Insufficient views of the Trinity
I showed yesterday that Christians are not monotheists because we are trinitarians; we are trinitarians because we are monotheists. If we cease to be monotheists, we cease to be Christians. The doctrine of the Trinity is merely a way to remain monotheists while also including Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the godhead while retaining their distinctions. In other words, the Trinity is important because it helps us be Biblical.
Unfortunately most people aren’t biblical when they think about the Trinity. That’s why a lot of bad analogies are floating around out there in Christian circles. Here are a few that are insufficient for talking about the Trinity:
1. Water can take on three states: solid (ice), liquid (water), and gas (steam); thus, water, it is said, is three-in-one. The problem with this analogy is that it is a modalistic explanation. It is the same water in each case. Modalists believe that Jesus actually is the Father; it was the Father Himself who became incarnate in the person of Jesus.
2. I am a single person, yet I am a father, a husband, and a son. Thus I am three-in-one. But again, this is just another version of modalism. Jesus is not the Father in a different role; He is actually a different person.
3. A shamrock has three leaves but is a single shamrock. VeggieTales used this one in their retelling of the St. Patrick story. Actually, this is probably the best of the three analogies. It preserves the distinctions between the persons while making it clear that they are the same substance. But it does not maintain their unity. Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” But seeing one leaf of a shamrock is not the same as seeing another. The Father, Son, and Spirit somehow mutually indwell one another.