ITandME blog

Aug. 6, 2018

Tri-unity and Web servers

The following is my best attempt at explaining the concept of 'The Holy Trinity'. Perhaps you've heard of it? Basically the concept refers to God existing in three distinct persons or identities from our perspective. A lot of people struggle with this concept either due to conflicting belief systems or the logical difficulty of God being both one and three at the same time. Many chalk it up to Christians really believing in three gods (polytheism), but this couldn't be further from the truth. I hope to explain or frame this difficulty by way of analogy to something I understand pretty well; a web servers. Perhaps one day I'll revisit this topic using quantum entanglement and qubit states, but for now we'll keep it simple for the sake of the author.

Before we continue, please note I do not hold a degree in theology, philosophy, or divinity. It's a true wonder I hold a degree in anything! Oh, and another disappointment: I most certainly HAVEN'T received some new revelation from God outside what is readily available in the look this stuff up if you don't believe me. It's in the Public Domain.

Even as a layman I've spent a good 15-20 years learning about God and studying the Bible. Being a Christian, I understandably want to be sure about what I believe and verify its clarity, consistency, and relevancy to myself and others. People ask questions and doubts creep in under hard circumstances.

Is God even real?

Does life matter?

If I'm asking these questions, other minds certainly are as well, which is why I started writing. While I can't (and won't) dispel ever rumor or answer every mystery of God, perhaps the use of "unholy" analogies can greatly aid others in understanding holy concepts, Christian or not.

Now, onto my analogy of how a web server could relate to the Trinity. Let me begin with an overview of what I mean by "web server". There are three major parts to these:

Section 1

Backend hardware. Every website (like this one) lives on a physical computer somewhere in the world; computers that are usually uniquely identifiable by serial numbers and what not. While not a strict requirement, the hardware on web servers must be robust enough to handle the churn of 24/7 usage. This is critical for most websites. You remember the last time Twitter went down? Neither do I. Despite their critical nature, however, these backend host servers are never seen by the average user. I'm convinced many don't even believe they exist and that IT people like me are just doing 'magic'. How sad!

Section 2

Next, I want to talk about interfaces to be precise. Ever heard of an IP address? Yeah, this is where they come into play. You're probably more familiar with wireless interfaces these days. While web servers don't normally use wireless, a network interface of any type is simply piece of technology that allows one computer to talk to another. They are sort of split between hardware and software and function as translators. Their physical components are used to connect with a wide range of mediums (radio waves, copper wire, and glass fibre mostly), while their software components translate the 1s and 0s traveling over those mediums into whatever dialect or protocol is appropriate so that the users wishes get properly communicated to the webserver. Like the rest of the backend hardware, network interfaces are integral for the webserver to exist, have a huge presence to the users, but are never really seen by the average person.

Section 3

The last part to these web servers I want to touch is the service they provide; web service! (I know, real creative naming). Web services come in all shapes and sizes, but are basically software applications that publish the source code of a website in such a way you can experience and interact with it via a web browser (Safari, Chrome, etc). Without its web service, a webserver is useless even if the rest of its lights are on. It's the front-end, customer facing, aspect which make websites accessible and useful. Even though they are separate components, they are integral for the whole.

The Bridge

"Gee. Thanks for the 'nerd' demo. What does all this techno-babble have to do with God?"

I'm glad you asked! The way I see it, God is like the webserver in my analogy. That webserver exists in three distinct components or identities; the backend hardware, the network interface, and frontend web service. If any one of those components or identities were missing, the webserver would essentially not exist.

Taking us one step further, those components roughly correspond with the identities of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, as described in scripture. God the Father, for example, is described as 'enduring' in Psalms 136:1

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever."

He is also described as powerful, like the hardware behind a webserver (respectively). 1 Chron. 29:12

"Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and you exalt Yourself as head over Your hand is power and might."

There is even mention of His mystery and depth in Job 11:7

"Can you discover the depths of God? can you discover the limits of the Almighty?".

Again, the words of Jesus in Acts 1:7

"It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority."

All these verses speak to a sort of hidden, yet very present, existence of God the Father behind the scenes of everything we know.

As far as the Holy Spirit goes, I've always seen Him (yes, a person not a thing) as an interface, translating for me what God is trying to communicate or get me to do in ways I couldn't possibly do for myself. Romans 8:26

"The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we out to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans."

Again, the word of Jesus referring to the purpose of the Holy Spirit in John 14:

"I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper who will be with you forever. That helper is the Spirit of Truth...You know him, because he lives with you and will be in you."

The protocol of God is Truth, and that Truth is translated to believers through the person of the Holy Spirit. In an of ourselves we are incapable of understanding or even perceiving God's protocol. However, with God the Holy Spirit, we're able to get connected to His network.


My final correlation is between God the Son and the web service I mentioned earlier. Jesus makes it blatantly obvious that He and He alone is THE "front-end" or "user interface" for God. John 14:6 states:

"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well... Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father."

In case there is still confusion on what He meant, remember He had already made the announcement back in John 10

"I and the Father are one"

Jesus declared Himself to be one with God as a whole, but distinguishes himself as Son by identity, just as each part of a whole webserver can be distinguished from each other in different ways. The clearest example of the Triune God and His three persons is vividly described during Jesus' baptism in Matthew 3:16-17

"And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up out of the water, and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting on him. And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

Scripture is clear about who God is, what protocol He uses, and how we interact with Him. It is also very clear that He is somehow made upof these three identities, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet remains the One True God. We may never know exactly how all the details work, but if technology has taught me anything it's that you don't always have to know all the details to trust a piece of equipment. I know a lot about webservers, but not everything. Yet I still spend most of my day learning about them and supporting them as best as I can. Likewise with God I understand some things, but can't grasp others. That doesn't make Him any less real. Hopefully this analogy and explanation will help others understand that reality and learn to trust Him a little more, despite the complexity.