Main Index

Longer Articles:


Anselm's Explanation of the Trinity
How can the Father, Son and Holy Spirit each be God, but not be each other? This is Archbishop Anselm's explanation - the best I've heard so far.

Anselm at Starbucks
A new look at Anselm's argument for the existence of God.

The Divine Inferno
Why the existance of Hell is a demonstration of God's mercy.

1000 Easter Balloons
What if, on Easter Sunday morning, after services, every church in town released yellow balloons?

Scary Meditation
What is the difference between Eastern meditation and Christian meditation?

The Golfer of the Gaps
Have you heard that our God is a "God of the Gaps," only invoked to explain increasingly small gaps in science? Here's that logic applied to golf.

Esther's Japanese Origins
Using the approved "wild extrapolation" method, I've conclusively shown that the Biblical Book of Esther is of Japanese origin.

But I Was Born That Way
When people use this excuse, why do we keep trying to talk them out of it?

Digital Reality
Is reality digital? I couldn't care less, but if it is, maybe that's one point for the theistic view.

Church Economics
It's kind of fun to see companies becoming successful using the kind of financing churches have used for ages.

Legislating Morality
You can't legislate morality! Really? If you can't legislate morality, what can you legislate?

Paganism in Christmas and Easter?
A writer thought I ought to stop celebrating Christmas and Easter. It had pagan origins, he said. So what, I replied.

Shooting the Wounded
In which I launch a diatribe against a phrase I find particularly shallow and offensive.

Evolving Computers
What computers do - or don't - show us about evolution.

Are All Religions the Same?
A Buddhist's view.

The Trinity

Though I firmly believe it, the doctrine of the Trinity has always confused me, and I suspect it has been a major source of misunderstanding between Christians and those of other religions.

First we Christians say that there is one God and only one God and there never has been more than one God and there never will be more than one God. Which all seems pretty clear to everybody. But then we turn around and start saying that the Father is God and the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God.

At which our befuddled listener may ask...

Are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit just different names for the one and only God?

Uh, no, we say. They are all separate persons.

Do you mean Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three parts of the one God?

No. All three are fully God. You can't divide God into parts.

This, of course, is likely to cause a first class case of confusion, or worse, give the impression that somewhere along the line we've been lying.

I have heard people try to explain away this confusion, but I've never heard a good explanation until recently, when I came upon one by Anselm - long-time-ago archbishop of Canterbury - that I thought was quite good.

Interestingly, Anselm's argument for the Trinity relies upon the strongest affirmation that there is only one unchanging, eternal, indivisible, supreme God.

God, Anselm says, cannot be divided into parts. Why? Because if you divided God into equal parts, he wouldn't be supreme. Supreme means "above all else," so if God had an equal - or equals - he wouldn't be supreme. Only one can be supreme. But maybe you could divide God into unequal parts; say, 70 percent and 30 percent? Doesn't work. 70 percent of infinity is infinity. 30 percent of infinity is infinity. And infinity equals infinity, so you're back to having equal parts. If God is supreme and infinite, he simply cannot be divided.

Nor, he adds, can God be added to (Infinity plus a billion is what? Yup, still infinity.)

So, with that in mind, let's start with a question:

Can you imagine yourself?

Perhaps you saw yourself in the bathroom mirror this morning and can remember what you look like. You know how tall you are and how much you weigh and your beliefs and that your toenails need clipping. So if you close your eyes perhaps you can imagine yourself. Roughly.

Now consider God. Could God imagine himself? Of course! And not only could he imagine himself, he could imagine himself perfectly. But what would a perfect image of God be? A picture on the wall? A 3-D model? A spreadsheet of data about God? An angel. No. If God perfectly imagined Himself, the image would be... God. Anything less would an imperfect image.

Does this mean there are two Gods? Nope. There can't be. Infinity plus infinity is still infinity. Also, if God were to imagine himself as separate from himself, then his image of himself would be imperfect, because he is not separate from himself.

And so there you have the Father (the one imagining) and the Son (the one being imagined). Each of them is fully God, yet each is a different person.

Mind-twisting? Absolutely. But then so are a bunch of modern scientific notions, such as the curvature of space and the nature of light and the idea of electrons jumping from one orbit to another without passing through the intervening space and a bunch of other stuff. So get over it.

Okay, onward.

Between the Father and the Son there is also a relationship - a spirit, a Holy Spirit.

One might be tempted to say this relationship, or Holy Spirit, is a part of the Father and the Son, or a part of God, just as you might say that a relationship you have is a part of your life. But remember, God cannot be divided into parts.

So this relationship is not a part of God; it is God.

Thus we have the Father (who in our illustration imagines himself), we have the Son (the one who is imagined), and we have the Holy Spirit (the relationship between the Father and Son). One God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In closing, I'd like to make two comments.

First, someone might say, "If the Father imagined the Son and the Holy Spirit resulted, doesn't that mean the Father came first?" No. God made time; he is not subject to it. "Before" and "after" and "first" and "second" and such terms have no meaning in regard to God. Also, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all God, not parts of God. They all have the same infinite span of existance.

Second, maybe Anselm's explanation is in the neighborhood of the truth or maybe it isn't, or maybe I'm not explaining it well, but the critical thing isn't to know about God; the critical thing is to know God.

© Copyright 2000 Brad Haugaard

“Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
2 Peter 1:4