I ran across The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton and have been reading it very slowly. I am not reading it slowly to spend time to research the many people and ideas mentioned in the book (although this would be a wonderful idea for a small group). I am reading it slowly because I return to it after long breaks. Recently I read a section that I think will serve as a great apologetic resource and I will do my best to sum up the thought of Chesterton.
It comes in his description of the phrase “God is love.” When we remove Christianity from our thinking about a generic divine being or god, we can quickly observe the oddity of the phrase “God is love.” If God as we understand Him, is a divine being, who existed before time, oversaw creation, and sovereignly rules over all things, why would “love” be a descriptor for such a being. Such a god would be authoritative, sovereign, potentially ruling, but perhaps simply letting creation run out without interference. But, when the phrase “God is love” is spoken by Christian, Muslim, or Agnostic, where is love understood in such a God prior to creation. Before creation and time, god would have been alone. So, how would we understand love in such a solitary divine being? Where would we see the roots of love and relationship? Love would be a hidden, inward, solitary, and perhaps even described as a selfish characteristic. The following quote is Chesterton’s summary:
“For if there be a being without beginning, existing before all things, was He loving when there was nothing to be loved? If through that unthinkable eternity He is lonely, what is the meaning of saying He is love?”
Chesterton does a great job of posing these questions in a way that causes us to think. Alone in eternity, we don’t immediately consider the feeling or objective reality of love. Why love from such a lonely eternal existence? How do we make sense of this from our worldly perspective? He goes on to answer this question:
“The only justification of such a mystery is the mystical conception that in His own nature there was something analogous to self-expression; something of what begets and beholds what it has begotten. Without some such idea, it is really illogical to complicate the ultimate sense of deity with an idea like love.”
And here we see the unique and beautiful understanding that is gained by our Doctrine of the Trinity. God ISlove, embodies love, and calls us to love because of the eternal oneness of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The trinitarian unity of the Godhead separates Christianity from all other religions as there is a foundational love within God that is to be emulated by His divine image bearers. It is that divine relationship that speaks into our own existence and gives us a pattern by which to live. If God is love, then he is relational. As a result, we should seek to emulate his eternal love in our own relationships and see the love of the Godhead as our source for loving that triune perfection, as well as our fellow man. This is a poor summary of Chesterton, but I hope that we take something of the uniqueness of the Christian God and stand in awe of this beautifully complex, but simply truth.