Friday, 28 May 2010

Two analogies for the trinity

Preaching on the trinity this Sunday, and have been pondering analogies. On this subject in particular they are undoutedly inandequate. It strikes me that one reason why finding one is so hard is that God is spirit, and we look for analogies in the material realm. And there, one 'thing' just cannot be three distinct, co-existent 'things' at the same time.

This got me thinking about the critical non-material analogy of God, that is our own human spirit. Here we perhaps make some headway in thinking of the one spirit (ie. the essential self) who exists as thought, will and action. There is at least some sense in which each of these triad is on its own fully me, expressing the same substance - my spirit. Yet at the same time, each is distinct as with the three persons of the Godhead, in rank, role and relationship: In rank, as thought generally leads to will, with both influencing action. In role, because thought delegates to will, will initiates action, and action effects what thought and will have decided. In relationship, because will generally submits to thought, whilst action submits in one sense to both.

The analogy even fits because there is a sense in which the three are personal, though unlike the Father, Son and Spirit they are not individual persons with distinct rationality.

In the end, the analogy the scriptures give is that of Father, Son and Spirit. By doing so, they do stress the personal nature of each as well as their difference in rank, role and relationship. The only problem with this is that Father and Son are independent 'beings' in the human realm. If we however substitute 'person' in the usual (rather than theological) sense for Father, 'presentation' (or word/logos expression) for Son and 'presence' for spirit, as scripture allows, this is seems somewhat negated. Each are at least 'personal.' Each is fully the one individual being expressed by them, each reflects that beings human nature and character. Yet they are also distinct, the person initiates presentation of himself whether by word or deed, and there is a sense in which both his personhood and presentation determine his presence at any one time.

So, we feel these are two helpful, though limited, trinitarian analogies:
  1. The one spirit who always exists as thought, will and action.
  2. The one human who always exists as person, presentation and presence.