The Trinity as Love

From: Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, Thursday 22nd January 2022

Professor Heidi Russell describes a way of speaking about the Trinity as Love that might allow modern Christians to connect more intimately to God.

In the twenty-first century a new understanding of Trinity must be found that allows Christians to reconcile their image of God with a contemporary, scientific worldview. Theology needs to move away from concrete images of God in which God is pictured as an old man in the sky. The use of concepts such as being and person in our trinitarian theology have too often led to an understanding of God as a being or a person, or worse as three beings or three persons. Shifting from language of being and person to a concept of God as Love can help counteract this tendency to make God in our own image.

The primary analogy for God as Trinity offered [here] is Source of Love, Word of Love, and Spirit of Love. God the Father is the Unoriginate Source of Love, simply meaning the ultimate source, the source that has no origin itself because it is the origin of all love that exists. That Source of all love has been revealed in the Word of Love. The world was created in and through that Word of Love, and that Word of Love has been spoken into the world in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The Source of Love is also continually enacted in the Spirit of Love, which is present in the world and active in the heart of all believers forming the Christian community into the body of Christ. As the body of Christ, this community is then called to be the ongoing presence of God as Love in the world. . . .

To affirm God as Trinitarian Love means that our relationships with each other have the potential to mirror such divine, three-fold love. Russell quotes Pope Francis:

The human person grows more, matures more and is sanctified more to the extent that he or she enters into relationships, going out from themselves to live in communion with God, with others and with all creatures. In this way, they make their own that trinitarian dynamism which God imprinted in them when they were created. Everything is interconnected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity. [1]

She continues:

We can choose to exercise the unfolding of love in our lives. I can meditate on a God who is Love, who has enfolded Godself as Love at the core of who I am and empowered me to participate in the unfolding of that Love in the world. Through that meditative prayer, we will come to better enact Love in the world. Our hearts can literally change our brains. Our altered brains will change our actions. That unfolding of love means I am empowered to live out my life in relationships that are loving, that engender mutuality and equality in the world.


[1] Pope Francis, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, 240.

Heidi Russell, The Source of All Love: Catholicity and the Trinity (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2017), xvii, 171, 174.


3 thoughts on “The Trinity as Love

  1. Rev Dr Lorraine Parkinson

    While increasing numbers of Jesus’ followers understand that God is Love (or as I prefer to say: Love is God), to combine that with trinitarian ideas in any form is unnecessary and potentially confusing. Love (God) is within us and between us and around us. Jesus certainly knew that, which formed the basis of everything he taught and embodied. Entwining that with trinitarian symbolism implies that Love (God) has been made known to humanity exclusively through Jesus of Nazareth. While we may gladly follow the teaching of Jesus the God-soaked human being, we cannot deny that Love (God) is made known through people of other faiths and of no faith at all. While Professor Russell heroically strives to distance her ideas from traditional trinitarian doctrine, to avoid confusion with the exclusivist, sexist symbolism of the Doctrine of the Trinity, I would argue that it is best to leave any kind of reference to trinitarian ideas in the past where they belong.

  2. Tim O’Dwyer

    I prefer the Unitarian, albeit rather flowery and wordy, stance of Kagawa in his LOVE THE LAW OF LIFE:

    “Love alone introduces God to me. Love is my sanctuary…I have my sanctuary everywhere I go in the universe. Where Love is, there God is.
    He who worships God in Love is never straitened.
    Love is the unfailing spring.
    No sects there are in Love. Buddhist, Mohamme-
    dan, Christian— these are not Love’s divisions. Love
    knows how to embrace, but not to differentiate.
    Love removes all the dross from man, and saves all.
    Love is the ultimate religion. Classify me not by creed :
    I belong to nothing but Love. Jesus it was who taught
    that it should be so. Jesus never said that men were
    to be shunned for their creeds. Love is the ultimate
    revelation, the final sanctuary.
    Only before Love do I bow in reverence…

    Love leads man into the innermost shrine of reality. Love is the only eye that visions God. With this wonderful eye
    of Love, God and man behold one another. In Love,
    the eye of man becomes the eye of God. In Love is
    first achieved the interfusion of Divinity and humanity.”

  3. Peter Robinson

    I would support the comments of Rev Dr Lorraine Parkinson in response to Prof. Russell’s post ‘The Trinity as Love’. It seems a step too far to attempt to equate trinitarian concepts with Love. Indeed, as Parkinson suggests, ‘it is best to leave any kind of reference to trinitarian ideas in the past where they belong’.

    Classifications in Psychology list ‘Love’ as a ‘primary emotion’, a ‘value’ and as a ‘virtue’. Feelings have temporary importance, but it is ‘values’ that give meaning and purpose to life. Feelings forge relationships, but values sustain them. In the NT love is presented as an ethical and social ‘value’ (1 Cor 13:4-5). The power of ‘love’ comes not from its feelings, but from its values and as a virtue.

    ‘God is Love’ is a metaphor. It describes a primary attribute, but does not in my view describe the essence of the Godhead. As Prof. Russell suggests, ideas of God have moved beyond God as a ‘Being’ or as a ‘Person’ (notions still all too frequently spoken of from pulpits), to ideas of God as ‘Ground of Being’ and ‘Spirit of Life’ (Tillich) and God as Divine Mystery. ‘God in us and through us, in all things and through all things’.

    History teaches us the notion of God is never static, always in flux. So what do we do? We allow the name to evolve.

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