Unity and Diversity are Equally Basic – Cornelius Van Til
The fact that Christians confess a Trinitarian God bears implications that all Christians, I think, already assume but rarely articulate. The Trinitarian God, for example, is the rationale for God’s absolute self-sufficiency from before the creation of the world. Before creation was, God alone is. He was blessed in and of himself, in need of nothing outside of himself to be who He is.
Now we also know that God has created the world for his own glory (Is. 43:7; Col. 1:15-17). Yet this glory depicted in creation and redemption, in a sense, adds nothing to the absolute glory that God had before creation came to be. How can this be? The Trinitarian nature of God supplies for us the answer. Before creation was, God the Father, Son, and Spirit co-indwelled each other and glorified one another in perfect unity and harmony. The Son glorifies the Father, and the Father glorifies the Son. To believe that human beings can add anything to this already all-consuming glory would be to make a grievous mistake (as Psalm 50 and the book of Malachi attests). God is not in need of anything, and the glory for which God made the world, though is something new, paradoxically adds nothing to the glory that God had always possessed.
That God is not in need of anything outside of himself entails God’s sovereign freedom. Nothing outside of God can coerce God to action for nothing could compromise who God is as glorious. The means and ends that God chooses are chosen freely. God is independent, and because this is so there is no standard outside of Himself to which he must conform to be who He is, and no goal outside of Himself to which He must achieve to be who He is. He alone is the sufficient reason for His own perfections.
God’s glory is the manifestation of His own attributes, His own character. One of the essential attributes of God is the love of God. Before the creation of the world God was always love, even when there was no creation to love. As the Gospel of John implies (Jn. 17:5; 22-24), however, this love is already exemplified precisely because God’s unity is a unity in diversity. Love requires a beloved and cannot be exemplified without it. If God’s perfection assumes that God is love, and God’s love requires the existence of a beloved, then without the existence of a beloved God cannot be perfect. Now, if God’s unity were a unity without the Three Persons, then God would be in need of something outside of Himself – an object of love – to be perfect. God would then need to create to be who He is. He would then be dependent on creation. This would compromise God’s independence and therefore this would also compromise who He is as sovereign. A devastating and unbiblical conclusion.
The Trinity, as revealed from the Scriptures, depicts for us that God, even prior to creation, was the God of perfect love. This is so because there never was a moment where God existed without being the Trinitarian God. There never was a time where the Father was without the love of the Son and the communion of the Spirit. This love is always exemplified in eternity. Love, again, is a necessary attribute of God, as revealed by the Scriptures, and without love God would not be God. God is perfect, in part, because He is love. He is love because He exists as a Triune God.
Notice, then, that the Trinitarian God as revealed from the Bible shows us a God who is entirely unique. A pure theology of unity cannot supply a rationale for God’s independence, glory, self-sufficiency, or love. Thus, the unity that is accrued to the Christian God is a unity revealed from divine revelation; it is a unity distinct from the sort of unity constructed by human reason. It is a unity that assumes a diversity. The One brings us to the Three, and the Three brings us to the One.