Here we refer to the doctrine of the Trinity. It has been said that one may well lose his mind trying to understand it, but lose his soul for rejecting it!
I. What are some false views in regard to the Trinity?
A. The error of Unitarianism—This says the Father is the creator. The Son is the creature, and the Holy Spirit is only an impersonal force.
B. The error of tri-theism—This says that the Trinity consists of three separate (but cooperating) Gods.
C. The error of modalism—According to this view there is but one God who simply reveals Himself through three different modes, or roles. For example, a particular man could be considered a “husband” to his wife, a “father” to his children, and an “employee” to his boss.
II. What are some proposed illustrations to explain the Trinity?
It should be said up front that there is no earthly example that fully explains the mystery of the Trinity. Yet, throughout church history various attempts have been offered. Some are totally unscriptural while others possess some limited possibilities.
A. Unscriptural examples:
1. A three-leaf clover—Each leaf enjoys the same stem, but this is a poor illustration of the Trinity because these leaves can be separated one from the other, and you cannot separate the Trinity.
2. The three states of water (liquid, vapor, and solid)—In its natural form, water is liquid. When boiled it turns into vapor, and when frozen, it becomes solid. This, too, is a poor illustration of the Trinity.
3. The three-fold nature of man (body, soul, spirit)—Man possesses body, soul, and spirit, but they can be separated. At death the body is buried; the soul (the spirit) goes to be with the Lord. You cannot separate the Trinity. Therefore this, too, is a poor illustration.
4. The three parts of an egg (shell, white, yolk)—These three parts can be separated, thus making a bad illustration.
5. A tree—A tree has roots, a trunk, and branches. But as in the above examples, these three entities can be separated.
B. Possible (and partial) examples:
1. A triangle—This is a fairly good example of the Trinity because it has three sides, and yet, it is one triangle which is indivisible.
2. Fire—A fire must have three things to exist. They are not the same, but if any ingredient is absent the fire ceases to be. These are: fuel, heat, and oxygen.
a. Remove the fuel and the fire goes out.
b. Lower the heat and the fire goes out.
c. Take away the oxygen and the fire goes out.
3. The nature of light, consisting of three kinds of rays:
a. Chemical Rays—rays that are invisible, and can neither be felt nor seen.
b. Light Rays—rays that are seen, but cannot be felt.
c. Heat Rays—rays that are felt, but never seen.
Some have said this is a good illustration of the Trinity, because chemical rays are invisible and could illustrate a type of the Father (can neither be felt nor seen). Light rays can be seen but cannot be felt, thus illustrating a type of the Son. Heat rays illustrate a type of the Holy Spirit because they are felt but never seen. This is a possible illustration of the Trinity.
4. Time—Consisting of the past, present, and future.
5. The dimensional example:
For all practical purposes our world is a three-dimensional world (excluding the fourth dimension of time), where all objects possess height, length, and width. Thus, let us imagine a book which measures 9 inches long, 6 inches wide, and 1 inch in height.
We may correctly conclude:
a. There is but one single book involved.
b. There are, however, three separate but unified dimensions involved.
c. These dimensions are not the same, but cannot be separated from the other two without destroying the book itself.