Oct

14

2010

Justin Taylor|11:07 pm CT

Explaining the Trinity to a Seven-Year-Old

Common sense would tell you that the younger a child is, the harder it is to explain the Trinity in an understandable way.

Common sense can be wrong.

When my daughter was 5 we talked about the Trinity, and she explained to me that it’s a hard doctrine for little kids (like her younger brother) to understand, and that it’s only older kids (like her) who truly understand it.

Now that she has a few more years under her belt (age 7), she has become more confused about the Trinity—to the point where she was having trouble sleeping due to it being so perplexing to her.

On our ride to school recently I did my best to give her some help. Her response was: “You just made things more confusinger.”

Humbling.

(Hint to parent-theologians: just skip the part using an apple as an illustration of the problem of induction—apparently it doesn’t work well with 7-year-olds!)

Now that you know that I’m a non-expert on teaching at this level, here’s at least the essence of what I went on to try to convey, in illustrated form:

Basically, there are three persons, each person is God, each person is distinct, and there’s only one God.

One simple way to get at the difference between person and substance/essence/nature is to say that the Trinity is “three who’s” and “one what.”

To help my daughter try to think through the difference between a “who” and a “what,” we thought about some examples:

Who are you? Jasper Michael Justin
What are you? Dog Archangel Human Being

Applied to God, it looks like this:

Who are you? Father Son Holy Spirit
What are you? God God God

Father Son Holy Spirit Jasper Michael Justin
Person? X X X X X
God? X X X
This at least seemed to help my daughter. At least until next year!

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