By Elias Ayala
(M.A.T & MDiv)
One of the distinct features of Christian theism is that it is trinitarian in nature. Christians believe in one God who exists as three simultaneous, coeternal Persons denominated, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each Person within the trinity are equal in all their essential attributes. They all share the attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, and all other attributes that are essential to what it means to be God. The scriptures lay out for us a very long list of attributes that are owned by God, one of which includes the attribute of love. Now without providing an imbalanced picture of the biblical God, we also understand that among God’s attributes He is also holy, righteous, wrathful against sin and so forth, but He is also loving and the very standard of love itself. Without the existence of a perfectly loving God to ground the objective nature of love, the concept of love would be relegated to a subjective definition grounded rather in the ever changing opinions of individuals or groups of human beings. Therefore, in order for there to be an objective understanding of love, there needs to exist an absolute standard by which a proposed definition of love can be judged. That standard is God Himself whom the scriptures declare in no unclear terms, is Himself love (1 John 4:8).
The above explanation is very important when we compare the trinitarian God of Christianity with the unbiblical notion of a purely Unitarian God (which by definition denies that God exists as three simultaneous, and coeternal Persons). For it is my contention that a purely Unitarian God cannot hold the attribute of perfect love without being dependent upon the existence of other things or beings apart from God Himself to which He must set His love upon. In other words, on the assumption of a Unitarian God, the attribute of love seems contingent upon the existence of other beings other than God Himself; and thus, the attribute of love would not be an “essential” attribute of God, but an “accidental” attribute of God. A Unitarian God cannot be eternally loving, but rather, contingently loving.
This is not the case on Christian theism. On Christian theism we are told that God “is” love (1 John 4:8), and that God is eternal (Psalm 90:2). If God has always existed, and has always existed complete with all His essential attributes, and love is an essential attribute of God, then it follows that love has always existed. However, it does not seem to be the case that a meaningful understanding of love can exist independent of relationship. It is for this reason that trinitarian Christianity provides the best worldview context for the concept of a perfectly loving God. This truth is wrapped up in the notion that because God has the attributes of eternality, love, and that He exists as a tri-unity of Persons, He has always existed in relationship. God has always existed in an eternal love relationship with the members of the trinity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have eternally loved one another and were never in need of beings external to God Himself in order to exist within a love relationship. Thus, God loves of necessity, and He does not hold the attribute of love contingently.
The apologetic implications of this come in the clarification of God’s aseity; namely, the theological notion that God’s existence is not dependent upon anything outside of Himself, nor are His essential attributes dependent upon things outside of Himself. While there are accidental attributes of God that are contingent upon various external factors and circumstances, God’s essential attributes (i.e. Those attributes that make God who He is), are owned by Him of necessity and do not find their ground and meaning apart from His own essence and being. Understanding these points can prove helpful when skeptics seek to point out apparent problematic aspects of the very concept of God and His relation to His creation.