Is it okay to use symbols to represent God?

I think it is okay to use symbols to represent the Trinitarian God as long as we are not using them in worship, prayer, or adoration. (I will get to the Scriptures that talk about this below). Sometimes, in presentations and seminars, I might teach about the person of Jesus, salvation, or the Trinity. I’ll often produce PowerPoint slides as teaching aids. I like to use symbols to represent different themes. So, for example, if I’m teaching about the Hypostatic Union and the Communicatio Idiomatum as they relate to Christ, I might use a symbol below as a section heading.

Note: These symbols can be found here:

So, such symbols help to clarify, show distinction, etc. But, it would not idolatrous or violate the second commandment found in the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:4. However, we cannot use any symbols, images, carvings, icons, etc., in worship. That is clear according to Scripture.

The Trinity

Likewise, when I teach on the Trinity, I might use a triangle or something I developed like this below. (Feel free to use it).

Is this symbol sinful? I do not see how it can be since it is only meant to illustrate a concept.

Other examples of the symbol of the Trinity

Here are some other examples of the Trinity I found online. I do not believe they violate the second commandment about not making graven images. They are just symbols used to illustrate a concept.

These symbols can be found here:

Some say don’t use any images, ever.

However, there are those who say we should not use any symbols for God at all. I understand and applaud the concern to be biblical and not violate God’s word. But, according to the Scripture, listed below, the key issue about them is not bowing before these images. In other words, we don’t use them as aids in our worship of the true and living God. Check them out.

Exodus 20:4-5, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me.”
Exodus 34:17, “You shall make for yourself no molten gods.”
Lev. 26:1, “You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or a sacred pillar, nor shall you place a figured stone in your land to bow down to it; for I am the LORD your God.”
Deut. 4:16–18, “so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the sky, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water below the earth.”

There are many other verses like this, such as Exodus 32:8; Leviticus 19:4; Joshua 23:7, 16; Judges 2:19; 2 Kings 17:35; 2 Chronicles 25:14-15; and Isaiah 44:15. I recommend you take a look at them.

In the verses listed above, you’ll notice the warning against making an image of God – and that people do not bow down before them (Exodus 20:5; Lev. 26:1). We are not to bow down before these symbols, images, icons, statues, or whatever. So, if a Bible teacher, seminar teacher, or a preacher used an illustration of a triangle to represent God while teaching, is that idolatry? I do not see how it could be since it isn’t used for worship or intended to be anything before which anyone bows down and serves (Exodus 20:5).

However, if that same preacher were to make a triangle and put it at the front of the church and then request that people come forward, kneel, and pray before it, then that would be wrong. We aren’t supposed to bow down before any images.

Images of Creation

If you were to go through the above Scriptures, you’d notice that they also forbid making images of things in the water or under the earth (Exodus 20:4), male or female, an animal, winged birds, things that creep on the ground, or fish (Deut. 4:16-18). If people are to take the idea of not making a representation of God via a symbol, then what about the rest of the categories mentioned in Scripture? Are they being consistent and rejecting statues of people, photographs of family members, jewelry of birds, or a memorial photograph of their pet dog?

Where do we draw the line? It’s simple. We can use symbols to represent God, but we are not supposed to use those symbols in worship. That’s where things go wrong.

Symbols everywhere

We use symbols all the time. Automobiles have symbols on their hoods. Sometimes, book publishers have symbols representing their organization – even Christian publishers. Many clothing brands have symbols. In fact, Christians use the cross as a symbol to represent their place of redemption. But true Christians don’t bow before a cross and pray before it. That would be sinful. Of course, the Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox physically bow down before statues and icons and use them in worship services. This is idolatrous, and they need to stop. But that’s another topic.


We can employ symbols to represent God as long as we’re not using them in prayer, adoration, or worship (Exodus 20:4-5; Lev. 26:1; Deut. 4:16-18). But we don’t want to go overboard, either. The Scriptures that forbid bowing down before images and warn against making graven images also say not to create images of birds, fish, bugs, people, etc. So, it would make more sense to say that the warning in Scripture about images deals with them used in worship services. It’s okay for us to have a picture of our mom, a favorite dog, close friends, and even triangles representing the Trinity, a fish representing Jesus, or a dove representing the Holy Spirit.



Related Articles

What is the Trinity?
Ontological Trinity
Is the Roman Catholic adoration of Mary really idolatry?

The post Is it okay to use symbols to represent God? appeared first on Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry.






Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: