Monday, October 20, 2008

Trinity for Toddlers

A conversation overheard between Ian, our seven-year-old, and Andrew, our three-year-old (of jelly bean fame). (At right: Caleb, Andrew, Ian)

Ian: No, there's only one god.
Andrew: Oh!
Ian: Actually, there are two gods, God and Jesus.
Andrew: Yeah, God and Jesus.
Ian: Actually there are three gods: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.
Andrew: Yeah, he's the bad guy.
Ian: No! They are all good guys. The Holy Ghost is a good guy.
Andrew: Yeah, all good guys.
Ian: Actually, there are four gods: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, and Satan. He's the bad guy.
Andrew: Yeah, he's the bad guy.
Ian: Andrew, you know why the world isn't perfect? It's because of Satan.
Andrew: Oh.
Ian: That's why grass is so itchy, because of Satan.
Andrew: Yeah.

The picture: The Trinity, 1414, from the workshop of the Master of the Gerona Martyrology. It follows the pattern of a gnadenstuhle, or "pillar of grace," which includes a cross, the Son sitting in the Father's lap, and the Spirit as a dove (usually resting on the cross or descending towards it).


  1. Greetings Eutychus

    What an amazing tale.
    Your children are indeed wondrous.

    It is so wonderful to train up a child in the way of the Lord.
    Simply wonderful, especially in light of
    Deut 6.4-7

    (Deu 6:4-7) Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

    The above is the Jewish creedal statement (which they call The Shema) which defines who their GOD is.
    Jesus, himself, the Messiah, quotes this verse as the foremost (first) of all the commandments in Mark 12:28-34.

    My point is: teaching children the same creed as Jesus of Nazareth would have learnt as a child, would eliminate any notion for a child thinking that there is more than one God?

    Also, have you noticed that in Jesus' creed (therefore, as Christians, followers of Christ, this ought to be our creed);
    there is no room for a trinity?

    Note the scribe's response:
    (Mark 12:32) And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:

    It is obvious then, that neither Jesus nor the scribes were trinitarian.

    If Jesus was never taught such a concept as the trinity when he was a child in light of Deut 6.4-7 (the first of all the commandments), then is it right that we teach such things to children??
    Surely we ought not to!

    Jesus' creed stipulates that GOD is ONE i.e. ONE Being, ONE Person, for there is one God; and there is none other but he:

    Jesus identifies his Father as
    the only true GOD.
    [John 17.3]
    Paul concurs ...

    (1 Cor 8:4) ... that there is none other God but one.
    (1 Cor 8:6) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; ...

    Thus, there is solely ONE GOD,
    the Father.

    A child can easily understand that.
    Indeed, this was the understanding of the early church
    (TO US there is but one God, the Father)

    This teaching is indeed foundational for a child's understanding of GOD; i.e.
    the fact that GOD is ONE & this ONE GOD is the Father;
    indeed, the GOD & Father of our
    Lord Jesus Christ.
    [2 Cor 11.31, Eph 1.3, Col 1.3, 1 Pet 1.3]

    Therefore, Eutychus,
    On the subject of the trinity,
    I recommend this video:
    The Human Jesus

    Take a couple of hours to watch it; and prayerfully it will aid you to reconsider "The Trinity".

    And prayerfully, through your tuition and further Bible study,
    you & all your family, will soon simply recognize
    the Father as the only true GOD,
    as the only GOD.
    [John 17.3, 5.44]
    And Jesus the Messiah, as
    the ONE GOD's human Son.

    (1 Tim 2:5) For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men,
    the man Christ Jesus;

    Yours In Messiah
    Adam Pastor

  2. I laughed for a good 5 minutes after reading this post.
    You're kids are crazy hilarious.

    It reminded me of that story you told us in Theology that ended something like..

    "Did you know when Jesus was praying, he was talking to himself?!"

    Love it.

  3. Dr. Manning, this is such a hilarious and wonderful story. It totally reminds me of that show hosted by Bill Cosby, Kids Say the Darndest Things.

    In Jesus ('My Lord and my God' Jn20:28),


  4. Glad you liked it, Justin. I was laughing in my office when I overheard it.

    Adam, thanks for posting your comment. I understand your post well - you are giving the case for the oneness of God and the humanity of Jesus. However, whenever we do theology, we need to be careful to give all the evidence, not only the evidence that agrees with our own position.

    It would be too lengthy to give all the evidence for the deity of Christ, but there are many passages. Jesus is described as the agent of creation in John 1:2-3, 1:10, 1 Cor 8:6, Col 1:16-17. He is clearly affirmed as God in John 1:1-2, 18, Heb 1:3, 8, and Col 2:9. Old Testament quotes originally ascribed to God are attributed to Jesus in the New Testament (John 12:41, Mk 1:2-3, Heb 1:10). And that's only the beginning of the evidence!

