In All Things, For God’s Glory

Obviously my mind is stuck on the theme of God’s glory (see previous posts here and here).

Which way does God’s glory flow? Back to God? Or out from God?

This is today’s question.

The glory of God’s keeps bouncing around in my mind as I feel out objections to the view I’m often put forward.  Why do people so quickly connect God’s glory to other concepts like “honor” and “reputation” and “praise”?  Not that any of those are bad when talking about God. I’m just not sure God cares about them as much as some claim or that these concepts are directly connected to the idea of God’s glory.

But 1 Cor. 10:31 was sticking with me when I woke up.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for (or to) the glory of God.

This seems a straightforward proof text that our lives are for God’s glory, for giving God honor and praise. And the next short step is that God is seeking God’s glory at all times, and we are to join him in this work, the work of glorifying God.

Now it is that second step that really bothers me—that God is seeking God’s glory—, but that is another large issue. Let’s just return to this text.

In What Things?

What is the context here?

Paul is exhorting the Corinthians to “flee from idols” (v. 14). He then links this to the Lord’s Table (vv. 15-17). The cup and the bread is a “sharing” or “participation” in the blood and body of Christ. Surely, Paul says, we cannot partake of Christ and partake at the table of idols!

This naturally shifts to a comparison of the sacrifice of Christ and the food sacrificed to idols (vv. 18-22). If we are partaking of the food of Christ then we can’t partake of the food offered to idols.

Paul ends by turning to God’s jealousy (v. 23). This is a common enough theme in the Old Testament.  Idol worship provokes God’s jealously because God is like a husband to Israel, but Israel takes the good gifts God has given his bride and offers them to others (to idols). She is cheating on God and God is jeolous (now this is not the time to discuss how God’s jealous and anger—even wrath—fit into all this…that’s also for another time).

So the context for the “do everything” statement is that of idolatry, but also the context of the Eucharist, and the implicit context of temples—God’s are worshipped in temple, but the church is now the temple of God (1 Cor. 6:9; Eph. 2:21).

Glory of God

So what does the “glory of God” mean in this context, toward which, or for the purpose of which, we do all things?

Too often we see the flow of “glory” as returning to God, as something “for” God—as if God was in short supply.  When we look at glory this way (usually in reference to honor and reputation) then we think of “in all things” or “do everything” being all our work and actions oriented toward bringing or giving honor or esteem to God.

But what if we turned it around, and the flow of glory was outward?

God’s glory most often refers to the visible manifestation of splendor. God’s glory is God’s overwhelmingly majestic presence. God’s glory is something that goes out from God for the amazement and wonder of other, of all creation (and yes, it often is a threat to others, but after Christ—as Paul well knows—God’s glory is not a threat to those in Christ).

With this in mind, to do all things “for or to” God’s glory is to do them so that God’s splendor is manifest to others. When Paul talks about whether or not to eat meat sacrificed to idols (vv. 23-30) he ends with the concern that “they may be saved” (v. 33).

This is the goal of mission, and the purpose of God’s glory manifest in the world—that they might be saved.

Why we were made

So, if l may be so bold, the purpose of God’s glory—and our purpose for everything we do— is not upward but outward.

And this is what humanity was made for, to be God’s image in the world, the visible, tangible manifestation of God.  And when we properly image God (in Christ) then God’s glory is known through us.

Which, returning back to idols, is the main problem. It is not just that humanity is supposed to worship God that makes idolatry so odious. It’s that humanity IS God’s idol in the world. Humanity is the idol that God made to show forth God’s glory in the world.


(This post it is part of my “
20 for 20” post where I write for twenty minutes a day for twenty days.  So these are quick thoughts as I push out my ideas and practice writing.  See my explanation here.)

Made for God’s Glory? another on the Nashville Statement

Is there a better way to understand the idea that God made us for his glory?
 
Yesterday we focus at this phrase from the Nashville Statement:
 
“Many deny that God created human beings for his glory.” ~ Preamble to Nashville Statement.
 
I ended my post asking this question. And, “Yes,” there is a better way.

Glory

In the Old Testament, the main understanding of “glory” when applied to God is God’s visible splendor, or God’s overwhelming presence.
Where God’s glory IS there is God’s presence.
 
We see this in God’s appearance at Sinai when God’s glory rests on the mountain.  We see this with the construction of the tabernacle—God’s glory rests on it. The same with the Temple.
 
