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How to explain Trinity to non-Christian

Discussion in 'The Ancient Way - Eastern Orthodox' started by MilesVitae, Dec 6, 2017.

  1. MilesVitae

    MilesVitae Active Member

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    I had a conversation about religion with a non-Christian (formerly Jehovah's Witness, now non-organized-religion spiritual) co-worker of mine today - something I rarely do. In part we discussed our notion of God, and she asked me to explain the Trinity. Frankly, I was at a loss for words. How do we explain the Trinity to a non-Christian in a way that a) does not sound utterly ridiculous, but b) is actually comprehensible enough to express in a way that can be understood what is actually believed??

    Note: I am posting this in the Eastern Orthodox forum, as I am interested in the Orthodox answer to this question. Thank you for your understanding on the part of any non-Orthodox seeing this.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2017
  2. tampasteve

    tampasteve Tampa, Florida, USA, Earth, Sol, Orion arm Supporter

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    While this does not really answer the question, it is an amusing exhibition of the pitfalls of trying to explain this great Mystery and core belief of many Christians.
     
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  3. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Servant of God † Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    Subscribing. I was recently in the position of trying to answer that question for a Muslim family, some of whom were very - skeptical of Christianity - and very well-versed in their own faith.

    It wasn't easy, and I'm not going to offer my attempts as a good example. Surely someone will have something better? I tried to build from the Creed, but wasn't overly successful, IMO. I also refuted some common non-Christian misunderstandings.

    That's the best I could do.
     
  4. HereIStand

    HereIStand Regular Member Supporter

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    The best way of explaining it that I've come across is by analogy with us, as Augustine explains it. We are created in the image of the Trinity ("Let us make man in our image."). We have memory, understanding, and will. By memory, Augustine means remembering who we are in Christ, not something that happened in the past. This Trinitarian image in us was corrupted in the Fall, but is restored in Christ, and throughout the Christian life, until it is fully restored in heaven. This full restoration is (I think) the point of C.S. Lewis' novel Till We Have Faces.
     
  5. MilesVitae

    MilesVitae Active Member

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    Is it correct to say that, since God the Father gives all which He is to the Son (except being the Father, of course), that, given God's "nature" as pure act of being, totally one, ground of all that is, the Son, while not the Father, cannot be a "separate entity?" I try to express these things as best I understand them, but then I worry I am inadvertently expressing something which is in error.
     
  6. gzt

    gzt The age of the Earth is 4.54 ± 0.07 billion years

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    I don't think you need to get into too much metaphysics or think about analogies, I think it's best to present it as a list of things we know to be true (perhaps with a little justification of how it relates to salvation) that seem on their face to be a little inconsistent but we'll figure it out. That at least gets them to understand where we're coming from but it's not necessarily convincing.
     
  7. HereIStand

    HereIStand Regular Member Supporter

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    I've also heard the Trinity explained this way, with the first statement being the last one in some explanations.

    (1) There is only one God. (2) The Father is God. (3) The Son is God. (4) The Holy Spirit is God. (5) The Father is not the Son. (6) The Son is the not the Holy Spirit. (7) The Holy Spirit is not the Father.
     
  8. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    yes, we can speak of there being a difference in the Persons, but we cannot say exactly what that difference is, since They are single in essence (and therefore in will, energy, mind, action, etc), the Three Persons are not separate entities, but One since there is one mode of existence.

    ultimately, this is not something that can be explained, but experienced.

    by the way, great to see you again
     
  9. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Servant of God † Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    Not that this helps, but I've sometimes seen the short expression - What God is (His Essence, Being) is one. Who God is (the Persons) are three.

    It just doesn't translate well to human understanding because we have no equivalent experience - not really.
     
  10. Dirk1540

    Dirk1540 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    As far as I'm concerned you can't explain it. But I like to follow that up with telling people that science has confirmed the theory of relativity...now please explain it to me!

    Just because a person might argue for a single entity of God that wouldn't then mean that they can somehow explain God either.

    The most educated biologists can do their best to explain evolution, we can always take them down the rabbit hole a little deeper to where they become lost. Can anyone truly grasp the basement level of ultimate reality (which is God)?
     
  11. ZaidaBoBaida

    ZaidaBoBaida When do I stop being a Newbie?

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    I can't explain to you how my television works, you want me to explain the Trinity???????????
     
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  12. truefiction1

    truefiction1 Fool

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    Tell your friend, next time he, or she, brings it up, that they themselves are a trinity, in the image of God. They are one being with a "tripartite" construction of Self, Cognition, and Emotion. These aspects of his or her being correspond to the Father, the Logos of the Father, and the Spirit of the Father, in that order. The Logos of the Father is eternally generated by the Father, and the Spirit of the Father eternally proceeds from the Father. Where we differ from God, is that all three aspects of the Eternal being are unique and distinct persons in total unity.

    I would refrain, however, from presenting any "Logos biased" conceptions of the Trinity (i.e. the filioque dogma). These are the result of psychological introspections of humans afflicted with ancestral sin, who then project the imbalance of their own fragmented being into the un-fragmented and perfect unity of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father, as Christ most perfectly said from His own perfect humanity. The Holy Spirit interacts with the Son, of course (in a manner inconceivable to us), but does not proceed from the Father and the Son as from a single principle. This is the Orthodox understanding.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2017
  13. gurneyhalleck1

    gurneyhalleck1 auto-correct iPhone survivor

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    I like St. Patrick's analogy of the shamrock and St. Augustine of Hippo's comment that it'd be easier to count every grain of sand at the beach than understand the Holy Trinity. Like the Eucharist, Confession, and other blessings, it is A HOLY MYSTERY. God is Three Persons who share the same God Substance. A three-pound brain cannot comprehend the infinite and the all-powerful, prescient, perfect, perfect Lord who lives outside the normal time continuum. I think "explain" and "Trinity" can never really dwell in the same sentence. As a simple, moronic, foolish human being who is far less than a microbe in God's grand scheme of things, I just stand in awe of Him and am happy to believe in what I cannot fathom.
     
  14. Radagast

    Radagast has left CF

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    There is also the fact that God is love. That wouldn't work without a Trinity; before Creation there would have been nobody for a non-Triune God to love.
     
  15. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Servant of God † Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    I have used that too.

    I think it may have been lost on Muslims who I am not sure if they acknowledge God is love.
     
  16. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    three torches making one flame is another one, just FYI
     
  17. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Servant of God † Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    You know .... I think maybe that is the best one I have heard? I pray I can remember that when I need to. I could even have illustrated it with candles, when asked in Church.
     
  18. Tom Farebrother

    Tom Farebrother Well-Known Member Supporter

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    A hand easy analogy is water - can be ice, liquid or steam, but still H20. Not very deep though
     
  19. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    but if you look at ice on a river, you have water existing in all three stages at the same time. the water is vapor, ice, and liquid. it's actually pretty.

    the only thing we gotta remember is the starting point is the experience of God revealed as Trinity. we should not start with any worldly analogy, because they always break down. and it is God revealed, not God as He is within Himself, which has no relation to creation
     
  20. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    just think of your bishop's trikiri
     
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