God has no needs. Philo, Seneca, and classic Christian theology agree on that.

But I think the explanation differs. Seneca ( On Benefits (The Complete Works of Lucius Annaeus Seneca) , bk. 4) explains that “God bestows upon us very many and very great benefits, with no thought of any return, since he has no need of anything bestowed, nor are we capable of bestowing anything on him.” The gods’ “own nature sufficient to them for all their needs.” No need means, it seems, there is no such thing as divine receptivity.

For Trinitarian Christianity, though, this explanation won’t work. Following Augustine ( The Trinity (I/5) (Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century) , bk. 8), we can say that the Spirit is the gift bestowed by the Father on the Son. There is not only bestowal but reception within the Triune fellowship. God is Giver; God is also Recipient and Giver of returns.

So, God needs nothing: There is no neediness fulfilled, but neither is there a complete absence of exchange. Rather, a fullness of gift that is always already given and returned. God needs nothing because the Father gives the Son all He needs in the Spirit, and the Son responds by returning all that the Father needs in the Spirit.

 

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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