Dangerous, old fruit!
You make an excellent point that the formal, established doctrine of ‘The Trinity,’ is unhelpful at the outset. We are meaning, after all, to present the Biblical God to those who have little or no interest in the church; so we should start from the ‘ground up,’ so to speak. However, even if you disregard the dogma of the historical Church at this point, the Biblical data does seem to hint that God is multi-faceted or even living in community. For example, I reference God’s words in Genesis when he resolves to make man ‘in our image.’ But I concede to you that this is perhaps, overall, a subject for another time.
When it comes to defining and understanding God philosophically, there is so much in the Bible narrative about God declaring, ‘My ways are far above yours…you only see in part, one day in full,’ and so on, that a certain amount needs to be taken by faith, or in other words, at face value, with the attitude of a child, as Jesus taught. I am not seeking to devalue asking the deeper questions, only to remind us that we can only know God by faith, which is when we in effect say, “I don’t know all the details and perhaps never will, but I think this is real, so let’s go for it!”
Turning to our big question, yes I think that God is innately loving, or to use more helpful synonyms, innately giving, sacrificial and servant-hearted. As you say, it is tough one to call, but as we have discussed, our creation might not be the first or only ‘world,’ through which and into which God has expressed this love of his. The Old Testament poets certainly hint at other ‘spheres,’ and this is the fascinating premise for C.S. Lewis’ Narnia tales: he wrote that, rather than a straight Christian allegory, Narnia was the answer to a hypothetical question of ‘what would Christ look like if he showed up in another world?’ As you rightly outlined, the other qualities flow from his love. Also, remember that the same apostle who defines God as ‘love,’ also defines him as ‘light,’ which I take to mean truth, clarity and without any hint of double-mindedness.
I really strongly agree with your point that systematic doctrine has to come second to Biblical data: too often the Evangelical Church has sought to ‘straighten out’ God and so neglected key Biblical themes. The one value I think doctrine does have in the Christian life is to ground the likes of me: as a serial doubter, ‘blown about on the waves,’ and never trusting God or taking him at his word, it helps me to rest in key, objective truths I believe God to have shown me (to take a slightly silly but safely uncontroversial example, God has promised always to be with me, so any Biblical story or life experience that seems to suggest the opposite needn’t worry me).
You rightly challenge my explanation of evil with the Genesis story. Could it be that Satan had already fallen from heaven at this point (which is outlined in the OT and NT), so setting himself up as God’s enemy? And then Adam is subsequently created into a universe which already features God’s adversary?
SMASHY, my dear friend,