Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Trinitarian God Part 3: Selfish narcissism? No, selfless love.

This is part 3 in my series on the Trinity - I hope you will get to see how amazing God really is when you think about Him as the Bible describes Him.

In the last post I talked about God creating the universe out of a desire to share his overflowing love. I should also add something that people will often tell you in Christian circles: God created the world for His glory. So have I just contradicted myself? Is God actually less selfless than I suggested? I think when we understand God's glory correctly, then we will also understand that these two ideas are actually very very similar.

I don't know about you, but unless properly defined, the phrase God acting for 'His own glory' rings a bit false to me. It makes me think of a superbeing standing at the top of the universe shouting 'look at me, I'm magnificent'. Now, a being with the power to create the universe has that right perhaps, because he is magnificent - but it doesn't ring true with what we see Jesus is like, what God tells us to be like, and, well, the idea that God is loveable. The God that I read about in the Bible (revealed by Jesus, John 14:8-11) serves others and is humble and tells us to be the same. And one thing we know is that God is not a hypocrite. This is the consequence of, again, defining God without 'Trinity', as a single person - the god of philosophy tends to come across as either selfish or needy - either needing or demanding our praise to build up his inadequate ego.

Mike Reeves (again!) puts us straight on what God's glory is and what glorifying God means. First, an important point, glorifying God does not mean 'making God more glorious', as if He needs a reputation boost from us - He's not that desperate. Glorifying God means making His existing glory known. So what is His glory? It is His holiness - and that is what makes God who He is.
The problem here though, is that we don't really appreciate how lovely true holiness is. Holiness is often pictured in our thoughts as being austere, defined more by what we aren't and what we don't do than what we are. We often fall into the trap of thinking holiness means 'not doing x sins'. Not so.
If the Heavens declare the glory of God - does it not make sense that He is beautiful? Source here.

I'll let Reeves do the work (seriously, just read that post, he is very eloquent):
Our God is, his holiness is that he is sweet and pleasant, a fountain of overflowing love. And real godliness means becoming just like that. Knowing God we become ever more attractive, ever more warm, loving, kind, generous.
So God is holy because He is loving, beautiful, overflowing in love, in fact. It makes Him different to us, because He has none of our selfishness and viciousness. So when we seek to glorify God, we aren't boosting His ego, we are simply becoming more like Him, sharing the love that defines Him with those around us. Glorifying God is fundamentally a selfless thing for us and God. With a God like that, why would you not want His glory to be made widely known - when His glory is abounding love! (See also Colossians 3:12-14Ephesians 4:32-5:2).

Now that makes sense - it means that instead of 'mean God, nice Jesus', we have 'lovely Father, Jesus the exact image and likeness of God the Father'. If you ever think that Jesus seems nicer than God, you've got God wrong. When you look at Jesus, see Him washing His disciples' feet, dying on the Cross - you are seeing what God is truly like.

So when God works for His glory, it's not selfish because it means that God is working to show His love forth.

But it goes further than this, because maybe that phrase 'God glorifying Himself' still sounds a bit selfish to you. Read this article on Glen Scrivener's blog, and perhaps think about it a little differently. The thing you notice about the Trinity is that they never act out of self interest. The Son always acts to glorify the Father, never Himself; the Father is always acting to glorify the Son, not Himself. The Father is the great planner of the Trinity, but He doesn't plan to increase His own reputation - when I say the universe was created for the glory of God, I mean, the Father planned the whole course of history, and the course of salvation history particularly, so that we would have the opportunity to see how amazing and loving the Son is. So God doesn't flip the rules around and say 'you guys be humble cos you're created, but I'm going to be different because I'm the best', He says 'be humble, be selfless, be loving, because I am, and that's good'. Jesus is humble and selfless, not because He's acting nice because He's a man on earth, He's like that because that's what He's like. But if your god isn't Trinitarian, he can't do that - god glorifying god is selfish unless it is other-centred - and only in the Trinity is that possible.

So God is selfless and loving - next we'll see how that works out when we mess it all up.

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