February 2, 2011

Wesley & God's Concern for His Own Glory

In American Christianity you can pretty much bet that if a preacher is championing God's concern for his own glory, that preacher is probably a Calvinist. The young, restless, and Reformed have done a good job of cornering the market on talking about God's glory. This saddens me to some degree because I tend to think we Wesleyan types ought also to be talking about God's glory, after all, the Bible sure does. All too often, though, we don't give a lot of evidence to debunk the false charge that Wesleyan theology is man-centered.

You can imagine my delight to discover evidence that God's love for God's glory was basic to John Wesley's own theological reflection. In Wesley's sermon on "The General Deliverance," as he is speculating as to  whether God might, in the new creation, endow animals with the capacity to know, love, and enjoy "the Author of their being," he concludes that, whatever happens, "[God] will certainly do what will be most for his own glory" (III.6). What? What's that Mr. Wesley? Whatever God does he will certainly do what will be most for his own glory? How 'bout that?

This comment from Wesley comes almost as a passing note, a given. He doesn't dwell on it. He doesn't offer extended reflection on God's love for God's glory. He just takes it a basic theological principle that when we are conjecturing or interpreting or reflecting on God's actions,  we can expect God to act in accordance with what brings him the most glory. If you weren't careful, you'd think you were reading the fellow who regularly remarks that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

I really wish more Wesleyans approached these things like Wesley. I've become persuaded that God's greatest love is for his own glory. Not only is it all over the Bible, but if it is right to love what is true and beautiful, and God's glory is most true and most beautiful, if God is to do what is right, then he must love his own glory supremely. I am deeply encouraged to know that Wesley would agree, and that he was happy to use this sort of language. Let's take a lesson from him.

What about you? Ever hear a non-Calvinist preach on or get excited about God's concern for his own glory?

2 comments:

Shamby said...

Well said Matt. Contemporary theology has brought new vigor to Trinitarian thinking. As a result, God's concern for His own Glory is being understood as an interdependence and mutual indwelling of the three persons. The Trinity, the Community of Love, is not some divine narcissism. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit unselfishly love the other and thus God's Glory is accomplished in the reciprocity of God's love within the Godhead. God's Glory is both essential to God and economically revealed by God.

Having said that, it is difficult for me to hear Reformed theology wax on God's glory because, given its idiomatic obsession with God's sovereignty (which risks stressing God, the omnipotent philosophical monad), Reformed reflection often comes across as describing a Divine Narcissist. God's love, for Reformed thinkers, often follows this narcissistic pattern rather than nuancing it with God's otherness.

I think this nuance is an important distinction to make and I cannot dismiss the credit which certain theologians of the Reformed ilk are due for getting the process started. Nevertheless, this nuance has not always been a conciliar one.

Tom 1st said...

Shamby said everything I was thinking...only better than I could have probably articulated it. The center of the matter really does seem to me to be Triune relations. Well said, Shamby.