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Unread 06-01-2016, 12:43 PM   #1
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Some Deep Thoughts on God's Glory

So I have been having some intense deep thoughts lately about the character of God. I know that not everyone will agree with this (as a lot of these issues are some of the bigger divisive issues in the church), but I wanted to share some of these thoughts in this open forum to generate a healthy discussion on the topic.

A disclaimer is that I *do* believe that we *cannot* fully understand God. We get to understand glimpses and shadows, but we cannot bear the full weight of His glory without perishing, so anything we *do* know is what we *need* to know. That said, I would like to share some of the deeper issues of God's character that I do not believe we are suppose to understand fully.

1) God's purpose is to be glorified and to be enjoyed forever.

This is the reverse of the Westminster Shorter Catechism which states "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever". This statement is not meant to be ultimate, but rather part of God's purpose. Something we need to know is that God *needs* no purpose, and this statement would probably be more accurate as "God deserves all glory and delights in being enjoyed forever", but I went with the more concise statement.

If we can agree on the 2 parts of the statement about glory and enjoyment, we can continue.

2) If God's purpose is to be glorified, and God is omnipotent/sovereign, then God *will* receive the maximum amount of glory possible.

This is an area that I know some people will disagree with. I ascribe to "reformed" theology which places a lot more credence on God's sovereignty than other philosophies. If you are unfamiliar, here are three rap songs (by one of my favorite theologians: Shai Linne) that I believe do a better job explaining this issue than most books I've read on the topic:

Mission Accomplished - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZ_jFO2VzRQ
Our God is in the Heavens - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqwpCIu-deA
Election - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzYJvkgy4Gs

Anyway, what I am suggesting is that *if* God's purpose is to receive glory/be glorified, AND *if* God is fully powerful/fully in control, THEN God *will* be glorified to the maximum potential. This means that everything that happens happens the exact way it needs to to bring God the maximum amount of glory.

3) God is loving, merciful, and gracious; but God is holy and just and cannot exist with sin.

When God saves a sinner, that sinner will turn around and give God glory.
When God inflicts justice on a sinner, He receives glory for eradicating sin.

These are the philosophies that give us hope, drive us to Mission, and disallow inclusivism and universalism (which both make moot Christ's death). We like to focus on God's love and downplay His justice, but without the *bad* news, the *good* news would just be *news* (not an original thought of mine btw).

Alright, so when we look at these 3 points I have made, we must assume that everything God has done was to gain for Himself more glory (which sounds selfish to our sinful ears, but since God is not sinful AND since he deserves all glory, this is just part of His nature and is therefore good and right, and we should make it our goal to assist Him). This is going to lead the conversation to the tricky parts (so if you thought it was tricky up to this point, then hold on!).

A) God does not need humans for anything, and only created us (as well as the rest of the natural and supernatural realms - in other words, everything that He created) to achieve the most glory that He could.

In other words, God gets more glory through our existence than without our existence, so if He is going to get the most glory, He had to create us.

Again, that sounds cold/selfish to our sinful ears, but keep in mind that God delights in receiving glory, so when God gets glory, we all (His children) benefit and in turn enjoy Him. So we want God to receive the maximum glory because that means we are experiencing maximum sin-free, eternal enjoyment.

B) God ordained the fall because a saved remnant could offer up more glory than that of every living person never knowing grace.

If Adam and Eve never sinned and procreated and all of humanity lived in the Garden forever, humanity would never come to an understanding of grace and mercy and our need for God.

Without sin, we don't need Christ; and while we can still love God, we can't bring Him as much glory than we do now having such a deeper knowledge of our great need for rescue and redemption. We know where we would be without God's rescue, and we know that there is no hope without His blood; and we therefore offer up immeasurably more glory.

Now, "ordinance" is NOT the same thing as God forcing us to sin. God does not condone sin. God does not love sin. But without sin, God does not receive as much glory as He would without sin (VERY complicated theology, go read Romans 9).

C) God rescues those who would ultimately amount to the most glory received by God.

