Carson on Intra-Trinitarian Love, Part I

Transitioning from the excellent scholarship of John Frame, I want to post two excerpts from another leading scholar, D.A. Carson, from his book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. If you have not read this short but significantly important book, I highly recommend it. Here’s part one (emphasis mine):

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Certainly there is endless ground for wonder in the Father’s love for us, in Jesus’ love for us. But undergirding them, more basic than they are, is the Father’s love for the Son. Because of the love of the Father for the Son, the Father has determined that all should honor the Son even as they honor the Father (John 5:23). Indeed, this love of the Father for the Son is what makes sense of John 3:16. True. ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son’—there the object of God’s love is the world. But the standard that tells us just how great that love is has already been set. What is its measure? God so loved the world that he gave his Son. Paul’s reasoning is similar: If God did not spare his Son, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things (Rom. 8:32)? The argument is cogent only because the relationship between the Father and the Son is the standard for all other relationships.

– D.A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000), 35.

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Catch the flow of Carson’s reasoning:

1. The Father loves the Son
2. In light of this love, the Father has determined that all should honor the Son
3. The world knows God’s love through the sending of His Son
4. The goal is that the world honor the Son because of the Father’s love

Again we see an intrinsic relationship between intra-trinitarian love and God’s purpose in honoring (glorifying) Himself. This speaks directly to Witherington’s charge regarding John 3:16. “Why does John 3:16 make sense?” Carson asks. Because God has love us through giving us His Son which find its telos not in us, but the Father’s love for, and determination to honor, the Son.

Explore posts in the same categories: Theology Proper, Trinity

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2 Comments on “Carson on Intra-Trinitarian Love, Part I”


  1. Ha! I just published a post saying exactly that, only far less succinctly. As in, I got to say “perichoresis”. : )

    My point, basically, was that Witherington’s critique only works because we’re not being careful enough in our language. We need to be more consciously Trinitarian and then we won’t be so open to the charge that we’ve painted God as a narcissist. It’s narcissistic to want glory for yourself, but utterly selfless to want it for another. It’s narcissism versus love, essentially. Our God is loving and selfless, in that the Persons of the Trinity seek glory for the other, and not for themselves.


  2. Nicely done Phillip! Yeah, I was studying up on perichoresis earlier this semester while working on a paper. Perhaps we would all be better served if we devoted more time in studying the Trinity.


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