The Triqueta, Triangles, Trinity Knots, Trinity Shield and the Second Commandment

Many times when discussing the Second Commandment the issue comes up regarding crosses, Trinity Triangles even the Triquetra. Are these symbols also forbidden? Previously on my blog I have already covered the issue of crosses but now I want to tackle the issue of the Trinity Triangles!

For my blog article on the Historic Reformed and Patristic View of Images of any person of the Godhead, mental representation of any person of the Godhead, images of mary, images of angels and images of prophets and apostles, see the following,

For my blog article on Why do Covenanters reject the Representation of the Symbol of the Cross, see the following

Are symbols that represent the Trinity forbidden by the Second Commandment? It’s a symbolic representation, but not an actual representation, so there shouldn’t be a second commandment violation any more than a cross or dove is, right? But oh wait, those too are forbidden. Scratch that!

“All representing of the persons as distinct, as to set out the Father (personally considered) by the image of an old man, as if he were a creature, the Son under the image of a lamb or young man, the Holy Ghost under the image of a dove, all which wrongeth the Godhead exceedingly; and although the Son was and is man, having taken on him that nature, and united it to his Godhead, yet he is not a mere man; therefore that image, which only holdeth forth one nature, and looketh like any man in the world, cannot be the representation of that person which is God and man.” -James Durham, The Law Unsealed

Canon 82 of the Quinisext Council of 692 addressed controversies in this area: prohibition of the representation of Christ as a lamb.

Symbols as much as portended literal representations are all forbidden. It does not matter it is in the form of a diagram or a shape.

The Triquetra, Trinity Knot, Trinity Shield, Trinity Triangle are all violation of the Second Commandment.

The Triqueta, Triangles, Trinity Knots, Trinity Shield and any other way that tries to symbolically represent the Trinity does not represent perfectly the concept of the Trinity. No two dimensional, or three dimensional, image can. Therefore, the prohibition of the 2nd Commandment stands in relation to this image. The Trinity is perfection indeed, and no image stained with sin can depict God in His perfection. And Therefore is a violation of the Second Commandment of God.

John Brown of Haddington, one of the greatest theologians that the Scottish Second Reformation produced and one that all Covenanters should have an wide open ear to, said,

“Q. Is it idolatrous to paint God as light or the Trinity as a triangle, or body with three heads?

A. Yes.” From Questions and Answers on the Shorter Catechism by John Brown of Haddington

Some have actually gone as far as to say this is a unique Covenanter position and not much across the board by Reformed Scholars. I present the following as some examples that this is not unique to Covenanter position but is a Westminsterian point of view as well as the Historic Continental view point.

Francis Turretin a First Reformation Italian theologian explicit stated that all symbols are forbidden. He does not mention the Triangle per say but the Triangle is a symbol which Turretin condemns.

no one is so simple and insane as to wish to represent the spiritual essence of God by any external and corporeal symbol. …

“Although God sometimes manifested himself in a visible form and in such an appearance is described to us in Scripture (when members and bodily actions are ascribed to him), it does not follow that it is lawful to represent him by an image. (1) The same God who thus appeared nevertheless strongly forbade the Israelites to fabricate any representation of him (to wit, God could employ speech, bodies and symbols, in order to testify his special presence; yet not on that account may man make unto God an image …”

Puritan Thomas Watson wrote in his commentary on the Ten Commandments that all portraitures, shapes and ideas are forbidden in the Second Commandment with regards to the any person of the Godhead or the Triune God as a whole. Diagrams, Triangles, Triquetra etc are not only ideas but also shapes that are expressively forbidden when made for a religious use and for representing God either symbolically or literally..

“In the first commandment worshipping a false god is forbidden; in this, worshipping the true God in a false manner.

‘Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.’ This forbids not making an image for civil use. ‘Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, It is Caesar’s.’ Matt 22: 20, 21. But the commandment forbids setting up an image for religious use or worship.

