Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What does a Trinity look like?

Understanding the concept of the Trinity is among the most difficult doctrines for many Christians. What exactly do we mean that God is three-in-one? Is there a hierarchy between them, and if so does that mean that God the Son is not really “God”, since He is under the leadership of the Father? How can they be separate but the same?

One commonly used analogy is to describe the Trinity as a flame, where the Father is the fire, the Son is the light, and the Spirit is the heat. (As an engineer I’ve always hated this analogy, because I don’t think it says what people think it says. The light and heat from a flame are actually separate “things” from the fire itself, not aspects of the same thing. But anyway.)

The problem is that these descriptions are generally unclear, and usually do little to clarify the situation. I think I can help.

To picture what God ‘looks like’, do we have anything that we can look at to draw inferences upon? The answer is yes—according to the Bible, when He made man, we were made in His image. Note the plurality of the verse in Genesis—“Let us make man in our image”. Clearly, even in Genesis 1:26, God is admitting that He is multiple-in-one; “us-in-me”.

So, we are told that humans are made in God’s image. In what way? Clearly He didn’t mean body style, for as our evolutionary friends are quick to point out, our bodies are fairly similar to primates, whom God did not see fit to call being in His image when He created them.

So what about humans is in God’s image? The answer is—we are trinities.

You see, we have a Mind, a Body, and a Soul. That is, there is a part of us which is creative, rational, and emotive (the Mind); a part which has physical form (the Body); and a part which is spiritual and seeks righteousness and God’s kingdom (the Soul).

Likewise, God the Father is a creative being with rational laws and has emotion and personality (the Mind); God the Son took physical form in our human flesh (the Body); and God the Spirit is the spiritual soul which is reaching out to each of us and indwelling us.

So you see that in fact, God did create us in His image—very much so!

But do you see how these individual aspects of you (mind, body, soul), are none of them You? That is, I am Michael. If I lose a leg, I am not 20% less “Michael”. I’m still Michael, but without a leg. Likewise if I develop dementia, and my mind starts failing, I am not less “Michael”—indeed, often we say of those who have suffered this fate that they are “no longer themselves”, which implies that we see who they are as a distinct entity greater than their mind. Likewise, if I commit a horrible crime, and my soul is seen as an evil wasteland, I am not less “Michael”, am I?

Each of us, you see, already understands the Trinity. For we know that we ourselves are a Person who is comprised of three distinct entities (flesh, mind, spirit); but our Personhood is contained not within any of these three things, but encompasses all of them. This is a picture of the One God, who is Himself comprised of three distinct persons (the Father, Jesus, and the Spirit), yet the Godhead is something distinct and separate from these…just as the personhood of “Michael” is something distinct from my mind-body-spirit combination.

So as you try to picture the Trinity, just remember that the person you think of as “You” is both comprised of, and more than, the distinct entities you call your body, your mind, and your soul. Of course, I'm sure God is infinitely more complex than we can imagine...but the Bible tells us that we are made in His image, and thus we can get a little glimpse into how the Trinity looks by taking a look in a mirror.


  1. Ahh, the disadvantage of blog comments: crazy people having free reign to spout off wild conspiracy theories and act like their fringe website is some sort of legitimate source of scholarship...

  2. Adam, Anders:

    While I appreciate your feedback, I will not allow external links to sites that I am not aware of to be posted on my site, lest it runs a risk for my readers on click-throughs.

    I will be deleting your comments. You are more than welcome to post disagreements but not links or anything profane. You are also free to email me at rebootchristianity@gmail.com if you have actual interest in open-minded discussion.

    Kyle - you cracked me up. :)

  3. As someone who follows Jesus and is a believer in God I agree we are 3 in one as God is, made in His image. However, from my experience since following Jesus, I have found the true essence of who we are is fully found and drawn out when we step into relationship with Him. As we come into line with how God our Father sees us -shown through Jesus His son, His love more and more makes us whole and draws our potential out (as often as we invite Him in to work in us), so that we can fully become the person we have been created to be -and reach our destiny. Yes, if I lose a leg, I am still no less "me". But if I commit a crime, I believe that is not operating from the true me -otherwise I feel if this were true, there would be little hope. Christ, through His love and forgiveness, lifts my head up and tells me He believes in me and that His love can change me. I hang onto the line in the song which says,'for your love has come to me and set me free... I'm trusting in your love, I'm trusting in your cross, I'm trusting in your blood and all your righteousness, for your power at work in me is changing me'
    Love Tracey