Why We Should Expect God to be a Trinity
by Lenny Esposito
Many times when I discuss Christianity, those of other faiths get tripped up in the idea of a triune God. Skeptics claim the concept of God being three-in-one is a clear sign of the confusion that early Christians had in trying to elevate Jesus to deity while still maintaining a Jewish monotheism. Others, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, simply think that it is contradictory to claim God is both three and one at the same time. However, if you think hard about God and what He entails, you may soon see that the trinity actually solves more problems than it creates.
What Does God Need?
“Before beginning a Hunt, it is wise to ask someone what you are looking for before you begin looking for it.” — Winnie the Pooh1
I doubt that Winnie the Pooh will ever make a list of great theologians, but I think his advice is sound in this question. When we begin to discuss concepts of God, we should at least start with identifying some of the attributes we would agree He would possess. According to Anselm, God is a being “which nothing greater can be conceived.”2 In other words, God has no limitations and no need for help. He is all-knowing (omniscience), all-
powerful (omnipotent), all-loving (omnibenevolent), and requires nothing or no one else in His existence. This last attribute is referred to as aseity in theological circles, and most philosophers agree that God could not be God if He had to rely on something other than Himself.
But we get to an interesting conundrum here. If God is all-loving, who did He love before He enacted creation? The Bible tells us that God is love, yet how can this be if He exists apart from anything else? St. Augustine raised a similar question. He wrote that when he thinks of himself as expressing love “there are three things concerned—myself, and that which I love, and love itself. For I do not love love, except I love a lover; for there is no love where nothing is loved. Therefore there are three things— he who loves, and that which is loved, and love.” 3 So, Augustine says there must be a lover, a beloved, and the relationship of love that exists between the two.
This would place a God who is described as love in a pickle. It would mean that God could not be all loving until He created someone or something to be loved. But if God needs to create something to “become” love, then does that mean God must rely on His creation before He can exercise that attribute? Does this call God’s Aseity into question?
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