Piper's Theology of Glory

Stephen Murray alerts us to Tony Payne’s reservations about Piper.

You can read Piper’s seven theses about God’s glory here.

In response Payne wonders…

Is Piper’s message so centred on God and his glory (and our enjoyment of God in his self-glorification) that Jesus has become a mechanism by which this takes place, rather than the central focus of the message? Where does the centrality of the Lordship of Christ fit into Piper’s proclamation?

I share these reservations.

Here’s a couple of paragraphs I’ve adapted from a post I wrote last year…

If someone says (as Piper does) “The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy displaying and magnifying his glory forever.” we ought to ask, ‘What does ‘God’ refer to in this sentence?’

It surely cannot refer to the trinitarian life of Father, Son and Spirit – that communion is the essence of self-giving.  The trinitarian glory has nothing to do with self-centredness.  And it cannot be referring to the Father for He has committed all things into His Son’s hands (John 3:35).  It mustn’t be speaking of the Son, He only ever glorifies the Father. (John 4:34).  And it 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 does “God” refer to in the sentence “God’s chief end is to glorify Himself”?  Clearly this understanding of God is one abstracted from considerations of the trinitarian life.  Yet as my post here argues – 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 and without remainder the Father, Son and Spirit united in sacrificial love.

When, for instance, 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.  And where trinity is deficient it’s because our doctrine of God is not centred on Christ.

My main problem with Piper’s theses is that Christ’s Person and work are not foundational to the argument.  The theses appear more to be logical deductions derived from a notion of ‘glory’ at odds with the cruciform glory He reveals. 

Now to defend Piper’s position the following two points are usually made.

1) “Of course Christ is central to this discussion.  He’s not been left out of the argument, He is fully this Glorious God.” 

Well let me suggest that we mustn’t define ‘God’ first and then fit Christ onto this Procrustean bed.   Perhaps see this post, or this one or… well… everything I’ve written.

2) It is Christ’s work and His work alone that brings us into an enjoyment of this glory.

Well good.  But the cross isn’t the bridge to glory.  The cross is the divine glory.  There’s quite a difference.

Anyway.  I love John Piper.  LOVE him.  I once spotted him unexpectedly at the back of church and got so star-struck I found the words “I’m your biggest fan” flying out of my mouth!  Can you believe it??  And the silence afterwards was hands down the most forehead-slapping embarassing moment of my life.  But few people have affected me as deeply in my Christian life as John Piper.  I’m a fan ok.  It’s just that little old Glen with his two-bit blog sees problems that’s all.  But what do I know. 

Any thoughts?

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Posted on by Glen in Doctrine of God, trinity

About Glen

I'm a preacher in Eastbourne, married to Emma.

0 Responses to Piper's Theology of Glory

  1. Bobby Grow

    Oh Glen . . . you’re such a ‘Barthian’ ;-)!

    Certainly the problem is that Piper simply follows the classical theistic approach to theology proper, and thus things salvific. Which means, as you know, that he, implicitly sees ‘Godness’ predicated by nature/creation; instead of vice versa.

    It amazes me, truly, that folks like Piper, well studied, can’t see this rather simple point . . . or don’t wan’t to. The fact that they can’t see see how central “Christ and the cross” is to knowledge of God, reflects that they are continuing within the tradition of Rome; contra the wishes of folks like Luther and Calvin—they perpetuate theology proper that is “metaphyscially based” and not “christocentrically and evangelically based.”

    There’s my rant.

  2. glenscriv

    Hi Bobby,

    Thanks for the support (I’m expecting some resistance to this post to be honest). And as you say, this is just old fashioned reformation theology (which Barth happens to share at this point.)

    I see you’ve just posted on Luther against the theology of glory – I must check that out in detail. What we all need is a theology of the cross!!

