Arguably one of the most important teachings in the Bible is the proclamation that “God is love,” which is found in verses like 1 John 4:8 and 16.

This brief, powerful statement is laden with theological implications. I’ve also found it helpful when discussing how God loves people with those who hold non-Christian, yet theistic conceptions of God (God as a single, solitary person and being).

Because “God is love,” one of the most attractive features of my faith as a historic Christian is the Trinity. For God’s triunity reveals that there is a plurality of persons within the one divine being of God. And that means that God is analogous to a loving human family. Theologian Gerald Bray sheds further light on the love shared among the members of the “divine family” so to speak:

“God cannot be love unless there is something for him to love. But if that something were not part of himself, he would not be perfect. The Bible does not teach us that God needed the creation in order to have something to love, because if that were true, he could not be fully himself without it. So Augustine reasoned that God must be love inside himself. To his mind, the Father is the one who loves, the Son is the one who is loved (the ‘beloved Son’ revealed in the baptism of Jesus), and the Holy Spirit is the love that flows between them and binds them together.”1

I think what makes the Trinity so important for Christians to appreciate is that it allows God to “be love” within himself and therefore not in need of finding love outside (in his creation). This idea came out in a recent dialogue I had online with a Jehovah’s Witness. I think this dialogue concerning the triune God and love might be helpful for all of us.

Debating God’s Nature Online

Me: If Jehovah as a single solitary God is also loving, whom did Jehovah love in eternity past before he created Christ, angels, and human beings? Was Jehovah lonely? Did Jehovah have to create to get love?

JW: The Almighty God Jehovah doesn’t have needs. Would that not conflict with being almighty? Appeal to sentimentality cannot reconcile your clearly unscriptural doctrine. Christ will always be in subjection to his father.

Me: Love is not mere sentimentality. If Jehovah is a loving God then he has to give that love to someone. Love is defined by giving. But in eternity past, Jehovah [on the JW view] had no one to love. True love is not narcissistic. As a single, solitary God, wasn’t Jehovah either needy or loveless? The Trinity, on the other hand, has loving equals.

JW: All creation had a beginning including Jehovah’s firstborn [Jesus]. God had no beginning, but has lived forever into the past. He was not lonely, or needy as you imagine. He began creating because he wanted to, not because he had to. He has no insecurities, and no equal.

Me: True love includes both giving and receiving. Jehovah [according to the JW view] had no equal to love and no one to give him love in return. Love requires another equal person. It seems a God with no one to love means either God was desperate or loveless. Neither qualifies as a true God of love.

JW: Love is what moved God to begin creating. He obviously put a lot of thought into it. You’re trying to warp the Scripture. It says God IS love, that doesn’t imply that before he created his firstborn, he was not in love with the concept of creating. It took love to create.

Me: Since the Bible says “God is love” (1 John 4:8), how is Jehovah a loving God when before creation he is all alone without someone to love? When you knock on people’s doors as a JW, do you tell people Jehovah is a loving God? What if they ask how? It is OK if you don’t know. Ask the leaders at the Watchtower.

Using the Trinity

I had been interacting with this person off and on over a couple of days online about the Trinity, but it seemed to me that the interaction changed when I asked about God being love. The respondent became more candid and reflective. It was no longer just a cerebral doctrinal debate. I’ve had similar dialogues with Muslims and Jews about a unitarian (single, solitary being; one God, one person) deity and the issue of love. Those who affirm a unitarian God (non-Christian theistic religions) have trouble responding to this argument about love. Non-trinitarian conceptions of God—a supreme, perfect being without needs—put him in a position of lacking someone to love and therefore requiring his creation for fulfillment.

Maybe the reason that this conversation takes on a unique dimension is that all of us want and need love, and especially the perfect love of God.

Think about this argument carefully and consider using it with those who deny the Trinity.

Reflections: Your Turn

How does God being a Trinity make a difference in your life as a Christian? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources

Check out more from Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org

Endnotes
  1. Gerald Bray, “8 Things We Can Learn from Augustine,” Crossway, November 16, 2015, crossway.org/articles/8-things-we-can-learn-from-st-augustine.

 

About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.



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