In comments, Ed brought up this claim for consideration:
God loves God more than God loves us.
I’ll jot down a few thoughts and then make way for Bobby’s comment at the bottom which nails it in about a tenth the space it takes me. (Which again proves how horribly prolix I am!)
I have two problems with this dictum ‘God loves God more than God loves us’.
One is that an unhelpful divide is being introduced into our conception of God’s triune love on the one hand and His love for us on the other. Union with Christ and participation in God will not be allowed fully to flower in our thinking if such a dictum is axiomatic.
The other problem I have relates back to yesterday’s post about glory. If the glory of God is the cross, then self-sacrificial, other-centred love is not an addendum to a foundationally self-centred glory. Love for the other is the glory of God all the way down to the bottom, so to speak.
To flesh out the first issue…
I reckon the Upper Room discourse (John 17 included) is indeed a very fruitful meditation on the nature of the Father-Son glory and its relation to us. It’s stunning to say but as the Father has loved the Son, so does He love us and that even the love the Father has for the Son has been placed in us. The mutual indwelling – Christ in us, us in Christ, the Father in Him – makes problematic a discussion of a separate love of God for God and God for us.
Now of course there may be distinctions that could, at some point, be flagged up. Things like,
- they are the initiators, we are simply the recipients.
- their love is the original, we’re just included in it.
- they are in by nature, we by grace
- (before union) they could do without me but not without each other.
Those kind of things. But now that we actually dwell within this trinitarian life and, as Peter says, ‘participate in the divine nature’ I think there’s a significant danger of introducing unhelpful divisions into our thinking if we say ‘God loves God more than God loves me.’
We are in God and God loves us in a way inextricably bound up with His own life and glory. Because of Christmas, the Son became what we are so that we become what He is. Now the Father cannot but love us with that very same love with which He loves the Son. To speak of ‘more’ and ‘less’ at this point threatens the reality of union – bride to Bridegroom, body to Head, branches to Vine.
It seems natural to speak of God’s life on the one hand and then ours on the other. But from all eternity the divine intention has not been separation but inclusion. Through God’s glory – the cross – we are taken into His very being.
And this leads to the second issue. When we consider how it is we’ve been included in God’s life, we are shown an astonishing depth to the love of God. He crushed the Son to provide refuge for His enemies. He gave up His Son to save the world. He did not spare His only Son in order to spare sinners. Christ endured hell so that we would not, forsaken so that we would be accepted, etc, etc. And if this is both our definition of love and of glory, well…
I think all these considerations – which you will agree are the very heart of the gospel – make us think again. ‘God loves God more than God loves us’ sounds completely, naturally sensible. But the gospel always makes us rethink the ‘natural’ and the ‘sensible.’
And here’s Bobby’s comment:
I think T. F. Torrance nailed it when he said, paraphrase: “that God loves us, more than He loves Himself,” which the cross proves. Of course this is assuming a very high view of the assumptio carnis (assumption of flesh/humanity—the incarnation) . . . and that humanity, through the incarnation, has been reconciled into the very life of God (cf. I Cor 6:17) . . . so that when Torrance says what He says, He’s not endorsing a Christology from below, but clearly from high, high above.
To respond to Piper’s sequence, as noted by Ed, this assumes a rather inward curved view of God . . . which just won’t do—that is, if the cross actually reveals anything about the being of God.