  3. Paul Huxley

    Dunno if you have trackbacks enabled but I’ve posted here… http://paulhuxley.blogspot.com/2008/12/dissing-john-piper.html

  4. Dave K

    In this vein I was really extremely encouraged by Piper’s recent comments in a conversation with Don Carson and Tim Keller here:

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=LkfqRbjgXss&feature=PlayList&p=3AF46C1B91557D25&index=4 (5 of 6 about 8min 50sec in):

    “It’s gospel-centred IF, and let me make a little confession here, I think that in the last 8/10 years I have gotten this better. I think I was too Theocentric and not Christocentric enough early on…. today I would go to 2 Cor 4:4 more quickly that I used to: that the apex of the glory of God is seen in Christ, and the apex of his glory is seen in the cross. And therefore to be God-centred leads to Christ-centred leads to cross-centred. And if we don’t go that way, even God-centred Piper-type talking can be skewed…. I do want the glory that people are thrilled by, not just to be a vague bigness of God but some really concrete historical manifestations of his glory in the cross in particular”

    We’re all learning aren’t we? If Piper can criticise himself I think he is humble enough to take criticism from others… and so should his fans. One more thing for us to learn from him.

  5. Ed

    Interesting stuff. As a committed Piperan I think i’d want to respond to the Trinitarian queries that you and Huxley in particular raised by saying i’ve always understood Christian Hedonism like this:

    God (the Father) loves God (the Son) (and vice versa) more than God loves me.

    I think both Piper and Carson do an excellent job of unpacking this from John 17 at the Desiring God 2006 Conf…

    I think Piper would agree with your comment on the cross. He says in many places it’s on the cross that Christ is both the means and the end of the demonstration of God’s glory.

    I think!

  6. Dev

    doesn’t Piper get most of his stuff from Edwards
    and isn’t Edwards big on God loving Himself?
    always had a problem with that being defined as self-love
    it’s the Son loving the Father, and the Father loving the Son
    so now the Father loves us in the Son and the Son loves us because of the Father – all this through the Spirit

    so how would you re-write the chief aim of man? =)

  7. Bobby Grow

    Ed says:

    God (the Father) loves God (the Son) (and vice versa) more than God loves me.

    I think T. F. Torrance nailed it when he said, paraphrase: “that God loves us, more than He loves Himself,” which the cross proves. Of course this is assuming a very high view of the assumptio carnis (assumption of flesh/humanity—the incarnation) . . . and that humanity, through the incarnation, has been reconciled into the very life of God (cf. I Cor 6:17) . . . so that when Torrance says what He says, He’s not endorsing a Christology from below, but clearly from high, high above.

    To respond to Piper’s sequence, as noted by Ed, this assumes a rather inward curved view of God . . . which just won’t do—that is, if the cross actually reveals anything about the being of God.

  8. glenscriv

    Hi all,

    (By the way the second of the ‘Possibly related posts (automatically generated)’ above is a truly heart-warming sermon on the trinity!)

    Paul thanks for letting me know. Trackbacks is enabled but it seems to be pretty slow. I’ll go comment in a tick – it looks sufficiently sensational! I like it.

    Dave,

    That is a very encouraging comment from Piper and thanks for transcribing it. I’ve heard him say many times that he’s become aware since 9/11 of the need to be more christocentric. This is all good (bearing in mind 1) and 2) above).

    I think I’d just say if God’s glory is not some ‘vague bigness’ but is manifested at the cross then God’s glory is a concrete *smallness* – a concrete self-givingness to enemies, a self-emptying love. If we’re really committed to the *cross* being the manifestation of the divine glory then we must allow the cross to radically shape everything from this foundation upwards. So in a sense it’s not God to Christ to cross. But Christ crucified *as* the very Rock of our thinking that controls all we say about the divine glory. If this radical (but I believe gospel) imperative is followed we begin with a divine glory defined in terms of giving not getting, self-emptying not self-aggrandizing, etc.

    I’m totally with you on learning humility from Piper though. I admire the man deeply. And this turn towards more christocentric theology is very exciting. The more we take every thought captive to Christ the more we’ll all have to renounce our own ‘wisdom’ and begin again at His feet. In this regard Piper is showing the way.

    Hi Ed,

    Thanks for the link btw and for commenting. I see that Bobby’s just added some extremely rich food for thought regarding your points. I’ll add those to mine and post on it in a second.