‘Nor the likeness of any thing,’ &c. All ideas, portraitures, shapes, images of God, whether by effigies or pictures, are here forbidden. ‘Take heed lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make the similitude of any figure.’ Deut 4: 15, 16. God is to be adored in the heart, not painted to the eye.” Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments

Puritan Thomas Ridgley wrote that not only is such Triangles unnecessary but totally unwarrantable by Scripture and says that the Trinity of person in the Unity of the divine essence is to be understood as revealed in the words of Scripture and NOT brought to our remembrance by an emblem which is an ordinance of our own invention.

“But there are some who, though they do not much care to defend the practice of making pictures of God, yet plead for describing an emblem of the Trinity, such as a triangle, with the name Jehovah in the midst of it. Now, I would observe concerning this practice, that if the design of it be to worship God by the emblem, it is idolatry; but if not, it is unwarrantable, and, indeed, unnecessary; since a Trinity of persons in the unity of the divine essence, is to be understood as revealed in scripture, and not brought to our remembrance by an emblem, which is an ordinance of our own invention.” -Thomas Ridgley’s, A Body of Divinity

§The Pagan Roots of the Triquetra

The triquetra has been found on runestones in Northern Europe and on early Germanic coins. It has pagan religious meaning and it bears a resemblance to the Valknut, a symbol associated with Odin. It cannot be adopted or cleaned up for Christian use.

It only became a Christian symbol in the 19th century during a Celtic Revival.. And is NOT a Diagram but an actual Symbol.

So I would definitely not permit it for three reasons,

1. Making a Symbol we are not permitted to do. (RPW)

2. A Symbol of the Trinity which is also something we are not permitted to do. (Second Commandment issues)

3. Taking a Pagan religious practice that has pagan religious meaning, clean it up and adopt it which is expressively forbidden in Divine Law.

We are not called to redeem or clean up pagan practices. We are expressively and explicitly called to not imitate the ways of the Heathens and to destroy their practices from the land. Exodus 23:24; Exodus 34:13; Numbers 33:52; Deuteronomy 7:5; Deuteronomy 7:25; Deuteronomy 7:26.

§About Legalism

A moment on the issue of legalism. I have been and I know I will continue to be excused of legalism in this issue. I really don’t care. Call it legalism all you want. But this is not my private interpretation but as been shown a teaching by numerous orthodox highly respected Reformed Theologians. It is the position of the Westminster Standards.

Trying to be precise about obeying God’s commands is not legalism, it is obedience, holiness, and love for our Saviour. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

I am so sick and tired of people calling things legalism for keeping the laws of God and being precise on it… THAT IS NOT LEGALISM!!! No one is saying here that we keep the laws of God for Justification…

The world might define it legalism, the modern evangelical church might define it legalism, but that is NOT how the Reformed Faith defines legalism. The Reformed Faith teaches being Precise and being observant in the minutest detail and circumstance in our worship, our doctrine and our practices. That is how we got the name Puritan and Precisionist.

As the Great Puritan Richard Rogers (1551-1618) said, “Sir, I serve Precise God” and as the Great Covenanter Commentator Matthew Poole wrote, “What Galen said of Physics is even truer of religion. There is nothing small and trivial in it.”, he continues elsewhere, “God esteems nothing small in his worship and service, and … he expects his will should be observed in the minutest circumstances.”

You don’t get to redefine terms and pretend you’re “within the bounds”

The tyranny of the call of legalism is on full display when you’re being accused of sin for thinking that something is sin. Wisdom is a thing. It’s in the Scriptures. There are entire books on the topic. The impulse to shout “legalist” at anyone who tries to think through wisdom issues (or expresses an opinion on a wisdom issue) is not a godly impulse. It’s not an impulse derived from Scripture.

“Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.”

And before someone tries to chime in that then we cannot write words or use words, that is a red herring. That and the sacraments are the ONLY forms or symbols we are permitted to use as revealed in the Scriptures.

So please drop the Triquetra, Triangle, and other variations and ways to symbolically portray the Trinity and please do not display it. It offends God, His divine law and me.


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