St. Patrick Was Not A Heretic, But His Analogies Are Another Story

This is a great and cheeky little introduction to the doctrine of the Trinity at the expense of our friend, St. Patrick. (As far as I know, the only of these analogies that St. Patrick ever used was that of the clover…and even that is historically questionable.) The doctrine of the Trinity is difficult. I often tell my students that every attempt to make an analogy to the Trinity will result in heresy. St. Patrick was no better.

That doesn’t mean that analogies are not helpful. In fact, I use analogies every time I teach the Trinity, but always to show the ways in which they are theological error. That’s the rich value of this video. It shows how to use the analogies to the negative, finally giving the words of Trinitarian grammar over to the Creeds.

By the way, the Athanasian Creed that is mentioned in the video is a great way to teach the grammar of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity is a way of speaking about God and the only way to learn this way of speaking is immersion. Immersion is when someone is learning a new language and they move to another country for a while to learn better (or the classroom forbids the first language as another form of immersion). That is how you should learn the doctrine of the Trinity (or any Christian theology). You immerse yourself in the language until you learn to master the language. For more on that, check out The Triune God by William Placher.

Here is the Athanasian Creed for a little primer on Trinitarian grammar:

“We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.”

Related Post: God is NOT With Us: An Advent Sermon


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