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Beginning with the End: God’s Glory

We live in a universe that God is speaking. God spoke light, planets, oceans, llamas, and the rest of it into existence from nothing. Jesus is holding all things together by the Word of His eternal power. We speak in words while God speaks things. He doesn’t simply describe light with His speech, He causes things to come into existence and stay that way by His Word. This is what Scripture tells us.

While some people talk just to avoid an awkward silence, we know that the best kinds of speech are purpose-driven. Blithering to fill space is vanity. When we speak intelligently, we’re trying to persuade people of something, to gain information, to describe a thing, or to obtain some other end. God has spoken volumes. He’s spoken thousands of years of history so far. He has eloquently stated thousands of stars, galaxies, quasars, and also stink bugs. There are whole weather systems producing storms that we can’t even imagine on planets that we have yet to even see through our telescopes. There are fish living so deep in the ocean that we’ve yet to see them, categorize them, or give them a place in our yet unproven evolutionary timeline. Trees literally fall in the forest everyday where no man can hear them. Why?

Look at the whole of space and time as best as man can see it. Why in the world is this so elaborate? Why has God built a universe so big that the parts we’ve seen of it thus far are such a statistically laughable percentage of the whole? Go outside where it’s good and dark, then look up at the sky. See the stars that God spoke into being and ask what’s the point?

The Testimony of Scripture

Although there is no single explicit statement in Scripture that says God made the world for His own glory, it’s hard to find something that isn’t said to be made for God’s glory. The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1); the earth is full of God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3); Israel was brought out of Egypt for God’s glory (Psalm 106:7–8; Ezekiel 20:9); the elect are created (Isaiah 43:6–7) and saved for God’s glory (Isaiah 43:25; 48:9–11; Ephesians 1:3–14); the unsaved are damned so that God can show us His attributes (Romans 9:22–23).

The list goes on and on. Colossians 1:16 tells us that all things were created for Jesus and He tells us that He did everything for the glory of the Father (John 7:18). We pray with Paul that all glory will go to God (Romans 11:36) and that is precisely what will happen in the end. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14) and the glory of God will be our light (Revelation 21:23).

If that isn’t enough proof for you, then you can go open your Bible to any page. Chances are pretty high that you’ll find some verse on that page talking God doing something else for His own glory.

Objections Stated and Refuted

Often, it will be argued that God creating all things for His own glory makes him some sort of megalomaniac or egotist. If it’s sinful for us to focus on our own glory, then doesn’t it follow that it is sinful for God to focus on His own glory? Well, no. It doesn’t follow.

Yes, we are to not seek our own glory. But we are to not seek our own glory precisely because we are to do everything with the intent of glorifying God (1 Corinthians 10:31). This leaves us no room to seek our own glory. The rule set down by Scripture is not “don’t seek your own glory.” Rather, it’s “seek God’s glory.” God, then, is not behaving contrary to His own law when He does this.

In my experience discussing this with people new to reformed theology, something like unto indignation often rises up at this point. What gives a God the right to glorify Himself? But this is precisely the sort of indignation that Satan had when he declared that he would ascend and exalt his throne above the Most High. It goes against everything that Scripture commands; it is not an objection to reformed theology, but an objection to God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture.

What gives God the right to so intentionally glorify Himself and to do so in such an extravagant way? An answer might run like this: if we are to esteem what is good and esteem more highly things that are better, then it is necessary to esteem most highly the Father of lights from whom comes every good thing. If God is inclined to glorify that which is most excellent, then His priority ought to be glorifying Himself.

Why It Matters

The universe is a spoken word. It is spoken for the purpose of glorifying God. There are other purposes for it, as we’ll see later in the series. But the chief purpose is to glorify God. We must judge this composition based on whether or not it fulfill that purpose for which it was made, not based on whether we fancy it. Moreover, we do not stand in the place of fussy editors. Rather, we as characters in God’s story are judged by the Writer to see whether or not we are worth keeping in the story.

We are the words spoken that most closely represent God; we are made in His image. As sinners, we find ourselves in the place of the awkward autocorrect glitch: looking something like the word we were supposed to be, but not close enough to the wrath of the oncoming delete keystroke. The Potter has rights over the clay and the Writer has rights over His composition. His standard is the proclamation of His glory, not the inclusion of every mistyped letter.

There is a purpose in the world far greater than the comfort and protection of men. God is entirely just to find fault with men who seek their glory rather than His. God did not write this story so that men can live happily ever after. He wrote it to glorify Himself. This is not a comfortable truth and we don’t believe it because it’s fun. Rather we must believe it because of what Scripture teaches.

Note: the definitive work on this topic is by Jonathan Edwards: The End for Which God Created the World. I borrow heavily from it in this post and would be irresponsible not to recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about this topic. I also want to tip my hat to N.D. Wilson because I borrowed the spoken universe concept which he used extensively and wonderfully in “Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl

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Comments

  • Matt Handley says:

    To throw back to the argument you mentioned in your first post, this foundational axiom of the universe being a continuously spoken word forming some sort of literary composition that God is freely editing just seems like a combination of philosophy and poetic combinations of phrases from different parts of the Bible. This concept is required for the God of calvinism to not be a heartless monster, but I think that when God wants to convey the most important truths about himself, He just straight up says them, no assembly required:

    “But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?”

