Monday, May 2, 2016

Do the Father and Son Love the Holy Spirit?


An objection to Trinitarianism I recently encountered on Facebook amounts to the following question, "Why doesn't the Bible say 1. that the Father and the Son love the Holy Spirit or that 2. the Holy Spirit loves the Father and the Son? Especially since it does teach the love between the Father and the Son." The implication being that this might indicate the non-personality of the Holy Spirit and/or the non-divinity of the Holy Spirit. This touches on the Trinitarian teaching of perichoresis or circumincession. The original objector, whom I'll call John B, didn't directly attack or object to the Trinity, but gave his reasons for why one (even himself) can doubt it. I'll post some of the pertinent comments by me and others which serve the purpose of this blogpost. So, I am being selective, not dishonest.

In answer to such an objection I did the following:

1. Point to my blogpost:   The Full Deity of the Holy Spirit
The blogpost provides evidence of the personality of the Holy Spirit, His Divinity and that He experiences emotions like love.

2. Wrote the following comments on facebook (slightly edited):

Regarding the Father and Son loving the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit loving the Father and Son, I agree with Rob Bowman that we can't infer anything from such an absence in Scripture [see Bowman's article titled Arguments from Silence: Bad Arguments against the Personhood of the Holy Spirit #2]. The Scripture wasn't meant to be exhaustive. Besides, there's sufficient Biblical evidence (IMHO) to infer that the Holy Spirit is personal (i.e. a person), fully divine and has emotions as any normal person. So why wouldn't the Holy Spirit love or be loved by the Father and Son? Also, as Dale [Tuggy] likes to point out there are various Trinitarian formulations. I'm not dogmatic on any one position. However, in Jonathan Edwards' essay on the Trinity he argues that the Holy Spirit is the very love of the Father and Son that's eternal and so intense that it is (or he is) personal. Here's a link to John Piper's sermon where he simplifies Edwards' Trinitarian speculation: http://www.desiringgod.org/.../the-pleasure-of-god-in-his... Here's a link to Jonathan Edwards essay on the Trinity : http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/trinity/files/trinity.html

The Holy Spirit has other emotions besides love. In which case, it would make sense that He also has the emotion of love. As I wrote in my blogpost; quote: "[The Holy Spirit] Has Emotions: He can be grieved (Eph. 4:30), vexed (Isa. 63:10). To be able to be offended is a mark of personhood and personality. Though computers can make calculations like humans they can't be offended because they are impersonal and inanimate. While the Holy Spirit has the traits of being a person and of being alive.

Also, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is love (Gal. 5:22; 22 Tim. 1:7). IF the Holy Spirit is a person and can have fellowship with believers (2 Cor. 13:14; Phil. 2:1 et al.), then it only makes sense that He has fellowship with the Father and Son and they with Him. IF the Holy Spirit is a person, then it only makes sense that He would love Father and Son, and for the Father and Son to love the Holy Spirit. Since, as stated above one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is love. It would be strange for the Holy Spirit who produces love in believers toward the Father and Son wouldn't also love the Father and Son. Just as it would be strange for the Father and Son to love the believers who have been enabled to love them (i.e. Father and Son) by the Holy Spirit and not love the Holy Spirit Himself.

We know that the Holy Spirit loves (one of many emotions). This can be seen in the statement in Rom. 15:30 "I appeal to you [or beseech you], brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit". This is a plea exactly corresponding with one Paul had used shortly before "I appeal/beseech you, therefore brothers, by the mercies of God..."(Rom. 12:1).

We shouldn't infer from 2 Cor. 13:14 that ONLY the Father has love, that ONLY the Son has grace, that we can ONLY have fellowship with the Holy Spirit. It seems to me that the right inference is that all three persons have Love, all three persons bestow Grace, and we can have fellowship with all three persons. In which case, it seems likely that there's a love fellowship between all three persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.- 2 Cor. 13:14 ESV   

Another objection I encountered was the following:

It's an interesting argument [Annoyed Pinoy] but I fear is no safer of the weakness levelled at me by Rob regarding the silence. The three most united lovers of the cosmos thus decide to reveal to humanity only one third (or half) of the great love story. I'm guessing you definitely do not side with Rahner and his famous "rule".
Trinitarians can disagree about the rule. Some may accept it and others reject it. I'm inclined to the idea that the economic Trinity in some senses reflects the immanent Trinity. But I'm not inclined to say in every sense. But I'm not dogmatic on that or anything else regarding the deeper issues regarding the Trinity (e.g. whether to accept or reject filioque etc.). It's sufficient for me to be convinced that something like the Trinity is true.

