The Perspectives class I’ve been taking for about six weeks has really challenged the way I perceive God. One of the biggest challenges came in the second (or third) week, when we talked about God’s primary motivation for creation — and by extension, the purpose for us being here — being to receive worship and glory.
Now, I generally get skeptical about “most important” or “primary reason” phrases in Christian conversations, because I’ve heard preachers say many things — from family, to church service, to charity, to love, to justice, to bible study, and more — are the most important thing to get right. It’s usually an oversell.
So naturally, a wall went up immediately that contributes to my resistance to the idea of a God who is primarily motivated by the glory and worship he receives. But, too, I’ve always based my love for Christ, and thus my Christian walk, on the idea that God is primarily motivated by love. And that His major reason for creation was to love and be loved. It is this foundation which pacifies some of the most difficult questions I have about God and what he allows.
I’ve wrestled with whether it really matters. And with whether finding God’s real motive is too hard a thing for us to even comprehend.
And I’ve decided the conversation is important. Much like the Calvinist conversation, understanding (or at least trying to understand) God’s real purpose for creating Man says something about His character. Further, I think God wants us to know His character. He’s used 66 books to reveal it to us. He’s put on flesh and became one of us through his Son Jesus. And he expects us, as his image-bearers, to be reflections of His character to those around us. Sometimes, the “we just won’t know it because it is a mystery of God” is just a cop-out — an escape clause keeping us from uncovering the riches of God’s Word. God’s gone to great lengths to reveal himself to us. It’s important we get it right.
Steven C. Hawthorne wrote, in a paper named The Story of His Glory, that “God reveals glory to all nations in order that he may receive glory from all people through worship.”
I suppose we should begin by defining glory. Glory is an example of church jargon people hear and say, but don’t really understand. Or, it is a word for which many have a different definition. In this way, it’s much like other christianese words like disciple, evangelism, mission, and even love. So let’s be sure to start on the same page by saying what we mean by glory.
Hawthorne defines glory as referring to “essential worth, beauty, and value” of an object. He says that “glorifying” someone means honoring them publicly in recognition of their intrinsic worth and beauty. In Hebrew, the word’s equivalent refers to weight and brilliance or radiant beauty. In this sense, God’s glory is often made visible by light in the Bible. as was the case with Moses (literally) in Exodus 33:21-23 and for the Christian (spiritually) in 2 Corinthians 3:18.
So then, to restate Hawthorne’s original statement differently, we might say, “God reveals to all nations how valuable he is, in order that they would tell him how valuable he is through worship.”
To this, I suppose we could react two ways.
One, with an unabashed “Yes, exactly!”
And another by thinking, “Wait a minute, so God just wants us (all nations) to tell him how awesome He is, and that’s it.” I fall in the second camp. While the praise and worship of God is an absolute must to the Christian experience, I don’t see it as the ultimate purpose for the great story God is telling throughout history. Such a belief paints an egotistical picture of God, and challenges the very definition of love, which God not merely defines, but embodies. God, as the quintessential definition of love, cannot be driven by a self-glorifying end else He is not love (at least not in the way the scriptures have taught us to understand love.)
To his credit, Hawthorne doesn’t forget about love in his writing. He simply implies love as the vehicle for worship. That is, for him, love is our motivation to achieve the ultimate end of giving God glory. Love, in this sense, is one step away from the ultimate purpose for Man’s creation. I realize Hawthorne is a spiritual juggernaut, and I am but a meek schoolboy. And I know the scriptures that support such a stance. Scriptures like Psalms 86:9 and Psalms 96 and even the picture we find in Revelations 7:9, and Revelations 15:4. But I don’t believe God is primarily motivated by glory. Not for a second.
It may seem to be a hair we are splitting here, but I think there’s a difference between a God who uses love to get worship and praise, and a God who truly loves and desires love, so that worship and praise are a byproduct. It may sound a bit chicken-and-egg, but it’s significant.
Look, in Genesis 3, when God called everything he made good — before the forbidden fruit, and the serpent– we don’t get the picture of Adam praising God and worshiping him with song and offering. Instead, we get the sense (from Genesis 3:8-9) that God made it a habit to commune with Adam on some level. We almost get the sense they were friends who interacted with each other every day. It doesn’t explicitly say so in that verse, but it insinuates it. Or, if that is not the clearest picture, Jesus himself provides yet another model for what God wants from us. And in the life of Jesus, we don’t see a worship and praise scene from Jesus. Instead, we get the sense that God is always with Him. That He and God enjoy a relationship, and that relationship informs Jesus’ actions.
I think it’s clear that Love is the ultimate motivator of God. I think God made us to love and be loved by him. It all begins and ends with love. Our glorification of God (which is fueled by love) will lead others to enter into loving relationships with him. And when we have left this place of darkness (literal and spiritual), God will be glory enough on his own – a brilliant light for all who has accepted and reciprocated His love to see. God’s glory has its place in history, as the plan used to make God’s name known to all the nations. But when it’s all over, we will have been ushered into an everlasting, up close and personal communion and relationship with Him. And we will enjoy the eternal presence of the love of our lives, a communion lasting forever.
Love, leads to glory, which leads to everlasting love. That’s the point of the story.