Trying to Understand Creedal Trinitarianism – An Analogy

December 22, 2008
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In my last post I, in great detail, demonstrated why I believe the Trinity doctrine itself is not a contradiction but that creedal Christians have been trained to use it in a contradictory way.

I did it using predict logic, tons of examples, and examples from real life conversations with creedal Christians. So that means no one will read it.

It would seem that being precise with your language makes it difficult to read and comprehend. (A fact all programmers know.) Sometimes it’s easier to just use an example, which is less precise but more understandable. So here is an example that covers everything I said in my last post via an analogy.

God is Red, God is Blue

Pretend, for a moment, that the Bible teaches two things. One is that God is red and the other is that God is blue. It’s not hard to see the analogy here to the Trinity doctrine, but I’ll let you come up with it yourself.

Is this a contradiction? Not in and off itself. Paradoxical? Certainly. But there are multiple ways to resolve this seeming contradiction. God can be both red and blue.

But when I try to sincerely have dialog with creedal Trinitarians I get the feeling that they just have a collection of words, called a creed, that they “believe” but have no underlying meaning to those words, with one notable exception: when I try to apply my own meaning to those words. Then, and only then, do the words in the creed take on sudden meaning, just long enough to deny me. Then they go back to having no meaning again. It’s very fluid and frustrating when you are trying to discuss beliefs.

A Typical Conversation with a Creedal Trinitarian

So a typical conversation with a Creedal Trinitarian seems to go like this to me:

Creedal Trinitarian: God is red. God is blue. That’s what the Bible says.

Me: I agree. That is what the Bible says. And I believe that God is red and God is blue.

Creedal Trinitarian: No, you don’t believe that. You don’t even believe the Bible. You believe Joseph Smith. We have different sources of truth, so we aren’t the same and we have no common ground — mutually accepted sources of truth — that we can use as a basis for dialog. I believe the Bible, you believe Joseph.

Me: Yes, I do accept the revelations of Joseph Smith as true, just like I accept the Bible, in fact.

Creedal Trinitarian: But the revelations of Joseph Smith contradict the Bible.

Me: Not to me they don’t. What I mean is, I interpret the Bible AND the teachings of Joseph Smith in ways you aren’t familiar with. I will grant that how you choose to interpret Joseph Smith’s revelations contradict how you choose to interpret the Bible. But the way I interpret Joseph Smith’s revelations and the Bible they do not contradict. Besides, isn’t believing God is red and God is blue “contradictory” in the way you believe it?

Creedal Trinitarian: That’s what the Bible teaches. So I know it’s true.

Me: I know, I already said that. I have said I believe it myself. But what does “God is red” and “God is blue” mean to you. For example, couldn’t it mean that God is half red and half blue. Like he has different parts or aspects of different color?

Creedal Trinitarian: No! The Bible doesn’t say God is half red, it says God is red. It doesn’t say God is half blue, it says God is blue.

Me: Do you understanding it figuratively? I mean do you believe God is red and God is blue means he’s courageous and true, maybe?

Creedal Trinitarian: It doesn’t say God is courageous and true, though He is that too. But it says God is red and God is blue. And that is what it means.

Me: Okay, so you believe all aspects of “God” are red and all are blue and it’s not figurative to you in any way? In what sense do you undertstand those concepts then?

Creedal Trinitarian: I mean I believe the Bible: God is red, God is blue.

Me: Do you mean that God is purple? Purple is both fully red and fully blue. That would be logical.

Creedal Trinitarian: No! The Bible does not say God is purple! The Bible says God is red and God is blue. Red is not purple. Blue is not purple.

Me: Yes, but Purple is both fully red and fully blue.

Creedal Trinitarians: I already said the Bible doesn’t say that. So that is not what I believe.

Me: Okay, maybe God is red all over and blue all over, like dithering. So it appears purple at a distance, but if you look closely he really is, all over red and blue, just not at the same location at the same time.