John B wrote: "The three most united lovers of the cosmos thus decide to reveal to humanity only one third (or half) of the great love story." The Scriptures aren't inspired and written to be a systematic theology. We also need to factor in the principle of Progressive Revelation. Even the Apostolic church (when the apostles were alive) grew in its understanding of the gospel and its implications (e.g. whether to include the gentiles, how OT laws like sabbath, kosher, etc. apply). That was apparently true of their understanding of who Jesus and the Holy Spirit were/are. 

We also have to remember that most of the New Testament is in the form of letters/epistles. So, the Apostles wouldn't have written everything into any one letter. They weren't meant to be systematic books. They also assume knowledge on the part of their original readers. The way you are using Biblical silence is the same way Christ Mythicists point out the alleged "fact" that Paul doesn't talk much (or at all) about Jesus' physical and historical existence as evidence that Paul didn't believe in a historical space/time Jesus. For example, Paul doesn't explicitly refer to Jesus' being born of a virgin. It would be a false inference to assume Paul didn't believe in the virgin birth merely because he didn't mention it explicitly.

We know that the Holy Spirit approves (Acts 15:28) and disapproves (Eph. 4:30) of things like any other person. Are we really to believe that the Holy Spirit is indifferent to (or neutral regarding) the Father and Son and vice versa? If the Holy Spirit is a person, then why would the Father and Son be indifferent/neutral to the Holy Spirit? One of the marks of morality is to treat persons as persons and with the dignity and/or love they deserve. It would be immoral for any of the persons of the Trinity to be indifferent/neutral to any other person of the Trinity.

In John 16:14 Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would "glorify Me" (ESV, NASB, NKJV, NET). The Greek word underlying "glorify" would seem to include esteem. Esteem can be a form of love and so would be consistent with the Holy Spirit loving Jesus. Are we to believe that the Holy Spirit doesn't have such an esteem for the Father? Also, while there are many passages that tell/teach us of the Father's love for the Son, how many are there that teach the Son's love for the Father? I can't think of one at the moment. Assuming they exist, the passages that teach the Father's love for the Son far outnumber those that teach the Son's love for the Father. The truth of a true proposition isn't made more true merely by it's repetition. Only in a systematic theological book would you want to balance every truth with exactitude. But again, the NT isn't a systematic theology.


Can you help me find one verse in the NT that teaches that Jesus loves the Father? One that doesn't use "glorify" so that there's no doubt about the love aspect that you're focusing on.

Yes, Jesus as a human being was required to obey the commandment to love God with all one's heart/mind/soul/strength. But where does the NT teach that Jesus, as the unique Son of the Father loves the Father. I believe it. But I'm hard pressed to find a Biblical passage to support it.

The only passage I can find is John 14:31. 

If there's a paucity of NT passages that teach Jesus loves the Father yet we can nevertheless infer that Jesus does love the Father, then it shouldn't be surprising that there isn't an exact verse that explicitly teaches the Holy Spirit loves the Father and Son just as the Father and Son loves the Holy Spirit. It should be enough that they are intimately related in the NT, each is divine with divine prerogatives, each is a person, and none of the persons are any of the other two (i.e. Modalism is false). With those premises it makes it likely that each person of the Trinity loves the other two.



UPDATE (6/16/2016)

I recently re-read Jonathan Edwards; An Unpublished Essay on the Trinity and found the following quote:

(This I suppose to be the reason why we have never any account of the Holy Ghost's loving either the Father or the Son, or of the Son's or the Father's loving the Holy Ghost, or of the Holy Ghost's loving the saints, tho these things are so often predicated of both the other Persons.)
In his essay Jonathan Edwards argues that the Holy Spirit is literally the eternal and infinite love between the Father and the Son that is so strong that it results in the eternal distinct person of the Holy Spirit (corresponding to the eternal procession or spiration of the Holy Spirit in classical Trinitarian theology). In the quote above Edwards supposes that since the Holy Spirit is literally the eternal infinite love between the Father and the Son, there would be no purpose to refer to the Holy Spirit's loving the Father and the Son or the Father and the Son loving the Holy Spirit since it is intrinsic and essential to that intra-Trinitarian love by definition.

I recommend reading the entire essay to get the full impact and intent of what Edwards was getting at. I borrowed Edwards speculations on the Trinity in my blogpost:

Jesus the True and Proper SON of God





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