If everyone was destined for glory (think Rob Bell's "Love Wins"), the work of the Cross would be moot, and sin would not matter. The Church would be duped into living righteously and God Himself would be a punk for allowing us to die for him at the hands of people who would all ultimately join us there anyway.

Instead, allowing most to die to save some allows the saved/Elect to offer up the maximum glory we can individually offer. Also, only God knows who will offer Him more glory (not to be confused with "acts that will eventually save us") for being rescued than God would receive by judging the sinner and eradicating their sin.

I need to say this again. God knows which sinners would offer up more glory after being saved than the glory God would receive by judging them and sending them to hell. This does not have anything to do with the quality of actions anyone has in this life. Sometimes, a great horrible sinner offers up more glory to God than a goody-two-shoes who goes to church every Sunday (even if they were saved at an early age) simple because the sinner comes to a greater understanding for his need of God's grace.

Ultimately, God *will* receive the most glory that He could possibly receive, and we need to understand that this often involves his righteous judgement. What brings me comfort is knowing that God saw fit to rescue me, and that it brings Him more glory to rescue me than to judge me on my own merit.

What now? Look for ways to bring God more glory!

Worship Him in all you do and be a witness everywhere you go of His amazing entitlement for the maximum glory He is due.

Grace and Peace.

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Unread 06-01-2016, 03:02 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryan J Emerson View Post
So I have been having some intense deep thoughts lately about the character of God. I know that not everyone will agree with this (as a lot of these issues are some of the bigger divisive issues in the church), but I wanted to share some of these thoughts in this open forum to generate a healthy discussion on the topic.

A disclaimer is that I *do* believe that we *cannot* fully understand God. We get to understand glimpses and shadows, but we cannot bear the full weight of His glory without perishing, so anything we *do* know is what we *need* to know. That said, I would like to share some of the deeper issues of God's character that I do not believe we are suppose to understand fully.
Welcome to the board, Bryan! I am sorry I didn't introduce myself further before, or more explicitly welcome you. My name is Jon, and I usually spend time in Theology. Theology isn't as active as some of the other forums here though, so I'm encouraged to see you active!

It's a long post, and I think I got all that you were trying to say, but I'm unsure and I'm thinking about implications/assumptions being made. (I tend to be critical, so if I'm being too critical or nitpicky, let me know!)

Quote:
1) God's purpose is to be glorified and to be enjoyed forever.

This is the reverse of the Westminster Shorter Catechism which states "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever". This statement is not meant to be ultimate, but rather part of God's purpose. Something we need to know is that God *needs* no purpose, and this statement would probably be more accurate as "God deserves all glory and delights in being enjoyed forever", but I went with the more concise statement.

If we can agree on the 2 parts of the statement about glory and enjoyment, we can continue.
I'm not entirely sure I know what you mean by "this is the reverse" of the WSC.

Do you simply mean "God's ultimate intention in creating is to glorify himself", or that "The purpose of God is to glorify God"? If the former, I am confused, because I took you to be replacing "Man's chief end" with "God's chief end"; but if it is the latter, if God has a chief end for himself, (which is what I took you to mean), then it is quite different from "God deserves all glory"

That said, I am quite sympathetic to the over-arching theme of creation to be for the purpose of God's glory, for God to have the greatness of his name's sake the ultimate end for his decreeing, creating, redeeming, glorifying, etc. You won't be hearing me argue against God seeking glory for himself, that's for sure.

Quote:
2) If God's purpose is to be glorified, and God is omnipotent/sovereign, then God *will* receive the maximum amount of glory possible.

This is an area that I know some people will disagree with. I ascribe to "reformed" theology which places a lot more credence on God's sovereignty than other philosophies. If you are unfamiliar, here are three rap songs (by one of my favorite theologians: Shai Linne) that I believe do a better job explaining this issue than most books I've read on the topic:

Mission Accomplished - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZ_jFO2VzRQ
Our God is in the Heavens - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqwpCIu-deA
Election - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzYJvkgy4Gs

Anyway, what I am suggesting is that *if* God's purpose is to receive glory/be glorified, AND *if* God is fully powerful/fully in control, THEN God *will* be glorified to the maximum potential. This means that everything that happens happens the exact way it needs to to bring God the maximum amount of glory.
Thanks for the Shai Linne tracks! Last Fall I heard he was planting a church in the neighborhood where I lived in Philly for a while. (Mt airy/Germantown) He's legit

Quote:
3) God is loving, merciful, and gracious; but God is holy and just and cannot exist with sin.

