Thursday, March 29, 2007

God & Humility

One of this week's readings is Philippians 3:4–14, the classic "hymn" extolling the humility of Jesus Christ. Paul calls his readers to emulate this attitude.

But the view that many people have of God seems to be in direct conflict with the attitude of Jesus Christ.

Here's a sampling:

  • God created the world exclusively to proclaim his own glory.

  • Since God is sovereign--as well as infinitely passionate for His own glory--He will not let His passion to be glorified fail.

  • "God glorifies himself in the eternal damnation of the ungodly men" (Jonathan Edwards).
    [More: "God glorifies himself in all that he doth; but he glorifies himself principally in his eternal disposal of his intelligent creatures: some are appointed to everlasting life, and others left to everlasting death."
    "When [the saints in heaven] shall see the smoke of their [the damned] torment, and the raging of the flames of their burning, and hear their dolorous shrieks and cries, and consider that they in the meantime are in the most blissful state, and shall surely be in it to all eternity; how will they rejoice!"]

  • "Everything [God] does is motivated by His desire to be glorified…. He governs the world precisely to the end that He might be admired, marveled at, exalted and praised" (John Piper).

  • God "causes" suffering and evil in the world so as to maximize his glory.

  • "God's ultimate purpose in Scripture is to glorify Himself."

  • "It is all about the Glory of God. It is about what gives God the most Glory. If it pleases God to save me, then that is the pleasure of God, if it pleases God to leave me in my sin then that is also the pleasure of God, so whether He has elected me to slavation (sic) or perdition is irrelavant (sic)."

  • God "will not tolerate forever those who do not give Him glory" (John Piper).

I would argue that this idea, that God's primary concern is for his own glory, dishonors God. It makes God out to be petty and self-centered.

I know the arguments. For God, "self-exaltation is the highest virtue." Because God is "that which is most worthy of love," he "either loves Himself supremely, or He over-loves something lesser than Himself, which is the very definition of idolatry."

But these arguments ring hollow. They involve redefining terms and using them with revolving meanings. They involve circular reasoning.

"Some theologians claim that all God's desires culminate in a single desire: to assert and to maintain God's own glory. On its own, the idea of a glory-seeking God seems to say that God, far from being only a giver, is the ultimate receiver."

Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge, p. 39

Yes, God is concerned that we recognize his glory. But it is not so that he can bask in our praise. God wants us to know his true nature, because only then will we realize how much we need him.

But most of all, he wants us to know him.

So what do you think? Do you think God's ultimate concern is for his own glory? Do you think that we dishonor God with this kind of talk? Do you think it is a distortion of Scripture?

Pastor Rod

"Helping you become the person God created you to be"


Steve Sensenig said...

I don't have much to say about the overall topic, but I just have to say that those Jonathan Edwards quotes make me feel very ill.

Is that concept found anywhere in Scripture? Even a hint of it??

Helen said...

I'm so glad you brought this up.

Yes, I agree that the way some Christians talk about God's glory does make God sound self-centered.

It IS in the Bible though - look up glory and you'll see there's a lot about God's glory in there.

This bothered me enough about ten years ago that I did my own word study on glory.

When I studied it for myself, what made it ok is that God's glory is something God ultimately delights to share around.

It's sort of as if, God is the only one who can have the glory and not be corrupted by it; so for now he has to look after it and not share it with people who will be corrupted by it. But ultimately it will rest not only on God but on all his people too.

Like so much in the Bible, you can read the metaphors in a way that works or in a way that doesn't.

Pastor Rod said...


Thanks for your comments.

Yes, the Bible clearly talks about God being "jealous" of his glory. But the problem is, as you described it, that we tend to put our own spin on it. And that is why it sometimes comes out like what Jonathan Edwards said.

And you are right that even words like "glory" are metaphors when used to describe God. Everything the Bible says about God is necessarily a metaphor. The only "hard" revelation we have of God is in the person of Jesus Christ.

Too often people treat the Bible as if it were a theological reference book.

God Bless,


stauntongeek said...

I was very glad to find you talking about this subject because it's been something I've been tossing around a lot lately. I also find the view that God is only out for his own glory to be somehow lacking. But John Piper, in his book "Don't Waste Youor Life," puts forth very well a view that I think must be true, that God's greatest glory is found in man's greatest happiness, and that God is not "just" out for his own glory, but wants the very best for his creation.

Pastor Rod said...


Thanks for adding your voice to the conversation.

Yes. I think Piper's view is on the right track. But the problem is that the language that people use causes them to hold a distorted view of God in their minds. And this shapes how they interact with him and with others.

God Bless,