Trinitarian Foundations for Education, Part Three

Read “Part One” here and “Part Two” here.

Made in the Image of a Triune God

This Trinitarian image in all men is precisely the reason teachers could never truly train up their pupils in the way that Rousseau proposes in Emile. Adults having been raised and educated in such a way would never be able to formulate any truly beneficial and productive relationships or operate in any meaningful way in a society comprised of other adults similarly reared and educated. In such a society, each individual part would ultimately drift away from the others as driftwood is carried by the current from the wreckage of a sunken ship.

The foundation for this doctrine does not originate with Paul, though; it goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. When God created man, He created him in His very own image:

        “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:26-27).

Many have warned against making an instant leap from the plural personal pronouns God uses in reference to Himself in this passage to an assertion of Trinitarian theology. It certainly is not enough to make a full argument for the Trinitarian nature of God. However, it is quite worth noting how quickly the passage goes from saying, “Let Us make man in Our image,” to saying, “in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” For all of the speculative conjecture that has come in the thousands of years since the creation in answer to the question What is the image of God? few seem to have taken notice of the very next thing Moses writes: “He created him (singular); male and female He created them (plural).” Man was created unique and man was created to be united in fellowship with others.

Man was never created to be an island unto himself. In fact, before God created woman, He saw fit to vocalize this truth: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18), and after she was created, Adam saw fit to vocalize this truth: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23). As such, man images forth the Triune God who created him; man and woman image forth the Triune God who created them (1Cor. 11:7, 12). “To understand the image of God primarily in terms of relationship, is to see it as not only a gift from God—as he calls us into relationship with himself—but as a task to be undertaken, a destiny to be followed.”[1] In coming to understand this truth more fully, parents, pastors, teachers, and professors will come to have a more firm foundation upon which to build a proper theory of education.


In contrast to the false dichotomy Rousseau has erected in education theory between the training up of men and the training up of citizens, the Bible demonstrates that men find their unique and invaluable identities in working within God-given institutions toward united goals. Paul demonstrates this reality in the way that he instructs Christians to live and function within marriages and churches. The foundation for this view is the image of God in man, insofar as the triune nature of God is foundational for understanding and operating within all human relationships. Married couples, churches, and all of mankind would greatly benefit from studying the doctrine of the Trinity and the implications it has for all of life and godliness. Having done so, they will have a rich and firm foundation for the education and instruction of those who come under their tutelage.

[1]David John Atkinson, The Message of Genesis 1-11 : The Dawn of Creation, Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1990), 39.


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