In Ezekiel’s vision of the glory of God roaming the desert the idea refers to God’s presence. And in Ezekiel’s vision of the glory leaving the Temple—this also refers to God’s presence.
 
Indeed, the psalms and prophets speak of God’s glory filling the earth and the heavens. This can only mean God’s presence—an overwhelming display of splendor when God is near.

Made for Glory

If we are to affirm that humanity is made for the glory of God, then this means we are made for the presence of God. We are made to dwell with God.
 
Now that is Good News.
 
And you know what else is good news?
 
That God’s main desire and main work in the world is to overcome whatever barrier keeps us from dwelling with God.
 
God is working to bridge the distance by coming to humanity, coming to us. From the call of Abraham, the raising up of Israel, the promises of David, to the send of the Son, to Jesus’s death and resurrection—God is coming to dwell with us.
 
This is the hope coming at the end of all things:
 
“See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them.” (Rev. 21:3)

Glory and the Nashville Statement

What does all this have to do with the Nashville Statement?
 
If we have been made for God’s glory—meaning God’s presence—and if God is constantly seeking to to dwelling with us so we can dwell with him, then public statements like the Nashville Statement should be acts of hospitality and welcome.
 
If God longs for us to live with him then our theological statements should express this. Indeed, they should be expressions of God’s love with and for us and others.
 
Certainly we should not reduce God’s love and living with God to vacuous statements and platitudes. Living with God is rigorous work.  The Old and New Testaments are witness to this. And God’s presence demand standards of holiness and purity.  
But those proper concerns should not be elevated to a controlling theme in our theological systems.
Immanuel—God with us—should be our theme, our inspiration, or hope, and our joy. Nothing less. Nothing more.

 

(I know this is short, but it is part of my “20 for 20” post where I write for twenty minutes a day for twenty days.  So these are quick thoughts as I push out my ideas and practice writing.  See my explanation here. I’m planing on expanding these two posts for Missio Alliance, so look for it there).

Mastering Objectivity? Or Subject to the Bible

Tim Challies ended a recent post criticizing the practice of Lectio Divina by saying, “This, then, is a danger in Lectio Divina, that it may teach us to approach the text subjectively rather than objectively.”

But what is the big deal about reading the text subjectively as opposed to objectively?

man-inserting-memory-card-in-brain3 Subjects of Scripture

It is a typical concern of those defending expository or expositional preaching that they are seeking “objectivity” in their study as opposed to others who are succumbing mere “subjectivity”, but beyond the concern that such a simple opposition is wildly naïve philosophically and practically, this dichotomy often does the reverse of what it hopes to do (secure the authority of scripture from human manipulation).  

To understand this we need to remember the three ‘subjects’ of Scripture.

1) The subject matter = the text of Scripture.  This is the written word which is often equated with the “Word of God” without further reflection.

2) The subject (as person) = God who spoke and speaks through the text.

The true subject of Scripture, toward which our study ought always to lead, is God, who in Christ through the Spirit, is making all things right.

We read the first (subject matter = Scripture) so that we can encounter, know, and experience, the second (subject/person = God).

And all this leads to the third subject:

3) The subject = the reader, who is made subject, or is subjected to, or subjugated by, the text to God so that as to become slaves to God rather than to our own passions, desires, and deaths.

I believe those advocating for the ‘objectivity’ in study and preaching desire that we would be slaves of the text, and God, rather than masters of the text, but through this opposition of objectivity and subjectivity, which all to often relies on faulty philosophical assumptions, this perspective ends up becoming masters of the text rather than slaves of it.

“Although I wouldn’t have known how to talk about it then, slowly but surely the Scriptures were becoming a place of human striving and intellectual hard work. Somehow, I had fallen into a pattern of using the Scriptures as a tool to accomplish utilitarian purposes rather than experiencing them primarily as a place of intimacy with God for my own soul’s sake.” Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms

So perhaps we should stop striving for a mythical “objectivity” through which God will speak to us, and instead embrace all the processes which we might become “subject” to the text, especially the meditative practices that lead to our own subjective un-mastery of God.  Indeed, this is to understand Scripture within the God’s power to save rather than just God’s information to teach.

And tomorrow, on the Missio Alliance Blog, I’ll be posting about why I’m “Against Revelation” because it obscures the power of God behind the desire to know stuff about God. Stay tuned.

And see Mark Moore’s great response to Challies in his “Is Lectio Divina Really Dangerous?