The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most complicated aspects of Christian theology. How God can be 3 yet 1. I have heard oversimplified explanations of it — like thinking of Trinity as an egg — and those analogies don’t work for me.
Yesterday I was reading No Perfect People Allowed by John Burke and he painted a word picture describing the Trinity that was one of the best I have ever heard. Here is a combination of what John wrote and my paraphrasing of it. Get your thinking caps on!
Imagine for a moment if you are a 3-dimensional being and you created a 2-dimensional world. Picture a flat TV screen as the world you created while you as the Creator are in the family room. You are the Almighty Creator of Flatland!
The people in your 2-D world can move up and down, left and right, but they have no comprehension at all of IN or OUT. You can watch their every move from “above,” but they can’t even comprehend you as a 3-D Creator “above” watching in. You can do miracles in their world–your finger could appear and disappear. (Imagine if you could push your finger into your TV screen (without shattering it!) and how it would appear to the 2-D characters in their 2-D world. It would appear as a circle. All they could see is a 2-D “slice” of your finger).
Now you could remain completely hidden, and they couldn’t even comprehend your existence in another dimension. But what if you wanted to relate to them? If you wanted them to understand you…even love you? You would have to take the initiative to reveal yourself in 2-D descriptions, in a form they could comprehend.
You could penetrate their 2-D plane of existence, appearing as a flat, round, 2-dimensional slice of your finger. In that form, you could help them see — not all of your 3-D splendor — but as much as is flatly possible for them to understand in 2 dimensions.
That is the point of Jesus. An infinite, multi-dimensional God appearing finitely in our “slice” of time and space.
This analogy helps explain why the paradox of the Trinity makes sense. The Trinity is a Being not bound by time and space. Think about it, if you as the God of Flatland tried to explain yourself in words, you would say, “I’m not just one slice, but a plurality of slices…but I’m only one person.” That would be paradoxical to them. Why? Because many slices in a 2-D world can never be “stacked up” into one being (because you can’t wrap your mind around the concept of a 3-D stack of slices).
So that’s the analogy. The Trinity Explained in 368 words. What did you think of it? Please post a comment.
Let me leave you with one final (slightly paraphrased) quote from Neil Cole from his book Church 3.0:
When people of other faiths come to my door “selling” their religion and they claim their faith has all the answers, I am skeptical. If you can explain everything about your god, then your god is pretty small. I love the Trinity because it is beyond my full grasp. I don’t apologize for that; I revel in it….I am more intrigued with a question and the quest it can initiate.