In a previous Back to Genesis article, "The Wonderful Truth of the Trinity" (Acts & Facts, November 2005), the Biblical doctrine of the tri-une God (or Trinity) was briefly expounded in terms of some of the key verses of Scripture teaching it. A comprehensive treatment was obviously impossible in three pages (entire books have been written on this subject), but at least the essential truth was presented, namely that the God of Creation is one God, in three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This is arguably the most important doctrine of Christianity—certainly the most distinctive. This does not mean that there are three Gods; there is only one God who created Heaven and Earth and everything in them. The term "God" as used in the Bible most commonly refers to the Father, but the Son and the Holy Spirit are each also recognized as God. This concept is so difficult for many to accept that some have argued that the three divine Persons are not really three distinct individuals but merely three modes in which the one God can express Himself as occasion demands.
But this also is a false invention. There are many accounts of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit speaking to each other, for example. The doctrine of the Trinity is admittedly difficult (in fact impossible) to comprehend fully with our minds, but it is taught so definitely in God's Word that we believe it with our hearts.
Skeptics can deride the Trinity doctrine as mathematically impossible. One plus One plus One does not equal One, but three. Nevertheless, the Bible reveals God to be a Trinity—one God in three Persons. Are we naïve and credulous to believe such a thing?
Well, not really. It is also a remarkable fact that the divine Trinity, the tri-une God, has created a great universe which is itself a trinity, with each of its three components also structured as trinities. This would not necessarily prove that God is a Trinity, but it is a fact that needs explanation. Could God have created it as a model (or type, or analogy) that would help people understand His own Nature, at least in some degree?
Consider: The created universe is actually a tri-universe of Space, Matter, and Time, each permeating and representing the whole. However, the universe is not partly composed of space, partly of matter, and partly of time (like, for example, the three sides of a triangle). A trinity is not a trio or a triad, but a tri-unity, with each part comprising the whole, yet all three required to make the whole. Thus, the universe is all Space, all Time, and all Matter (including energy as a form of matter); in fact, many scientists speak of it as a Space-Matter-Time continuum.
Furthermore, note the parallels between the divine trinity and the tri-universe in terms of the logical order of its three components. Space is the invisible, omnipresent background of everything in the universe. Matter-and-Energy reveal the reality of the universe. Time makes the universe understandable in the events occurring in it. Note that exactly the same sentence will apply if the words Father, Son, and Holy Spirit replace the words, Space, Matter, and Time.
Space itself is also a tri-unity, comprised of three dimensions, with each dimension permeating all space. The reality of any portion of space is obtained by multiplying the three dimensions together (the "mathematics of the Trinity" is not 1+1+1=1, but rather 1x1x1=1). Further, Space is identified in the first dimension seen in the second dimension, experienced in the third dimension. The same sentence could be used with Father, Son, and Spirit replacing first, second, and third dimensions.
Similarly, Time is future, present, and past. The future is the unseen source of time, manifest moment-by-moment in the present and understood in the past. Again substitute Father, Son, and Spirit.
Finally, Matter is unseen, omnipresent Energy, manifesting itself in various forms of measurable motion, then experienced in corresponding phenomena. For example, light energy generates light waves, which are experienced in the seeing of light. Sound energy generates sound waves which we experience when we hear sound.
Thus, the physical universe is a great "trinity of trinities," with the inner relationships of each element modeling the relationships of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All of this (as cautioned above) does not prove that God is a Trinity, but it certainly is a remarkable fact. It is an amazing effect, which can at least seemingly be explained on the assumption that God is a tri-une God, and has made His creation to reflect Himself. In fact it is very hard to explain any other way.
The above several paragraphs have been quoted mostly from the footnotes supporting Romans 1:20 in The Defender's Study Bible. So far as I know, however, this striking analogy was first recognized by Dr. Nathan H. Wood, former president of Gordon College in his book The Secret of the Universe (Warwick Press, 1932), which included a very laudatory Foreword by Dr. G. Campbell Morgan, one of the greatest British Bible teachers of the early twentieth century. This book was also reprinted by Kregel in 1978, under the title The Trinity in the Universe.
It is therefore a fact that the physical universe is a great trinity of trinities. But how about the universe of life? Many expositors have called attention to the fact that each person is a trinity of body, soul, and spirit. Each of these entities is real and distinct, yet each involves the whole person. The prayer of Paul, in one of his first epistles was this: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it" (I Thessalonians 5:23-24).
The "soul" is that part of the person that is the actual "life" that energizes the "body," which then is the material component that others can see and hear and touch. The classic Old Testament verse relating these two is Leviticus 17:11: ". . . the life of the flesh is in the blood." The Hebrew word for "life" in this verse is the same word as for "soul," and scientists have known for many years that it is the blood's circulation throughout the body that maintains life in the body.
The body's "spirit," on the other hand, is the body's "breath," and this also is essential for maintaining its life (the Hebrew word for "breath" and its New Testament Greek equivalent are each used also for "spirit"). It is sometimes hard to differentiate between soul and spirit for this reason, but the fact that they are different is confirmed especially in Hebrews 4:12, which says that "the word of God is quick, [that is, alive] and powerful [that is, energizing], and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, . . ."
The "spirit" is more than merely the "breath" of the body, however, for the person's spirit somehow is also that entity which partakes of the very image of God. When the first man was yet an inert body formed of the dust of the ground, God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Genesis 2:7). Thus "God created man in His own image" (Genesis 1:27). The breath of God thereby became the image of God implanted in man's body of dust and his living soul.
The analogy with the tri-unity of God is fairly obvious. The soul is the life of the body, unseen and intangible but nevertheless the very basis of the person's existence and actions; the body then is the visible and tangible manifestation of the soul. Furthermore the spirit of the person is (like the soul) invisible and intangible but very real in its capacity to interact intelligibly with others, especially with God, including also the ability to make moral and esthetic judgments.
Now animals also possess soul (that is life), body, and spirit (in the sense of breath). They also in a very limited sense seem able to interact with other animals and even human beings on more than a mere instinctive level; however, they cannot, so far as we know, comprehend moral, or spiritual concepts.
To what extent, if any, this animal tri-unity correlated with that of humans in the beginning we do not know. In any case, the entrance of sin and death into the world made drastic changes. Now there is a vast difference. Death comes to both men and animals, and "all turn to dust again." But then it is "the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth" while the spirit of man and "shall return unto God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 3:20-21; 12:7), consistently with Paul's prayer noted above.
In any case, we can infer that both human life and animal life are actually trinities (three components in the logical trinitarian order with each also pervading the whole). However, the human tri-unity will be restored to live forever whereas animals (body, life, breath) will not. Only men and women are in the image of the eternal God.
Thus, there is a remarkable tri-unity pervading the physical universe, and also one throughout the biological creation. Neither one is perfect, of course. No model can ever be perfect when the original is God Himself. But they are each real trinities. Each unit is distinctive with its own function, and yet all three are necessary components of the whole, and each pervades the whole.
These trinities pervading the creation may not be perfect reflections of the Creator. But they are good and realistic models of the tri-une God who made them.
It would seem there must be some good explanation for this remarkable fact other than coincidence. A plausible explanation would surely seem to be that they were deliberately created by God to help us understand, in at least some small degree, His own tri-une nature.
*Dr. Henry Morris is Founder and President Emeritus of ICR.