When God saves a sinner, that sinner will turn around and give God glory.
When God inflicts justice on a sinner, He receives glory for eradicating sin.

These are the philosophies that give us hope, drive us to Mission, and disallow inclusivism and universalism (which both make moot Christ's death). We like to focus on God's love and downplay His justice, but without the *bad* news, the *good* news would just be *news* (not an original thought of mine btw).

Alright, so when we look at these 3 points I have made, we must assume that everything God has done was to gain for Himself more glory (which sounds selfish to our sinful ears, but since God is not sinful AND since he deserves all glory, this is just part of His nature and is therefore good and right, and we should make it our goal to assist Him). This is going to lead the conversation to the tricky parts (so if you thought it was tricky up to this point, then hold on!).
There's a lot of great literature on trying to capture what you seem to be trying to capture: clarifying the underlying reasons why suffering and sin are permitted in the face of a God who hates sin, cares about his creation, and is powerful enough to do something about it. Have you read Wayne Grudem, Herman Bavinck, or John Murray? These are all Reformed guys, to some extent or another. (Grudem's still alive too)

Quote:
A) God does not need humans for anything, and only created us (as well as the rest of the natural and supernatural realms - in other words, everything that He created) to achieve the most glory that He could.

In other words, God gets more glory through our existence than without our existence, so if He is going to get the most glory, He had to create us.
Interesting! So, you're basically arguing that creation was a necessary act if God's goal is to glorify himself maximally. But is God free to create? Like, did he have to create anything?

Quote:
Again, that sounds cold/selfish to our sinful ears, but keep in mind that God delights in receiving glory, so when God gets glory, we all (His children) benefit and in turn enjoy Him. So we want God to receive the maximum glory because that means we are experiencing maximum sin-free, eternal enjoyment.

B) God ordained the fall because a saved remnant could offer up more glory than that of every living person never knowing grace.

If Adam and Eve never sinned and procreated and all of humanity lived in the Garden forever, humanity would never come to an understanding of grace and mercy and our need for God.

Without sin, we don't need Christ; and while we can still love God, we can't bring Him as much glory than we do now having such a deeper knowledge of our great need for rescue and redemption. We know where we would be without God's rescue, and we know that there is no hope without His blood; and we therefore offer up immeasurably more glory.
Do you ever worry that we Reformed folk come dangerously close to Yin-Yang, where the dark was necessary for the light, that evil is a prerequisite to understanding good rightly?

Quote:
Now, "ordinance" is NOT the same thing as God forcing us to sin. God does not condone sin. God does not love sin. But without sin, God does not receive as much glory as He would without sin (VERY complicated theology, go read Romans 9).
Romans 9 is a hard one, bro. There are some here who read it not regarding individuals, but rather corporately. Just like Jacob and Esau are referring to the elect people (Israel) and those passed over (Esau) in the major and minor prophets, so also is Paul referring to corporate Jacob (whom God loved) and corporate Esau (whom God hated). The implication they draw from this is that individuals are not predestined, but rather groups. We want to be numbered among True Israel.

I don't think that evades the worry they do, but I think it is telling to point to a verse where Paul asks the question (without answering it explicitly), "What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?"

That said, if Paul doesn't answer this speculation, I think we're free to speculate right along with him but I won't presume to answer it without some other, clearer Scripture passage to interpret it. He goes into quoting Isaiah, but I haven't grasped the import of it quite yet.

Quote:
C) God rescues those who would ultimately amount to the most glory received by God.

If everyone was destined for glory (think Rob Bell's "Love Wins"), the work of the Cross would be moot, and sin would not matter. The Church would be duped into living righteously and God Himself would be a punk for allowing us to die for him at the hands of people who would all ultimately join us there anyway.

