Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Trinity

So, as I put my 4 and 3 year-olds to bed tonight, they were yet again asking me about how God the Mommy/Daddy (as I refer to the first person), Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all God. So I was thrust by my preschoolers into explaing the Trinity. I tried the old water as liquid, ice, and vapor, but I couldn't go through with it because of the inherent modalism in that analogy.

Then I looked up. I saw the ceiling fan in their room. Three blades, one fan. We turned it on, and the three blades became...one fan.

I thought that was pretty good, off the top of my head.

30 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pure genius! I love this Christian blog.. never seen one before. Good luck and warm wishes.
Audrey P.

7:17 PM  
Blogger Jimmy said...

Shouldn't/Couldn't you add some Moltmanian love going back and forth between the fan blades? But then you'd have to explain to your kiddos how a fan blade can love another fan blade. Crap, Tony, its getting as complicated as the Trinity.

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Mike King said...

Very PRACTICAL Theology!

8:37 PM  
Blogger Charlie McGlynn said...

Wow, I'm glad to see you havn't lost it yet. Whatever it is. I think IT is what you loose after you become a burnout. I have IT!

8:58 PM  
Blogger StorminNormin said...

Jimmy writes, "Couldn't you add some Moltmanian love going back and forth between the fan blades"

Dammit Jimmy, I love you man, but I am getting sick of people like who try to pass off one of the oldest explanations of the trintity of on someone like Moltman. Wait a minute, didn't CS Lewis invent the trinity, who know, he said it was like six sides of one cube, blah blah blah...(that is sarcasm)

Jimmy, your "moltmanian love" is really "Augustinian love." Why not give credit where credit is due?

Hold on... I just checked crosswalk.com, it reports that Max Lucado invented the Trinity.

11:40 PM  
Blogger chris said...

Perhaps the "inherent modalism" you're afraid of is actually scriptural. (cf. Paul)

7:50 AM  
Blogger Jimmy said...

Stormin- glad you love me, and glad you dissed me too. I don't want anyone thinking that we're always on the same page. But aren't you missing the bigger point that every generation has the task of translating the Christian tradition into the vocabulary of the current historical setting? If you deny this, you'll deny 2000 years of practice. So give ol' Tony credit for doing so with his kids and Moltmann the credit for doing so with this generation. Translating is not ripping off; a new motto? And while you're at it, go read Trinity and the Kingdom; you'll find Moltmann has given plenty of credit where due.

9:53 AM  
Blogger StorminNormin said...

Jimmy, I agree. Well said. I am not ripping tony on his ceilingfan oringiality. that is wonderful. I've never heard it before.

However, if all Moltman is saying is that God is love and the trinity is love and the trinity is the love that exists between the persons of the trinity, then how is this original to his generation? Ceiling fan is new, love is not. Perhaps if Moltman used the wheel on the horse drawn buggies in his german village as the trinity and the spokes on it as the the persons and when the wheel turns the three are in perfect love relationship allowing the wheel to to operate as a circle and perpetuate the buggy (or world)...that would fit his context

but i can't go around telling everyone i came up with a great idea for the trinity and say, "hey everyone i figured it out...the trintiy is the perfect expression of agape. The 3 persons are lover, the beloved and the love between them." People would look at me and say, "stop prostituting Augustian."

1:04 PM  
Blogger Mitch said...

Inspired by a ceiling fan; I love it!

2:53 PM  
Blogger mary fran said...

While I love the "fan" analogy...I'm going to need WAY more of an explanation on The Trinity than that. But alas....I must wait until after the dissertation is complete to have this discussion with you. In the meantime....well I guess I will just have to watch my ceiling fan :~)

3:57 PM  
Blogger D.R. said...

Tony,

One of my professors in Seminary made us write on how to explain the Trinity to an 8 year old. There were 130 of us total in this guy's classes who had to do it. The best analogy I heard was Aquafresh toothpaste. All three parts are toothpaste, but they all function differently within the greater whole and they don't quite look the same. I thought it was excellent. Anyway, you might want to think about switching toothpastes -- Aquafresh could have the anointing. I heard it's the choice of Benny Hinn (but you have to use it three times to get the 3x3 blessing).

D.R.

8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

God the Mommy/Daddy ...

You worry about the modalism of the water illustration with little kids, but you don't worry about calling the first person "Mommy"? I'm as gender-neutral in my language as the next person, but the Trinity isn't the place to use that kind of language. Our language carries implications, and calling God "Mommy" carries the implication that the Son is birthed out of the first person--and that tends to lead to a misunderstanding of the relationship between the first and second person--and potentially even a kind of subordinationsim. Other than tradition, Father is used not because God has a penis, but because it keeps the proper relationship of procession between the first and second person of the Trinity intact.

I understand the desire to avoid seeing the first person as a "male", but that kind of thinking can easily be avoided with minimally good theological teaching. We shouldn't expose ourselves to all sorts of theological problems--and overturn 2000 years of precise theological langauge--just because we don't think highly enough of people to think they can call God "Father" without thinking he's a male. We're underestimating our people (or, in this case, your children).