    Hi Dev,

    I can’t remember where I read it but Ron Frost makes the point that Richard Sibbes wrote on the chief end of man around 40 years before Westminster. Sibbes said the chief end of man is to be swallowed in the love of Christ. How about that!!

  9. Pingback: God loves God more than God loves us? « Christ the Truth

  10. Dan Hames

    Glen,

    Yes! You may remember I wrote about this sort of stuff about a year ago (http://danhames.blogspot.com/2007/12/upside-down-glory-of-trinity.html) which was, I think, some of our first interaction.

    I reckon you’ve nailed the issue a lot more clearly here.

    Thanks… very important stuff to be sifting through. And as long as people like Paul Huxley don’t tag their blogs with ‘Trinity’, we know there’s still much work to be done ;o)

    Dan

  11. Dev

    i have an interesting question..

    Can I say that the only love the Father has for His creation, humanity is within Christ?
    And He hates everything outside of Christ?

  12. glenscriv

    Does it help to trace back the logic of somewhere like 1 Cor 3:21-23 – The Spirit’s love flows from Father to Son to Church to World. In one sense God’s wrath is being revealed on the whole world (Rom 1:18ff). In another He passionately loves the world (which is dark and outside of Christ) but loves it for the sake of Christ Who He gives to that world that they too might be in Him (John 3:16).

    So could we say that the Father has love in Christ BUT ALSO love for the world outside Christ FOR HIS SAKE – ie that they would be His. Something like that?

  13. Dave K

    Hi Glen,

    I just wrote a comment and then noticed that you have added a whole other post on the subject which I’ve read once but need to digest some more. Anyhow I’ll post my comment in the realisation that it probably should be rewritten/scrapped in the light of your recent post.

    We must not oppose God loving himself with God loving us. Can we really say that God loves us more than himself, or vice versa. As Piper has demonstrated again and again, it would be unloving of God to not love himself. There are statements in scripture that say God only saves us to serve himself, and others that say he serves us at his expense. I think the way to resolve these is along the lines that Piper has popularised (although not in the one way street that he describes and you pick up on).

    Your warning not to define “‘God’ first and then fit Christ onto this Procrustean bed” is something I need to hear again and again. But we must also be careful not define ‘Christ’ (or the cross) first and then fit God into that. So I’m a little unsure about your comment that “divine glory [is] defined in terms of giving not getting, self-emptying not self-aggrandizing”. Why can we not say that God gets glory by giving, and is self-aggrandizing in his self-emptying? God’s contention with the sinner is revealed fully in the cross (this is self-aggrandizing) but amzingly we are cought up with this justification of God as we too are justified in Christ. God gives by getting, and gets by giving.

    Also, a question. Is it better to say that the Trinity is revealed in Christ as a single person or as he relates to his Father and the Spirit in his life and death? Is it possible to seperate the two?

    After all the Father was not crucified on the cross, and neither was the Spirit. Sometimes this Barth-like (at least I think it is Barth-like, but I’m not qualified enough to be sure) discussion seems to make the Trinity a trio of Christs in its concern to make Christ the Alpha and Omega of God’s revelation… perhaps there are worse dangers. Does that make sense?

  14. glenscriv

    Hi Dave,

    I’m heading out the door in 5 and I won’t be back for a while so I’ll be brief…

    First, note that I don’t (I don’t think) give us an alternative dictum – ie God loves us more than He loves Himself. (Torrance via Bobby does but I think I want to hold back from simply reversing the dictum – much bad theology happens when we just *reverse* the errors of our opponents).

    Second it’s definitely better to say Christ reveals the Father and sends the Spirit than say He reveals the ‘Trinity’. Much much MUCH better! (Though I don’t think Barth would disagree).

    Third, I wouldn’t say “God *gets* glory by giving” so much as God’s giving *is* His glory.

    Must dash…

  15. Dave K

    Like me, blogging on the run. I think I messed up my comment by not being clear which bits I was addressing to who.

    Glad you said point 1, although I had got that don’t reverse the error from your new post.

