For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, March 18, 2013

Patrick, the Trinity, and Mystery

OK, so I'm a day late with any reference to St. Patrick and all.  But remember, I'm Protestant, living this side of the Reformation and all, so references to "Saints" aren't on the tip of my tongue all the time. 

Anyway, I've posted before about our Irish heritage and some of my favorite Patrick Day sites and all.  But one of the things Patrick is maybe most well known for is the whole Shamrock/Trinity Analogy thing.  In fact, the sweet lady who helps with our children's messages at church even used that yesterday morning.  And while I appreciate the history of Patrick (the real guy and the work he did), and I appreciate the struggle to put the concept of Trinity into words, I sometimes cringe with this.  Mainly because any analogy we use will eventually break down, and when we think about it to its logical conclusion, will eventually lead us to heresy.

Still confused.  Well, watch this and you'll see what I mean:
(Thanks to the Ink Slinger blog for pointing this wonderful video out for me)

Again, this isn't meant to disparage Patrick or his work for the kingdom.  It's not intended to bash those who try valiantly to explain the deep truths of God in simple terms.  It's simply a reminder that when it comes to God, there are just some things that we'll never fully grasp; some things that are truly beyond human comprehension.  To deny that is arrogance.  To think we can fully explain God makes God our equal or lesser, not the Supreme Being He is.  

God is infinitely above us, as Creator above His creation.  He has revealed Himself  in so many ways, most clearly in the person of Jesus Christ (another "impossible" concept: fully God, fully man; still part of Trinity, etc.)  And yet our minds still cannot fully grasp all that He is.  That's why were left with all the "it's like this" or "it resembles that" analogies when trying to explain certain doctrines.

In the end, we need to be ok with the mystery.  Again, to think we'll get beyond that is arrogance. Charles Spurgeon once wrote of "the impertinence of attempting to pry into the essence of the Godhead, the vanity of all endeavours to understand the mystery of the Trinity in Unity, the arrogance of arraigning the Most High before the bar of human reason, the folly of dictating to the Eternal One the manner in which he should proceed." (Treasury of David, exposition of Psalm 97:2)

So while the Shamrock/Trinity analogy will continue to be used, and there may be some help for some in it, let's be very careful to remember that when it comes to "defining" God, we allow ourselves to be comfortable with a little mystery. 

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