Instead, allowing most to die to save some allows the saved/Elect to offer up the maximum glory we can individually offer. Also, only God knows who will offer Him more glory (not to be confused with "acts that will eventually save us") for being rescued than God would receive by judging the sinner and eradicating their sin.
I think Francis Turretin's got it right when he says this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Francis Turretin
No other cause can be assigned why the Lord has done this or that than this- because he so willed. If you ask further, why he so willed, you seek something greater and more sublime than the will of God (which cannot be found). Therefore human temerity ought to restrain itself and not to seek what is not, lest perchance it fail to find that which is.
That's from his Institutes of Elenctic Theology. My personal opinion, by the way, is that Francis Turretin is one of the most legit Reformed thinkers post-Calvin. He was in Geneva and was one of the authors of the Helvetic Confession

Quote:
I need to say this again. God knows which sinners would offer up more glory after being saved than the glory God would receive by judging them and sending them to hell. This does not have anything to do with the quality of actions anyone has in this life. Sometimes, a great horrible sinner offers up more glory to God than a goody-two-shoes who goes to church every Sunday (even if they were saved at an early age) simple because the sinner comes to a greater understanding for his need of God's grace.
Doesn't this mean his election depends on man's fitness for giving him glory as elect or as reprobate? Like, isn't this basically saying God's decision process involved something like, "Well, I can tell you'll be more use to giving me glory if you were damned forever", and that that was the basis for his passing over them? The flipside is that God would also see in me that I'd be more fit for his glory as elect, and so having foreseen what I would be like he elected me?

Something doesn't seem right here.

Quote:
Ultimately, God *will* receive the most glory that He could possibly receive, and we need to understand that this often involves his righteous judgement. What brings me comfort is knowing that God saw fit to rescue me, and that it brings Him more glory to rescue me than to judge me on my own merit.

What now? Look for ways to bring God more glory!

Worship Him in all you do and be a witness everywhere you go of His amazing entitlement for the maximum glory He is due.

Grace and Peace.
Interesting thoughts! I look forward to hear your clarifications and some more passages you have in mind that would help you determine some of my questions!
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Unread 06-01-2016, 04:02 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by athanatos View Post
I'm not entirely sure I know what you mean by "this is the reverse" of the WSC.
That was a clerical error. I meant "inverse".

Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
God's purpose (I do not personally believe "chief end" is a fitting phrase to describe God, though "purpose" isn't a great one either) is to be glorified and to be enjoyed forever.

This idea is something I have been wrestling with lately. I am not 100% settled on it, but my deep thoughts have been arriving there a lot.

Quote:
Do you simply mean "God's ultimate intention in creating is to glorify himself", or that "The purpose of God is to glorify God"? If the former, I am confused, because I took you to be replacing "Man's chief end" with "God's chief end"; but if it is the latter, if God has a chief end for himself, (which is what I took you to mean), then it is quite different from "God deserves all glory"

That said, I am quite sympathetic to the over-arching theme of creation to be for the purpose of God's glory, for God to have the greatness of his name's sake the ultimate end for his decreeing, creating, redeeming, glorifying, etc. You won't be hearing me argue against God seeking glory for himself, that's for sure.
God's intention for everything He does is to 1) glorify Himself and 2) be enjoyed by His church. This is easy to see with the good things, but must be applied to the hard things as well.


Quote:
Thanks for the Shai Linne tracks! Last Fall I heard he was planting a church in the neighborhood where I lived in Philly for a while. (Mt airy/Germantown) He's legit
Like I said, he is one of my favorite theologians. I don't see him as a rapper, he is a preacher that uses rap as his podium.

Quote:
There's a lot of great literature on trying to capture what you seem to be trying to capture: clarifying the underlying reasons why suffering and sin are permitted in the face of a God who hates sin, cares about his creation, and is powerful enough to do something about it. Have you read Wayne Grudem, Herman Bavinck, or John Murray? These are all Reformed guys, to some extent or another. (Grudem's still alive too)
Got Grudem's Systematic Theology on my shelf. I went to SBTS, so yes, I have studied Grudem =P

As far as other writers, the majority of my study has been author's like Bob Kauflin, Harold Best, and David Peterson; but I may have to look those guys up as well.