    Think I poorly expressed my question which resulted in your point 2. Maybe I will try again when I have more time.

    Thanks for the correction on point 3.

    Have a good time wherever you are.

  16. Tim Cairns

    I am surprised that in this season of advent and discussion of God’s glory that no one has started at John 1:14 then tracked the word glory through John’s gospel ending up at the cross and resurrection.

    I don’t have time to do it here – but come to Crestwicke Baptist, Guelph, Ontario on Sunday and you will hear all!!

  17. glenscriv

    Hi Dave,

    I followed Dan’s link to the posts of a year ago and I was surprised to read how brusque I was with you in posts about trinity etc. Also with Paul (if you’re reading). Sorry – I came out swinging when it really wasn’t called for.

    Hi Tim,

    Yes ‘glory’ in John is at the heart of this. If the sermon is recorded on Sunday (or is it Sunday school?) – you’ll have to link to it.

    Glen

  18. Steve

    I’ve just been reading Edwards’s ‘End of Creation’ – a major source for Piper, I think. Edwards argues that God is glorified in the communication of knowledge of himself and love of himself. These correspond to the Son and Spirit in his psychological model of the Trinity. Edwards is clear in his ‘Essay on the Trinity’ that God has a perfect idea of himself and that idea is the Son. The love that Father and Son have for each other is the Holy Spirit. (This plays out, of course, in his conception of the religous affections).

    A couple of times in ‘End of Creation’ Edwards comments that God’s ‘name’ and ‘glory’ in Scripture refer to the second person of the Trinity, but both times he goes on to say, ‘But it is not necessary at this time to consider this matter, or stand to prove it from particular passages of Scripture’. (Why he declines to do this is up for grabs… but perhaps he thought he could save it for his never-to-be-written grand theological summation). His ‘Essay on the Trinity’ is explicit that God’s works ad extra are ‘harmonious’ with his being and works ad intra. Therefore, in ‘End of Creation’ there is some sense that Edwards’s notion of God’s glory is Trinitarian without his being explicit.

    But the crucial question seems to me: how does Edwards fit into his system the fact that the Father glorifies the Son and the Son brings glory to the Father etc? Is Edwards simply working on a particular understanding of the axiom that ‘the external operations of the Trinity are indivisible’?

    Edwards ‘Essay on the Trinity’ shows that he does think the cross and the mediation of the Son is absolutely central to God’s glory, but for whatever reason he doesn’t mention that in ‘End of Creation’. It’s a shame (though understandable) that ‘End of Creation’ is the only source usually turned to for Edwards’s account of what God’s glory is.

  19. timothycairns

    its Sunday sermon this week – we do record – but they aren’t online…sadly. We are working on it!

  20. Dave K

    I don’t mind people being brusque. On reflection I think I probably needed being brusque to.

  21. Pete

    Glen,

    I’ve always understood the ‘Piperian God’s self-love’ paradigm to be trinitarian if I’m honest (Father loves the Son and wants all to honour him, Son loves the Father and wants all to honour him, the Spirit loves the Father and the Son and … you get it).

    Though I noted in this regard Piper’s comments (as quoted by Dave K above) – Piper admits he hasn’t always made this as clear as he now feels he should’ve.

    Being able to declare God as self-loving is important because it is related to his supremacy and uniqueness (‘you shall have no other gods before me’). This, understood properly, is not dodgy on the trinity, after all, the trinity is about tri-unity. The fathers/ reformers etc. were very keen to formulate the trinity in such ways as to make tri-theism or polytheism a non-option: the concept of God’s self-love is an aspect of that.

    I see it like this, statements about God’s self-love are like biblical statements about his oneness – they are vitally important to our understanding of God, but must be understood as in harmony with the biblical statements about his threeness. Understood properly the oneness of God is far from being about solitude or loneliness (though it is about uniqueness, singularity, supremacy and monarchy). In the same way, once we grasp the biblical trinity, the self-love of God (which the bible clearly does teach) turns out to be the least narcissistic, and the most eternally self-giving kind of love conceivable. It is a trinitarian self-love, just like his trinitarian oneness-uniqueness-monarchy etc..
    Does that make sense?

