Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Another Trinity Analogy

I had the opportunity to preach this past Son-day at my home church and I used my favorite analogy for the Trinity, the musical chord.  You can check out that analogy here.

I came across another great analogy when reading Nabeel Qureshi's excellent book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.  You can see our review here.

As Qureshi explains, in Islam, "God's essence, or the very thing that makes Him God, is that He is one: independent, unique, sovereign, set apart, and completely unified.  There can be no division within Him whatsoever.  Distilling this theology in the context of Muslim-Christian dialogue boils down to this: Tauheed (The Islamic doctrine of Allah's absolute unity and self-reliance), Islams most fundamental principle, is antithetical to the Trinity." [1]

You can understand why the concept of the Trinity, that God is Three in One, was difficult for Nabeel, then a Muslim, to accept!  However, while in a college class, he began to open up to the concept.

He writes:

"I vividly remember the exact location of my seat because it was there that I first opened up to the Trinity, a moment still etched in my mind.

Projected in the front of the room were three large depictions of nitrate in bold black and white.  We were studying resonance, the configuration of electrons in certain molecules.  The basic concept of resonance is easy enough to understand, even without a background in chemistry.  Essentially, the building block of every physical object is an atom, a positively charged nucleus orbited by tiny, negatively charged electrons.  Atoms bond to one another by sharing their electrons, forming a molecule.  Different arrangements of the electrons in certain molecules are called 'resonance structures.'  Some molecules, like water, have no resonance while others have three resonance structures or more, like the nitrate on the board.

Although the concept was easy enough to grasp, the reality proved to be baffling.  Mrs. Adamski concluded her lesson by commenting, 'These drawings are just the best way to respresent resonance structures on paper, but it's actually much more complicated.  Technically, a molecule with resonance is every one of its structures at every point in time, yet no single one of its structures at any point in time...

How could something be many things at once?  Many different things?  We were not talking about the attributes of something like a steak, which can be hot, juicy, thick, and tender all at once.  We were talking about separate spatial and electrical arrangements.  What the professor said would be akin to saying that Nabeel is eating steak in Texas while simultaneously napping in a hammock in the Caribbean.  As wonderful as each would be individually, it made no sense to say I might be doing both at once.

I was perplexed, and what made it even worse was that no one around me seemed bothered in the least.  I looked around the room, agape at their blind acceptance.

But was it really blind?  The professor was teaching rarefied science, describing the subatomic world.  At that level, things happen that make no sense to those of us who conceptualize the world at only a human level.  Even the apparently simply idea of atoms is baffling when we think about it.  It means that the chair I am sitting on is not actually a solid object, innocently supporting my weight.  It is almost entirely empty space, occupied only in small particles moving at incomprehensible speeds.  When we think about it, it seems wrong, but it's just the way things are in our universe.  There's no use arguing about it.

I turned my glance away from the other students, concluding they had not blindly accepted a nonsensical concept.  They had just realized before I did that there are truths about our universe that do not fit easily into our minds.

My eyes rested on the three seperate structures of nitrate on the wall, my mind assembling the pieces.  One molecule of nitrate is all three resonance structures all the time and never just one of them.  The three are separate but all the same, and they are one.  They are three in one.

That's when it clicked: if there are things in this world that can  be three in one, even incomprehensibly so, then why cannot God?" [2]

As I have said before, 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 analogies such as this one are helpful in demonstrating that the Trinity is not self-contradictory or illogical.

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, p. 191.
2. Ibid., p. 194-196.

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