I think this might be my last excerpt on the topic for now. The purpose of these excerpts is to shed some light on the issue raised by Dr. Ben Witherington on whether God is narcissistic and whether a God who is passionate about His glory can be reconciled with John 3:16 (to catch up on the debate, see my compilation of posts). Previous excerpts include John Frame on “God’s Self-Love” and “Intra-Trinitarian Glory” as well as D.A. Carson on “Intra-Trinitarian Love.” Now here is part two from Carson, again on intra-trinitarian love (emphasis mine):
There are texts in which Jesus addresses God as Father in terms of shared experience in eternity past (notably John 17:5: ‘Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began’).
It follows, then, that the love of the Father for the Son, and the love of the Son for the Father, which we have been considering, cannot be restricted to the peculiar relationship pertained from the Incarnation on, but is intrinsically intra-Trinitarian.
What we have, then, is a picture of God whose love, even in eternity past, even before the creation of anything, is other-oriented. This cannot be said (for instance) of Allah. Yet because the God of the Bible is one, this plurality-in-unity does not destroy his entirely appropriate self-focus as God. . . . To concede he is something other than the center of all, and rightly to be worshiped and adored, would debase his very Godhood. He is the God who, entirely rightly, does not give his glory to another (Isa. 42:8).
. . . in eternity past, the Father loved the Son, and the Son loved the Father. There has always been an other-orientation to the love of God. All the manifestations of the love of God emerge out of his deeper, more fundamental reality: love is bound up in the very nature of God. God is love.
– D.A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000), 39.
Carson makes a key point, viz. that the plurality-in-unity does not destroy his entirely appropriate self-focus as God. To believe that God has anyone other himself central and first in his affections would be to say that God values someone or something higher than himself, making him the subject rather than the object of worship. Before creation began, God entirely satisfied in Himself, and that did not change when he created the world. John 3:16 is not irreconcilable with God who does not give his glory to another which answers the challenge/charges brought by BWIII.