  22. Bobby Grow

    Pete said:

    . . . statements about God’s self-love are like biblical statements about his oneness – they are vitally important to our understanding of God, but must be understood as in harmony with the biblical statements about his threeness.

    I would submit that to speak of God’s self love, apart from, speaking at the same time of His perichoretic ‘threeness’ love . . . just cannot make any kind of sense at all. To smuggle God’s self-love into ‘monarchical’ language, relative to God’s ousia, seems to equivocate on mutually exclusive sentiments. In fact monarchism is what is the point of contention here. It’s as if we, per Piper, must assume some “essential” being of God, from whence the ‘persons’, in love, subsist. This appears to be what Pete is doing here.

    Why must we drive a wedge between God’s so called simplicity (which I’m at odds with, in its classical framing), and His economy of persons (as disclosed in salvation history)? Why does God’s ontological being (immanent) have to be separated from His evangelical being (economic)? I would suggest that if we are truly going to follow a ‘positive’ (biblical) theology, we must affirm that when ‘we see Jesus, we see the Father’ (Jn 14); which means that we cannot affirm Pipers’, and thus classical theism’s “God behind the back of Jesus!”

    And I would also want to qualify that to speak of ‘self-love’, which by the way was Augustine’s definition of ‘sin’ (post-Pelagius), must be tensed by who we see at the cross (cf. Phil. 2:5-8) . . . so to speak of God’s self-love must always be framed by ‘loving the other’ (i.e. the Father, for the Son, etc.)—-which is really the best way to think of God’s life, so that His ‘oneness’ (ousia) is shaped by His ‘threeness’ (hypostasis) in interpenetrating love for the other . . . while along is truly ‘self-love’ (properly understood) for Himself (which by the way includes us a la the concepts of Deus incarnantus, the God to be incarnate, and Deus incarnandus, the God who is incarnate).

  23. glenscriv

    Hi Steve,

    Still glad you picked Edwards for your PhD?

    Hi Pete,
    Good to hear from you. I think you’re absolutely right that this question is parallel to the question: In what does God’s oneness consist?

    (btw I think I’m in full agreement with Bobby’s points above).

    I don’t think God’s oneness means singularity. Further, I’d want to frame concepts like the monarchy of God in explicitly trinitarian terms – ie the Anointed Son’s rule installed by the Father (eg Psalm 2). That is how the one rule of God is exercised – From the Father, through the Son in the power of the Spirit. I see such a trinitarian framework as irreducibly necessary in thinking through monarchy (or anything else for that matter).

    So in what does God’s oneness consist? John 17:21-22 – The oneness of Jesus and His Father is like the oneness of the church – multiple persons united in love and common purpose. God’s oneness *is* the mutual indwelling of the Persons.

    for more see perhaps this post:

    http://christthetruth.net/2007/11/24/oneness-and-threeness/

    Given this understanding of oneness, I can’t imagine what the subject of Piper’s dictum could refer to: “God loves Himself”. If it refers to any of the Three it’s obviously false. If it refers to the One (who simply is the Three Persons loving each other) then it significantly obscures the very nature of that oneness (which is other-centred love).

  24. pgjackson

    My point was a little simpler than has been (I think?) understood by Bobby and Glen.

    Given that the bible says things like:

    a. ‘The LORD you God, the LORD is one’
    and
    b. ‘You shall have no other gods before me’

    (i.e. predicating oneness of God)

    Then it must be ok* to say things like

    c. God is concerned for his own glory.
    d. God loves himself.

    Just as the ‘me’ in the first commandment doesn’t exclude threeness but must rather include it, so also with the ‘himself’ in statements like c. and d. In other words, if you have a problem with the subject of Piper’s dictum the surely you have a problem with the ‘me’ in the second commandment too. Or is that just the Father, or just the Son, or something (in which case, huh?).

    [*by ‘must be ok’ I don’t mean it’s alright to always speak like this, or to not frequently, and as often is possible, make the trinitarian nature of the oneness really really clear. But since the bible doesn’t feel the need to say everything all at once in every statement it makes then neither do I, nor do I feel I should constrain others to in every context (and as a fan of Karly B you must agree here surely Glen!)]

