The first rule of Trinitarian Analogies is: please don’t.

The second rule is to refer to the first rule.

If you think think that perhaps a cloverleaf (three petals in one leaf!) or H20 (water, ice, and gas!) or a family man (one man who is father, son, and brother!) are exceptions, I would encourage you to go back and to read the first two rules above.

In the video above, pastor Sam Allberry of Immanuel Nashville does not analogize the Trinity but rather points us to a restrained way of understanding the building blocks of the doctrine, namely, the difference between nature (= what) and person (= who) as we seek to talk the language of biblical orthodoxy.

The doctrine of the Trinity entails that there is one God in three persons.

To use more technical language, we can say things like:

There is one divine nature (Greek: physis); one divine essence (Latin: esse, to be); one divine being (Greek: ousia, that which is); one divine substance (Latin: substantia, substance, concrete reality).

And there are three divine persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)—three personal, distinct, interrelated ways of being the one God.

You can see why it’s easier to start by saying three who’s and one what!

Properly put together, the Trinity leads us to at least four affirmations and four denials:

  1. There is one God.
  2. The Father is God.
  3. The Son is God.
  4. The Holy Spirit is God.
  5. The Father is not the Son or the Holy Spirit.
  6. The Son is not the Father or the Holy Spirit.
  7. The Holy Spirit is not the Father or the Son.
  8. There are not three gods.

The easiest way to get this at a glance is to diagram it:

For further reading:

Finally, if you need help remember the first rule above, see: