What is Love? The Triune Reality versus Culturally Constructed Conceptions of Divine Love

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 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]

God is He who in His Son Jesus Christ loves all His children, in His children all men, and in men His whole creation. God’s being is His loving. He is all that He is as the One who loves. All His perfections are the perfections of His love. Since our knowledge of God is grounded in His revelation in Jesus Christ and remains bound up with it, we cannot begin elsewhere—if we are now to consider and state in detail and in order who and what God is—than with the consideration of His love.[2]

Our salvation is not the business of Christ alone but the whole Godhead is interested in it deeply, so deeply, that you cannot say, who loves it most, or likes it most. The Father is the very fountain of it, his love is the spring of all—“God so loved the world that he hath sent his Son.” Christ hath not purchased that eternal love to us, but it is rather the gift of eternal love . . . Whoever thou be that wouldst flee to God for mercy, do it in confidence. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are ready to welcome thee, all of one mind to shut out none, to cast out none. But to speak properly, it is but one love, one will, one council, and purpose in the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, for these Three are One, and not only agree in One, they are One, and what one loves and purposes, all love and purpose.[3]

This is a brief post about God’s love, and God as love. In light of the Royal Wedding and Bishop Michael Curry’s homily on love, I thought it would be apropos to dovetail with that. Beyond that, I have become concerned with how love is being appealed to by mostly younger Christians (and I mean generationally) within the broader evangelical Christian complex. I am already out of time for this post, so let me bring it to a close.

The reality is that God is love indeed; that his singular life is shaped by the threeness of self-giveness one for the other, and one in the other. As this is revealed for us in the economy of God’s life of grace and salvation what becomes clear is that this life of love is one that is constrained by a humiliation of self-sacrifice and place for the other more than place for the self (which is where the self gains its definition). But the sacrifice, the self-for-the-other-in-the-other, is also shaped by the otherness of holiness within which God has eternally inhabited as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is from within this ‘inner-reality’ or ‘antecedent-reality’ wherein his grace for us is given gravity; it is this place, this holiness wherein love is given its order and “delimitation.” In other words, while love is by Trinitarian definition, the mode of giving one for the other from the other for the one, within this unique and strangeness (relative to the world’s conception of ‘love’) of God’s life there is an alien reality to love that this world cannot define it can only be given. This militates against the type of ‘love’ that so many Christians these days are appealing to. They use the language of love without giving it definition, without the propitiation of the cross of Christ; without the utter vulnerability and brutality entailed by the type of love that defines God’s life of self-givenness one for the other the other for the one. I would implore Christians to recognize that God’s love cannot be man-handled by us as based upon social and self projections upon what we construct as the Divine. Nein. God’s love is his for us, and his from himself; he has made clear what that entails, inclusive of his justice, holiness, wrath, and judgment in the Son enfleshed. We must start our thinking of God’s love from this inimically Triune reality and allow that to condition the way we think love for God and love for our neighbor. To allow culturally constructed conceptions of love to dominant our thinking and activities will only result in our own demise.


[1] I John 4.7-10, NASB.

[2] Barth, CD II/1, 351.

[3] Binning, The Works of Hugh Binning (1735 edn.), as cited in Torrance, Scottish Theology, 78–79.


One thought on “What is Love? The Triune Reality versus Culturally Constructed Conceptions of Divine Love

  1. “Gracious as He is Holy.”
    All this brings to my mind this from Barth: “If God’s love is what is revealed to us in Jesus Christ, if Jesus Christ Himself is the revealed love of God, there is an end of the divorce between God’s grace and holiness, and there remains to us only the recognition and adoration of Him who is both gracious and holy: gracious as He is holy and holy as He is gracious” (CD II/1, 367).

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