    I am uncomfortable with saying that the oneness of the members of the Trinity is *exactly* the same kind of oneness as the members of the church – unity in love and purpose (after all, a JW would be really really happy with that sort of definition of the oneness of the Father and the Son), but, that said, I really wasn’t going there on ontology/ ousia etc. in my first comment. And I think what I’ve said above has to stand whatever model you’re working on for the trinity, whether classical theism or a more social model or whatever.

  25. pgjackson

    Bobby said,

    “It’s as if we, per Piper, must assume some “essential” being of God, from whence the ‘persons’, in love, subsist. This appears to be what Pete is doing here.”

    That’s not actually what I meant in my original comment by ‘monarchy’. What I mean by monarchy is that there is one God, which I’m presuming you agree with. The universe is ruled (the ‘arch’ bit) by one (the ‘mon’) God. [Of course, that one God is a trinity, and must always be understood as such, there’s no ‘common ground’ between us and Islam on ‘God’ …yada yada]

    And that’s something the bible says (to quote Peter Kay’s Christmas single) over and over and over again. I wasn’t smuggling any of the ousia stuff into the debate really at all, but leaving it ambiguous, cos I think my basic point (if the bible speaks, on occasion, of the triune God as a ‘me’ then it must be ok for us to do something similar too, on occasion) holds for classical and not-so classical theists, provided they believe the basic ‘there is one God’ and ‘that God is three persons’ stuff.

  26. glenscriv

    Hi Pete,

    Thanks for coming back to me. I realise on one level I’m easy to disagree with (cos I get lots wrong) but on the other I’m quite hard to disagree with because I’m so polemical. So I appreciate you engaging me.

    I’m pretty convinced that the divine names of the OT, like those of the NT, refer either to (most usually) one particular Person, or (more rarely) to all three in relational unity. I won’t try to convince you of that here though…

    But my point for now is that I’m certainly not against understanding many OT verses to refer to all three Persons together. And neither am I against using the word ‘God’ in everyday discussion to refer to all Three together. And in this vein I’m happy to say things like ‘God made the world’ or ‘We must love God’ or things like this. And sometimes I mean by this ‘Father’ (or Son, or Spirit) and equally (and hopefully I’d make this clear) sometimes I’m talking about all Three together.

    But, as you note, this lesser level of precision has drawbacks because depending on the referent, ‘God made the world’ can have quite different shades of meaning.

    The command ‘We must love God’ when understood of the trinity has even more interesting nuances (since the Persons themselves love one another, and we love them *in* one another.)

    Ramping up the intrigue… ‘God’s monarchy’ becomes a statement that *requires* trinitarian explication lest you have three thrones or the Lamb somewhere off-centre from the throne etc. (see my last comment on this).

    But now, here’s where it gets interesting. What about a statement like: ‘God is unoriginate’?? It was a favourite of Arius – what do we make of it? I mean it seems completely logical. It seems to be guarding against things we want to guard against. Surely full divinity cannot be predicated of anything that has an origin outside itself. Right? Well the Son has His eternal origin in the Father, therefore the Son is a lesser deity. That’s the very logic Arius used and it’s just why Athanasius got so picky and said that Arius should not name God from creation and call Him unoriginate but name Him from His Son and call Him Father. In other words – unless from the outset you define God’s nature with the Father-Son reciprocity in mind you won’t be able later to call Jesus God – not fully God.

    ‘God is unoriginate’ is an example of a statement that sounds good and seems to protect important things. And it might be able to be applied to the Three together (the Three do not have their source of life outside themselves) but it is unwise to make the statement simpliciter. And it can lead to heresy when it is applied to particular Persons.

    Now, what do we make of ‘God is self-centred’ or ‘God loves Himself’? You can maybe kinda sorta apply it to all Three together. Almost. You could say that ‘The Three are always focused on the Others’ and ‘The Persons love each Other’ – but once we’ve articulated it like this we see that such adjustments are not mere nuances. They are radically significant changes no?

