Now in the confession of the Trinity we hear the heartbeat of the Christian religion: every error results from, or upon deeper reflection is traceable to, a departure in the doctrine of the Trinity.”[1]

A Christian’s confession is not an island in the ocean but a high mountaintop from which the whole creation can be surveyed.  And it is the task of Christian theologians to present clearly the connectedness of God’s revelations with, and its significance for, all of life.  The Christian mind remains unsatisfied until all of existence is referred back to the triune God, and until the confession of God’s Trinity functions as the center of our thought and life…If God is indeed triune, this has to be supremely important, for all things, according to the apostle, are from him and through him and to him (Rom. 11:36).”[2]

So writes Herman Bavinck, and we would be wise to give credence to these enormous insights.  If the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is true—if the objectively real God is both three and one, existing as Father and Son and Holy Spirit—then logically everything in created reality must find its initial genius and source in this foundation.  Think about it: for literally everything else that we experience or believe as Christians, no matter how important or tantalizing, we can always inevitably point to a prior cause for any given reality.  Food and drink, sex and marriage, jobs and money and vacations, governments and gender, love and laughter, friendships and football and family, education and enzymes and the Egyptian civilization of the Ancient Near East—each of these (and the list could be multiplied endlessly!) exists because of something else coming before them.  This pattern holds true even for the most basic, foundational Christian convictions—the death of Christ on the cross for our sins, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the church, the spread of the gospel to all the nations, the dark stains of human sin and selfishness and suffering, the divine response through the gospel and salvation by faith apart from works, even the creation of the universe itself and all of human history that has followed—none of these are self-originating or primal.  All are wholly contingent upon and derivative of other realities which lay back of them.  All are penultimate at best.

Yet if we dare to push back all the way to the triune God, we finally encounter a bedrock reality which offers us no prior explanation, allows of no creative cause, and for which we can discover no why or how behind it.  The Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father (John 3:35, 8:29, 14:31, 17:24, Matt. 3:17, 17:5)—and that state of affairs just is.[3]  No “because.”  There is no accounting for it in relation to another preceding dynamic which gave rise to it.  In the fellowship of the Trinity, God has eternally existed in a relationship of utterly satisfying beauty and goodness—never lonely, lacking in happiness or starving for attention—as the Father and the Son know and love and delight in one another through the Holy Spirit with infinite intimacy and ecstasy.[4]  In a word, what exists at the metaphysical core of the universe is relationship.  This triune relationship within God’s own life is the original “stuff” of the cosmos.[5]  All other things derive in some sense from this source and find their ultimate rationale in this inner divine rapport.  At the core of the Christian God’s identity is an utterly mutual self-giving love, a kind of captivated, unrestrained orientation to the “other” in contentment, attraction, respect, and dignity, and which is always perfectly reciprocated in turn.[6]   

 Therefore, one radical difference between the Christian worldview and every secular, materialist belief system is that relationship and personhood precede physical matter, they do not arise from physical matter.[7]  Relationships are always more significant than “things”.  This fact accounts for why human beings—if they are ethically sane—possess deep intuitions which inform them that a blatant misstep has occurred when people choose to prioritize material objects (food, money, clothing, etc.) or secondary, non-personal pursuits (jobs, hobbies, sports, etc.) over the central human relationships in their lives.  For in so doing, we irrevocably violate something sacred and basic about the moral fabric of the universe.  This intuition, moreover, makes perfect sense if Christianity is true.  Dale Kuehne points out what should be obvious to most Christians: “The Bible…tells us the story of a relational God who has made men and women in his image for the purpose of relating.  Cover to cover, Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is primarily about one thing: relationship.  It is about the creation of relationship, the destruction of relationship, and the redemption of relationship.”[8]  On the Christian rendering of reality, the universe was created and exists, in fact, for the sake of personal relationships—both divine and human.  Just as God Himself has been in relationship forever, internally within His own triune being, so God also creates and redeems to “extend” and “share” this relationship—His “glory”—with us (John 17).[9]

Now consider one unavoidable entailment of the Christian faith, a deep-rooted conviction that finds a voice in many various ways throughout the Scriptures: namely, that in order to attain this overall relational goal in the creation of human beings who are made in His own image, God designed sex and gender (mainly) to give us categories for thinking about Him and to provides us with experiences for more deeply relating to Him and to others properly and passionately.[10]  Sexuality rightly understood and practiced, then, affords us a glimpse into God’s own nature and joy that we otherwise would not have had access to or the ability to experience or intuit in the abstract.[11]   Sex and marriage are, in a word, mainly about God (Romans 11:36).  As the Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft delightfully points out:

“Sex is like religion not only because it is objectively holy in itself but also because it gives us subjectively a foretaste of heaven, of the self-forgetting, self-transcending self-giving that is what our deepest hearts are designed for, long for and will not be satisfied until they have, because we are made in God’s own image and this self-giving constitutes the inner life of the Trinity.”[12]

And John Piper writes with breathtaking candor:

“I have two simple and weighty points to make…The first is that sexuality is designed by God as a way to know God in Christ more fully.  And the second is that knowing God in Christ more fully is designed as a way of guarding and guiding our sexuality…Now to take the two points again, this time negatively, in the first place all misuses of our sexuality distort the true knowledge of Christ.  And, in the second place, all misuses of our sexuality derive from not having the true knowledge of Christ…[God’s] goal in creating human beings with personhood and passion was to make sure that there would be sexual language and sexual images that would point to the promises and the pleasures of God’s relationship to his people and our relationship to him.  In other words, the ultimate reason (not the only one) why we are sexual is to make God more deeply knowable.”[13]

[1] Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, p. 288

[2] Ibid. pp. 330-31

[3] Consider the thrust of Exodus 3:14 once more in this light.

[4] “What the church and the world need today, more than anything else, is to know and love God—the great, glorious, sovereign, happy God of the Bible.  Very few people think of God as supremely happy in the fellowship of the Trinity and in the work of creation and redemption.  The volcanic exuberance of God over the worth of His Son and the work of His hands and the welfare of His people is not well-known.  God’s delight in being God is not sung the way it should be, with wonder and passion, in the worship places of the world.  And we are the weaker and poorer for it…Everything hangs on the unbounded joy in the triune God from all eternity…This is not irrelevant speculation.  It is the foundation of all Christian hope.” (John Piper, The Pleasures of God)

[5] “The inner life of the triune God, however, is utterly different.  The life of the Trinity is characterized not by self-centeredness but by mutually self-giving love…Ultimate reality is a community of persons who know and love one another.” (Timothy Keller, The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, pp. 214, 216)

[6] This is why Jonathan Edwards could argue in Charity and Its Fruits (see especially the final section, entitled “Heaven is a World of Love”) that there will be no unrequited love in the new creation to come:

“And the Son of God is not only the infinite object of love, but he is also an infinite subject of it. He is not only the beloved of the Father, but he infinitely loves him. The infinite essential love of God, is, as it were, an infinite and eternal, mutual, holy, energy between the Father and the Son…Love in heaven is always mutual.  It is always met with answerable returns of love with returns that are proportioned to its exercise. Such returns, love always seeks; and just in proportion as any person is beloved, in the same proportion is his love desired and prized. And in heaven this desire of love, or this fondness for being loved, will never fail of being satisfied. No inhabitants of that blessed world will ever be grieved with the thought that they are slighted by those that they love, or that their love is not fully and fondly returned…The love of the saints, one to another, will always be mutual and reciprocated.” 

[7] Consider the prologue of the Gospel of John (1:1-18), in which the relationship between God and His Word (Jesus)—who are mysteriously both identified with and yet distinguished from one another—is prior to the creation of the world, and in fact gives rise to the physical universe and humanity.

[8] Dale S. Kuehne, Sex and the iWorld: Rethinking Relationship beyond an Age of Individualism, p. 112

[9] See Jonathan Edwards’ The End For Which God Created the World for this insight.

[10] “Along with the rest of human nature, God uses human sexuality to serve his redemptive purpose in the world.” (Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., God’s Faithless Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery)

[11] There is an importance balance which is distinct to the Christian worldview that must be maintained here: God and sex are associated yet not identified with each other.  God is not a sexual being, nor is God—strictly speaking—male or female (though relationally God manifests both male and female characteristics throughout Scripture).  Yet sex is at the same time not distanced from God’s nature altogether—that is, human sexuality is not viewed as a purely arbitrary creative act by God, with no inherent connection to God’s nature.  Therefore, cautious warnings like this one are necessary: “Because humans (and their sexuality) are created by God and are not part of divinity, any attempts to divinize or sacralize sexuality in Israel, as done in the pagan fertility myths and cult practice, is met with the strongest divine denunciation.” (Richard M. Davidson, Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament, p. 85)

[12] Peter Kreeft, quoted in Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, eds. John Piper and Justin Taylor, pp. 15-16

[13] John Piper, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, p. 26