A Season of Survival, Now
"New" Psalms

The Ubiquitous "3"

3 Have you ever noticed how things so often come in threes?  There's the three-point sermon, for example, that really does seem to be an effective paradigm for preaching.  Or in writing, there is the essay -- introduction, body, conclusion --- and the sentence --- subject, verb, and object.  In argumentation, three points always seems a stronger base than two, and yet after three, the weight of each argument seems undercut, or diluted.  Being an attorney, I am familiar with this; attorneys do go on, you know, and on, and on. . .

3_1 In math, three is the number of perfection.  The triangle, for example, is plain geometry's only stable figure with straight lines.  Give the triangle volume and you have the pyramid -- certainly recognized by the ancient Egyptians as a stable structure (enduring to this day).  Then there's the three-legged stool, certainly more stable than the two-legged stool.

Undoubtedly there are more such examples, but I leave them to you.  (It has even been suggested that sneezes come in threes, though I doubt it.)  The point is, there is something about the number three, something built into the structure of creation that gives it, if not perfection, at least an important status.  What is it?

Christians need not look far.  Three existed before time itself, in the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In fact, prior to Creation, only two numbers seem to matter: one, for one God, and three, in three persons.  So, to the extent we give priority to three, we come by it naturally, as a part of our creation in the image of God.  British Inkling Dorothy Sayers makes just this point in her book The Mind of the Maker, finding the roots of the artist's creative activity in the Trinity, in what she terms Idea (passionless, timeless, beholding the whole work complete at once, the end in the beginning), Creative Energy (begotten of that Idea, working in time from the beginning to end, manifesting the Idea in matter), and Creative Power (the meaning of the work and its essence in the soul, the indwelling spirit).  Never before has anyone said it like Sayers.

But it's not just the Trinity.  As Patrick Henry Reardon has noted, threes keep showing up in Scripture, which is full of tripartite formulations.  So the writer of 2 Corinthians sums up thus: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (2 Cor. 13:14).  The Apostle Paul displayed a particular fondness for the threefold expression of faith, hope, and love, telling the Christians at Thessaloniki of his prayers for them, "remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope" (1 Thess. 1:3).  Yikes, it's even in verse 3!  It's most memorable expression is "And now abide faith, hope, and love, these three" (1 Cor. 13:13). Yikes, threes again!

3_2 Silliness aside, as we really have no warrant for any superstition about numbers, three or otherwise, there is something about the number three, don't you agree?  I think it is creational, a reflection of the Trinity as well as of the simple fact that, as wise Solomon noted, "a threefold cord is not easily broken" (Eccl. 4:12)., that is, such a structure has integrity and strength whether structure, argument, or relationship. (There I go again,thinking in threes!)

But, I'll leave you thinking on that.  I need to go out walking -- three miles today, in honor of God's "3."