I think this might be the first practical question on C.SE. Please don't close it because it sounds to speculative, I want to know what might be heretical about it according to Catholic doctrine.

I've been mulling over a thesis in my head concerning a wonderful metaphor I can use to explain the Holy Trinity to 7th graders.

The Holy Trinity is like a Blue Plate special served in an old timey diner. It is three portions of the same hearty meal wherein one portion precedes the second portion and the second portion precedes the third to make a complete unity in sustenance. If you removed any part of the meal it would cease to be a blue plate special.

So, is there any reason to consider this a bad metaphor (other than the fact that some prefer meat over potato and some prefer potato over peas).

  • 1
    I think you need to explain more what the parts (persons) are and why they are that. More detail in how you explain this and being representative of the Holy Trinity.
    – user3961
    Commented Jul 20, 2013 at 1:14
  • Wouldn't this fail the separability criteria? I don't have a full answer so I'm not much help beyond this.
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jul 20, 2013 at 1:33
  • 4
    Still partialism, I think. (Each portion is only 1/3 of the meal.)
    – svidgen
    Commented Jul 20, 2013 at 1:46
  • Might be fun to try brainstorming non-heretical explanations of the Trinity in a chatroom ...
    – svidgen
    Commented Jul 20, 2013 at 1:51
  • 2
    I suspect that the 7th graders will have more trouble understanding a blue plate special.
    – Waeshael
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 21:03

2 Answers 2


It sounds like a heretical understanding sometimes called Partialism, which suggested that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are parts of the one God. Partialism contrasts the The Athanasian Creed. Namely:

And the Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.

And St. Athanasius writes in paragraph 28 of the Discourse 1 Against the Arians:

As we said above, so now we repeat, that the divine generation must not be compared to the nature of men, nor the Son considered to be part of God, nor the generation to imply any passion whatever; God is not as man; for men beget passibly, having a transitive nature, which waits for periods by reason of its weakness. But with God this cannot be; for He is not composed of parts, but being impassible and simple, He is impassibly and indivisibly Father of the Son.

In the Blue Plate special example, each portion is only part of the meal. Any one individual portion is not fully the meal. In the Trinity, each divine person is fully God.


It does sound like Partialism eg akin to the 3 leaf clover idea (see above you-tube for an entertaining explanation of that :) !! )

I prefer the metaphor of a cube to explain the Trinity to those who may need something concrete to assist in their undestanding. There we have Length, Breadth and Height. The Length is NOT the Breadth is NOT the Height. They are separate. Yet they all are partakers of the same stuff of the cube (same essence). And one dimension is not more important than another (they are equal in power and glory). Also, you cannot ever lose one of the dimensions, for then you do not have a cube any more (all Persons (Father, Son and Spirit) are co-eternal).

When they are a little older, the kids can also have the idea of the Trinity explained using X, Y & Z dimensions for space, or they might like to read the best explanation I have come across from Calvin's Institutes. HTH

  • Helps a bit, that's a good analogy, I personally don't like mathematical analogies for explaining things to kids. They're too impersonal for a Personal God. Also, in not sure partialism is a thing (be careful if you go and look it up, I guess it's a clinical term for some strange fetishes)
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Jul 25, 2013 at 11:42
  • Hadn't heard the cube metaphor before, and may be the best one yet! Commented Jul 25, 2013 at 12:25
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    But then you would have to say the the length is the cube, the height is the cube, and the width is the cube, and that is not true.
    – Chelonian
    Commented Jul 27, 2013 at 6:57
  • Not too sure about that. I would have said: The length is the length, the height is the height and the width is the width and the cube is the cube, but that's just me.
    – user5197
    Commented Jul 28, 2013 at 12:10
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    In fact without length, breadth and height, the concept of a cube is meaningless.
    – user5197
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 7:01

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