Could a non-Trinitarian God create the world?

God is Love
~1 John 4:8

On a Christian Theology, God is one being, and simultaneously three persons without contradiction since persons are not identical to beings, nor is one being necessarily at most one person. The most advantageous insight which this vision of God has introduced has been a way for God to actually be Love. Love is by definition, it seems, shared between a subject and its object, and the more perfectly if its object reciprocates. God cannot have as the sole object of his love the world or else the world would not reciprocate perfectly, and it would mean God only ‘became’ Love at the moment of Creation, since before that time the object ‘the created world’ did not exist. Rather, God in three persons is Love precisely because he is the ontological foundation of Love in a strong sense – thus Catholic philosophers will say that God cannot ever fall in love with anyone or anything for the same reason the ocean is the only thing which can’t get wet. God the Father loves the Son, and pours all of himself out for the Son, identifying himself with the Son (which is what subjects do with the objects of their love – notice how in a romantic relationship both people ‘take on’ a new identity by identifying with each other – also consider how Golum identifies with the Ring, etc all of this is evident from experience). The Son, then, gives himself to the Father, reciprocates all of his love, and thus from the Father and be-cause of the Son, the Holy Spirit becomes an object of that affection as well, since the love itself is loved. Finally, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each giving each other completely to the other two, identifying themselves with each other completely. This model of God suggests that God’s reason for creation was precisely to extend this love, so that another participation in this very mystery of love might be possible. Creation, then, as Simone Weil has said, is itself an act of Kenosis (Kenosis is a Greek word used in the New Testament to describe Christ pouring himself-out on the cross, Philippians 2:7).

Consider, then, the alternative; suppose that God is not a trinity, and is nothing relevantly similar to a Trinity. If this were the case, then God could be one single ‘person’. However, if God were one person, then he could not be love essentially, since the object of his Love would not exist. In some sense, perhaps somebody could say that he is the object of his own love, and this makes some sense since God is the Summum Bonum, but this isn’t what we mean here by ‘Love’ since Love is always shared, and consists in a relation. However, on the unitarian model, this reflection entails that God is selfish, and it would also imply that either man is ultimately supposed to be selfish in imitation of him, or else that man is supposed to be subservient and humble, and God alone has the right to be selfish in the true noble sense. However, the problem seems to be that if God is selfish and all sufficient, one might wonder how God could ever create anything. What sufficient reason would exist to explain why God did what he did, i.e., create? Surely, nothing God does is superfluous, since that suggestion itself undermines his perfection. On the Trinitarian view, God created not because he lacked anything, but because he decided to share the Love he shared within himself with another object of Love. In short, God created out of Love. However, on the unitarian view, it isn’t even coherent to say ‘God is Love’ since there is no object of his love which reciprocates.

I submit that on the Unitarian model there is no sufficient reason why God created the world. It cannot be for want of anything, it cannot be superfluous (without purpose or cause), and it cannot be from a desire to share himself as love. Therefore, a unitarian God who creates the world, is, it seems, impossible.

Does this prove the Trinity? I don’t think it does. There are numerous theologies on which God never creates the world at all; Process theology, Open Theism, Spinoza’s pantheism, etc – these are all options which, it seems, are logically possible. For instance, on Process Theology, the world is simply God’s body, and therefore it itself exists incontingently, and some views of open theism are similar, not to mention Spinoza’s pantheism is also significantly similar. Therefore, the argument’s success here doesn’t prove that God is a Trinity, but rather that if God created the world, then he must be either a Trinity, or something relevantly similar to a Trinity. For somebody to avoid the conclusion of the argument, they must posit that there is some reason for God to have created the world, or else they must say that the cause of God’s creation is superfluous in the sense defined above.

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About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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4 Responses to Could a non-Trinitarian God create the world?

  1. themathofgod says:

    It seems to me that your argument could be true here if there is a requirement for reciprocation. However what if reciprocation was not a requirement but a desire? Yes, for relationship to exist, we would have to love God, but not necessarily as a requirement but rather as a fulfillment of the relationship. Beginning with an agape foundation of love, love might be defined as an unselfish choice for the greatest good of another. Under this definition, there is no requirement for reciprocation. As a parent, I love my children even if there is never reciprocation of that love.

    Now whether God could be unitarian rather than trinitarian, I’m not sure this topic sufficiently answers that question if reciprocation is unnecessary. Although I believe in the Trinity, I could see validity in the concept of God as unitarian. God’s purpose for creating the world could still be an act of love, one in which He desires a relationship with His children but it is up to us whether we love Him.

    • Thank you for your thoughts again; your comments are always welcome. Remember that I am trying to describe love Ontologically, and I’m suggesting not that God merely desires to Love, but rather that God is Love itself. Love, it seems to me, cannot exist as a desire that a unitarian God has, but even if it could, Love would not be ontologically identical to God. Supposing, for the sake of argument, that God is unitarian, and has a desire to Love, and therefore Loves without reciprocation, and there is never a perfect reciprocation of that love even with finite creation. On this picture of God, either God creates the world because he lacks something (namely, he lacks an object of Love) in which case I take it he would not be God (and since this is absurd, ergo etc), or else at least it seems to me God could not create the world from a desire to share an already existing love, since love does not exist ontologically prior to at least some object of God’s love existing. If God is the object of his own love (and it isn’t clear that this suggestion is ultimately consistent on unitarianism absent creation, since it is hard to imagine ‘being’ relating to itself in any meaningful way without relations existing) then God is ultimately selfish and self-sufficient, which leaves no room, to my mind, for God to desire to create the world.

      Short of positing brute fact at some point, it seems difficult to see one’s way to a unitarian God creating the world out of love, and it is perhaps equally difficult to admit a unitarian God creating the world for some other purpose.

  2. Billy says:

    Your argument (an old one, borrowed from an early “church father”), is as superfluous and circular as the (also old) question: can God, being all-powerful, create a rock too heavy for Himself to lift? It establishes nothing, proves nothing, and, most certainly, settles nothing.

    • The sentence “Could God create a rock so heavy he could not lift it” is a literally meaningless combination of words, similar to “could God create a married bachelor” or “… A square circle” or “could God taste the smell of the colour 9.” Answering any of these questions in the affirmative, or in the negative, is to publish a sentence bereft of propositional content. My argument, at least, isn’t meaningless (even putting aside whether it is successful).

      I am curious, which early church father do you suppose this argument comes from?

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