This is a guest article written by friend and colleague JR Rozko of Life as Mission. “FAQs of a Theologian” is a segment I run from time to time that seeks to answer basic questions that get asked of people with theology degrees. If you would like to submit a question contact me, or submit a question to the wiki. If you would like to write a guest article to help answer a question you can contact me as well.
Why is God Communal?
By JR Rozko
I can honestly say that I have never heard this question before. I have heard, “How is God communal?” “What does it mean for God to be communal?” or even “Is God communal?” but never, “Why is God communal?”
In a sense, it is like asking, “Why is water wet?” The reason I say that is that for Christians who understand God as triune, being communal is simply intrinsic to God’s nature, as wetness is intrinsic to the nature of water. So I suppose the short answer is that, for Christians (and even for Jews, though in a different sense), were God not communal, God would cease to be God as we understand God.
All that being said, we may still ask how being communal contributes to God’s being God. I’ll offer just a few thought on that matter.
1. Inasmuch as God has intrinsic community in the relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (see John 17), God displays God’s desire for all of creation – interrelationship. The communal nature of God, also referred to as perichoresis (here for theopedia article and here for wikipedia article), demonstartes that all identity is other-dependent (see Martin Buber’s “I, Thou“), that we only truly know ourselves in relationship to the other.
2. The communal nature of God also discloses God’s openness to creation. Were God not communal in nature, what reason would be have to think that God desires to relate in any meaningful sense to that which God created? That God is communal is not only exemplary, but also participatory. It is because God is communal that God interacts with creation and creation interacts with God.
3. The final thought on the communal nature of God is directly related to my Eastern Orthodox Christian brothers and sisters. This idea goes either by divinization or theosis. In either case, the basic idea is that on account of the communal nature of God, humankind, as well as the rest of creation, has the opportunity to participate in the nature of God. That God exists and acts in relationship is invitational.
To summarize, “Why is God communal?” – because it is in God’s nature to be so, thus God exemplifies interrelationship and interconnectedness, participates and interacts with creation, and invites others into this communal way of being.