Let me first say that I too have an imperfect mind. I have all of the human limitations in grasping complexity. Yet, here I am at the beginning of a new academic year faced with teaching the fundamentals of theology to a largely biblically and spiritually illiterate generation.
I need to get the idea across then that what I am teaching is imperfect, but is the best that we, with our limitations can express. God is all loving, all knowing, all powerful, and ever present (omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent). In short hand I explain to my students that He is beyond our comprehension as He is omni-omnent (the all in all – perfection).
Even more challenging is the idea of theism as a whole. I have (and will) face the challenges of empirical observation. “But, you can’t see Him.” Here again, I must make clear the limitations of our five senses. They are fallible. They are also self-limiting. Empirical reasoning focuses on “the provable” or at least on the probable, it shies from the possible. But, disproving deity is as difficult as giving definitive proof for divinity. It comes down to an open and inquiring mind as to what can we learn.
The trinity is likewise a challenge. Monotheism calls for God in a singular form. Without going into essence and other key ideas beyond the entry level of understanding, I need to rely on more imperfect tools. The diagram at the beginning of this post is a simple (if somewhat simplified) attempt to show the three in one nature of God. While the word trinity does not appear in the Bible, the concept is clear in such passages as Mark 1:9 and following. Jesus (the Son), the Spirit (in the form of a dove), and the Father (in the heavenly voice) are all distinctly present, and their relationship clearly established. God is “tri” in His unity.
Here I have to make an even more tenuous link with H2O. Water is H2O yet in a liquid form. Steam is a gas of the same essence. Ice a frozen manifestation of the liquid. All the same, yet different. Theologically this is weak, but to someone unversed in the concepts it offers a stepping stone into understanding.
We may never fully understand the nature of God. Perfection is something we aspire to, but which is far beyond most of our capacities. But as the new year begins, I shall as in the past, seek to explain perfection to imperfect minds.