Quote:
Interesting! So, you're basically arguing that creation was a necessary act if God's goal is to glorify himself maximally. But is God free to create? Like, did he have to create anything?
God is free to create, but God *will* do what brings him most glory. I am arguing that in order for God to reach maximum glory, He had to create everything. "Had" is such a tough word to use, though, since it carries such a negative connotation to us sinful minded/lazy people. You could also say that God "got" to make us because it brought about more glory for himself.

Quote:
Do you ever worry that we Reformed folk come dangerously close to Yin-Yang, where the dark was necessary for the light, that evil is a prerequisite to understanding good rightly?
Yes. This is why we must be constantly removing planks from our eyes and feet from our mouths.

Quote:
Romans 9 is a hard one, bro. There are some here who read it not regarding individuals, but rather corporately. Just like Jacob and Esau are referring to the elect people (Israel) and those passed over (Esau) in the major and minor prophets, so also is Paul referring to corporate Jacob (whom God loved) and corporate Esau (whom God hated). The implication they draw from this is that individuals are not predestined, but rather groups. We want to be numbered among True Israel.

I don't think that evades the worry they do, but I think it is telling to point to a verse where Paul asks the question (without answering it explicitly), "What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?"

That said, if Paul doesn't answer this speculation, I think we're free to speculate right along with him but I won't presume to answer it without some other, clearer Scripture passage to interpret it. He goes into quoting Isaiah, but I haven't grasped the import of it quite yet.
I would argue that Romans 9 is *the* hard one! very tough, church dividing philosophies at work. What we *can* pull from it is that God *does* create some for glory and some for destruction, and we have no ground to ask God why. I think this is the entire thesis of the book of Job as well.

We can also pull from that passage that God does ordain sin (hardening the heart of Pharaoh) without condoning sin (Pharaoh was still held accountable for his sins).


Quote:
I think Francis Turretin's got it right when he says this:
Quote:
No other cause can be assigned why the Lord has done this or that than this- because he so willed. If you ask further, why he so willed, you seek something greater and more sublime than the will of God (which cannot be found). Therefore human temerity ought to restrain itself and not to seek what is not, lest perchance it fail to find that which is.
That's from his Institutes of Elenctic Theology. My personal opinion, by the way, is that Francis Turretin is one of the most legit Reformed thinkers post-Calvin. He was in Geneva and was one of the authors of the Helvetic Confession
I like that.

Quote:
Doesn't this mean his election depends on man's fitness for giving him glory as elect or as reprobate? Like, isn't this basically saying God's decision process involved something like, "Well, I can tell you'll be more use to giving me glory if you were damned forever", and that that was the basis for his passing over them? The flipside is that God would also see in me that I'd be more fit for his glory as elect, and so having foreseen what I would be like he elected me?

Something doesn't seem right here.
This is the part of the argument I have not fully settled on (probably because man was not meant to), but in short, "no" no part of man's salvation is based on man's fitness for anything. Something would be wrong with that.

What I am contemplating is that *if* God will get max glory, then when God sends someone to hell, justice brought him more glory that grace would. That "if" may be the weak link, but it "makes sense" to me (as if God could ever "make sense").

I think glory is tied to the heart of man. Great grace bring great humility and thankfulness which each brings great glory after a lifestyle of horrendous acts. So why does God save 1 serial killer but let another be justly punished? Why does God save one "pretender" after 30 years of faking Christianity but let other die and go to hell?

Obviously, I can't tell those answers. But I believe God does get the maximum glory in each case.

Quote:
Interesting thoughts! I look forward to hear your clarifications and some more passages you have in mind that would help you determine some of my questions!
I will look up some other passages later (I only had a few minutes to contribute right now). The severe lack of passages should trump any logical sense this post has though.
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