What Brings the Most Glory to God?

More from Grace Gate.  I recently e-mailed the person who runs Grace Gate and let him (or her) know that I responded to one of his (or her) posts.  A few days ago I noticed that this person left another link in a different combox again asking me to check out his (or her) site.  I did not approve that one as he already asked me once and I responded.  It is quite obvious that he is just trying to promote his site and spamming wherever he thinks he might draw attention to it.  Since he wants so much attention I thought I would oblige him by working through some more of his (or her) Grace Gate material.  Here is his “premise” under the heading, (B-2) God’s purpose: His glory

What is God’s ultimate purpose in everything He does?  “(B-2) God’s Purpose: His Glory” will seek to show that God’s ultimate and overriding purpose in everything is to glorify Himself.  It is not to keep us from persecution and hardship; it is not even to save every person from His judgment.  It is to glorify Himself.  John Piper explains how God is right and Righteous in upholding His own glory. 

“God’s righteousness is essentially his unswerving allegiance to his own name and his own glory. God is righteous to the degree that he upholds and displays the honor of his name. He is righteous when he values most what is most valuable, and what is most valuable is his own glory. Therefore God’s justice, his righteousness, consists most fundamentally in doing what is consistent with the esteem and demonstration of his name, his glory. God would be unrighteous if he did not uphold and display his glory as infinitely valuable.”

It is tough to interact with this stuff as most of it is just quotes from popular contemporary Calvinists (Piper, White, and Sproul seem to be his [or her] favorites).  So I will just focus primarily on the “premise” sections.

Calvinists might be surprised to learn that Arminians would readily agree that God is ultimately concerned with His own glory.  The important question then becomes: what brings God the most glory?  In the context of the Arminian/Calvinist debate we might frame the question like this:

“Does God receive more glory from cause and effect (determinism) relationships or from influence and response relationships?”

How much glory does God receive by creating persons who are not capable of genuine personality (i.e., not allowed to genuinely be or act as persons)?  In other words, if God controls the thoughts and actions of His creatures does that not destroy their value as persons?  And why would God want to have relationships with His creatures when He controls their every thought and action?  Can we really call that a relationship?  Can we really call such creatures “persons” at all?  Can the God of all truth really be satisfied with such a farce? 

It seems to me that God is most glorified by the fact that some of His creatures freely value Him and want to enter into a personal relationship with Him.  This seems far more glorifying than the conception of God which has Him needing to irresistibly control the wills (if you can even call it a will) of some of His creatures to love and trust Him (else they would never do so).  How is that glorifying to God?  Is it really that impressive that God controls everything (in a deterministic sense) and irresistibly controls His creatures to love Him?  I am more impressed by a parent who has earned the respect and love of his (or her) children, than one who is just authoritative and forces devotion from his children.  So it is not that impressive to me that God authoritatively controls His entire creation in such a way that there can be no independent wills other than His own (as if the Sovereign creator of the universe should be threatened by independent wills).  Calvinistic determinism leads to several unfortunate consequences that are far from glorifying to God:

1)  It makes God the author and cause of evil since He controls every thought and action of His creatures.  To make the God of holiness and truth into the author of all sin and evil makes Him contradictory at His core.  This robs God of both His holiness and inherent truthfulness, and therefore robs Him of His glory.

2)  It makes God into someone who cannot be trusted.  He calls on His creatures to repent and trust in Him, all the while purposely denying most of His creatures the ability to do that which He has commanded.  Therefore God cannot be taken at His word when He says he desires all to be saved and takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, etc.

3)  God causes His creatures to sin and then punishes the majority of them eternally for that sin and for rejecting an atonement that was never intended for them nor provided for them.  Essentially, God condemns unbelievers for rejecting what was for them a lie (that Christ died for them, cf. Rom. 3:25).  Shouldn’t they rather be commended and rewarded for refusing to believe falsehoods (that Christ died for them)??

 4)  God determines every thought and action of all of His creatures before creating the universe and then punishes the majority of His creatures for doing exactly what He predetermined for them to do (a predetermination that they could not resist).  And this brings glory to God how?

5)  A God who willingly lays down His life even for those who will reject Him glorifies His love far more than a God who lays down His life only for those that He will irresistibly cause to receive the benefit of His atonement, while making no atonement for the rest of His creation.  It becomes: God only loves those that He has determined to cause to love Him.

6)  To say, as some Calvinists do, that God needed to irresistibly and irrevocably reprobate most of His creation in order to fully display His attributes (which apparently includes His wrath), is to make God’s full glory dependent on man.  Calvinists should be the first to notice that such a thing does not bring the most glory to God.

Some Calvinists will object to some of the language I have used here.  I can already hear the cries of “misrepresentation” on a few fronts (which I will examine in a second).  But the reason I used the language I did here is because many Calvinists will discuss their theology very carefully, always hiding certain unattractive aspects or unfortunate consequences of their theological commitments.  In the spirit of this post I thought it would be best to present Calvinism in all of its “glory” so that we might fully consider its so called truth.

Addressing a few objections:   

1)  Calvinists don’t believe that God causes sin.

