Monday, September 26, 2005

God's desire for his glory, his intra-Trinitarian Love, and John Piper

Just read a post by wink called Why I am no longer a Piperite which is very intelligent and insightful. The best bit is critique of Piper's central concern that God is most concerned with his own glory. He says:

Frankly, I don't think that the traditional Glory of God model is worth salvaging. While the Bible consistently talks about God being concerned for His own glory, I do not agree that His own glory is His ultimate concern. Rather I think that God's inter-Trinitarian love is His ultimate concern. That is to say that the Father's highest concern is to love the Son, and the Son's is to love the Father. Similarly so with the Spirit. Piper takes care to reject this idea using John 17:24-26. Piper states:

From these texts we learn that through all eternity God the Father has beheld the image of his own glory perfectly represented in the person of his Son. Therefore one of the best ways to think about God's infinite enjoyment of his own glory is to think of it as the delight he has in his Son who is the perfect reflection of that glory (See John 17:24-26)...As God the Father contemplates the image of his own glory in the person of his Son, he is infinitely happy." (Desiring God, pg 33)

Thus, according to Piper, God loves the Son because the Son reflects the Father's glory. However, this is in flat contradiction to the very verses he uses to make his point. John 17:24 says "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world." The beloved disciple makes is clear that the Father glorifies the Son because He loves the Son, not the other way around as Piper asserts. Glory is a by-product of Love. (It is possible to glorify someone without loving them. But I assert that it is impossible to love someone with out glorifying them.)

The doctrine of the Trinity is enough to give anyone a headache, but it seems to me that the placing of intra-Trinitarian love as central is dead-right. However, that does not negate the importance of Piper's concern for God's glory, as the glory of each other is so important to each member of the Trinity because of their love for each other. Applying that to us we should love the Father/Jesus/the Spirit and so desire their glory, not visa versa, which should also prevent cold-hearted seeking after God's glory that Piper himself so dislikes.

Wink's second criticism, in my opinion, doesn't stick quite as well largely because he has not absorbed Piper's point that everything you desire/seek/do is done for pleasure. So when Wink argues, against Piper seeking joy in loving his wife, that 'his motivation should...[be] his wife herself' he does not seem to understand that that sort of statement is really just shorthand for 'his motivation should be his own joy in his wife herself'. Seeking joy is not something that you can choose not to do, everything you do is seeking joy whether you like it or not. You can only choose to find joy in something over another.

If you appreciate Piper though go and read the post carefully, it is very good. If you like you can read his review of God and the Gospel too.

HT: Adrian Warnock who sees controversy where I see quibbles.

PS do not get me wrong, I think Piper's God centered theology is greatly needed in the world (I was going to write church, which would have been bad) today. I certainly thank God for how he has used him in my life.


At 8:03 am, Blogger puritan said...

But I assert that it is impossible to love someone with out glorifying them.

Did our Lord glorify the Rich young ruler who rejected him, and the word says that Christ loved him?

At 4:03 pm, Blogger Dave K said...


Good point. I think.

Here I guess we are at the distinction between God's love and ours. Whereas our love toward others is (almost entirely) based on some quality we see in them, God can both hate and love someone in a way I don't think we can.

I am stretching here though, I really shouldn't make such universal statements, as that's what got me in trouble with you in the first place.

So maybe I should agree less wholeheartedly with Wink an say that our Father wants to see his son glorified because he sees his worth, and he wants it to be known. But maybe I would be wrong there as well.

Talking about the attributes of God and the relationship between the Trinity is tough, and I reckon I have said a thousand wrong things in what I have just written. Perhaps that is why the bible talks about such things less than theologians tend too.

Thanks for your comment.


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