Ok – just one more digression before we get back to missions. This flows on from our discussions about the trinity…
I’m a bit slow in my travels around the blogosphere so I apologise that this is about a week out of date. But, Ben Witherington (recently-ish) managed to get 83 comments on a post called “Is God a narcisist?”. He was reacting against a Piper-ist, Schreiner-ist theology that says “The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy Himself forever.”
Being a good biblical (NT) theologian he made excellent points on the meaning of kabod (Hebrew) and doxa (Greek) and the difference between this and God’s Name (which is about vindicating His reputation). I’ve skim-read the comments as much as I’m going to but nowhere (as far as I can see) do people discuss the trinity. This is kind of surprising!
Growing out of our discussion about One-ness and Three-ness, one of the chief conclusions to be drawn is the fact that God ought never to be thought of in anything approaching unitarian terms. The One-ness of God does not connote a single centre of action or personal consciousness in God. Yet when a theologian asserts that “God’s chief end is self-glorification” then almost certainly a doctrine of the one God, divorced from trinitarian reciprocity, is in view.
We ought to ask all such theologians “Which Person of God are you speaking of?” They surely cannot be referring to the trinitarian life of Father, Son and Spirit – that communion is the essence of self-giving. God is love. And they surely cannot be referring to the Father for He has committed all things into His Son’s hands (John 3:35). They mustn’t be speaking of the Son, He only ever glorifies the Father. (John 4:34). And they can’t be speaking of the Spirit, He simply takes from what is the Father’s and the Son’s and makes it known (John 16:15). So what god are they speaking of when they say “His chief end is to glorify Himself”? Clearly the “God” referred to here is one abstracted from considerations of the trinitarian life. Yet as my last post was trying to argue – the living God cannot for a second be abstracted from considerations of trinitarian self-giving. The only God there is is the Trinity! The One God is precisely the community of sacrificial love between Father, Son and Spirit. (see also The Cruciform God)
When the LORD says in Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.” it is only because He has been glorifying His Servant for the last seven verses – “Here is My Servant, whom I uphold, My Chosen One in Whom I delight; I will put My Spirit on Him and He will bring justice to the nations…” (Isaiah 42:1ff) The Father glorifies His Son and anoints Him with His Spirit. Therefore He will not give that glory to another. This is the very opposite of self-love. Instead His other-centred glory requires that He be exclusively committed to His Son in holy love.
God is not a narcisist. A proper doctrine of the trinity guarantees it. And wherever God is portrayed as a narcisist you can guarantee that a defective trinity is lurking in the background.
Next time you hear such a theology, ask yourself what doctrine of the trinity is being espoused here? Has this theologian conceived of God apart from the communion of the Three? Almost certainly they have – and a selfish God is the outcome.
Two verses from John to finish:
Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.” (John 8:54)
“All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.” (John 16:15)