In the beginning…God is alone. There is no other possibility.
If we are speaking chronologically, we must say there was a time when nothing but God existed. Or if we want to say that God is outside time or that God established time, then whatever else these strange words might be taken to mean, it must still be that there – outside time – God is alone.
Or if, in speaking of the beginning, we are instead saying something ontological – that God is the basis or the precondition of Being, or something else equally obscure – we must still posit God’s uniqueness, God’s singularity, and hence God’s aloneness.
And from that it follows that God cannot be love, in the sense that we understand love.
We use love in many ways, of course. We love to dance, we love the outdoors, we love Beethoven. But these are just alternative ways of saying that we enjoy these activities or the activities involving these things, and this is surely not what we intend by speaking of God.
When we attribute love to God – or even say God is love – we are borrowing the term as we use it to name a certain sort of attitude that one person may have towards another. What is that attitude? To describe it in all its complexity and nuance and variety is a task for poets and novelists; but we can say a few things without venturing into their prerogative.
A mother loves her daughter. There are not three separate elements of what is being named here: the mother on one side, her daughter on another, and something (love) between. Nor is the love something that resides, so to speak, entirely in the mother. Without the daughter, how would you even describe it?
A mother loves her daughter mentions something that is complex; we may say, it is relational. For that reason, it cannot meaningfully describe God, because God, in the beginning, is alone.
But a mother’s love for her daughter is also singular, in the sense that it names one thing only: that complex relationship between the exact two of them. This mother’s love for this daughter is not identical with this mother’s love for her son, or for a different daughter.
And therefore we do not rescue our way of speaking about God by positing something like the Trinity, in all its unfathomable mystery. For whatever else the thought of the Trinity supplies, it cannot supply a model for something that is completely singular in its nature.
This is a long-winded way of saying that we cannot model our understanding of the love that God is on our understanding of human love: the very nature of God, in the beginning, rules that out.
Is this to say that God is not love? Not at all. It simply means that to understand, to see, to know what God’s love is, we must look somewhere other than human love.