    — Ezekiel 18:21-23, NKJV

    I believe that God has no desire for the wicked to die as part of a plot point in some story He is writing.

    • davidmikucki says:

      Hey Matt,

      No Calvinist that I know would argue that God takes pleasure in the death of the wicked. We will get more into that when we talk about election and reprobation. Both Arminians and Calvinists, though, believe God sends people to hell. All I’m arguing here is that his standard is his glory and He sends people to hell for failing to live up to that standard (see Romans 3:23).

      • Matt Handley says:

        Of course He does not take pleasure in condemning anyone to hell, but the only way a God who actively selects people for either heaven or hell who have no capability to affect the decision is not a sadistic bastard is if you place this extreme emphasis on the events of the universe somehow all existing exclusively for His glory. Somehow humans going to hell glorifies God, and therefore He is not evil for actively forcing someone into hell by not electing them.

        • davidmikucki says:

          I wouldn’t say that’s “the only way” to avoid the problem you mention and I don’t even think said problem exists within a proper Calvinist understanding of Scripture, but as I said, we will get into election and reprobation later—as well as free will. Since I haven’t written anything about that subject here, I’m going to leave this until later when I address it more fully. I think it will be better to have this conversation after you understand the Calvinist position a little better (and at that time I’ll be interested to hear a biblical argument for free will, if you have the time and desire to write one).

          Again, the point of this post is that God made all things for His glory and that His glory is the standard for creation. If you have questions or arguments about, I’ll be happy to respond here.

          Thanks for the discussion so far. I was hoping for some, and this is a much better medium than Twitter (if I do say so myself).

  • Sam Irlapati says:

    Sometimes you just have to stick with the story. There can be endless philosophical sepculations but they bear no fruit, but merely serve to distort the story. There also is no need to impose on the story a grid that does not exist.

    By your own admission there is no verse that says that God made the world for His own glory. Well let it be a that. Your next question should have “so what does God say is his purpose of creation”. Instead you went on to impose the grid of glory on creation. It would also be informative if you first defined what you mean by glory. When reading the theme of glory within the scriptures, i find your (the reformed) use of it seems very foregin to scriptures. In fact when you say “it’s hard to find something that isn’t said to be made for God’s glory” is exactly where you are imposing your own interpretation on scripture.

    As far as your objections to the glory of God, those are not my objections. It seems like you are in coversation with people who don’t believe in God.

    Now onto my biggest ojection. I find that reformed theology is a synthesis between Greek Philosophy and scriptures. What you wrote here is a good example of that. Your statement “We speak in words while God speaks things.” is a good example of Greek philosohy where the meta-physical boundary exists. The Greeks saw the world divided between physical and spiritual. That boundary does not exist in Jewish thinking, nor within scriptures. Your focus on words and physics is aslo very Greek. For scriptures there is a puprose to words and that is be in realtionship. In fact the creation story is about God being in relationship with man.

    In the section “why it matters” you restate that the universe chiefly exists to glorify God. I think that might be one of the purposes, but it is not the message of the creation story in the Bible. Your own previous admission that there is no verse to make such claim contradicts what you say here.

    I think when or if you reply, it would be best to start what exactly you mean by glory.

    • davidmikucki says:

      Thanks for your comment, Sam. I’ll start my reply, as you requested, by explaining the idea of “glory,” since that is an important thing to talk about.

      Glory is a word that is used in a variety of ways throughout Scripture. In the Hebrew it carries the idea of weight and in Greek it carries the idea of praise. Whole books could and should be written about this subject, but in short I believe the Bible understands the glory of God to be the weight or fulness of God’s attributes (or character, see Exodus 34:6ff) and often especially the outward manifestation (or beauty) of them. So when I say that God is concerned with his glory, I mean that He is concerned with maintaining and exhibiting His character or attributes.

      As regards there not being a verse in Scripture that explicitly says God does all things for His glory, this is no evidence that what I say is untrue. There is no verse in the Bible that says that God is three persons in one God; yet from several passages we conclude that the Father is God, Jesus is God, the Holy Spirit is God (three persons), and there is only one God. I am not imposing a grid on Scripture; I am reading what the texts I cited actually say. If you have issue with my interpretation of those texts, that’s fine. I’d love to hear those issues in more detail. Otherwise, I stand by my statement that I am not using an interpretive grid and refer you to my already-given argument for how Scripture speaks of God doing all things for His glory.

      “The Greeks saw the world divided between physical and spiritual. That boundary does not exist in Jewish thinking, nor within scriptures. Your focus on words and physics is aslo very Greek. For scriptures there is a puprose to words and that is be in realtionship. In fact the creation story is about God being in relationship with man.”

      I won’t touch on my understanding on a difference between physical and spiritual here, because it is rather immaterial here. I did not draw in this post a distinction between physical and spiritual things. I drew a distinction between God and man, and between His Words and our words. This difference is manifested by the texts I cited. If you have issue with my interpretation of these, please feel free to challenge it directly.

      “In fact the creation story is about God being in relationship with man… Your own previous admission that there is no verse to make such claim contradicts what you say here.”

      While I would agree that the creation story is, in part, a story about God being in relationship with man, I’m going to hold you to your own standard and ask you for an explicit verse that makes that claim. I’d also like to see where you get the verse that tells you that we must only believe things that are explicitly stated in a verse.

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