Dan Glover offers these expansions on an earlier post where I quoted Edward Vacek’s analysis of the threefold love of God (agape, philia, eros). The rest of this post is from Dan.
Adding to your comments, perhaps each person of the Godhead serves particularly, though not exclusively, to represent and manifest one of these forms of love to those with whom God has entered into relationship.
For example, the Father particularly demonstrates agape toward his children as he selflessly (in the Creator-creature context) and without filling any void in himself brings humans into existence. He knows that many will hurt him and each other yet he creates them and blesses them with the many ‘common’ graces of life. Ultimately, he sends his own Son, whom he dearly loves, to sacrificially redeem his chosen ones who have sinned against him, again showing agape. Of course in his willingness to obey and glorify the Father and give his own life to save God’s children, the Son also shows agape. However, if one of the Godhead is the primary model of agape, it seems to be the Father.
The Son seems to be the primary exemplar of philia. God the Son takes on humanity and the agent of creation takes the form of a creature. The Son becomes a brother of men in order to save those brothers from sin, death and the curse. This is the ultimate display of brotherly love because God the son, infinitely superior to his “brothers”, has humbled himself to identify with them by becoming one of them, suffering all the pains they suffer, enduring all the hardships they endure and infinitely more, and facing all the temptations that are common to his brothers and yet without sin.
And the Spirit seems to me the primary example of erotic love in God’s relationship with his people. The Spirit is the person who functions as the means to make Christians one with the Son just as the Son is one with the Father. When Father and Son together send the Spirit to believers individually and the church as a whole, the Spirit comes to enter and indwell God’s people. This is very intimate language and a very intimate reality. The outpouring of the Spirit makes a new reality, the Church, the Bride of Christ, which is erotic imagery, especially as the NT writers speak of the final consummation of the marriage of Christ and his Bride. And the NT speaks of a mutual indwelling of believers in Christ and he in them, of union with Christ and oneness with each other in the Church. At the outpouring and indwelling of the Spirit, the Son becomes a Father and his Bride, the Church, becomes a Mother, “the mother of us all”, and the fruit of their union are the new births of children of God. And it is the Spirit that brings this union and works to bring the fruit this union produces.
These observations are seen mainly from the perspective of our relationship with God rather than God’s relationship amongst the three persons of the Trinity. However, God relates to his people according to his “nature” and so if what I am saying is true of his relationship to his people, it must be because it is a reflection of his own Triune nature and what he was/is like even prior to and apart from creation. And again, no one person of the Trinity is the manifestation of one form of love. If we say that we are saying that the Son and Spirit never reflect a fatherliness in their love for God’s people, or that the Father doesn’t show a friendship love with believers. Of course each person of the Trinity is one with the other two and their love is intermingled and can’t be separated. But while their love and its manifestations can’t be separated, I believe they can be differentiated just like the persons of the triune Godhead cannot be separated but can be distinguished from each other.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 6:44 pm
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