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.