No, The Trinity is Not Like a Fidget Spinner

Anytime folks begin to teach on the Trinity and say, “the Trinity is like….” I immediately brace myself for impact. Too often something inaccurate is said. The Trinity is not only beyond our grasp, but if you teach on Him using objects like shamrocks, the states of water, an egg, or a fidget spinner, you are sure to commit heresy.

Not to be a heresy hunter, but heresy is serious. Many pastor-types like to joke about being heretics, but, in all reality, it’s spiritually dangerous to flirt with heresies pertaining to the Trinity.

I’m of the mind that correct belief (orthodoxy) and proper doctrinal understanding often leads one to spiritual maturity. I also believe that getting our theology correct is vital to establishing the foundation for a healthy spirituality.

The Shamrock Meme

Every St. Patrick’s day, people attribute the “Trinity is like a shamrock” meme to Patrick. Not only is this teaching not found in any of Patrick’s hagiographies (Patrick adored the Trinity, by the way), but it’s also heretical.

The shamrock, depending on how it is viewed, will either devolve into tritheism (the Godhead is three deities such as the three leafs), or partialism (the Godhead consists of three separate parts that together make up one whole). Both of these heresies are deadly to a vibrant, Trinitarian faith.

Not unlike the shamrock analogy, recent attention has been drawn to fidget spinners as tools by which the Trinity might be taught. Far from an innovative resource to be used by relatable youth leaders or pastors, this analogy leads to a similarly heretical understanding of the Trinity.

The Fidget Spinner Meme

The fidget spinner has three circles that triangulate to form a nifty gadget for fidgety people. These three circular weights are not, in themselves, the fidget spinner. Instead, they’re each only 1/3 of the device.

The Trinity is the doctrine by which we affirm God’s threeness in God’s oneness, celebrating the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three distinct persons who are of one substance; each person of the Trinity is fully God yet distinct. To compare the Trinity to a fidget spinner (as with the shamrock) is to commit the heresy of partialism, for it undercuts the full divinity of each person, so as to indicate that each are only one part of a three part God.

The Mystery of the Trinity

Friends, let’s go ahead and denounce this new meme before it begins. Like the (inauthentic) shamrock meme, the fidget spinner is a poor analogy for the Triune God.

The Trinity is a glorious mystery. Let’s let that be enough. In the wisdom of Augustine of Hippo, let’s remember that those who claim to understand God or tend to reduce God to a series of concrete analogies, are merely speaking of something less than what the fullness of God is.

To be spiritually vibrant, we must seek to properly understand who God is. We know that God is Trinity, but such a mystery we cannot surely comprehend.

 

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21 Replies to “No, The Trinity is Not Like a Fidget Spinner”

  1. I still like the states of water analogy. No analogy is going to be perfect. “It’s a mystery” is kind of like throwing your hands up and giving up explaining things. Besides, even the bible itself assigns anthropomorphic properties to God. I don’t expect that it is literally meant that way. Just the authors’ attempts at understanding the non-understandable.

    1. Besides, who gets put on trial for heresy anymore? I guess that brings up a point. Maybe a minister shouldn’t use those kind of analogies without adding a little humor. But someone who gets stuck teaching a Sunday school class may want to use any availabe analogy to get out of a quagmire.

      1. Gary, the water analogy is a classic case of moralism. I sympathize with the desire to have some kind of analogy by which we might understand the Triune God. However, I cannot in good conscience endorse—even in a Sunday School classroom—the use of the three states of water analogy. This is a heresy and gravely misunderstands who God is as Trinity.

        Thanks for the engagement, nonetheless!

        Blessings,

        Toy

        1. Wait a minute. I just looked up moralism. I think you meant modalism. Actually, my darn spell checker tried to change “modalism” to “moralism”. So I think the same thing happened to you. So, I can buy that. Although I don’t agree. See – Apple spell checker doesn’t even recognize “modalism”. Confirms my belief that Apple is a bunch of heathens. Designed in Silicon Valley, and made in China. A liberal conspiracy! There’s a liberal software programmer in San Francisco smiling right now.

  2. The Trinity it’s not exactly a mystery, the point is that most people make it even more complicated.

    The easiest way to consider the Trinity is what follows:
    Instead on thinking about it as Father, Son and Holy Ghost, consider it as God, His Word, His Spirit.

    One God, different aspects of Himself.

    The Word of God is eternal, Jesus the God-man it’s not.
    He came into existence when the eternal Word became flesh.

    Jesus technically did not create the world.
    It was God through His Word who did it and then, this very same Word became a human being.
    The Messiah.

    I apologize for my English so Catalan is my mother tongue.

    Blessings!

    1. To put it blunty, without Trinity there can be no Salvation, so Jesus was the Word of God who walked (submitted to) in the Power of the Spirit that God had sent him.

      I’m not saying that if you dont trust this you cannot be saved, I’m saying that that is the way God chose to save us.

  3. What about Neopolitan ice-cream? Chocolate = God, White = Jesus, Strawberry = Holy Spirit. – Eat them together and you have one god.

    1. This, I like. My only regret is that Trinity Sunday was last week. So I have a whole year to wait before I can get some Neopolitan ice cream to celebrate. How can you go wrong with food and theology.

      1. The real question is – Is Strawberry technically Jesus as is he is the ‘Blood of Christ’ and is the Holy Spirit vanilla as it is an invisible unseen form that comes down upon us?

        Think about it next time you get the chance to eat Neopolitan ice-cream.

        1. Don’t want to over-think it. Just enjoy it. I could add gnostic pistachios to it to make it more Roman Naples (Catholic) – of course, that might be considered nuts. Or whipped cream, for a little more Holy Spirit. Or I could think of my least favorite hymn, “washed white (Jesus) with the blood (strawberry) of Christ. Or Chocolate (Dark) being OT Father sending a flood to eliminate a bunch of us. But it all tastes good going down.

  4. I think the reason why the fidget spinner analogy is different and much better than the shamrock analogy is that when you spin it–i.e., when it’s in action–it appears as (is experienced as) a wholly unified, single, perfect circle. For that reason it, while still imperfect, mostly avoids partialism and is actually rather profound.

  5. What I do like about the figit spinner is that it represents the dynamism that exists in the trinity. Unlike the shamrock which is 3 static parts leading to tritheism or 1/3 Gods, the figit spinner circles are always moving to give way to the other – perichorisis. I don’t think the partialism as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are each fully Divine because they are the Triune God.

  6. No analogy is perfect. That does not mean we should completely abandon the use of it to try to understand.
    For me, marriage is one analogy seldom used due to the difficulty to explain and can be highly controversial as opposed to using objects as an analogy.

    In genesis, man was created in the image of God and woman from man. Maybe the best analogy to use is the creation that is closest to the creator.

    There is no Father without a Son, but the Father alone is Father and the Son alone is Son. Similarly, there is no wife without a husband and vice versa, but the wife alone is wife and the husband alone is husband. In a family, man and woman are seen as one yet distinct beings.

    This analogy also highlights relationship between the trinity which is something that analogy using objects simply cannot portray.

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