Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Glory of God Is Under Debate

Ben Witherington has sparked a debate with a reaction to Thomas Schreiner’s New Testament Theology. Timmy Brister is “keeping score” with his list of links to the primary contributors to the debate.

Here’s the quick summary: Thomas Schreiner stated in his book that the most basic theme of the New Testament is, “God magnifying himself through Jesus Christ by means of the Holy Spirit." Ben Witherington responded by saying that this implies that “God worships himself”. He argues that man was created in the image of God to be “other-directed” and that the fall made us to be “narcissistic” implying that for God to seek His own glory would be likewise narcissistic. He also claims that the notion that God seeks His own glory is an attempt to “recreate God in our own self-centered image.” The argument has underpinnings in the Reformed/Libertarian Free-Will debate.

There have been many bits spilled already over this and I could hardly add to the discussion. However, I find that Ben Witherington’s contentions first indicate a misunderstanding of God’s purpose in creation and second incorrectly equate God’s nature with our own.

If God is the Creator of all there is, then this creation fully exists according to His purposes and intentions. What does it mean that God is “glorified”? Is He to be glorified only to Himself? To be fair, the statement in Schreiner’s book is a reference to the true revelation of God in the New Testament. Does Witherington claim that the New Testament does something other than reveal God to us? Does it reveal God to be anything other than glorious? At this, if God created all that is, including the human race, would He have created us for any reason that didn’t glorify Himself? If so, then we would have to say that God is the author of sin. If God created sin, or at least the possibility of sin, then how could we not say that in some way God intended to use sin, or the possibility of sin, to His glory? Can we separate His glory from His purposes?

If God is the Creator and he created us with a will of our own, whether or not we agree that our will has any autonomy aside from God’s creation, then God’s purposes are bifurcated from our own. If God is the Creator and we are not, then His purposes are not equivalent in any esteemed value to ours. We may have an account in the bank, but God created the bank as well as the mint. He also serves as the foundation for the value of our deposit. The glory and purpose God gives us cannot in any way be compared to the glory and purpose of God. This goes beyond a mere category error. It is not merely a difference of degree. God’s glory, purpose and will are absolute. Ours are temporal and contingent on His. There is no comparison.

Read through Timmy’s list that I’ve linked to above and keep these things in mind.

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