Last time we saw that the triune God does everything for the glory of love.
This is different from the love of glory. 180 degrees different.
And so – you saw it coming a mile off – I want to argue that John Piper’s popular teaching on this issue is both wrong and damaging. (I’ve written previously on this here, here, here, here and here – and a few other places too!)
As I see it, Piper would have God to sing, “I did it all for the glory of me.”
So, for instance, he begins his first appendix to Desiring God with the statement:
In chapter one I said God’s ultimate goal in all that he does is to preserve and display his glory. I inferred from this that he is uppermost in his own affections. He prizes and delights in his own glory above all things. This appendix presents the biblical evidence for this statement.
First notice the complete lack of a trinitarian dynamic to any of his formulations. I realize that he’s also become aware of a deficiency here, but I still don’t think he’s carried out the revolution of ‘glory’ that’s demanded by a thorough-going trinitarian re-formulation.
Second notice that this glory is the solitary, sedentary glory of the philosophical theist, not the other-centred, self-giving glory of the gospel God.
And so, before he launches into a bible over-view of glory, Piper makes an absolutely crucial move. He seeks to define the “glory” that God is so zealous to pursue:
The term “glory of God” in the Bible generally refers to the visible splendor or moral beauty of God’s manifold perfections. It is an attempt to put into words what cannot be contained in words-what God is like in his unveiled magnificence and excellence.
What do we make of this definition of ‘glory’? Again there is no hint of trinitarian love here. There’s no hint of cruciform sacrifice (cf glory in John). No hint of redemption or saving activity. In fact, no hint of activity at all. Here is a solitary and sedentary glory.
But think of how the bible introduces ‘glory’ in the book of Exodus. First, the Warrior LORD is ‘glorified’ through the defeat of Pharaoh and salvation of Israel (Ex 14:4,17,18). In that redemptive act God is glorified – even glorified in/by Pharaoh. This means that glory is not something behind the salvation of the LORD – a static divine splendour to be later enjoyed by the redeemed. No His glory is in that very judging/redeeming. It’s a display of who He is, not something He gets once redemption is over. On the other side of the Red Sea, the ‘glory’ the Israelites sing about is completely bound up in that deliverance, His wonder-working redemption (Exodus 15:10-13). Then in Exodus 16:7 we meet a Person called “the Glory of the LORD”. And He appears to the Israelites again and again under this title. When Moses asks the Unseen LORD to show him His Glory (Exodus 33:18), He declares His grace-filled name (Ex 34:6f; 23:20). Only after this do we read about the Glory filling the tabernacle (Ex 40:34ff). And even here it’s not simply a shiny brilliance, but a Person we have come to know and He’s accompanied by the Shekinah cloud which pledges the LORD’s guiding and redeeming love.
Now let’s consider Piper’s far more philosophical language of perfections etc. It makes me want to ask, Perfection? God is perfect in what? In magnificence? What kind of magnificence? What is this Godness of God that ‘glory’ describes? The fact that Piper sets up a definition of ‘glory’ apart from trinitarian considerations or an examination of gospel events prejudices the whole scheme from the outset.
In this appendix (and virtually every time he makes these arguments) he will list an armful of Scriptures about God’s pursuit of His glory. (This is why I did my own biblical survey of God’s motives). But Piper only allows those verses to tell us that God pursues glory. He doesn’t allow those verses to tell us what the glory is. He’s let the philosophers do that job.
You see, if ‘glory’ is the ‘excellence’ of a solitary, sedentry deity then pursuit of this glory will look a certain way. But what if ‘glory’ was an active, redemptive, Personal, trinitarian, self-giving love? What would God’s pursuit of this glory look like? It would look like the very opposite of a self-exalting glory.
Next I will look in more detail at what it means for God to act for the sake of this kind of glory.