Creedal Trinitarisn: No! The Bible does not say God is dithered blue and red. That would mean God isn’t fully red and isn’t fully blue.

Me: Do you believe God is like two shades of clear glass layered on each other? One red and one blue? That would make him both red and blue in a sense, right?

Creedal Trinitarian: The Bible does not say God is layered blue on top of red, or vice versa. That would make him black to the eye, and God is certainly not black. That would be blaspheme. The Bible says that God is red and God is blue so that is incorrect doctrine.

Me: But couldn’t those words in the Bible have meant that…

Creedal Trinitarian: No! They mean what they say and they say what they mean. You are so desperately seeking a simple answer that you are falling into heresy. By the way, speaking of contradictions, Joseph Smith taught that God was green! See, right there, Joseph Smith and the Bible contradict each other! You have to admit you accept Joseph while I accept Jesus.

Me: But to me that means God is white.

Creedal Trinitarians: What?!

Me: Yes, under light color theory, red, blue, and green make white light. If you crank up the red fully, the blue fully, and the green fully, you get white. God is white because God is fully red, fully blue, and fully green. Or in other words, God is all colors. See, Joseph Smith didn’t contradict the Bible. And by the way, there was nothing “simple” about that answer. In fact, it’s more complex then what you’ve been advocating. I’ve never claimed God was simple to comprehend, only that He isn’t contradictory.

Creedal Trinitarian: No! God is not green nor white, the Bible denies that possibility.

Me: But the Bible doesn’t say he isn’t green, so it doesn’t deny the possibility. I’m affirming God is red and God is blue, just like the Bible says. I’m simply adding that He is also green and thus He is white.

Creedal Trinitarian: Yes the Bible does deny that God is green. It says God is red and God is blue. Clearly red is not green and blue is not green. Red and blue aren’t white either. We’re talking school child logic here.

Me: But the way you are using those words, red isn’t blue and blue isn’t red either! So it’s a contradiction, not school child logic.

Creedal Trinitarian: I realize it seems contradictory to an unbeliever like yourself, but to me it’s a paradox.

Me: In what sense is it a paradox to you? Normally we call something a paradox when we apply meaning to it that makes it non-contradictory, even though at first it seemed contradictory. “The first shall be last and the last shall be first” is a paradox because we are equivocating the meaning of the words mid sentence for effect.

Creedal Trinitarian: So we are agreed, it’s a paradox.

Me: Yes, I believe it’s a paradox – to me! But the way you are using it, it’s a contradiction.

Creedal Trinitarian: No, it’s not. It’s a paradox. Besides, God can make a contradiction true anyhow. God can do anything.

Me: But if God can make a contradiction true, then why do you see Joseph Smith’s new revelation that God is green as problematic? God can be green in the same sense that you accept God as red and as blue. Thus logically you can’t deny the possibly that God is green (or white) just because the Bible says He is red and blue.

Creedal Trinitarian: No, God is not green. The Bible is very clear on this point. It says God is red and God is blue. Red is not green and neither is blue. White is not green and white is not blue.

Me: I feel like we’re getting no where fast.

Creedal Trinitarian: You are an unbeliever. If you believed in the Bible and accepted it as true over Joseph Smith or your own need to make up simple answers then you’d understand.

Me: I think you have no meaning in your head as to what it means when you say God is red or God is blue except when you need it to deny me. Then it takes on meaning just long enough to exclude me.

Creedal Trinitarian: I just believe what the Bible says.

Me: I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on that. I don’t believe you believe what the Bible says. I think you believe the creedal interpretation of what the Bible is saying.

Creedal Trinitarian: They are the same. One just summarizes the other.

Me: How can you say that? How can you sincerely look at me after this conversation, where I just gave multiple other ways to interpret the Bible’s sayings validly and then, with a straight face, tell me that creeds just summarizes and don’t interpret the Bible?

Creedal Trinitarian: It’s that you believe Joseph Smith. That is why you can’t understand. Satan has blinded you to the truth.