I suspect you got this from Moltmann's point that we call God the Fatherly Mother or vice versa because otherwise we turn the Trinity into a strictly monothesistic concept instead of emphasizing the full trintarian relations. That's an example of Moltmann missing the boat--because I don't think that slide into monotheism is necessarily a danger (unless you think all orthodox thinkers before him--including the likes of Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Barth--were on a slippery slope to denying the Trinity), and so making that move is unnecessary--especially with all the negative implications it brings.

--chris lancaster

9:42 PM  
Blogger Friar Tuck said...

Hey Chris--
Ever Read John 3:16?

Besides--all language for God is in some sense metaphorical.

Although I do agree metaphors mean something, and I would have a problem using the mother metaphor in worship, I have no problem using it devotionally.

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Chris--
Ever Read John 3:16?


Yes. Is that supposed to refute me?

--cl

2:33 PM  
Blogger Friar Tuck said...

John 3:16 is a feminine metaphor for God in Scripture about God giving birth to Jesus.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Friar Tuck said...

Or John 3 as a whole chapter rather. Sorry.

4:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John 3:16 is a feminine metaphor for God in Scripture about God giving birth to Jesus...Or John 3 as a whole chapter rather.

I think that might come as a surprise to John.

-cl

8:24 PM  
Blogger Myles said...

even if it was augustine, that's a great analogy for the Trinity. it's dynamic and yet, Augustinian--the unity "appears" in the motion, and though their tri-unity is in some sense ontologically there, it's really impossible to see unless the unity disappears first, in which case, either a) you're fan's blown a fuse or b) (in the case of Trinitarian thought), the universe has ceased to be.

1:35 PM  
Anonymous daniel lukas said...

sorry, but i have to admit i am stumped. why is modalism bad/non-trinitarian? to me it seems like semantics... response or a resource would be much appreciated.

and...what is the practical implication of a view of the trinity that troubling?

6:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow... people love to complicate things.... tony tells a sweet story about a little thought he had while tucking his kids in, and the next thing you know everyone starts waxing philosophical/theological on it.... i love it...

the other day I tought my kid how to tie his shoes using the "bunny ears" technique... i would love to hear the theological implications of such a metaphor from all of you...

one love, i really enjoy this blog...

3:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow... people love to complicate things.... tony tells a sweet story about a little thought he had while tucking his kids in, and the next thing you know everyone starts waxing philosophical/theological on it.... i love it...

the other day I tought my kid how to tie his shoes using the "bunny ears" technique... i would love to hear the theological implications of such a metaphor from all of you...

one love, i really enjoy this blog...

3:05 AM  
Blogger Zach said...

*replaces my three year old daughter's four blade ceiling fan with a three blade fan in preparation*--thanks for the tip tony.

3:41 AM  
Blogger Fajita said...

What works with the ceiling fan is that the kids get it. 98% of the comments on this blog post do not work for the audience in consideration. "I know of celing fans, but who is Moltman?" We're talking PRACTICAL THEOLOGY right?

The ceiling fan worked with my 7 year old three nights ago. Moltman? Well, I'm not even going to try.

Practical theology seems to have an inherent need to be informed by its audience. Moltman works for a certain audience and ceiling fans for another. When theology gets put into practice, it is actually practical depending on the "audience."

7:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Tony that's awesome. I always explain it to my confirmands with the metaphor of Kentucky-Fried-Taco-Hut (it's a hopefully local phenomenon where there is a pizza hut, a taco bell and a KFC all in the same building)

-Pkj

7:06 PM  
Anonymous Robertre said...

I was lyng there in bed, contemplating the Trinity when one of the blades stretched down and hovered just above my prostrate and now extremely reverent body. If I moved in the wrong way it would paccle me about the head and shoulders, but if I waited expectantly then I recieved an energizing and refreshing breath of fresh air.

10:26 PM  
Anonymous Lorna said...

Practical theology :) and divine inspiration together. You can't beat it :)

10:47 PM  
Anonymous Bald Man said...

I wish I'd seen this a week ago when my four year old was asking the same question.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Love it!

5:44 PM  
Blogger Tony Myles said...

As a follow up, I tried this in our house but we have five blades.

I don't know if that symbolizes Calvinism, but we do live in Holland, Michigan right now, so...

11:12 AM  
Blogger Paul (probably - maybe Liz) said...

One of the most helpful pictures of the Trinity I came across for youngsters (and for oldsters for that matter) was in a children's talk.

Speaker had a calculator - "Now let's see. God the Father - that's one. Plus God the Son - that's one. Plus God the Holy Spirit - that's one. One plus one plus one makes [presses equals] .... three! But God says, One plus one plus one makes .... one.

"I don't know how my calculator adds one and one and one and makes three. I just work on the fact that it's reliable. Similarly, I don't know how God can add one and one and one and make one - but he just does. Just because I don't understand something doesn't mean that it isn't so."

10:48 AM  

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