1 John 4:8 (ESV)
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
1 John 4:16 (ESV)
“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
Many Christians like to tote out these massively important passages of Scripture for the sole purpose of shutting an opposing opinion down or making themselves out to be much holier than other “less loving” Christians. However, I believe we are, with alarming regularity, overlooking the most basic and beautiful statement that can ever be made about God. God is love. He really and truly is. There is no fine print here. There are no theological hoops to jump through. God is love. We may rest in that truth. We may also tremble before it. But, what does this statement really say about God?
This, brothers and sisters, is the hinge upon which Trinitarian Theology turns. If God is love, he cannot be Unitarian. Love absolutely has to have three things: a lover (the person who loves), a beloved (a person who is loved), and a conduit through which/whom this love is delivered. In other words, love is not a lonely business.
Allow me to explain the difficulty Unitarian theology has with this. If we believe the above verses, and we also believe that God is eternal, and that God existed pre-Creation, Unitarian theology must assert that love is a lonely business. In Eternity Past, whom, or what, did God love? He must have loved something because God is love. He didn’t, at any point become love, or else he isn’t God. God doesn’t learn things like love. God doesn’t learn things at all. God is God. So, whom, or what, did God love? Did he love himself? He must have! Did he love himself perfectly? He must have! This creates a terrible problem! Why the Cross?
If God loved himself, and God is unipersonal, he needed nothing else. All else is unnecessary and distracting from himself. If God loved himself perfectly, God has no need for anyone or anything other than God. Unless we are going to claim that God creates things for no reason at all, and then dies to redeem the needless Creation, Unitarianism gives no satisfactory answer to the question of whom God loved.
So, how does Trinitarianism answer the question? Trinitarianism answers the question thusly: God the Father, by the Spirit, loved God the Son such that God the Father wanted to glorify God the Son. God the Father is the lover. God the Son is the beloved. God the Holy Spirit, is the conduit through whom that love is delivered. Yet, these Three are but One God. So, God the Father created all things for the purpose of providing the Son a Bride. Adam fell, and sin corrupted everything. God the Son, wanting to glorify God the Father, died on the cross to redeem the Bride whom the Father had given him. Because this was the will of the Father, the Son was glorified in this. The Bride is the Church. The Holy Spirit draws people to join the Bride of Christ in order to glorify both the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is glorified in this indirectly. Love is genuinely shown in that none of the three Persons seeks his own glory, but the glory of the other two.
“Ashton, it sounds an awful lot like you are talking about three, independent Gods,” you might be thinking. I assure you I am not. To quote the Athanasian Creed, “we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.” These three Persons are all God. They are not parts of God, and they are not modes of God. They are all fully God. How does all of this work? I got no clue. The Trinity is a great mystery and one that we cannot unravel. It is, however, foundational to Christian theism and logic. The Scriptures demand a Trinitarian God though, they do not fully explain him. Let us plumb the depths of this magnificent truth and see what great spiritual growth comes from it! What a marvelous God is ours who claims he is love. Soli Deo Gloria.