Sunday, September 14, 2008

Explaining the Trinity in 10 minutes or less

We're trying a new format with our junior high small groups on Sunday mornings. Instead of me jawing on and on forever, I'll share for only 10 minutes on the topic/passage of Scripture, then the students will break into discussion groups for the rest of the time.

In an act of pure genius, I planned on tackling the concept of the Trinity for our first morning. Try explaining the Trinity to a group of junior high students. In 10 minutes or less.

It's like trying to fit the entire ocean into a toddler's sippy cup. But I decided to give it a shot.

Instead of trying to give some systematic theology lesson, I focused around the idea that God eternally exists in perfect community. I talked about a really old theologian dude, Richard of St. Victor, and his attempts to comprehend the Trinitarian community. He basically says that an eternal God described as love in 1 John couldn't exist without a plurality of persons. If God exists eternally loving one person, thus sharing eternal love with Himself alone, we'd call that selfishness or pride. (The junior highers called it narcissistic this morning. I am not making that up. They have a great vocabulary!) Richard decided that if God loves only Himself and focused all of creation on Him, it's pretty cocky for a deity who is described as "loving."

So what about two persons? Two persons eternally sharing love together, like an eternal marriage. But what do you call two people so in love, so focused on themselves, that their love isn't shared with others? A clique. You've probably been there--your friend suddenly stops spending time with you because he or she has found the one. Every waking moment is devoted to the one, to the detriment of other relationships. A divine clique didn't sound like love to Richard.

But with three persons, love can be perfectly shared in community, like an amiable group of friends or a loving family. And Scripture explains who this loving family is--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, eternally existing in perfect community. Scripture also calls us to live out Trinitarian relationships as the church--creative and diverse, but also unified and harmonious. So as we live out our daily relationships, we need to love and value one another with Trinitarian love--embracing diversity while seeking harmony.

I'm sure that it's flawed and doesn't even begin to fully communicate the mystery of the Trinitarian God. But like I said--sippy cup containing the ocean.


  1. A loving God who is eternally creating all that is good doesn't sound unloving to me.
    You sound like if He were unique He would be selfish as humans would be. Too bad you are entertaining those young minds with fables. Sort of like a religious MTV.

  2. While I don't normally do this, I chose to allow the above comment because it's (sadly) a great example of what Trinitarian community doesn't look like--making judgment calls and critiques with neither relational tact nor grace.