts that we can easily grasp.

For example, Jesus says in the parable of the seeds that when the sower dropped seed on the path, on rocky ground, and among thorns, the seed was lost; but when seed fell on good earth, it grew, yielding thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold. Jesus of course did not literally mean that three-quarters of the time when we share the Gospel truth in love that it would be rejected; nor did He convey that new believers can ONLY go out and lead thirty, sixty, or a hundred people to Christ or any multiples of those numbers. :)

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 22, 2013 8:05 pm 
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My concern is with analogies that principally give incorrect and misleading information about God. To say, "God is good " is indeed inadequate to the loftiness of God; nevertheless it expresses truth so far as it goes. To say, "God is like an angry and jealous father " has an entirely different problem, and one cannot excuse it by saying that all our language is bound to be inadequate.

When it comes to such things as the Trinity, we must be extra vigilant. Because it is so complex, poor analogies are apt to lead astray. In that case, better even no analogy than one that leads away from God.

Regarding the Snickers bar, does God have three parts? This seems the basic logic of the analogy.

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We would give you vast and strange domains
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