Feb 22 2009

The Next Great Awakening, part 5: God the Egotist?

Category: theologyharmonicminer @ 10:17 am

The previous post in this series is here.

There’s an old saying that, “It’s only a brag if you can’t do it.” That is, if you claim something for yourself, or about yourself, that is not yours, or is not true, then it’s “a brag”, or a manifestation of arrogance, or power-hunger, or even megalomania.   Al Mohler has a nice article on the question of The Divine Egotist — Is God Arrogant, Selfish, or Megalomaniacal?

When a human glorifies himself, he robs others of joy. Self-aggrandizement and human megalomania cause hurt and harm to others, not blessing and joy.

But when God displays and exhibits his glory, he shares joy with his creatures and wholeness with all creation. Put most directly, without the knowledge of God’s glory, we would be robbed of true joy. God would be less than perfect — even selfish — if he did not display his glory and allow us to share in the divine joy and fulfillment.

Is God a megalomaniac . . . the transcendent Egotist? Of course not. In the truest sense, this is an arrogant and irresponsible question. How can God be other than he is in his perfection? But in another sense, the question is helpful, for it directs our thinking to the essence of God’s glory and resets our theological framework. God shows his love for us in the display of his glory and in his jealous concern for his own name and reputation. Our greatest joy is found in beholding his glory and in glorifying the triune God for all eternity.

This is all true, of course.

But I’d like to rephrase it in another way, for those people, like me, who took way too long to understand just what it meant. I’d like to rephrase it without emotionally loaded or “churchy” language.

It’s really very simple.

The Ultimate Reality is God, the Creator of everything that is, other than Himself.  There is no fact or conceptual framework that is “truer” than God Himself, because the very meaning of “true” is that a “true” thing is “real,” or “the way things really are,” and there is no reality more basic than God, who underlies, supports and holds together everything in Himself.

So when God says, “I want you to give ME all ‘the glory’”, He is inviting us to participate in the realest of the real, the truest of the true, the highest of the high, namely, Himself.   In inviting us to recognize Him for what He is, to seek Him, to know Him, he is giving us the greatest gift he could possibly give to His Creatures (us), a connection to the Ultimately Real, which is not a thing, or a concept, or a principle, but a Person.

A very weak analogy might be that of a composer explaining a piece of music to performers who will play and/or sing it.  The explanation might include some of the “meaning” of the composition to the composer, the nature of the musical structures, the types of expression that are appropriate in its performance, the ways the composition reflects the musical personality of the composer, etc.  Now imagine that a human composer could create a piece of music that so perfectly reflected the composer’s own nature that the only way to really perform the piece correctly is to get to know the composer as well as possible, understanding the “meaning” of the notes on the page in the context of that relationship to the composer.  Imagine that the composer, out of sure and certain self-knowledge, knew himself to be the “composer of composers”, the one whose musical personality and musical output were perfectly intertwined and harmonized.  When the composer asks the performers to “do it my way” and to “get to know me as the composer” so that they will better perform the music, and indeed, so they will better understand the very nature OF music, is it an expression of ego, or is it a gracious invitation to participate in the deepest possible musical experience?

Scientists sometimes say things that indicate they nearly worship Nature, or Mathematics, in the sense that, to the scientists, these things are the ultimate reality of things.  While Nature is beautiful, the Universe is awe-inspiring, and Mathematics is intricately woven through it all, these things are just manifestations of the creative power and intelligence of the Person behind it all, who invites us to know Him, to go on the journey of life in seeking Him as He reveals Himself to the extent we are able to receive, somewhat differently for each of us.  It is odd that some people can express rhapsodic awe at the amazing intricacy and scale of the Creation, even appreciating the apparent intelligence and intention behind it all (inventing phrases like “the anthropic principle“), but still deny the Creator.

God is not a manlike being with supreme power, intelligence and goodness.  God is in a category by Himself, with no other referent, and no adequate analogy.  He is the “I AM.”  To some extent, being made in His Image means that it sometimes is helpful for humans to analogize themselves to God for the purpose of self-understanding.  We are intelligent because He is Intelligence, we want to be “good” because He is Goodness, we desire relationship with each other and Him because He is Relationship within the Trinity.  But it is almost never helpful, or true, to analogize God to humans, because He is utterly Other, yet calls us to be in relationship with Him, out of His great love and desire for his creatures to know Him, a desire and love so great that He became one of us to show us the way back to Him.

Forget the silly anthropomorphisms that are expressed in the phrases of skeptics, like “Divine Child Abuse,” “God is a megalomaniac,” and so on.  All such flow from the first error, analogizing God to humanity, the utterly wrong direction for the analogy to work.  Very simply, God is prior to everything else, and every other consideration.

Giving him the “glory” is not giving in to an egomaniac, it is the necessary prerequisite for a rational understanding of who and what God IS in relation to us, and the essential first step to relationship with Him.  The child must know and acknowledge its Parent, who cared for the child before it knew it had a Parent.  “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Praising God is the only intelligent thing for a creature to do, and a fine thing it is to be one of God’s creatures.  Indeed, the only thing.

The next post in this series is here.

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5 Responses to “The Next Great Awakening, part 5: God the Egotist?”

  1. harmonicminer » The Next Great Awakening part 9: God, music, and the limits to analogy says:

    [...] I’ve written elsewhere, God is the Being who exists alone in His category…  whatever that might be.  We know a [...]

  2. God, Music, and the Limits to Analogy | MusicalGod says:

    [...] I’ve written elsewhere, God is the Being who exists alone in His category… whatever that might be. We know a little. [...]

  3. God, the Creation, and us | MusicalGod says:

    [...] is a post from a different blog that touches on a musical analogy to the nature of the relation between God and us. This entry [...]

  4. anthony says:

    Another great blog post!!

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