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.