Explaining the Trinity to a Junior Higher…

December 15, 2007

 

I’ve heard it said that the way to hone your teaching skills is to teach kids. Why? Because you have to really labor to communicate clearly enough, to “put the cookies on the bottom shelf”. Another reason is the fact that you really have to be on your toes, ready for all sorts of questions from left field.

 

As John Piper has put it, we need to see God with “edges” so that our view of Him is more than “mush”. In order to know Him, we must know what He is like and what He is not like. Hence theology is important, for everyone, including kids. Though it’s often tougher explaining deeper, more complicated truth to kids (and you often have to be quite creative!), I encourage you to attempt it, and to persevere in your efforts to do so. Helping them know God better is well worth the sweat.

Julianna Fiala has asked me some of the most difficult questions in my time as a youth pastor. Even if the question itself is fairly standard, her desire to really understand the truth clearly means that she is frequently looking for more than my initial, more simple answer. I remember trying to explain the Trinity to her about a year ago, when she was still in Junior High. Our conversation went on for some time (in person and over e-mails), as she pondered my answers and asked further questions where things were still unclear. Of course there was still plenty mystery at the end of it all (and there always will be with the Trinity), but these silly, imperfect analogies proved to be somewhat helpful in communicating different aspects of this truth to her:

The Trinity is like an orange: 

Ø      Though an orange is made up of several different segments, all these segments come together to make a unified “one” orange

Ø      Each segment of orange is fully “orange” in essence (I think I said, “in it’s “orangeness”” J)

BUT

Ø      The persons of the Godhead are different persons who fulfill different roles. Although they are each fully God, they are different in some ways (like Jesus has a body, but the Holy Spirit doesn’t). In this way the Trinity is not like orange segments, which are pretty much all exactly the same and perform the same function.  

The Trinity is like a sandwich: 

Ø      Though a sandwich is made up of several different pieces (cheese, bread, deli meat), all the pieces come together to make “one” sandwich

Ø      Each piece of the sandwich is different and has a unique role to play (e.g. the bread serves a different purpose to the cheese)

BUT

Ø      Cheese without bread is not a sandwich, it’s “cheese”. It needs the other pieces of the sandwich in order to become “sandwich”. In this way the Trinity is not like a sandwich. Each member of the Trinity is fully God – each member, on His own, is 100% God in essence (“Godness”).

Of course, there are infinite ways in which God is not like either an orange or a sandwich! There are infinite ways in which He is like absolutely nothing else! That must always be emphasized, lest we make the awesome, indescribable God of the Universe seem mundane. Nonetheless, Scripture itself strives to help us know God well and understand Him more clearly, accomodating to our finite minds by using numerous analogies and personifications to help us grasp our infinite God… to help us see Him with “lines”, as more than “mush”. Let’s endeavor to see Him clearly and know Him better, and let’s labor to help others do the same…

~ Donovan

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