Well, then please explain how God can cause all things (including the thoughts and actions of His creatures) and not be the cause of His creatures’ sin and rebellion?  I’m all ears.  And if you want to appeal to secondary causes, etc., please take the time to explain how this really changes things.  And please avoid the language of permission as permission is non-sensical in a deterministic framework.  And please explain how God can only foreknow what He determines to bring about (according to the standard C definition of foreknowledge) and yet not personally bring about those things that He foreknows (like sin and rebellion)?

2)  Calvinists don’t believe that God forces His creatures to be devoted to Him or love Him.

I would like to ask a simple question.  Does anyone desire to love God prior to irresistible regeneration according to Calvinism?  Aren’t we all just God haters and God rejecters prior to irresistible regeneration?  If so, then how can you say that God does not force people to love Him since they did not want to love Him prior to God’s irresistible work?  To say God causes them to want Him does not really help (notice the word “cause” ).  Really, in Calvinism God causes everything since nothing can exercise any action of the will independent of God’s ultimate and sovereign control.  God doesn’t need to take control of the will since He already controlled it.  He just controls it in a different direction (from unbelief/rejection to belief/faithfulness; from hatred to love).  So why do you get hyped up when we say that God irresistibly causes His creatures to love Him in Calvinism?

I can think of a few more “objections” that certain Calvinist might want to raise concerning the language I have used here, but since this post is already too long I will just allow them to raise those objections in the combox if they like.

Conclusion: The Arminian understanding of Scripture and theology brings far more glory to God than the Calvinist view.  It better preserves His truthfulness, holiness, genuineness, and His love, all of which bring God great glory.

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15 Responses

  1. Good read Ben. It has always been a mystery to me why C’s think that exhaustive determinism would God more glory than genuine relationships do.

    BTW, you’re not properly following the ordered sequence on the C site. . ;)

  2. Good article,

    Does Piper bother about what the word “glory” actually means? Calvinists speak much about God’s glory, but seldom about 1) what glory means, 2) what it means with respect to God and 3) how God is glorifying Himself, what God’s glory is actually about. I’ll comment on what Piper has to say here:


    “God’s righteousness is essentially his unswerving allegiance to his own name and his own glory. God is righteous to the degree that he upholds and displays the honor of his name. He is righteous when he values most what is most valuable, and what is most valuable is his own glory. ”

    What is “glory” if not a mere word? God is righteous values his own glory, we’re told. So what? What exactly is God’s glory?

    Therefore God’s justice, his righteousness, consists most fundamentally in doing what is consistent with the esteem and demonstration of his name, his glory.

    Now first concerning God’s righteousness. God is righteous because he fulfills the law. “You shall love God, the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and your neighbor as yourself.”

    When the father loves the son, He loves God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength because the son is God.

    But also, he loves his neighbor because the son is not the father. God does not cease to direct all his love towards the son, and to no one else. Thus, the law is perfectly fulfilled by God. This is why God is righteous. Righteousness means fulfilling the law.

    Concerning glory:
    God’s glory has to do with the demonstration of his name, Piper says. I agree. God’s glory has to do with revelation. Glory means something “visible”, knowable. “God is glorified” means as much as “God is revealed”, or “God made Himself known”. God is eternally knowable because the father is known by His eternal son. The son is the glory of the father, because He reveals him, makes him known, reflects Him. God is eternally knowable to mankind because the son revealed Him once for all. “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn. 17:3)

    That is God’s glory.

    Jesus has to say something about the father’s glory. For example John 15:8 : the father is glorified when you (the disciples) bear much fruit.

    And somewhere in John 14: Ask in my name and it will be given to you so that the father is glorified in the son.

    And in John 17: The glory you have given me, I have given them. Note, Christ has given the disciples! the glory of God. God glorified in men!

    The glory of the father = Revelation of the father => Through the Son => Now in man.

    God is glorified in man. Not in unknowability.

    John 17:22-23 is especially clear. God is in the disciples. In man!

    God would be unrighteous if he did not uphold and display his glory as infinitely valuable.”

    Okay, but saying that communicates nothing, to be honest. What does it mean to uphold and display glory as infinitely valuable? What does Piper actually have in his mind when he says such things? Uttering things like this is really smoke and dust, it doesn’t clear anything up. For according to Calvinist thinking there are many, many aspects of God that remain inscrutable. Is God glorified (=revealed) in inscrutability? That is a self-contradictive position. Yet according to Calvinism, even God’s glory is inscrutable!! Think about that, God’s having made known Himself is something inscrutable.

    Again, Calvinists, what exactly is God’s glory?
    Piper neither explains what God’s glory is, nor what God’s righteousness is. He instead says: God’s righteousness is upholding his glory. But Calvinists know nothing about God’s glory.

  3. Well, maybe I am just ready to be beaten up?

    Here goes::::>

    you wrote this question:

    Well, then please explain how God can cause all things (including the thoughts and actions of His creatures) and not be the cause of His creatures’ sin and rebellion?

    I don’t understand the question.

    My thought is “why” would you want to know that?

    What good is the Gospel? I am a creature. I have seen babies born, both of my sons. I know the experiences in a closed sense in that I know my wife was a virgin. And I have no doubt I fathered those two boys.

