One will

Trinitarian musings arising from some private discussions with a group of friends. (Note: this is a revised version of my original post).

According to classic Trinitarian theology, will is an linked to nature and, since there is a single divine nature, there is also a single divine will. That’s true; there is only one God, God is one, and He is not at war with Himself.

If that is all we say, though, we run into some snags. In the eternal Triune communion, the Father loves the Son and delights in Him; that is a voluntary love, an eternal, unwavering act of will. But if there is only one divine will without any sort of distinction, it seems that the statement “The Father loves the Son” identical to the “The Son loves Himself.” By the same token, the Son loves the Father; is that simply to say that the Father loves Himself? It seems we have to say that there is some sort of differentiation within the one divine will if we are going to talk about an eternal communion of love that is of mutual love of divine Persons.

When we turn to the economy of redemption, we find a similar differentiation: The Father sends the Son because he wills to send the Son. The Son does not will to send the Son in the same way that the Father does; He wills to be sent. Both will the mission, but that one will has paternal and filial “inflections.”

It’s not the case that the Father and Son come to agreement. The single divine will is not the product of some process of coming-to-agreement. To say that there is a single divine will is to say that the Father and Son have always already been in full and entire agreement. But it seems we must also say that the one divine will is a harmony in will of the Father and Son.

In a Trinitarian context, the confession of “one God” means something different than it does in a Unitarian context. So too, the affirmation of “one will” from a Christian does not mean what it means from, say, a Muslim.

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