Theologica

a bible, theology, politics, news, networking, and discussion site

I'm interested in hearing what analogies or illustrations people have found useful in trying to explain the concept of the Trinity to children. Never mind that it's hard enough to explain to adults (or to grasp ourselves!), but I think with kids there's the particular challenge that they don't have as good a frame of reference for concepts like "person", and "being".

A former pastor used an analogy that refered to the members of the Trinity as being various parts of the car; I fear I can recall the exact details, which I guess indicates that it wasn't very memorable. But in any case, I'm pretty sure it related to how the various members *function* -- eg the Son is like the engine, the Spirit is like the gasoline, or something like that. That's useful in its way but not primarily what I'm interested in here; something that merely can assist in explaining multipersonal being to a level where it at least seems to make some kind of sense to a young mind is the goal.

Thanks!

Views: 11408

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Kids are concrete thinkers. I say use stories from the Bible, like the baptism of Christ, that show the Trinity. When they have questions--after their abstract thinking kicks in--rustle up some analogies. For now, read stories that show who Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are--all the while emphasizing that there is one God; that should create the dissonance needed to raise good questions.
The one I heard growing up was the the trinity is like a chicken egg (composed of shell, white, yolk). While I suppose the analogy is crude and perhaps inaccurate if we push it too far, it's an easy way to show that we describe pieces of the real world in a fashion similar to the trinity.
It's rough. Kids are invariably tri-theists but I can tell you illustrations I've used but then backed up saying He isn't like the illustration exactly.

Here's what I've used.

  • God is like an egg: yolk, whites and shell=3 in 1. But God is not like an egg because you can throw away one part and still have an egg. You can't do that with God.
  • God is like water that's sometimes water, sometimes ice and sometimes in the air. Bug God is not like water because Jesus is God and is different from the Father God and the Spirit God.
  • God is like a slice a pizza with a pizza pie. When you have one slice you know exactly what the rest of the pie is like but you don't have a whole pie when you have only a slice. But God isn't like a pizza pie because Jesus is completely God as much as the Father is completely God.
  • You see that two headed muppet on the TV? God is like that one person with three heads but God is not like that, confused or arguing with Himself.
  • Do you see why I keep saying God is like but God isn't like? Because God is much bigger than we can understand. You see all the stars in the sky? Do you know if you counted them all you still haven't started counting them because there's galaxies behind that? But we know that there's a bunch of stars we just don't know everything about the amount. God is so much bigger than we can understand exactly but God is close enough to our understanding that we can figure out some things, but not perfectly.
I have found there is no illustration that does the trinity justice. Examples such as ice, water and steam do not illustrate the Trinty but modalism. Examples such as the alleged use of the shamrock by St Patrick likewise show a defective Trinity.

Part of the Athanasius creed is probably the most simple

So the Father is God;
The Son is God;
And the Holy Spirit is God.
Yet there are not three Gods but one.
Though you still are left with your kids' question (as the OP asks) "How?"

stuart mcdowall said:
I have found there is no illustration that does the trinity justice. Examples such as ice, water and steam do not illustrate the Trinty but modalism. Examples such as the alleged use of the shamrock by St Patrick likewise show a defective Trinity.

Part of the Athanasius creed is probably the most simple

So the Father is God;
The Son is God;
And the Holy Spirit is God.
Yet there are not three Gods but one.
Appreciate the replies so far! I like the egg one; I worry a bit that it sort of presents a picture of God as being a composite made up of three parts, which isn't quite right -- though of course, it's an analogy, and isn't supposed to be perfect. Maybe comparing to the Senate, or the two-headed monster, is more concrete -- there are multiple persons but only one composite whole (and as you pointed out, the crucial difference is that the persons of the Trinity never disagree.)

I'd quibble with the one about water because water isn't simultaneously all three of its phases, and thus the analogy seems to point more to a modalist conception of God, where there is one God who simply changes forms from one to the other.

Thanks for the great thoughts so far.
Yeah, never end with the illustration. End with how he's not like the illustration. I've found that I give the kids a picture that they understand but then make them realize that it's not like that so much in other areas.

I think the theologians would call the first Kataphatic (what God is like) and then quickly realize God isn't like that at all so we bring up the second which is Apaphatic.

Jake Blues said:
Appreciate the replies so far! I like the egg one; I worry a bit that it sort of presents a picture of God as being a composite made up of three parts, which isn't quite right -- though of course, it's an analogy, and isn't supposed to be perfect. Maybe comparing to the Senate, or the two-headed monster, is more concrete -- there are multiple persons but only one composite whole (and as you pointed out, the crucial difference is that the persons of the Trinity never disagree.
I'd quibble with the one about water because water isn't simultaneously all three of its phases, and thus the analogy seems to point more to a modalist conception of God, where there is one God who simply changes forms from one to the other.
Thanks for the great thoughts so far.
Please no analogies. They usually end up being modalist. When I was a child I was taught no analogies, I was taught the shield of the Trinity. this is a visual of the Athanasian creed.
My middle son is a never ending barrage of questions concerning God. His most recent topic: the Trinity.

Mostly I say, good luck.
Kidding.
Sorta.

Because He's got a grip on the persons of God and Jesus, I started with John 1.1&2 and we memorized those. Then we talked about how on earth Jesus and God were together at the beginning of time and both God at the same time. Mostly just conversational. This lasted (I'm not kidding now) about two weeks. How can God be the Word. What is the Word. How long ago time stretches. etc.

Later we talked about the Holy Spirit and memorized the fruits of the Spirit (he's seven). We talked about how if the Holy Spirit is within you, people can tell if we get better and better at those things. But we don't get better by acting. We get better by learning how to be like Jesus and God. I explained the Holy Spirit more like an enabler or a catalyst that God gives us if we love Him. We also spent a LONG time talking about what exactly a spirit is and how the Holy Spirit is the third person left to aid us in aiding Him.

We're on to the Trinity now and working through getting him to understand how all three are one and separate. I'm not sure that I fully get it, much less being able to explain it to quench his curiosity. Hence me saying good luck. But I do trust that as he and I go over verses and talk about it together that the Holy Spirit'll swoop in and grant a bit of understanding (for the both of us).
I don’t remember having a problem with the Trinity as a child. I did have a problem with it as a teenager. Trinity is a concept that is almost too complex for adults. Almost too simple for children.
Whenever I'd ask this question of my Dad as a kid, he'd ask me to first try and conceive of 'infinity' or 'eternity', and when I fully understood that, I would then be in a position to conceive of trinity (God). Needless to say I never did.

If the kids are able to understand the difference between a 2 dimensional object and a 3 dimensional object, I've always found it helpful to ask them to explain a 3 dimensional being to a group of 2 dimensional beings. If you've never read the book 'Flatland', it is basically that. It's fun and it puts us in our proper place.
Whatever you do, don't give them a copy of the Shack....ugh

Reply to Discussion

RSS

Sponsors

Linkologica

Blog Resources

Arminian Today

Anyabwile

Bock

Called to Communion

Challies

Classical Arminianism

Craig

Christian Answers For The New Age

Christians in Context

Conversation Diary (catholic)

Continuationism.com (marv & scott)

Desiring God blog

DeYoung

First Things

Fr. Stephen (eastern orthodox)

 

Internet Monk

KJV Only Debate (jason s.)

 

Köstenberger

Lisa Robinson - TheoThoughts

Mohler

McKnight

National Catholic Register (catholic)

Parchment & Pen

Pierce

Re-Fundamentals

Resurgence

Roberts

Roger Olson

Taylor

Team Pyro

The Apologist's Pen

Untamed Spirituality

WDTPRS (catholic)

Witherington

 

Theological Resources

BioLogos

Center for Reformed Study and Apologetics

Creeds and Confessions

Christian Classics Ethereal Library

Council of Biblical Manhood and Womenhood (complementarian)

The Center for Bibical Equality (Egalitarian)

Evangelical Theological Society

Monergism.com

Reclaiming the Mind Ministries

Society of Evangelical Arminians

Theopedia

Theological Word of The Day

Tyndale House Bulletin

 

Church History

Early Christian Writings

Glimpes of Church History

 

Christian Traditions

Book of Concord

Catholic.com

Eastern Orthodox

Orthodox Catechism

 

Apologetics

CARM

Lennox

Reasonable Faith

RZIM

Stand to Reason

Tektonics

 

Bible Study

Bible Gateway

Bible Researcher

Blue Letter Bible

Bible.org

IVP New Testament Commentaries Online

 

Online Bible and Theology Education

Biblical Training

The Theology Program

 

Theology and Bible MP3s

Covenant Seminary

263 Theology Questions and Answers

Veritas Forum

 

Theologica Chat Room

MiRC Chat

Badge

Loading…

Get the Widget


Sponsor



Bible Options




© 2014   Created by Michael Patton.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service

/*============================================================================================ /*============================================================================================