The Trinity, defined by what it is not.

Sometimes with the most complicates subjects, it is easier to define what it isn’t rather than what it is. This might well be true of the Trinity. Trinity resides in heaven totally removed from our earthly experience. What we know of it is recorded in Scripture, and only spoken of in a hint here and a hint there.

The natural human response to this situation is to try and produce explanations and illustrations to further explain the Trinity. But earthly comparisons tend to fall short. So in order to promote a correct understanding of the Trinity it might be beneficial to talk about what it isn’t. Today let’s talk about a few things that Trinity is not.

The Trinity is not modal. Sometimes we think of God like water, that can be liquid, solid or vapor. But this leaves the impression that God can transition from person to person in the Trinity as needed. But this is not accurate, all three persons of the Trinity exist simultaneously.

A very similar idea is that the different persons of the trinity are not really different people at all, but instead it is three different ways God relates to humanity. It’s kind of like a man who wears multiple hats. At work he wears the hat of an employee, at home he wears the dad hat, while at recreation he wears the hat of the outdoorsman. But again the different persons of the Trinity coexist, it is not one person performing different roles.

Another example used to describe the Trinity is a triangle. From different angles you see different sides. But at the same time, the three sides make up one geometric shape. The weakness here is that the sides only exist in connection with the others. One aspect of the Trinity lost in this illustration is the independent activity of the three persons. If you remove a side of the triangle, it is destroyed. The three persons of the Trinity operate separately without losing their connection with one another.

The Trinity is also not developmental. It did not start out as only the Father, who later built the Spirit into His being and later adopted the Son in order to complete the Trinity. The Trinity has been consistently three persons in one God for all of eternity.

So there are a few things the Trinity is not. Do you have anything you would suggest in regard to something the Trinity is not?

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One thought on “The Trinity, defined by what it is not.

  1. How cool…. I just finished an extensive study of the Trinity to write a month of devotions for children on that topic. I found it interesting to see how no Person of the Trinity acts without the other two. The mystery of the Holy Spirit is truly breathtaking. When I came to the book of Revelation, looking to see how the Spirit dwells in heaven with us at the end of time, I found God the Father upon His throne, Jesus, the Lamb sharing His throne . . . but where is the Spirit. After a time of thought, I realized the Spirit dwells within the Bride—the church! Thus at the end…. “the Spirit and the Bride say, Come!” Yes, the Trinity is an awesome mystery!!! Thank you for this excellent and timely post.

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