How do I explain the Trinity to my kids?
Let’s start with the age of your children. I will try to rate the different illustrations of the Trinity two different age groups but it’s not in an exact science. Also, we must go over the principles of the Trinity before we get to examples to help your kids.
Scholars and theologians have been debating and explaining the Trinity for centuries. And we still don’t get it. It’s one of those mysteries of the Christian faith. But it’s also clearly seen in Scripture if you look closely enough.
You can see the Trinity sometimes in close proximity through a couple verses. Other times you have to look at the Old and New Testaments together. Let me give some examples of how we see the Trinity in Scripture.
- God is For Us. Romans 8:26-39 talk about how God is for us and in our corner from salvation through sanctification. First, the Holy Spirit helps us pray within God’s will (Romans 8:26-27). Next, God the Father both plans are sanctification (Romans 8:28-30) and gave up his Son Jesus for us to be saved (Romans 8:32-33). And Jesus the Son sacrificially died on the cross and rose again, interceding for us at the right hand of the Father and loves us with an inseparable love (Romans 8:34-35).
- John describes through the words of Jesus, the Son, that both Jesus and God the Father bring the Holy Spirit to the believer (John 15:26).
- Within 14 versus Paul blesses God the Father for the blessings of salvation, mentions the Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit as well (Ephesians 1:3-14).
- Peter opens his letter with a greeting to the scattered believers all over the Roman Empire, mentioning the foreknowledge of God the Father, the sanctification of the Spirit and obedience to Christ Jesus (1 Peter 1:1-2).
- In Genesis 1:1-2 both God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are mentioned as taking part in creation. In John 1:1-3 Jesus (The Word) is also accredited with being there during creation and part of it.
These are just a few of the examples littered throughout the New Testament and others that can be combined with the Old Testament, as in the final example. There are more! But let’s move on to the principles of the Trinity.
Principles of the Trinity
First, what are we teaching about the Trinity with our examples? There are two principles that every person learning about the Trinity must grasp in these examples. These are the reason we use images and illustrations to understand one of the hardest theological subjects I have ever burnt out my noggin on.
- Three Persons. There are three distinct personalities or Persons within the Godhead. At times, they are credited with the same acts or slightly different rules in those acts. But these three persons work together seamlessly and in a united way.
- One Substance. Theologians have defined what substance means handily. You can always do more research on what it means for one substance. But basically, to keep it simple, substance means whatever makes God God. Whatever makes him have the character he has and the power he has and the ability to be in all places is the substance that makes God divine. All three of the persons have this substance. All three of the persons are divine and unified.
Every example I bring to you will be at a different level of understanding for your kids. But each one of these will attempt to explain how God can have three Persons and yet the same substance. This is why he cannot be an idol. All three Persons are the same God working and being seamlessly together.
Although I will suggest the beginning age to use these images, you as a parent know your children the best. I am not married and have no children (which means I don’t really know what I’m talking about).
Three Concrete Examples
- The Egg (about 4 years old?). An egg has three parts, like the three Persons of the Trinity. It has a solid shell, a yoke on the inside, and the egg whites. But all three of these are part of the egg. They are all the same substance. An egg shell is just as much egg as the yoke, even though most of us do not eat the shell. And so the image follows.
- Water (about 6 years old?). Water has three different states. It can be found as a solid (ice), a liquid (water), and a gas (steam). The three different states of water are like the three Persons of the Trinity. But all three states are still the same substance, water.
- Triplets (about 8 years old?). A set of triplets look exactly the same (substance). They have the same DNA, look the same, have all the same body parts, etc. at the same time, each triplet is an individual being. Each triplet will demonstrate a different personality than the others. This represents the three Persons of the Trinity.
A Math Example (About 8-10 Years Old?)
Finally, the most abstract (and perhaps the closest because it is abstract like the principles of the Trinity) example is that of a math equation.
1 × 1 × 1 = 1
All of these numbers are the same number, 1. This represents the same substance of all of the Persons of the Trinity. Just as all of the numbers are the same substance and look the same, etc. so the members of the Trinity are all the same substance. They are all God. And when you multiply all three of these numbers, you get the same number as well.
At the same time, these three numbers are different numbers. It takes the multiplication of three separate 1’s that equals 1. But these three separate 1’s represent the three Persons of the Trinity, individual personalities that work perfectly well together (multiplication).
No matter how many images and illustrations we come up with to explain the Trinity, they will all be flawed on some level. We won’t ever be able to perfectly explain the Trinity. Just as God’s knowledge is infinite while ours is finite, his ways are higher than ours, and his power is greater than ours, so also we try with our finite minds to comprehend is infinite amazingness.
Theologians have been talking about the Trinity for centuries. I have studied it for most of my life. None of us fully understands or grasps the simplicity and complexity of the Trinity all balled up into one.
These will help your kids get a head start on understanding the Trinity. But they will also come to understand that we will enjoy the mystery of the Trinity until we go home to heaven to see it in action for ourselves.