God Is Love

God Is Love October 19, 2017

According to the doctrine of the Trinity, the ultimate source of all things, the God in whom we live, move and have our being, is both one and plural, one God in three persons. This has enormous implications for how we think of the world.

In ancient philosophy, the highest reality was always thought of as a unified reality. The Form of the Good for Plato, the unmoved Mover of Aristotle, the One of Plotinus and other neo-Platonists. The highest reality was pure unity.

Diversity, plurality, difference was seen as defective or at least as a lesser form of being. Plurality is a fall from an original unity, and the ultimate aim is to be united with the One, to be reabsorbed into unity.

If God is the Triune Creator, this must be wrong. There is difference at the highest level of reality. The source of all things isn’t unified, nor is it a triad of interchangeable persons. It is a fellowship of distinct Persons who are eternally distinct from one another.

Modernity tends in the other direction from ancient thought, Instead of privileging unity, modern thought tends to privilege difference and diversity. Each individual is unique. And, in some forms of modern thought and culture, each individual is treated as a impenetrable atom of human nature. Each is unique and separated. Unity isn’t the original form, but a kind of totalitarianism.

Again, if God is Triune, this must be wrong. There is individuality in the Trinity, but it’s an individuality that is completely dependent on relationality. The Father is individually and uniquely Father because He begets the Son by the Spirit. The Son is uniquely the Son; He will always be Himself and not be Father, but He is so because He is eternally begotten by the Father.

Postmodernity, like modernity, emphasizes difference, but sees all difference as competitive and conflicted. Differences can only be brought into unity by force. The doctrine of the Trinity says that at the origin of all things, what sustains all things, is a God who is internally diverse yet thoroughly at peace. The Father, Son, and Spirit exist within an eternal fellowship that is a harmony of difference.

The ancient problem was one of one and many. What the Trinity shows is not that one and many can be balanced. It shows that the purest form of unity is harmonious diversity, and diversity is dependent on relation. One and many aren’t the same after the Trinity.

That’s still pretty abstract. Let’s make it a bit more concrete and practical.

The Triune God isn’t simply diverse, or triadic. You can have a triad of geometric shapes, but that’s hard to warm up to. The Triune God is a communion of persons.

There has been a good bit of discussion of late about what it means to say that there are three persons in one God.

It has been argued that the early church brought a revolution in metaphysics, the part of philosophy having to do with being. Before Christianity, “person” wasn’t considered an exalted feature. The highest beings were not personal beings, but principles, beyond the interaction and relation that we associate with persons. Christianity changed that by saying that “person” is not merely a role or a mask, but the fundamental reality of the universe and of human beings.

Some will say that “person” doesn’t mean the same thing in ancient Christian writing as it does today. It doesn’t imply “personality.” That’s true. The word has changed meaning over time.

Yet, if we stick with the premise that God shows Himself as He truly is, then we have to say that the Father, Son, and Spirit are persons in something like our sense of the term. They communicate with one another; they speak and reply; they act and react; they love and return love; they give and give again; they make decisions.

The Triune God is the source of all things, the One who keeps all things in existence. And the Triune God is a communion of Persons. We live in a world of cosmic personalism. What moves the world isn’t an impersonal force like Evolution or fate. What moves the world is the Father of Jesus, the Father who is like Jesus, and who moves the world by the Spirit of Jesus.

We can take a step further: We live in a world of cosmic love. The highest unity isn’t the unity of a BB. It’s the unity of persons in a communion of love. The world originates in love. Love is the secret force that moves all things. Love is the destiny of all things.

Human beings are made in the image of this God of love, and so we are destined for love, loving communion with God that produces loving communion with one another.

Love is the organizing principle of the world, and any community without love is out of sync with the ways of the world. Any political or economic system that excludes love is perverse. Any economic system that creates a zone of giftlessness, of loveless competition, fails to reflect the economy of God, which reveals the God who not only shows Himself to be, but is love.

There is no deeper or more precise statement about God’s being than this: God is Love.

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  • Asbrown

    Deuteronomy 6:4 Hear oh Israel, The LORD our God, the LORD is one….

  • rtgmath

    The author thus argues for a Christian Pantheon of Gods. We have three Gods! But we call them One God. One God and Father of all. But three.

    Oh dear. “He is so because He is eternally begotten by the Father” — what does that even mean? There is no Scripture affirming this. Quite the contrary. “So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.” Hebrews 5:5.

    The Jews did not have any such Trinity in their description of God. Nor a duality. There was never a hint of it.

    And this is why the early Christians wrestled so hard with the idea of Christ’s deity. Many believers did not accept that because even Christ did not claim to be God. He called himself the Son of Man.

    I would suggest the author do a better job explaining the basis for the Trinity, and acknowledge the historical difficulties Christians have had accepting it (including the Scriptures that do not support the deity of Christ). The way the author goes about addressing the topic here seems to be lopsided and full of assertions without anything to back them up.

  • rtgmath

    What you said! ^^

  • Asbrown

    I believe in Christ’s Deity, because I accept his confession that “Before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58). I understand the trinity in terms of Acts 17:28 “For in him we live and move and have our being.” If that is how we are and Christ was as we are in every way but without sin, then Christ also lived and moved and had his being “in Him.” Christ was Emanuel – “God with us”. With the same physical existence as us – in the flesh – but was God with us in this existence. How is that possible? I don’t know. I’m not God. And That is my personal gripe with the Trinity doctrine, which is NOT biblical and does “add to scripture” in a way that violates Deuteronomy 12:32 “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it” particularly when expressed as some kind of Heaven or Hell issue rather than an opinion.

  • Jeffrey Mackey

    David Yeago, PhD, of Trinity School for Ministry even finds the “Wrath of God” as positioned in God’s love. “God’s wrath is the militant refusal of the love of God to settle for less than it intends for his beloved.”

  • steveprost

    I think we must be careful in ranking what is more intrinsic/elevated in not only Scripture’s many propositional statements of “God is…” which include consuming fire, but in the whole narrative of God’s Word that not only state but demonstrate over the whole course of our revealed glimpse of redemptive history what our Triune God is.

    The statement of Dr. Yeago it seems to my logic is locktight true and irrefutable. Adding a word such as “God’s wrath is ONLY…” or “God’s wrath is NOTHING MORE THAN…” would to my study be both highly speculative and not supported by Scriptural teaching, narrative, or poetry.

    True, at the foundation of the triune biblical persons there is infinite love and an absence of wrath in how the persons are in relation to one another…
    but there is an infinite glorious BIGness and infinite intriguing AWESOMEness that fearfulness comes much closer to capturing in the creaturely languages of this world that “love” does not connote even there as the triune persons view one another by necessity… And thats speaking from WITHIN the divine persons, a place of perspective from which we will be forever “in union” with and “like” but forever viewing from outside even in glory… how much more so should we have trembling pious caution using that as a basis to rank the beauty/essence of diviine attributes here apart from clear Scriptural warrant.

    You can not limit or rank as “less essential” “less glorious” “only derivative” those holy holy holy qualities of justice, fearfulness, courage, etc. that the Triune persons would never have opportunity to demonstrate to us in relation to One Another due to the lack of opportunity to express them because of divine perfection… one of the reasons perhaps we have a Creation.