    I begin from the presupposition of that same origin. I have no other presupposition in reality to build from.

    So, I don’t understand your question and its significance to origins.

    If I need to know the origin in the way you frame your question then I am “trying” and “attempting” to be like God and know everything.

    One greater mind than yours or mine said of God, “if God learned anything, then “he” would not be God” “God knows everything”.

    I know that I know that I need a Savior. I did not know my need until as a matter of personal “faith” I came to “know” my need for a Savior.

    I came to understand that Jesus is the Christ and that He is to be “known” as my Savior.

    That I know.

    I clicked on the GraceGate link. I didn’t go much farther because as you I realized what it amounts to is an inappropriate solicitation and that turned me off. You apparently, for whatever reason went ahead and read deeper and came up with your conclusions about it and have as a result proffered this article.

    I haven’t studied Piper, White or Sproul. I haven’t read any of their books. I have listened to videos and read some articles and agree and disagree with much of what I know.

    I have read some about Calvin and Harmaneus/Arminius. I have read some of the cause for the Council of Dordt.

    I have read and read and read to gain understanding and a place with God, the Bible, making my calling and election sure as the Apostle teaches all True Believers to do, make their calling and election sure.

    So, what can you help me with in understanding the reason why any one of us should know the answer to the question? As I asserted, I don’t believe I or you could ever know God without His assistance in the way of the Gospel and Jesus Christ.

    Here is an absolute:

    God reveals Christ to us. Christ reveals God to us. The devils know God and tremble. I know God and receive forgiveness and continual troublings from the devils and continually turn to God for His assistance and Saving Grace, Mercy and Peace.

  4. Michael,

    The question is very important (to me) because it gets to the heart of God’s character and truthfulness. If determinism is true then God is the author and cause of sin. In fact, He is the only true sinner in the universe. I would think that such a thought would repulse any believer. If such a conclusion is the result of exhaustive determinism (and it certainly is), then that is clear proof that exhaustive determinism is false doctrine IMO, and should be strongly rejected by anyone who wants to uphold God’s holiness and character as revealed in Scripture and in the person of Jesus Christ.

    I have read and read and read to gain understanding and a place with God, the Bible, making my calling and election sure as the Apostle teaches all True Believers to do, make their calling and election sure.

    That is great to hear.

    As I asserted, I don’t believe I or you could ever know God without His assistance in the way of the Gospel and Jesus Christ.

    Arminians are in full agreement with you here.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  5. Well, then I just have to agree with you and go on in the Work of Christ as He is the Savior, Prophet, King, Shepherd and Son of God, the Only Begotten Son of God that God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost have assigned to me to follow and work for.

    I trust God. I trust God so much that They have given me a work to do. I suppose by stating that that you would also agree that if They find something I am doing that is not acceptable to this “calling and election” I am assigned to, They have remedies for that as in further instruction, correction, reproofs and rebukes as necessary.

    I don’t exclude Mercy. I don’t exclude Grace. I do exclude Peace. Peace seems to be the antedote for me. When I know Peace and have no “peace” I know I am off from being completely centered in the Will of the God of Peace.

    You?

    Thanks for the demeanor that you take with me Ben. I find it quite refreshing know full well we both suspect I am not buying to everything Arminian!

    By His Grace
    michael

  6. Let me edit that last sentence:

    Thanks for the demeanor that you take with me Ben. I find it quite refreshing knowing full well we both suspect I am not buying into everything Arminian!

  7. Thanks for the demeanor that you take with me Ben. I find it quite refreshing knowing full well we both suspect I am not buying into everything Arminian!

    Well, I hope you are not buying into everything Calvinian either :)

  8. Outstanding post … thanks for the good read.

  9. Kangar,

    there are indeed some elephants in the room that are hard to swallow when one considers some of what has come from Calvinism. Your hopes are realized! The gnats seem to be the worst though! :)

  10. I don’t know about you, Ben, but I feel as though Calvinists make God out to be an egomaniacal savage who hates certain people and unjustly lavishes grace on a random portion of people (the “elect”). I just cannot serve a God like this. If this caricature turns out to be true, I’ll gladly go to hell.

    Just my thoughts. I know they may seem outrageous, but no more than what the idiot Calvinists would claim.

  11. Marvin,

    I can certainly see how one could come to such conclusions based on the logical implications of exhaustive determinism. Regarding your last sentence, calling Calvinists idiots would sure seem to reflect an elitist attitude, an attitude that I thought you took issue with. At any rate please refrain from name calling in accordance with my stated blog rules.

    http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/important-blog-rules/

    Thanks,
    Ben

  12. Sounds good, Ben. I won’t call them names, since we all know what they truly are anyway.

  13. Marvin,

    Is that a real picture of you at your blog? Just curious.

  14. No, it’s not. I look more like a drag queen with a beard, esp. when I mow my yard in a jock strap.

  15. [...] by it if it’s not examined closely. The problem of God authoring sin by itself creates numerous and irreconcilable problems for exhaustive determinism. Its corollary, that God does nothing based upon what men do, is [...]

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