Written By Con Campbell, Australia
Con Campbell is Senior Vice President of Global Content and Bible Teaching at Our Daily Bread Ministries. He’s an Australian New Testament scholar, author, speaker, and documentary presenter. Con enjoys playing jazz saxophone, lifting weights, and playing chess . . . though not normally at the same time.
Misconception #2: The Trinity is Illogical
Our three-part series, “Three Misconceptions about the Trinity”, continues with misconception number two—the Trinity is illogical. Let’s face it, the Trinity is a weird thing to believe. One plus one plus one equals three, right? The Trinity seems like a logical fallacy—do we really believe that one plus one plus one equals . . . ONE?
Well, yes . . . and no. We’ll come back to the “yes” part in a moment. As for the “no” part, we should not see the Trinity as a mathematical paradox. It really has nothing to do with “math.” We are not talking about something normal like we experience in the natural world. A mathematical approach assumes that we are adding together three distinct things and arriving at a total, but the Trinity is not like that. The Trinity is always one, has always been one, and will always be one. Nothing is added to something else.
That means the Trinity is unlike anything else we know, which makes it hard to understand. After all, we understand things based on our experience of the natural world. But should it really surprise us if the Creator is in some key ways different from His creation? Just because there is nothing in creation that resembles “trinitarian math” does not mean that the Trinity is illogical.
As for the “yes” part, Christians believe that God consists of three persons, while being one God. While we cannot fully understand how this works, God has given us a hint through marriage. In Genesis 2:24 we are told that a man is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. See that? One plus one equals one! It’s not a perfect analogy, but we see that a profound union of persons may be described as oneness. In a much more profound way, Father, Son, and Spirit are so united in perfect relationship that they are one in essence.
In marriage, however, the man and woman are separate to begin with, then they become one. The Trinity is not like that. There was never a time when only the Father existed without the Son or the Spirit. There was never a time when the Son or Spirit was “added” to the Father. So, marriage is not a perfect analogy, but it does teach us something about the Trinity. A deep union is a form of oneness.
Ancient theologians used the analogy of a Greek dance. If you’ve ever seen Greeks dancing at a wedding, you’ll notice that we (I’m half Greek) link arms and dance together in a circle. We don’t dance as individuals but as one. It’s another nice analogy of how the Trinity works—it is like a dance in which three persons are so linked that they dance together as one. Again, it’s not a perfect analogy, because at the end of the wedding we all go to our separate homes while the Trinity never stops dancing (!), but it is a lovely picture of oneness.
If you’re still scratching your head a little, don’t be alarmed. You’re not alone. The truth is, we can’t fully understand the Trinity. It’s a bit of a mystery. But we can accept that it’s okay to not fully understand God’s being. He is God after all. But we can understand some things about the Trinity, and this includes that God is three persons, one God. The members of the Godhead co-exist in perfect union.
Sometimes people complain that Christians just project human characteristics onto God—He’s a Father; He is loving; He provides for us. But the Trinity is one aspect of God that could not possibly be made up. God’s trinitarian nature reflects His absolutely unique, divine being. There is nothing in creation that matches Him. Rather than a reason for confusion and unbelief, the Trinity is a source of wonder, awe, and worship—and you’ll see why when we discuss our third misconception about the Trinity.