As we’re reading our way to Christmas this year, digging into the promises of the coming Messiah, my daughters keep hitting me with the hard questions. You’d think at 7 and 5 that they’d just snuggle in, listen, and enjoy the wonder of the holiday.
But no. That’s not how it goes. Why? 1) They’ve realized that Daddy loves to answer questions about the Bible and will do so until Momma finally puts the kibosh on the nightly routine, and 2) they’re listening better than I think they are.
One of their favorite topics of late has been the Trinity. This may be because it’s a topic that is impossible to explain completely. Sure, I can point to passages in the Bible that support the three-in-one nature of our God, but describing how this all works is pretty much impossible. They know Daddy will take some time on that particular question.
Answering this issue for my daughters is one thing, but discussing it with those who don’t believe Jesus is God, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, can be a completely different matter. How can we demonstrate that the Trinity is in the Bible to those who are hostile to the idea?
Justin Taylor, senior vice president and publisher at Crossway, wants us to have a straightforward answer to those who challenge the God-hood of Christ in particular (the Arian heresy). In a recent blog post, he explains what we’ll need to show:
“If you want to prove the Trinity, then, all you need to do is show that three specific truths are taught in Scripture. First, there’s only one God. Second, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are truly distinct persons. Third, each has the essential attribute of deity. That’s it.”
In fact, he wants the method to be so easy that you can sketch it out on a napkin the next time someone challenges you about it. To do so, he suggests focusing on one passage of Scripture, such as John 1:3:
“All things came into being by Him [the Word, Jesus], and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”
On your napkin, simply draw two connected boxes that represent everything that exists. In the first box, put “all things that never came into being” or “all things that always existed.” In the second box, write “all things that came into being” or “all things that were created.” These are the only two options according to the verse.
Obviously, the only entry in the first box would be “God,” since He was un-created (otherwise, He wouldn’t be God). The second box (what was created) includes everything else (e.g., the universe, angels, people, etc.). Outside the second box, as shown in John 1:3, put that Jesus (the Word) created all these things.
Finally, take out a quarter that represents Jesus and ask the other person to show where Jesus would fit in these two boxes. They may try to put Jesus into the “created things” box, but Taylor points out that’s not possible:
“John says the same thing two different ways for emphasis and clarity: everything that ever came into being owes its existence to Jesus, who caused it all to happen. If Jesus caused all created things to come into existence, then He must have existed before all created things came into existence. Therefore, the Word could not have been created.
“In other words, if Jesus created everything that has come into being, and Jesus also came into being (as they contend), then Jesus created Himself. He would have to exist as Creator before He existed as a created thing, which is absurd. Therefore, Jesus can’t be placed in the square labeled, ‘all things that came into being.’ ”
In an article on BibleStudyTools.com, Ray Pritchard dives into the doctrine of the Trinity to help Christians better understand what the Bible teaches and how to address objections:
“C. How can we illustrate the Trinity?
“A number of illustrations have been suggested. They all are useful as long as you remember they are only illustrations. For water can exist as solid, liquid, or steam. That's okay, but usually water only exists in one state at a time. However, there is a physical condition in which water can exist as solid, liquid and steam at the same time—which would be a much better illustration of the Trinity.
“There are others we could mention. An egg is made up of a shell, the eggwhite, and the yolk. All three are needed for an egg to be complete. One of the more interesting illustrations note the different roles a person can play. I am a father, a son, and a husband at one and the same time. Yet I am only one person. Perhaps a more biblical approach is to consider that a husband and wife are two persons yet in God's eyes they are ‘one flesh.’ Add children and then you have the family as a miniature (and very imperfect) version of the Trinity.”
We’d love to hear from you? How do you illustrate the truth of the Trinity? Do you have an easy method for doing so? How do you answer objections that you’ve run into?