Perhaps you have grown up with an indelible image of God pressed into your brain through teaching and preaching that seems to boil everything in the Christian life down to God getting Glory. Not that God getting glory is a bad thing. God is glorified and should be but how and why?
Im tired of a view of God’s desire for glory being expressed in a way that resembles the story of snow white. A vain, malicious and vindictive witch always looking to her mirror for approval and admiration. What does it mean to glorify God? John Steinbeck said, “For the most part people are not curious except about themselves.” Is God like us, curious only about himself? Does the purpose of glorification ultimately boil down to helping God with his self esteem. Gena Showalter said “I like to be admired from afar, and then complimented up close.” Is this what the purpose of religion, church and worship is? That we admire God from afar and when we get to heaven we will perpetually compliment him up close? I hope not. There are some (especially among reformed folk) who speak of the purpose of glorification as if God is some kind of galactic narcissist. He is not. A narcissist is “characterized by extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration.”
From these folks you might hear “for the glory of God” answers to everything…
Why have you been saved? For the glory of God?
Why was the earth created? For the glory of God?
Why do crops grow? For the glory of God?
Why should we hate sin? For the glory of God?
Why did the chicken cross the road? For the glory of God.
Michael Bird in his book Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction pokes fun at what seems to be a thin understanding of the Glory of God when he says…
We observe here how God’s faithfulness and love are the application of his glory to salvation. God’s glory is exalted, his name is honored, and his reputation upheld when God delivers Israel from the nations or even when he brings the nations to share in the heritage of Israel. I would provocatively add that God is glorified when he saves, not just when he looks in a mirror.
Sometimes the term “for the glory of God” sounds like an ad hoc gap filler so a person can sound authoritative and scriptural. Were we just made and saved so God could receive admiration? really? Is this all there is to it? If we approach our Bible’s with the wrong mindset we can easily read it and come away with the conclusion that God is some kind of benevolent narcissistic dictator only interested in gaining more and more obedience and respect form what he creates. What do you think happens when we combine rules, regulations and commandments (Deuteronomy 11:1) to that kind of view of God? The problem of course is not with God it’s what we think this problematic word “glory” means. For thousands of years “glory” is easily associated with self-righteousness, egotism, narcissism and megalomaniacal dictators like Hitler, Cesar, Jim Jones or North Korea’s cute little Kim Jong-un.
Here are three contexts I think we need to remember when expressing God’s glorification. First His divine purpose, second His divine nature and third His community.
His Divine Purpose: God alone is not broken: He does not need us to glorify Him though he desires it. If we are going to understand what it means to glorify God we need to understand God’s purpose. He wants to share his glory with His image bearers not simply proclaim it.
His Divine Nature: God alone can put his broken creation back together again. Glorifying God is all about the community of heaven and the community of earth being made one again through his loving kindness. If we are going to understand what it means to glorify God we must see and respect how he is uniquely qualified in His transcendence to be glorified and to share that glory. He is creator we are creature this distinction if misunderstood seems to contribute to so many parroting Gods providential glory as if he is some kind of totalitarian despot or at best a benevolent dictator. I don’t see a narcissistic God in the Garden at all. I don’t see an egotistical God in Christ at all.
His Community: God alone can selflessly love us back together again through the Church’s embodiment of His rules, regulations and commandments: The love that characterizes God and his image bearers is not selfish love but selfless marked by humility, service and community. If we are going to understand what it means to glorify God we need to understand God’s goal. His goal is to share more of his divine nature with his creation in the divine community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Some questions for discussion:
What would you add to this list?
How do you see Philippians 2:1-11 contributing to our understanding of glorification