Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Favorite Analogy of the Trinity

I had the pleasure of attending the Mt. Airy "Defending the Faith" Conference this past weekend and heard an excellent lecture given by Marvin Patrick entitled, "Three Gods or One?  Defending the Trinity."

Later that day, during lunch, Truthbomb team member Chase Deener and my atheist friend were discussing the various analogies that Patrick had shared and the strengths and liabilities of each and I shared my favorite analogy brielfy.  It is the musical analogy originally offered by theologian Jeremy S. Begbie.  Peter S. Williams explains it in his outstanding article Understanding the Trinity:

"...A musical chord is essentially composed of three different notes (to be a chord all three notes must be present), namely the first, third and fifth notes of a given musical scale. For example, the chord of C major is composed of the notes C (the root of the chord), E (the third from the root) and G (the fifth from the root). Each individual note is ‘a sound’, and all three notes played together are likewise ‘a sound’. Hence a chord is essentially three sounds in one sound, or one sound essentially composed of three different sounds (each of which has an individual identity as well as a corporate identity). By analogy, God is three divine persons in one divine personal being, or one divine personal being essentially composed of three divine persons. Moreover, when middle C (the root of the chord) is played it ‘fills’ the entire ‘heard space’. When the E above middle C is played at the same time, that second note simultaneously ‘fills’ the whole of the ‘heard space’; yet one can still hear both notes distinctly. When the G above middle C is added as well, a complete chord exists; one sound composed of three distinct sounds: [1]

What could be more apt than to speak of the Trinity as a three-note-resonance of life, mutually indwelling, without mutual exclusion and yet without merger, each occupying the same ‘space,’ yet recognizably and irreducibly distinct, mutually enhancing and establishing each other? 
So the doctrine of the Trinity isn't self-contradictory, and there are some analogies that help us to conceptualize the Trinity." [3]
I agree with those who hold that the Trinity is unique and there is nothing that one can point to that is a strict analogy or parallel to it; however, I find the above analogy helpful in demonstrating that the Trinity is not self-contradictory or illogical.
What do you think of the analogy?  What is your favorite analogy of the Trinity?  Sound off in the comments below!
Courage and Godspeed,
1. Peter S. Williams, Understanding the Trinity, 2012. 

2. As quoted by P. Williams- Jeremy Begbie (ed.), Beholding the Glory: Incarnation Through the Arts, (Baker, 2000), quoted by ‘Hearing God in C Major’, Stillpoint,www.gordon.edu/download/galleries/Summer2005Stillpoint1.pdf
3. Ibid., 2012.


Paul McCauley said...

I'm sure most Christians agree that the hardest doctrines to understand are the Trinity and the incarnation. I wonder if God has given us an analogy of these truths in how He has chosen to reveal Himself. The Bible is the Word of God, and it is made up of 66 books. Each one of those books is the Word of God, perfect, authoritative, etc. yet we don't say there are 66 Words of God. Each one is the Word of God, all of them together are the Word of God. Any one of the books has the properties of the whole - ditto with the Trinity. Also, it is both a divine and a human work, the Word of God but the writing of men. We can see the personality of real humans in it, without error - seems a bit like the incarnation.

v J thomas said...

I like to picture trinity to white light. light as we learn in our physics comprises of 7 colors,each distinct but combined it forms white or fullness.As st Paul said we the humans are mind,body and spirit,I would like to picture mind,as the creative force -the Father,the body as Jesus which is visible and the spirit represents Holy Spirit. And as some apologist asked if not for Trinity who was God loving in the first place(he also suggested this question can be put to Moslems and Jews) Thanks God bless