Faithlife recently posted an article titled the Best Conceptual Explanation of the Trinity I’ve Seen and as you can tell… I remain unimpressed. I’m not even exaggerating in my title. While all analogies break down in short order, this one doesn’t even get out of the gate.
After setting up that the Trinity is difficult to understand (it is) the author recounts an explanation found in the book a Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. The explanation below goes like this:
Creation is like a book. God the Father is the author. Just as we, if we were writing a book, might write ourselves into the story as a character in the book, the Father wrote himself into creation as the Son.
Now, this is wrong on two main fronts…
- Arianism – This author may not have intended this… but the idea that the Son is the Father in creation seems to deny that the Son is the Son prior to creation. Prior to “writing himself into the story” the Father was the Father. This seems to imply that the Son was a creation of the Father.
- Modalism – Beyond the strange Arian implications found in this analogy, the Father seems to somehow transition himself into being the Son. While it is true that Vanauken maintains that the Father remains the Father outside of the story… he becomes the Son when he enters the story.
The version of him in the book is independent of the version of him that is writing the book, but it’s still him.
Let’s replace those pronouns with proper nouns shall we?
The version of the Father in the book is independent of the version of the Father that is writing the book, but it’s still the Father.
Things get even weirder when trying to incorporate the Holy Spirit into the analogy.
Vanauken’s wife adds
If Van invents characters, they’ll all, even the bad ones, have something of Van in them, won’t they? So you see? We all have something of God in us—God’s spirit—but only the One, Jesus, is God Incarnate.
There you have it… the Holy Spirit is a part of all of the characters of the story. The good ones, the bad ones. Heck, even the setting and plot has the Holy Spirit as part of it. And beyond that… the Holy Spirit is really just the Father’s stamp on the creation.
This is unadulterated panentheism. Beyond that, it has imbibed a bit of the Liberal idea that God is the Father of all mankind in light of creating them, rather than just the Father of those who are in Christ. (Thanks Harnack!)
Now, the author of this article offers some correctives on this last point, and seems to have taken to heart the weakness I have pointed out regarding the Arianism in the begining… but I would seriously question the comprehension of any Christian who reads this and doesn’t immediately recognize how terrible this analogy is. To call it the best really shows a lack of understanding and discernment.