One of the points that Herbert McCabe makes frequently is that love, for it to be truly love must exist between equals. McCabe is emphatic that “love begins and ends in equality” (God Still Matters, 4). There may be all manner of good and non-dominative relationships of authority and obedience, but those are not love. Love can only be a relationship between equals.
This contention is foundational to McCabe’s theology of the Trinity. When the Christian gospel proclaims that the Father loves Jesus, it is making the radical claim that this human being, Jesus is equal with God. “In Jesus the Father has found his beloved son, found an equal to love: not just a creature to treat well (evidently Jesus is not treated very well) but an equal to whom the Father can give himself in love” (God Matters, 18). It is this act (which of course, for McCabe is eternal) of the Father loving Jesus that both is and characterizes the Holy Spirit, the event and mediator of the love of the Father and Son.
The problem for McCabe, then is how can God love the world if love, properly speaking is something that only can occur between equals? For McCabe the answer is an incarnational understanding of divinization in which we, through union with Christ are taken up into the Father’s love for the Son. Be being united to Christ by the Spirit we are loved with the same love that the Father has for the Son in the Spirit. “God cannot, of course, love us as creatures, but ‘in Christ’ we are taken up into the exchange of love between the Father and the incarnate and human Son, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we become part of the divine life. We call this ‘grace’. By grace we ourselves share in the divine and that is how God can love us. (God Still Matters, 7).
The radical implication of this for McCabe, is that human persons are actually made to be equal with God in Christ. By being brought into the divine exchange of love between the Father and Son we actually become equal with God through being divinized by grace. McCabe is quick to underscore that distinctions remain. We become divine by grace, whereas Christ is divine by nature, and we likewise remain creatures. However, our existence vis á vis God is no longer on the basis of the Creator-Creature relationship, but grounded in the Father-Son relationship in the Spirit. He strives to safeguard any sort of eschatological pantheism by insisting that “we are divinised but Jesus is divine” (God Matters, 22).
The question I have is whether this scheme fully works. I think it might, but there are some questions that seem important. First, is it really the case the love requires absolute equality? I’m hard pressed to dispute that it sure seems like love requires equality, but can we establish that that is always the case? And what does equality even really mean? Surely it can’t mean the absence of difference, so what then is it? The other big question I have pertains to the role of worship plays in McCabe’s theological imagination here. Worship seems to be an eschatological reality, one the characterized the age to come. But is not worship predicated on the recognition that God is God and we are not? Does that not obtain throughout eternity, even as we share in God’s Triune life by grace?