From Chapter 9: Trinity
Christians believe that God is eternally “triune” or Three-in-One: Father—Son—Holy Spirit, whose self-subsisting unity is at the same time “unity in diversity” marked by a certain order, relationships, and precedence of operations. The Father originates, the Son reveals, the Spirit executes, so that we can say that creation is the work of the Father through the Son, by the Holy Spirit. From this triune internally self-giving mystery, the gifts of creation and grace flow in freedom and love.
Here “gift” is to be understood first as the reciprocal bestowal of love between the divine Persons and their yielding to one another, revealing God as the truly living One. The internal dynamism of the Creator as Trinity is thus free from stagnation or passivity. The gift also manifests externally as the well-spring of creation, the divine energy as Love. While God’s love-based inner unity negates the possibility of any dualism at the heart of the universe, divine communication and love toward the creation brings forth an ordered cosmos of diversity.[i] By the same token, God’s inner diversity makes room for creation’s boundless variety that gives rise to the widely diversified and beautiful forms of the natural world.
Moreover, this love-energy renders all things, from quarks to quasars, alive and precious. Love also constitutes God’s self-communication inward among the three Persons (in an absolute sense) and outward in revelation (in a relative sense). Hence, a theological vision that unifies our understanding of the new cosmic story, from atoms to molecules, to ecosystems, even to consciousness and social structures, must somehow reflect such trinitarian traits as unitive living together characterized by mutual indwelling, loving interaction, and compassionate sharing. In other words, because God in Trinity is ultimate wholeness as well as the depth of dynamic love, God’s self-communication in creation turns the unfolding of the cosmos into an ecstatic, intensely relational yet unitive display of his glory. Held in the embrace of that love, all creatures are drawn forward towards their own becoming by the longing of love, for love without longing for unifying fulfilment is unthinkable. Hence, trinitarian love cannot be external to the creation, for what the Trinity brings forth springs from the depths of its own interiority. Saying it in another way, since this love is mutual and reciprocal between divine subjects, its eternal flow cannot relate to the creation at “a distance” as one would love an object. For in the final analysis trinitarian love is creation’s fundamental subject that not only holds in unitive wholeness the diversity of creation but also imparts to every element its unique identity from within. Uncontainable by a finite creation, eternal love’s overwhelming excess simultaneously serves to draw the creation ever onward toward greater depth, relationship, union, life, and becoming.
This conception modifies an important plank in the traditional understanding of creation as Australian theologian Denis Edwards (1943 -2019) has noted: God does not create “discrete individual beings through a series of interventions” but rather “in one divine act … [that] embraces the whole process … [enables] what is radically new to emerge in creation … .”