I don’t have much time to blog these days, but before my theology class moves into another week and on to new topics, I don’t want to leave the topic of the trinity without at least one more quote from Reeves. (I’ve finally discovered how to copy and paste from the Kindle app for Windows 8. I wouldn’t have known to go to my Kindle cloud to find the parts I’ve highlighted without having done a Google search.)
Reeves (and apparently Tim Keller follows this same train of thought) has the following to say about the trinity and love:
“My Chosen One in Whom I Delight”
Now, God could not be love if there were nobody to love. He could not be a Father without a child. And yet it is not as if God created so that he could love someone. He is love, and does not need to create in order to be who he is. If he did, what a needy, lonely thing he would be! “Poor old God,” we’d say. If he created us in order to be who he is, we would be giving him life.
No, “Father,” says Jesus the Son in John 17:24, “you loved me before the creation of the world.” The eternal Son, who according to Colossians 1 is “before all things” (Col 1:17), the one through whom “all things were created” (Col 1:16), the one Hebrews 1 calls “Lord” and “God,” who “laid the foundations of the earth” (Heb 1:10)—it is he who is loved by the Father before the creation of the world. The Father, then, is the Father of the eternal Son, and he finds his very identity, his Fatherhood, in loving and giving out his life and being to the Son.
That is why it is important to note that the Son is the eternal Son. There was never a time when he didn’t exist. If there were, then God is a completely different sort of being. If there were once a time when the Son didn’t exist, then there was once a time when the Father was not yet a Father. And if that is the case, then once upon a time God was not loving since all by himself he would have had nobody to love.
(kindle location 329)
The context of the discussion above is that other monotheistic religions, like Islam and Judaism, do not believe in a triune God. Their god is smaller. Their god is only a single entity. Islam states that “Allah” has many names/descriptions. One of these is that he is a loving god. Reeves makes the point that before any of these gods created anything (because these religions all state that their god is the creator of everything that exists), these gods were alone. There was nothing and no one else in existence. We believe this about the God of the Bible as well.
However, in the case of “Allah” or the god of Judaism, these non-triune gods had nothing to love but themselves. If these gods are indeed love or loving, then they must exercise love. But how or whom could they love when there was no one else to love but themselves? Is this the ultimate example and definition of love? A god who loves himself? Is this perfect love? Perhaps these religions would state “yes, that is perfect love.” To us this seems far less than perfect love to merely love oneself. Should the followers of these gods emulate their gods perfectly, I think we would call these followers the ultimate example of selfishness, not love.
Think about what you may know or have observed of Islam or Judaism. They tend to be cold, impersonal religions that are based strictly on rules and particular pieces of information. The connection to their god is not warm, loving, and relational. Their idea of eternity may likewise not involve such relations as well, especially Islam, which mere promised “paradise” with rewards, but Allah doesn’t appear to show up and be an intimate part of the deal. He has no reason to. He doesn’t love his creatures, he merely rewards those who meet whatever standards and requirements that he has laid out. There is no sense of “knowing” him.
One of the beauties of the trinity is that God can love Himself. The Father loves the Son. The Son loves the Father. The Father and Son love the Spirit, and the Spirit loves the Father and Son. The three persons know each other infinitely and intimately. This is a perfect love, and a love that we as God’s followers can emulate. We can know and love the Father and the Son and the Spirit. God exudes love from His Being, and we, as people filled with the Spirit of God, can likewise be people who love God and other people with all of our being as well. (1 John has much to say about this topic of God’s love, esp. chapter 4:7-5:5; continuing through 5:13, John connects love, faith/belief, and eternal life with knowing God as the trinity and remaining in Him.)
There are many potential ramifications to the hypothetical existence of other single gods concerning love. I think we would conclude that whatever love is from such self-centered gods, we would have no part in their love. We would find no enjoyment in or from their love. These gods are incapable of loving their creation because for those gods, perfect love is inward rather than outward. “Allah” could not be god should he love anyone aside from himself because in doing so, he would no longer be perfect as he would be loving something less than perfect (i.e. anyone other than himself). The same is true with the god of Judaism.
However, with the triune God of the Bible, He loves others and His love is perfect. Each person of the trinity loves the other persons of the trinity because He loves to love: God is love. Sharing love is the point of love. Thus, for God to love mankind does not result in an imperfection, His outward love serves to exalt the love of God even more. No other monotheistic religion can lay claim to this perfect pattern of love that our triune God demonstrates for us.
What are you thinking about these things?