The thing with Christianity and the Trinity is that there all about God, but there different things about God. That can get very confusing at times. . . . But on the other hands What is the Trinity? The Trinity is what we say is The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. [Isaac’s included his own drawing of the shield of Athanasius here.] Basicallay, God is the Father, the Son, and the holy spirit. Its really hard.
Indeed. And Isaac’s third draft (he tends to grow dissatisfied with previous drafts quite easily) reads:
Christianity is a thing which is used for thousands of people. All though we say We believe in the trinity, some people just say it when they don’t know what the trinity is.THE TRINITYThe trinity is what Christians say it’s the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All though Christians say an understandable speech, “God is Jesus”, is a very confusing, understandable speech. What the speech basicaly means, is that God is known as three peoples, The Father, the Son, and the holy spirit.
Indeed again. I’m impressed that he’s trying to sort all this out at such a young age. But this does prompt a question: How does one explain the doctrine of the Trinity to children? A couple of weeks ago, Isaac and I had a discussion about the Trinity. I showed him the aforementioned shield of Athanasius and he seemed to get it at the time. But I also thought I’d ask my Facebook friends (many of whom are actually real friends, too) how they’d explain the Trinity to children. Some advocated the use of analogies such as God as an apple, God as a psychosomatic composite, God as H2O (I know this one’s potentially modalist, but I guess modalism can be avoided by affirming that God is water, steam, and ice all at the same time), and God as a chord (I quite like this one). However, when trying to explain the Trinity – and here I introduce the caveat that I don’t mean to use ‘explain’ in any thoroughgoing sense, as though I’m trying to evacuate a mystery of its content – when trying to explain the Trinity, I’m not convinced that the employment of analogies is the way forward, even when trying to do so to children. Are children totally incapable of conceptual thought? I’m not convinced. They might find such thought difficult, but, in this case, I don’t think it’s necessary to try to come up with some kind of picture to make the doctrine of the Trinity comprehensible. Or perhaps I’m being too harsh on the use of analogies here.
Of course, most (all?) language is analogical, but I don’t think analogical language is necessarily the same as analogies. I haven’t found the words to express myself adequately here (and isn’t that a key thing here?), but what I’m wary of is the use of individual analogues arranged in particular ways to provide an explanation of something else. While I admit that calling God the Father ‘Father’ is to use an analogical term (‘Father’!), I’d suggest that there’s a difference between this and saying that God the Father is, say, ‘steam’ or ‘ice’ (on the H2O analogy), even if, so far, I can’t fully articulate what this difference is.
One of my Facebook friends also suggested that it’s adults who get hung up over using analogies for the Trinity, whereas children themselves seem to accept a blanket ‘God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’ description without requiring further qualification. My friend recommended making worship explicitly trinitarian rather than functionally modalist, and I’d definitely agree with him on that. There’s a need for our children to learn not only the name ‘God’, but the trinitarian grammar by which we use and understand that name. And this is where I have another concern. Our worship is very often trinitarian in expression, insofar as there are constant references to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (I am pleased to say that Common Worship, which I ‘use’ as a member of the Church of England, clearly affirms faith in the triune God). But if, in our worship, we do not have at least an occasional grammar lesson about the threefold name of the triune God; if we do not have sermons or songs addressing the significance of the grammar and language of God; if we do not grant our congregations the liturgical and conceptual space to allow them to be participate in the life of the triune God through sacramental acts and the faithful preaching of the biblical story of which we are all part, and which would ground the meaningfulness of the sacraments; then what exactly is the point of holding fast to the concept of a triune God, and why should we bother attempting to explain it to anyone, let alone our children?