Bad Theology About the Trinity
Main Point: The Trinity is difficult to understand, but instead of relying on man’s flawed analogies, we should trust in the Bible’s perfect teaching on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Discussion Starter:
This is a funny little take on the difficulty of truly understanding the Trinity as revealed in the Bible. Of course, most of us know that the word “Trinity” never actually appears in the Bible, though it is used to describe the completely unique revelation of God as Father, Son, and Spirit.
It’s very important to study the doctrine of the Trinity, because in doing so, we will better understand God. But the relationship of the Father, Son, and Spirit can be difficult to process at times. This little cartoon clip focuses on that difficulty, and gives us the proper way to think of the Trinity, instead of the flawed “illustrations” that have been passed on for many, many years.
NOTE TO LEADERS: You may want to do a little extra study on your own before tackling this topic. There will be notes below, but you will almost certainly be asked questions by your students that may not be addressed in the discussion guide, below. Further, there will be some “churchy” words in this guide, such as heresy, Modalism, Arianism, etc. It may take a little more effort on your part, but your students will be grateful for the extra study.
The video can be found at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQLfgaUoQCw
OK, that was a funny little clip, but the topic it addressed was a serious one. The Trinity is an often misunderstood part of our Christian teaching; unfortunately, since the Trinity is the revelation of God Himself, what we discover is that we’re actually confused about God! That’s not good! Without a doubt, many of us have heard the analogies “St. Patrick” tried to use on the two Irishmen. Let’s spend the next portion of our time discussing the Bible’s revelation of the Trinity so we can best understand God’s revelation of Himself.
Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: As we get started, let’s all take a second to share our names and one thing in the Universe we don’t understand.
- ASK A FEW: So the clip was obviously about a subject in Christianity that is difficult to understand: the Trinity. Are there other parts of our Christian faith that you find difficult to understand?
- ASK A FEW: The “St. Patrick” figure in the video clip tried to use a few well-known analogies to explain the Trinity to the poor Irish farmers. Can you remember which ones they were? (Leaders – The analogies discussed were “the ice, water, steam one,” “the sun being star, light, heat one,” “the 3-leaf clover one,” “the same man can be father, son, and employer one,” and “the 3 layers of an apple one.”)
- ASK A FEW: What were the Irish famers’ response to the analogies St. Patrick was using? Why?
- ASK A FEW: Do you know what the word “heresy” means? (Leaders – The definition of heresy is basically “false teaching.” Sometimes the heresy results from greed or some other kind of sin, but often times, heresy is simply the result of mistaken thinking.)
- ASK A FEW: Have you ever heard of Modalism, Arianism, or Partialism? If so, could you put them into your own words? (Leaders – Below, is a quick, and hopefully, easy way of thinking about the various heresies.)
Modalism is the incorrect belief that says God takes the form (or “mode”) of the Father, OR the Son, OR the Holy Spirit one at a time. In other words, according to Modalism, God can’t be Father, Son, and Spirit at the same time. He can only “morph” from one form (or “mode”) to another. Wrong!
Arianism is the incorrect belief that basically says Jesus came “from” God, or “after” God. In other words, God “created” Jesus. Some believe this false teaching because the birth of Jesus isn’t described until the New Testament. But after researching Scripture, we realize that Jesus existed all along even though He didn’t come to Earth until His birth.
Partialism is the other incorrect belief that the Father, Son, and Spirit are “parts” of God. The problem is, a “part” cannot be the “whole.” Since there are three mentioned in the Trinity, partialists claimed that the Father was 1/3 of God, the Son was 1/3 of God, and the Spirit was 1/3 of God. In truth, the Father is all God, the Son is all God, and the Spirit is all God.
- ASK A FEW: Why is it important to understand the Trinity properly?
- ASK A FEW: If you had to put the Trinity in your own words, how would you do it?
Read the following passage:
The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 It is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”– 3 “a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'” 4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” 9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Read the following passage:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
I sincerely hope this has been a helpful discussion. It’s extremely important that we do all we can to understand the Trinity because in doing so, we better understand God Himself! He has revealed Himself to us in His Word as Father, Son, and Spirit, so we need to know the three Persons of the Trinity to fully and truly know God.
Unfortunately, there isn’t an “easy” way to understand the Trinity…because there isn’t an easy way to understand God. Think about it. If we understood God…He wouldn’t be God. He’s supernatural, and we’re not. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to know Him as deeply and as accurately as possible. For instance, if you’re dating someone, you don’t just want to know their first name. You want to know everything about them! You want to know their character. Studying the Trinity helps us to deeply know God.
If you see nothing else, I want you to see the unity that is found in the Persons of the Trinity. The Father and the Son and the Spirit are the Persons of the Trinity, but look at how each of them interacts with one another. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit have one will and are perfect. Each of them point to the others. They are perfect love.
So, don’t get fooled into thinking that Jesus or the Holy Spirit are less important than God the Father. Don’t get fooled into thinking that Jesus (or the Holy Spirit) hasn’t existed as long as the Father. In the very beginning of the Bible, Genesis1:1-3 in fact, we see more evidence of the Trinity working perfectly together…and that was before time began!
You are loved by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. One has created you, One has redeemed you, and One sustains you even now. That’s the Trinity!
Close in Prayer
Written by David R Smith
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on TheSource4YM.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.