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“The Triune God’s Answer to Evil,” Part II

June 5, 2011

II.  God as Triune Love

One of the foundational—maybe the—doctrines of Christianity, affirmed by all the major creeds is the idea that God is a triune being consisting of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Indeed, it is the litmus test to determine one’s orthodoxy.  Though this doctrine has been the consternation of many, and endlessly disputed, contemporary thinkers following the Eastern tradition have tended to emphasize the three-ness of God’s oneness.  Rather than see God as being a single unified being, God is seen as a society—or community, keeping with postmodern language—of persons united in perfect love.  The singularly important statement made by John “God is love” (I John 4:12) expresses more than a mere attribute of God:  it expresses the very nature of God’s triune being.

In fact, this statement is actually a defense of God’s triune-ness and therefore a defense of Christian theism when one considers that love by its very nature requires the existence of more than one person.  It is only within Christian theism that the objectivity of love may be established, for it is only in Christian theism that a society of persons—known as God—as always existed.  Love is rooted in the very nature of God’s being.

When we understand that God’s very nature is love which has always existed in the reciprocal fellowship of the Godhead, then we positioned to postulate what God’s goal in creation was and is.  For now we know that God’s purposes flow out of his essence, which is overflowing love.  Thus, we understand that God did not create out of necessity or compulsion in a technical sense, but as an outpouring of agape love.  Actually, in one sense, we might say that God could not help but create, for love always seeks the good of the other—and to exist is a far better thing than not to exist.

If God’s reason for creation is because of the overflow of triune love spilling out, then we would certainly be justified for thinking that God’s goal in creation is that his creatures will experience and reciprocate the divine love.  What more does love seek than to be given and enjoyed by the beloved?  Thus, love is the goal of creation.

So far we have explore the nature of the Trinity and how it roots the goal of God’s creative purposes.  Yet, we have not explored how this relates to the problem of evil.  A popular theistic explanation to the problem of evil is some type of free-will defense.  Put briefly, if God creates human beings with free-will of the libertarian type, then it is a logical contradiction to suggest that he can create such beings free and ensure that they do not sin (bring evil into existence).  Thus, freedom has always been an essential element within the Christian theist’s explanation of how a good and all-powerful God could allow evil.

It is the understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity, though, that anchors the idea of free-will in the first place.  I want to suggest that freedom is not the goal of God’s creative purposes, but the means to it, because love requires freedom.  In order for mankind to receive and reciprocate the unending love of God, we must be free—love that is coerced is not love at all.  So then, it is for the purpose of love that God has created mankind (and perhaps angels) with a freedom to remain in God’s love, or to not, and instead rebel against God which would inevitably bring large amounts of evil into the world.  We have with our understanding of the triune nature of God, both the purpose and goal of God’s creation, and the explanation of why freedom is so essential to God’s creative purposes, and thus why evil was such a necessary possibility.

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 16, 2011 1:44

    Please take my comments as a loving critique by someone who still really struggles with articulating a theodicy that makes sense. I agree with a lot of what you say here. But like most theodicies and attempts to explain why God created, I feel like it fails to show a necessary connection between God and creation. I don’t think love in the Trinity by itself necessitates creation, just like I don’t think God’s glory by itself necessitates creation. You state: “Actually, in one sense, we might say that God could not help but create, for love always seeks the good of the other—and to exist is a far better thing than not to exist.”

    As far as I can tell, this statement has two significant problems: 1) How do we know that existence is better than non-existence, especially if a thing’s existence is miserable? 2) By your logic, God would necessarily need to create an infinite number of worlds with an infinite number of objects, since there are an infinite number of things that do not exist. Furthermore, I think you’ve undercut your entire argument with this statement, because by the same token, you could just have easily argued along these lines:
    1. It is better for things to exist than not to exist
    2. Therefore, it is better for evil to exist. Q.E.D.

    I still struggle with WHY God created. It is difficult to speculate as to why God created, because any attempt to do so makes creation a necessary part of God. Also, I resist systems that tend to reduce God’s goal in creation to one thing like “love” (the current trend) or “God’s glory” (the ol’-fashioned Calvinist trend), though I still love to speculate about them. They are still helpful, if not complete. At this point, I would seek a more direct relationship with God’s essence by asserting that just as God is love, so is God creator. Hence, as creator, God had to create. Now any philosopher at this point would probably argue that I am confusing accidental qualities with essential qualities. I would simply argue that in the singular case of God, what He does IS what He is. This is not necessarily true for any other contingent being. I think this is the point of 1 John. God loves, because God IS love. Similarly, I think that if John had been writing on a different topic, like peace, he would have argued that God gives peace because God IS peace, etc.

    After saying all of that, I’ll give you props for having worked out an answer to evil. I’m still trying to figure mine out…

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