Me: This conversation isn’t really progressing is it?

Creedal Trinitarian: No, it’s not. I think we should agree to disagree.

Me: Okay. *Sigh* Yet another failed attempt to get anywhere with understanding this creedal doctrine.

Creedal Trinitarian: It’s scriptural, not “creedal”. Just read and accept the Bible and you’ll understand.

Conclusion

I want to make it very clear that I am not trying to be disrespectful of creedal Trinitarian beliefs. I think they are quite sincere in their desire to believe the Bible. But the above conversation is a true and realistic example of all my conversations with creedal Trinitarians, at least as far as I’m currently able to process what they are saying.

While I can’t rule out the possibility that I have missed some point that is required for my comprehension, or possibly I am blinded to it by my personal biases, after years of such conversations I am no longer convinced such a point exists. So likewise I must not rule out the possibility that I am correct: that the creedal Trinity doctrine has no meaning even to creedal Trinitarians except when used to judge other people’s beliefs as being “non-Christian.” The end result of this, if I am correct, is that they use the creeds in contradictory ways just like the sample conversation above.

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10 Responses to Trying to Understand Creedal Trinitarianism – An Analogy

  1. December 22, 2008 at 5:43 am

    I sometimes wonder why the creed is so important, if it’s supposed to be “sola scriptura”. After all, the Trinity concept postdates Bible texts by some 300 years.

  2. NOYDMB
    December 22, 2008 at 10:47 am

    LOL. Awesome Bruce.

  3. December 22, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Ha… thanks for writing a “dumb people” version of your previous post, as it now falls into my level of comprehension. UR smrt.

  4. C.Biden
    December 22, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Interesting. However, this kind of reasoning can prove that there is no god.

  5. December 22, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Yeah… I was also going to say that.

  6. Dan Knudsen
    December 22, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    I’ve always wondered why the Creedal Protestants cling so desperately to the creeds, which were developed so many hundreds of years before Protestants broke away from Catholicism–condemning all of the Catholics to hell–but this core Catholic doctrine remains so true, unlike almost everything else Catholic. How and where do they draw the line? It seems like they would have come up with something new for the Godhead, like Mormons did.

  7. Bruce Nielson
    December 23, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    Dan and Velska,

    I have wondered this too. I believe it depends on which protestant lineage you come out of. All protestant groups accepted some creeds and rejected others. In other words, the answer to your question is “it’s tradition.” (Even if the person you are talking to doesn’t realize it.) As it turns out, they all (almost all anyhow) accept at least the first few creeds (apostles, nicean… can’t remember the others off the top of my head.)

    C. Biden,

    I’m curious why you think this kind of reasoning can prove there is no God. I think you can’t get there from here. You can, on the other hand, prove, using this logic, that there is no God that is like the Catholics and Protestant modernly think of him (if that is what you meant) but that would just mean they have a false view of God, not necessarily there is no God.

    To use an analogy, proving the moon isn’t made of green cheese doesn’t prove there is no moon, no matter how great a narrative fallacy that makes.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting any sort of argument here to “prove the existence of God.” I’m just saying this discussion was logically completely irrelevant to any proof or disproof of God’s existence. It added or subtracted no information at all. (You might want to see my posts on narrative fallacies.)

  8. December 26, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Great post Bruce! So I guess this also means God is a Cougar, Ute, Aggie, Wolverine, Thunderbird, and Wildcat! :)

  9. December 29, 2008 at 10:17 am

    Bruce,

    I just wanted to congratulate you on this and the previous article you wrote. Both are clear and cogent. Unfortunately, articles like these tend to go ignored in the bloggernacle in favor of articles on SSM, abortion, polygamy, body fluids (FMH is the most egregious offender here), Mountain Meadows, etc.

  10. Bruce Nielson
    December 29, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    David, Thank you. Sometimes it is too bad that controversy sells, but that is the reality of life.

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