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The Trinity Shield: What is It, and Why Does it Matter?

Luca Rossetti da Orta, The Holy Trinity', fresco, 1738-9, St. Gaudenzio Church at Ivrea, Turin

by Glenn Stanton

The early leaders and teachers of the church had to find a way to teach the largely unlearned and illiterate faithful a very important truth about the mystery of the Trinitarian God. And what they taught has wonderful application to our discussion that humanity exists as male and female.

They developed a teaching tool called the Trinity Shield. A basic model of it is seen here, along with one from the 16th Century:

TrinityShield1  TrinityShield2

The Trinity Shield explains that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all fully God by linking each of the outer circles – representing the divine persons of the Trinity – to the center circle, which notes God with the three connecting lines in which is written “IS”.

Hence, the Father IS fully God, the Son IS fully God and the Holy Spirit IS fully God.

The outer lines connecting the Three have written in them “IS NOT”. Hence, the Father IS NOT the Son or the Holy Spirit, the Son IS NOT the Father or the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit IS NOT the Father or the Son.

They are each fully and completely God, one not more than the other. But they are also importantly and characteristically unique from one another.

What does this curious lesson about the Trinity and these ancient symbols have to do our lessons in The Family Project? Can you make the connection?

It helps us understand the nature of God-image-bearing humans. Consider using this same model for something called the “Human Shield” as it relates to the family. How would you place husband, wife, and offspring so that we understand their similarities and differences, their “three-ness” and their “one-ness”?

(Examples of early Trinity Shields include an illustration found in the writings of French professor of theology Peter of Poitiers; a diagram from a Chronicle written by writer, historian and monk John of Wallingford; and an image by Spanish artist Jeronimo Cosida.)

Learn more about God’s irreplaceable design in The Family Project® – a 12-session DVD curriculum that explores why God’s plan for families matters today. Take your small group on a life-changing journey to strengthen and encourage families! Get The Family Project® curriculum today.

Glenn Stanton is the director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family, and the co-author/co-creator of The Family Project, as well as the co-author (w/Leon Wirth) of The Family Project book.

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