C.S. Lewis is the master of theological illustrations.
I’ve been reading Mere Christianity at the suggestion of my blogger friend, a fellow Grace. It’s really a fabulous book that should be required reading for every Christian. Lewis does a wonderful job of explaining the basic beliefs of Christianity, the moral life of a Christian, and some more complicated theology, all in a concise and entertaining way.
The theological illustration he uses that I want to share relates to the doctrine of the Trinity. This is notoriously a hard doctrine to grasp, but the way Lewis explains it really helps me.
This is in the last section (“Beyond Personality”), in chapter 2 (“The Three-Personal God”).
Lewis first discusses the idea of dimensions; how one dimension involves only straight lines, two dimensions involves a figure that is made up of straight lines, and three dimensions involves a solid body that is made up of figures.
In a two-dimensional world, you still get straight lines, but many lines make one figure. In a three-dimensional world…many figures make one solid body. In other words, as you advance to more real and more complicated levels, you do not leave behind you the things you found on the simpler levels: you still have them, but combined in new ways – in ways you could not imagine if you knew only the simpler levels.
–Mere Christianity, 161-162
He then goes on to apply this illustration to the Trinity.
“The human level is a simple and rather empty level. On the human level one person is one being, and any two persons are two separate beings – just as, in two dimensions…one square is one figure, and any two squares are two separate figures. On the Divine level you still find personalities; but up there you find them combined in new ways which we, who do not live on that level, cannot imagine…you find a being who is three Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube is six squares while remaining one cube.”
–Mere Christianity, 162
Isn’t this a genius way of explaining it? I feel like it would work well for explaining the Trinity to young children and unbelievers/new Christians, but it also really helped me think about the Trinity in a new way.
The Trinity tends to be one of those doctrines that people who have grown up in Christian families just take for granted and never really take the time to think about, maybe because it just seems too complicated. This chapter, though, explained it in a way that really clicked in my head, so I wanted to share it with you.
We obviously won’t be able to imagine it clearly, but, in Lewis’s words, “we can get a sort of faint notion of it” (162). And it’s important to be able to understand these theological doctrines as much as our human brains possibly can.
I’ll be sharing another really cool theological tidbit from Mere Christianity on Tuesday (it realllly blew my mind), but I think this is enough to process and mull over for now!
What do you think? Do you find this illustration helpful or interesting? Are there other ways that you have heard the Trinity explained that you think are helpful? Who else loves C.S. Lewis? 🙂 Tell me in the comments below!
♥ love, grace ♥