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God has never been lonely

Unsplash/ Fahad Bin Kamal Anik
Unsplash/ Fahad Bin Kamal Anik

One of the persistent errors in contemporary thinking about God is the idea that God created out of loneliness. Dwight Lee Wolter recently wrote an article for Religion News Service entitled, “The Bible suggests even God gets lonely. Why don’t religious people talk more about it?”  He doesn’t develop this claim much, but partway through the article asserts, “In Hebrew and Christian Scripture, God created humankind in God’s own image in part, it seems, because even God was lonely.”

It may seem that way to Wolters, but there is no hint of it in the biblical text. Scripture tells the story of God creating a world filled with creatures in a flourishing environment — but does not suggest that loneliness motivated God’s creative work.

Nor did the Christian tradition develop a doctrine of the loneliness of God. On the contrary, classical Christian theology speaks of the blessedness of God — the unquenchable happiness of God. Yes, God is compassionate; God is kind and gracious, a comforter to the sorrowing; God cares about us — so much that He sent his Son to die for our sins and rise to bring us life. But God is also blessed, possessed of perfect life and eternal joy.

Scripture paints a picture of God who is not only wondrously near to us but infinitely beyond us. We need to have a very big picture of God because God is most assuredly far greater than our imaginations can even hint at. Look at the awesome transcendent language the apostle Paul uses to describe God: “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:15-16, ESV). 

He is not a needy god.

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This divine blessedness is one of the implications of the doctrine of the Trinity. Yes, a unitarian god might be lonely; indeed, a unitarian God who existed in perpetual solitude could hardly be loving, or even personal. But the one true and Triune God was never lonely. He has a relationship with the perfection of His own Triune life. God is eternally personal, loving — and blessed.

What difference does this make for us? It means that rather than a needy, co-dependent god who created out of loneliness, we have a blessed and perfect God who created out of the abundance of His love and joy. Therefore, God loves freely, not out of need but out of fullness. His grace is truly gracious. He is able to save and does not Himself need saving.

You see, we have a self-centered culture, and therefore we struggle with faith. It’s hard for us to believe that we really are unworthy of God’s love, and yet that He loves us anyway.  Since it’s hard for us to believe the true Gospel, we try to nudge it this way and that, to push ourselves up or pull God down so that the distance between us doesn’t look so big. We say that we’re so valuable that we’re worthy of God’s saving work, or that God is lonely and vulnerable like us. Neither is true.

The solution is to recognize that we don’t need sympathy as much as we need salvation and that God is so great He saves unworthy sinners. When we recognize that, we can find hope in the majesty of God — no matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done.

Loneliness is a terrible burden. But God isn’t lonely, and out of His perfect life, He has reached down to offer us life with Him. We don’t need to pretend loneliness is good; we need to receive the gift of life with God. He will never abandon His children, and when this life ends, He takes them to be with Himself.

Indeed, when Jesus sent His first followers out on their mission to make disciples of the Kingdom, that was the comfort they carried with them on their journeys near and far: “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

Joshua Steely is Senior Pastor of Chatham Baptist Church in Chatham, Illinois. 

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