“Woah, Gabe…. What do you mean it’s not all about God’s Glory?!” Now that I’ve reeled you in with such an intriguing title let me first say I do believe in God’s Glory, and in a sense, I also affirm that it is all about God’s Glory. Depending on how we are defining God’s “Glory.” I don’t however, believe it is all about God’s Glory in the way “Glory” is typically understood. Glory as popularly defined whether one recognizes it or not I think is Selfish, although like with many things many do not make this claim explicitly. And since I don’t believe God is selfish I don’t think that definition is correct. So let me define Glory the way it’s typically understood just so we’re all on the same page. Glory as popularly understood is fame. The logic goes if God is the greatest, God thus deserves all the fame and that’s what God is ultimately concerned with; that a name is made for God. God’s love isn’t an end in and of itself. Jonathan Edwards claimed that the ultimate purpose in creating the cosmos was so that God’s glory could be fully manifested, his “self-glorification” as Austin Fischer puts it.  Any human who had this intention as their overarching goal in life would be called a narcissist. Which is typically not recognized as a good thing. On a side note I would take a guess that narcissism is rooted in a person’s insecurities, which of course I don’t believe God has.
Now, of course, someone wants to reply that this is wrong for humans but not for God. This begins to become immediately problematic in that it makes good and evil arbitrary. This line of thinking says something that could be bad for humans, say mass genocide, could be good for God merely because God does it. I don’t see how this isn’t moral relativism masked in piety.  Either there are some things that are always good, and somethings that are always bad or there’s not really such thing as good or bad, this notion however, quoting Justin Martyr, “is the greatest impiety and wickedness.” This begs the question where do morals and ethics come from? Or said another way, what makes good, good; and what makes bad, bad? I don’t think it’s what God says is good or bad, because as mentioned this boils down to moral relativism. Rather I think God is the ultimate good as Gregory of Nyssa has said, “The Divine One is himself the Good, whose very nature is goodness.” Good in fact exists because God exists. The good is not some law outside of God but it also isn’t something that God comes up with on the fly. The Good is God’s very self, the ground of reality. Evil is the absence and corruption of the good that flows from God.
Showing why this critique is problematic let’s get back to God’s Glory. If we are called to imitate God, and I think most people would acknowledge this (God is in some sense the blueprint for reality, thereby making it natural to imitate God). And if God is a selfish fame-seeking narcissist and this is what God ultimately cares for, then whos to say we shouldn’t also be selfish fame-seeking narcissists? You see why this is problematic. Either we follow God’s example in its fullest sense or we don’t. I think this why the phrase “it’s all about God’s Glory,” and the underlying connotation of it is so problematic for the life of faith.
So what’s a better way to understand God’s Glory? As Austin Fischer says in his book, Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed,” “God doesn’t love us in order to take something from us (glory, worship, praise)-that’s what needy, greedy, human love does. God loves because he loves-the only love in existence that doesn’t need a reason. And so when God opens his heart to us and we get a glimpse of what makes it beat (Jesus Christ crucified), we see a desire to love at all costs, not glorify himself at all costs.” So do we just stop using the phrase and term “glory”? Although I rarely do, because of the aforementioned baggage I wouldn’t suggest we need to totally get rid of it as long as we can redefine it in a better way that I think more accurately depicts the nature of God.
So here’s Miroslav Volf’s proposal, “We don’t have to give up on the idea that God seeks God’s own glory. We just need to say that God’s glory, which is God’s very being, is God’s love…In seeking God’s own glory, God merely insists on being toward human beings the God who gives.”  God’s Glory is God’s Self Giving Love. It’s not selfish, fame-seeking, self-centered or narcissistic at all! It’s always others-focused, and others empowering. God cares so much more about others than God’s Self, that God died for others on a cross. Jesus reveals the kind of Glory that God is all about. Jesus shows that God has always been humble, always been others focused, and ultimately IS Self-Giving Love. Jesus didn’t die on a cross to bolster up His pride but to reconcile humanity and creation to Himself. And this is an example we can truly and faithfully follow, and not get called out for being narcissists, well hopefully most of the time.
Photo by Michael und Maartje on Unsplash