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There are several people that do not understand the trinity. I hear things such as "God is like water. He is liquid, steam, and solid". This analogy actually comes with a longer explanation about how the holy spirit guy is steam and god the son is solid. However, this is modalism, showing three distinct "modes" or "functions" of the triune god.

I also hear the triune god is like an egg. He is shell, white, and yolk, but one egg. Some even go as far as to say each person is "one-third god". This is actually a form of tritheism, in that each person of the triune god is a "part" of the triune god, thus separating the "divine nature".

Some people are confused about the hypostatic union, and they separate the divine and human nature of the second person of the triune god, god the son. Thus, "they deny that Jesus came in flesh", which 1 John 4:3 says "is the spirit of the antichrist".

According to Reformed theology, are the people who share and promote these misunderstandings spreading blasphemous lies?

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Calvin was involved in the prosecution of Michael Servetus for "horrible and execrable" blasphemies which included, amongst other things, likening the Holy Trinity to a three-headed dog. This led to Servetus being slow-burned to death at the stake in 1553 with Calvin's approval.

Calvin, like most of his contemporaries and predecessors,regarded false teaching as blasphemy. The word comes from the Greek meaning harmful speech. Traditionally it was considered a very serious crime because it could cause others to lose salvation. This did not, of course, fit with predestination and Calvin saw punishing blasphemy more as a means of vindicating God's honour, and preserving the peace.

St Patrick is said to have used a shamrock, a three-leafed plant, to demonstrate the concept of the Trinity ; this is why it appears on the new UK one pound coins. My Sunday School teacher used a block of Neapolitan ice cream (chocolate, vanilla and strawberry), which we then ate with no idea of sacrilege. These sort of analogies are, as Michael16 points out, not intended to be the last word on the nature of God, but may help impart a first idea.

They could be pushed too far. If the idea that God resembled an egg were to lead on to the revelation that His name is Humpty Dumpty, or that people should give up on Easter Communion and eat chocolate eggs instead, then that might be pushing closer to blasphemy.

Words can change their meaning somewhat and blasphemy is, these days, more associated with mocking , flippant and scurrilous abuse of sacred things. Even with Servetus, part of Calvin's objection was his mocking tone. Teaching false doctrine, in a polite and serious manner, is not regarded as blasphemy now.

The Free Church of Scotland website has an article from former Moderator, John Ross, quoting a legal opinion on blasphemy in Scottish law as involving railing or scoffing. Merely stating, or arguing for, heretical opinions is not regarded as blasphemy, in the current meaning of the term. It is certainly true that, as OP says ,there are several people (at least several) who don't understand the doctrine of the Trinity, but they would not be regarded as blaspheming by saying so, or by using an analogy similar to that used by St Patrick.

  • Thanks for the answer. I like that you've shown how this has been delt with in the past, and how this is handled today. So honest mistakes, despite their consequences on future generations who have learned these lies, are excusable as long as the intentions were good. But to blatantly describe the trinity in a bad demeanor and attitude is blasphemy, is that correct? – Cannabijoy Aug 21 '17 at 20:51
  • @anonymouswho Yes, if by excusable you mean not constituting blasphemy. The extent to which holding false beliefs, however sincerely held and well-intentioned, is thought acceptable to God is of course a separate issue christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/52082/… – davidlol Aug 22 '17 at 8:03
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These are only limited or weak examples of analogy for Trinity. They are not called as heresy by scholars. Trinity is accepted as mystery by vast majority when it comes to rational explanation. We too must not stretch the emphasis on rational explanation as to condemn the imperfect analogies as heresies. The 3 forms of H2O analogy may be misunderstood as Modalism but it can also be taken as same divine nature of the three persons. It does not necessarily imply Modalism.

We should admit that an analogy is only an analogy which only expresses a limited resembles of the doctrine ; and all analogies would come short of completely describing it perfectly.

  • Thank you for the answer. The H2O anology was an example, and I'm sure it can be manipulated to fit the trinitarian theology as long as ice also has a fire nature. But my question has more to do with any false teaching, such as saying Jesus is 1/3 god, or an ignorant denial of "god the son's human nature". Are these teachings promoting blasphemous lies? – Cannabijoy Oct 26 '16 at 2:25
  • Saying Jesus to be 1/3 of God in context of trinity may be a common innocent mistake, we must never call such blasphemy or heresy. Always distinguish between innocent mistakes and deliberate heretics. Denying Christ's human nature is lie and would be more severe error than the first. Though technically I can deduce original sin doctrine which exempt Christ alone from it, denies his true humanity like us. I wouldn't condemn all of them as blasphemers though the doctrine maybe technically heresy. Blasphemy/heresy is more to do with just technical error. – Michael16 Oct 26 '16 at 9:21

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