    But, fatally I feel, these statements are just not true when applied to the particular Persons. That’s a big problem!

    “If I glorify myself,” says Jesus “my glory means nothing.” (John 8:54)

    The Son refuses to glorify Himself. Does that make Him less God? Now of course you can and should point out that the verse goes on to say the Father glorifies the Son. And I’ll say, precisely! It’s an other-centred dynamic at play that is simply not picked up by the straight ‘God’ talk. And unless the reciprocity is acknowledged from the outset you’ll run into problems down the track.

    So here’s where I’m coming from. ‘God’ can refer to all Three together, yes. And I definitely should love the LORD my God with all my heart – whether I feel I’m able to specify which Person is explicitly referenced, or whether I take this as a reference to all Three.

    But all ‘God’ statements are not alike. And we need to be careful. It’s not just that hidden depths are uncovered when we lay bare the perichoretic life of God. Very often an essential *logic* needs articulating via this trinitarian dynamic. And there are times when papering over this dynamic with the simple term ‘God’ will lead us into trouble.

    ‘God loves Himself’ is one of those statements. Now usually I won’t bother raising concerns when Piper or a Piperian say ‘God is self-centred’. But I will certainly say something when he articulates his seven theses in these foundational ways and invites critique.

    Man I am long-winded!!

    PS – I can refute JWs pretty easily – The Father is Father because of the Son (He has His being in communion). The Son is eternally constitutive of the Father’s being. Therefore there can never have been a time when the Son was not.

    … really long-winded!!

  27. Bobby Grow

    Pete,

    I’ll try to keep this precise, I agree with Glen ;-).

    One more point, I don’t follow a “social framing” such as Grenz provides . . . but my reference point would be much closer to T. F. Torrance’s disclosed in his book “Christian Doctrine of God”, and Gunton’s “Promise of a Trinitarian Theology” etc. In fact I think the case can be made that classical theism and social constructs of the trinity flow from the same philosophical stream.

    I don’t think we can leave ousia stuff out of this conversation; because the ousia, scripturally, has to be related to the economic stuff . . . otherwise passages like Heb. 13:8 are indeed false.

    peace.

  28. pgjackson

    Thanks for the reply Glen, appreciated – especially when I’m hijacking your blog :)

    I think, with regard to God’s monarchy, I’d want to draw a distinction between

    1. We MUST understand God’s monarchy as a trinitarian monarchy.

    and

    2. Every statement/ description of God’s monarchy MUST make the trinity explicit.

    I agree with 1. Which is why I think I basically agree with Tony Payne’s critique of the Piper theses, especially as they seem to have been presented. And why I’m glad Piper himself realises the need for greater Christocentricism and crucicentrism (if there is such a word!)..

    But I don’t agree with 2., and I wondered if some of the criticism here was edging towards that kind of a position.

    That said, I also think that, given 1., the more we get statements and descriptions that make that explicit the better. And I take on board therefore that in setting out seven foundational theses and inviting critique, many of the criticism being made here and elsewhere are appropriate.

    What i don’t think is that there are never any situations where Piper’s kind of language would be appropriate and useful. More specifically, I can imagine polemical situations were talking of God’s self-love and his desire to seek his own glory are entirely necessary – if for example your people are surrounded by me-centred therapy pseudo-gospels. Obviously, what’s most needed is the ‘full-blooded all the trinitarian stuff overtly explained’ version of ‘God seeks his glory’. But it’s not wrong to not always feel you have to explain that, just as it’s sometimes fine to talk of God and mean all three-in-unity. My main reason for this is that I think the scripture does use language that way at times.

  29. bobby grow

    Pete,

    when you say ‘monarchy’ what do you mean? Are you talking about God’s disclosure in salvation history? Or are you talking about His immanent nature in eternity? This seems to be a source of confusion, at least for me, in regards to understanding what you’re trying to get at.