    When we come to a conclusion about who Jesus is, we must use both sets of data: those that affirm his humanity, and those that affirm his deity. Likewise, if we want to understand God, we must use passages that affirm his oneness as well as passages that include the Son and the Spirit as divine.

  5. Hello Gary,

    Wishing you a blessed day. I know we have went over all of these passages you presented to Adam but still can't see how they demand a belief of three persons in one God.

    I have been doing extensive research on both sides and I cannot find any such definition of a Trinity God articulated in Scripture. Only in post-biblical creeds formulated centuries after the canon was closed.

    I have found that you have been more reasonable than any Trinitarian I have come across when discussing translation of a particular text. In dealing with me you have demonstrated a balanced, fair view on so called, "proof texts" to support this controversial topic and I have to commend you for it.

    All I can say is that Jesus is definitely the Son of the Living and true God, the Most High YHWH, Yahweh/Jehovah.(Psalms 83:18) And no matter how we choose to look at it, there is ALWAYS some One God to Christ, the Son.(Ephesians 1:17; Revelation 3:12)

    I hope that one day we could meet each other in person and be able to discuss this more carefully.

    It's cold in Italy must be nice in Hawaii.


    Nick Batchelor

  6. Hi Nick,

    Funny that one of my posts that was mainly supposed to be light-hearted humor has generated so many comments!

    It really isn't a useful argument to point out that the trinity is a late formulation. All theology consists of later formulations and systemizations of what we find in the Bible - that's as true of JW theology as it is of Catholic or Protestant theology.

    My biggest point is not that the trinity is taught directly in Scripture, but that the deity of Christ is clearly taught in Scripture. The fact that Jesus is both divine and distinct from YHWH requires some sort of formulation or explanation. The JW explanation downplays or redefines the deity of Christ rather than attempting to explain how his deity can coexist with his distinction from the Father. The classic trinitarian formula is, I believe, the best effort to explain and reconcile these two competing/contrasting ideas.


  7. Aloha Gary,

    I haven't written you in awhile. Hope you and your family are enjoying your new life in California. I was raised there and enjoyed it. I actually am today just reading this comment above. Perhaps I will address it later but thanks!

    Could I ask you a question that came up regarding the Greek grammar of Hebrews 1:8? I know as a Trinitarian you would choose the rendering where Jesus is being spoken of or addressed as "God," yet, I am sure you are very well aware of another way of translating this text.

    I'm not writing you to debate you but to see if you at least can acknowledge that this text can be grammatically translated as the footnote of the RSV, which Metzger was involved in translating, seems to me to indicate.

    Even though Metzger as a Trinitarian believes Jesus is being addressed as God, the RSV does fairly give what I believe is a legitimate alternative (acceptable) rendering. Would they provide this if it wasn't even a possibility? I am discussing this with someone else right now and wanted to know your respected viewpoint.

    Any thoughts?


    Nick Batchelor

  8. Hi Gary,

    I would like to build on what you seem to accept. You rightly say that the Trinity is not taught directly in Scripture. So, where is it indirectly taught in Scripture?

    Yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the "deity" (small "d") of Christ is taught in Scripture. He is called "theos" or god (small "g"). We prefer to use the word "divinity," but deity and divinity are synonyms and mean the same thing.

    Yes, "Jesus is both divine and distinct from YHWH" but the only explanation required is the one found in the Bible itself. There is no need to add a Greek Platonic philosophical explanation, as the Trinity doctrine does.

    The "JW explanation" is really the Bible's own explanation. We let Scripture interpret Scripture. We do not downplay anything the Bible says, nor do we "redefine the deity of Christ" with adding unbiblical concepts like "one God in three Persons."

    Could you plainly show how the "classic trinitarian formula" is better than the Bible's own: Jehovah is God the Most High and Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God, not God the Son.

    Like you, I am not interested in human philosophy but what the Bible CLEARLY teaches.


    Nick Batchelor

  9. considerations of
    by water and spirit..

    water as a cleansing by way of the kind of
    repentance require to receive the holy spirit..

    not the kind of repentance of esau
    that was on esau's conditions
    not god's

    the kind of wrong teaching
    as i see it of eternal suffering for the wicked
    to bring about repentance
    can helps some
    but it has aspects of a faulty stop gap way
    that also can be less effective
    than when repentence is enabled
    by someone who has a proper understanding
    of hell and redemption


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