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C. S. Lewis:

All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that ‘God is love.’ But they seem not to notice that the words ‘God is love’ have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. Love is something that one person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love. (Mere Christianity [revised and enlarged edition, HarperSanFrancisco, 2001], ch. 2; pp. 160-161.

Richard of St. Victor, a 12th century Scottish theologian ministering in France, put it like this:

One never says that someone properly possesses love if he only loves himself; for it to be true love, it must go out towards another. Consequently, where a plurality of persons is lacking, it is impossible for there to be love. (De Trinitate, III.2)

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11 thoughts on “God Is Love Requires More Than One Person in the Godhead”

  1. It is common when speaking of the Divine happiness to say that God is infinitely happy in the enjoyment of Himself… [I]f God beholds Himself so as thence to have delight and joy in Himself He must become his own object. There must be a duplicity. There is God and the idea (logos) of God, if it be proper to call a conception of that that is purely spiritual an idea. (An Unpublished Essay on the Trinity, Jonathan Edwards)

  2. Bill Delvaux says:

    I have taught Mere Christianity to students for a number of years. And I love the idea that Lewis puts forward that love requires there to be a plurality. The Trinity seems like the ultimate mystery. Yet once you accept it, this mystery makes sense of everything else in life, including love.

  3. Ted Bigelow says:

    I’m a devout Trintarian, believe me !!

    But these arguments for plurality in the godhead are man-centered. They come from the ground – up, so to speak. It’s men reasoning from their observations of life and then stretching the obeservation to include God.

    But God never argues this way for His plurality in Scripture.

    Were God but one Person (thankfully so NOT true) could He not love himself without defect?

    Of course. He would be God.

    Once we begin to pat ourselves on the back for our tricksy arguments for God’s Personhood (subsistences) or even His attreibutes, we are in effect pagan. We might have come to the right conclusion, but we used a way to get there that didn’t actually rest on revelation.

    Scipture teaches that “God is love” (1 John 4:7) means the revelation of Father and Son in the cross: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

    Don’t forget. The OT saints beleived in God is love, but were not priviliged to understand the plurality of the Godhead. And they weren’t ignorant worshippers.

    1. John says:

      Thanks Ted. I also think this is a poor argument.

  4. John Love says:

    God is Love without any other created substance. God does not need any one around Him to be Love. Humanism crept into the scull of Mr Lewis, in whom we honor in many other excellent lines. Man is NOT the standard. God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ is and has always been Love Eternal, and will always be–even if Mr Lewis had a second thought of change in mind . . . .

  5. Dan says:

    John, in Lewis’s quote one member of the Trinity loves the others. How is this humanism?

  6. Eduardo says:

    Divine love and divine perfections require more than one person in the Godhead, for in order to love you require an object to love. God requires an object to love that is co-eternal with Him. God did not made the universe to satisfy a need, but did so because of the overabundance that is in Him.

    I agree with Jonathan Edwards:

    “Therefore as God with perfect clearness, fullness and strength, understands Himself, views His own essence (in which there is no distinction of substance and act but which is wholly substance and wholly act), that idea which God hath of Himself is absolutely Himself. This representation of the Divine nature and essence is the Divine nature and essence again: so that by God’s thinking of the
    Deity must certainly be generated. Hereby there is another person begotten, there is another Infinite Eternal Almighty and most holy and the same God, the very same Divine nature.
    And this Person is the second person in the Trinity, the Only Begotten and dearly Beloved Son of God; He is the eternal, necessary, perfect, substantial and personal idea which God hath of Himself; and that it is so seems to me to be abundantly confirmed by theWord of God…

    The Godhead being thus begotten by God’s loving an idea of Himself and shewing forth in a distinct subsistence or person in that idea, there proceeds amost pure act, and an infinitely holy and sacred energy arises between the Father and Son in mutually loving and delighting in each other, for their love and joy is mutual, (Prov. 8:30) “I was daily His delight rejoicing always before Him.” This is the eternal and most perfect and essential act of the Divine nature, wherein the Godhead acts to an infinite degree and in themost perfect manner possible. The Deity becomes all act, the Divine essence itself flows out and is as it were breathed forth in love and joy. So that the Godhead therein stands forth in yet another manner of subsistence, and there proceeds the third Person in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, viz., the Deity in act, for there is no other act but the act of the will…

    And this I suppose to be that blessed Trinity that we read of in the Holy Scriptures. The Father is the Deity subsisting in the prime, un-originated and most absolutemanner, or the Deity in its direct existence. The Son is the Deity generated by God’s understanding, or having an idea of Himself and subsisting in that idea. The Holy Ghost is the Deity subsisting in act, or the Divine essence flowing out and breathed forth in God’s Infinite love to and delight in Himself. And I believe the whole Divine essence does truly and distinctly subsist both in the Divine idea and Divine love, and that each of them are properly distinct Persons.”

    I love Edwards’ essay on the trinity, because I think this was the base of my own Christian Hedonism, just as what happened with pastor John Piper.
    I can love and delight in God because God loves and delights in Himself: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

  7. Bryce says:

    John, the love Lewis is speaking of in this quote is inter-Trinitarian. It is because of this love that the “ontological Trinity” (one of those stupid-big words) can BE love (in the 1 John 4:8 way).

  8. Carlton says:

    If, apart from creation, the triune God is love only to the extent He is three, is He unloving (or less than capable of love) to the extend He is one?

    It seems like, on Lewis’ model, God is love only to the degree we entertain a social trinity.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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