  30. pgjackson

    Thanks for the reply Bobby,

    I really think you might’ve been over-reading my post. There’s no denial explicit or implicit that the ousia stuff must relate to the economic stuff. Seriously, driving a wedge between or disconnecting immanent from economic is not something I’m a fan of. Nor do I think what I’ve argued for here does that. I was making a fairly simple point about language, rhetoric, and so on. And I think it’s a point that holds regardless of how classical or not our theism is, because it’s about how the bible talks about God and whether or not we’re allowed to also talk the way the bible talks, whilst also aiming for biblical well-rounded fullness of explanation as often as we can.

    In other words, when I say I want to be able to say statements like ‘God is a monarch’ at certain times and in certain situations, then I always mean the triune God, and I always mean that God reigns as the one God in a three-in-one ‘from Father, by the Son, through the Spirit’ sort of way. No separation of economic from immanent, or (even worse) essence from persons as a ‘fourth thing.’ I just don’t always want my sentences to be as long as all that. And I think that’s ok, because the bible does it.

    Either that or I’ve misunderstood the complexity of all this. ?

  31. pgjackson

    Bobby,

    Oops, just seen your latest reply, we crossed over, sorry.

    I hadn’t thought about it, but now that i have, I think above I’m always on about his disclosure in salvation history. God reigns as Father-Son-Spirit, in creation, the course of history, in redemption etc. I’m on about what he means when he says ‘no other gods, I’m the only one.’

    But then, what he discloses himself to be in salvation is what he is in eternity isn’t it? After all, I’m not in the game of driving wedges and all that ;-)

  32. bobby grow

    Well Pete,

    I guess we agree then on the ‘wedges’ point. But to disassociate biblical talk from theological talk, insofar as that theo talk is aimed at laying bare the inner logic of the bib talk to me is not that fruitful of a trajectory.

    And to be honest, getting back to Piper, and knowing his sources for his talk, I don’t see how we can escape the fact that he is talking from a framework that indeed does assume a ‘wedge’ of sorts. So that we have the via negativa operating along side the via positiva. Piper’s Federalism (relative to Salvation) flows from such theology proper; so that Christs mediation to humanity flows from a subordinating of His offices (prophet, priest, king) to a decree (absolutum decretum), instead of flowing from His very life (trinitarian). In this sense then, there is a “principle” (Godness) behind the back of Jesus (and thus the trinity disclosed in salvation history) determining who He is; instead of Him freely determining who He is. Thus He, and the life of God, is being predicated by History; instead of vice versa. This is what both Glen, and I are driving at in re. to Piper.

    Oh, and on your crucicentrism, I believe usually folks say cruciform or cruciformity to capture the sentiment you were going for there ;-). But, hey, you’re a theologian in training so feel free to neologise all you like ;-).

  33. pgjackson

    Bobby,

    thanks for the advice on cruciformity and neologising. Does it matter that I’ve now finished my training (my name should now link to my new blog rather than the old oak Hill one), or does neologising have to stay in the seminary? :)

    I’m outta my depth here on Piper and his sources if I’m honest. But, the federalism you describe, does it necessarily have to work that way? Doesn’t the decree come from the triune God in eternity? Don’t they flow from his inner life? Indeed, wasn’t salvation history designed to be the arena of the triune God’s self-revelation? Sure, those dots maybe aren’t joined by Piper and his tradition, but that doesn’t mean they can’t ever be.

    As I say though, outta my depth and probably not therefore seeing the whole picture as you see it.

  34. bobby grow

    Pete,

    oh, yep, I was looking at your other blog . . . no, I think you’re free to neologise at will then ;-).

    You said:

    But, the federalism you describe, does it necessarily have to work that way?

    No. But if you follow the Piper way, it does. Yes I want to see it flowing from the “inner life” of God, so that the “outer life” is only, and really, an externalization of what has always already been there. But w/o trying to flesh out the implications of this here, I will just have to leave it as an assertion (time constraints and all). Although my most recent post at my site, has a bunch of “hot-links” strewn throughout, which do flesh this stuff out further . . . albeit through William Perkins, and not Piper (although I would suggest that Piper and Perkins, soteriologically, would be very close).

  35. glenscriv

    Yes, Christmas is definitely the time for noel logs…

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