Was God’s purpose in creation to glorify Himself?

Well, since I said I would write a blog on this in a previous blog, I think it is time, seeing as how there might be some possible misunderstandings that have arisen.

There is a popular notion in the evangelical world today that I think has become part of our folklore and can very easily misrepresent the character of God by attributing to Him motivations for creation that I do not believe are true. Some would say that God’s purpose, intent, and motivation for creating humanity and all of creation was for His own self-glorification. I think that this is a difficult position to sustain biblically and theologically.

My basic argument is that if we were to say that the purpose in God’s creation of humanity is for His own self-glorification without major qualification, I believe that we do damage to God’s character. I want to briefly lay out my reasons why I would not and do not say that God created man to glorify Himself.

1. Theological Consideration: We implicitly deny His aseity, implying some sort of lack or need in God. The aseity of God is a doctrine which says God is without any need. Literally, He is “of Himself.” This means that God does not need man in any way whatsoever. He was not in heaven twiddling his thumbs before creation and therefore decided to create us to avoid eternal boredom. It was not that God was lonely and needed companionship. Neither was God in need of someone to respond to His being with glory. Therefore, God did not and does not need us to glorify Him. If God truly has the attribute of aseity, than this motive of self-glorification, unless qualified to a great degree, moves beyond our consideration.

2. Practical Consideration: By saying that God’s purpose in creating us was to glorify Himself, we turn God into a egotistical glory monger who no longer has any analogy of being to which we can identify. This, in turn, does damage to our understanding of the imago dei in which humans have been created. Now, this might be the case. Being a practical consideration, it is inherently going to be the weakest. God could very well be egotistical and self-consumed and we, as His creation, cannot say anything to change that. As well, being the case that He is the infinite, we could say that this type of motive, while repulsive in the human context, is allowable in the context of the Greatest Conceivable Being. But I do not believe this is the case if our understanding of the transcendent moral downfalls of egotism is correct. Even among the best and brightest of our kind, we do not honor glory mongers. Why? Because anyone who only seeks to draw attention to themselves is seen as a dysfunctional human who needs physiological help. We understand that one of the greatest characteristics that humans can possess is being focused upon others even in their own greatness. Do we really want to allow God to bear a great dysfunction and call it a virtue simply because His is deserving? I would be very careful with this.

3. Analogous Consideration: Consider an analogy for a moment. The closest that you and I can come to understanding the motive for creation is in having children. We have the ability to decide whether or not to have children. While we are not the ultimate creator of our children, we do serve as secondary causes and, from a human standpoint, do have a choice to make in the decision making process. When Kristie and I decided to start having children, we had reasons. But what if someone were to ask me why I had my first daughter Katelynn and I said, “Because I wanted to glorify myself. My primary purpose is that she would one day know how great I am.” You would probably send me off somewhere in a paddy wagon and rightly so. But this is not the case. Kristie and I had Katelynn because it was a joy to share life with others. We receive great pleasure from this. We wanted someone to love, not necessarily someone who would love us. Katelynn will naturally respond in recognition of us and bring honor and glory to us so long as we deserve it. But our deserving of this does not equate to the motive behind our decision. I believe it is the same way with God. God is perfect and deserving of glory, and we, as His children, should recognize Him for who He is and thereby give Him glory. But this does not imply that His purpose in creation was for this end.

3. Biblical Consideration: If I were to hand a person a Bible who has never read it before and ask them to tell me why they think God created everything, I doubt that they would ever say at the end of the day, “The best I can tell is that God has created all things with the purpose that He receives glory.” What they would probably do is be overwhelmed by the generosity and mercy of God. I think the most natural conclusion from Scripture is to say that the God of the Bible created all of creation so that He could share of Himself. Therefore, generosity and grace would be the primary motive in creation, not self-glorification. Notice, from the very beginning, God is seen as a giving God with no explanation as to why. Adam was given life. God gave Adam the earth to rule over. He gave him the animals. If that weren’t enough, He then gave him Eve. Even when they rebelled, God initiated a plan for their redemption. He gave them children and began to work through the line of one of them so that He could eventually redeem man who did not deserve to be redeemed. He gave Abraham a promise that He would be a father of many nations and that through him he would give the world a great blessing. When the fullness of time came, He gave His own Son over to a terrible death for man. I am sorry, but I do not find an egotistical God whose purpose in creation is self-glorification. It is just not there, but maybe I have missed something. But we are not done. If God is so concerned about self-glorification, why is it that He is found consummating all things by sharing in His glory with us. Finally, when all is complete and the restoration of all things has come to pass, He gives glory over to humans.

“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:16-17; emphasis added)

“And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8:30; emphasis added)

“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)

Shining like the stars is a vivid illustration of receiving glory. I do not believe that God is presented in the Scripture as one who seeks His own glory, as noble of a confession as that may sound, but one who is sharing in His glory. Indeed, if we define glory as “weightiness” through a recognition of the character of something, God does and should receive glory in all things. We, as His children, have as our primary purpose of existence to glorify Him, but that does not equate to saying that His primary purpose in creation is to glorify Himself.

1 Corinthians 10:31
“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This is our purpose statement, not necessarily God’s.

26 Responses to “Was God’s purpose in creation to glorify Himself?”

  1. Michael,

    Your article has helped clarified things for me in this nagging question that has bugged me for some time.

    Thank you so much for this and the many helpful and thoughtful articles that have ministered to me.

    God’s blessing be upon your ministry and don’t stop blogging! ;-)

  2. Thanks so much ipod. That is encouraging and I will keep it up.

    God bless,


  3. Hey Michael…..This subject for the most part has been ill-defined by so many well meaning leaders. Very good!

    Also wanted to let you know that I go to your blog everyday to read. The subjects that you discuss are evasive in most other Christian circles. I think your asking the hard questions, which I truly enjoy. Just wanted to give you my thanks for a blog with difficult subjects!

    Nate ;)

  4. Thanks Nate. We still need to get together for a bite sometime.

  5. I would like that very much! Whenever you’d like to go.

  6. Michael said about God, “He was not in heaven twiddling his thumbs before creation and therefore decided to create us to avoid eternal boredom.” Cute, Michael!

    And I agree with your conclusion, “I think the most natural conclusion from Scripture is to say that the God of the Bible created all of creation so that He could share of Himself.”

    And I agree with Nate that it is great of you to take on the difficult questions. It takes an amount of bravery to put yourself out there like that. You do a wonderful job.

  7. Dee Mitt Roberts August 1, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    I take issue with your thesis. There is enough evidence to strongly suggest that God’s purpose is to Glorify himself. To suggest otherwise is to subtley supplant God as the center of things and replace Him with man. God is the sum total of goodness. If this is so then it stands to reason that His glorification would be for the benifit of all. His glorification is the total saturation and application of righteousness in every aspect of creation. It is the glorification of God that is the restoration of total perfection and total holiness. Hence God’s desire is to be glorified in all the earth because this means total restoration for all creation.

  8. I disagree with you conclusions. As the previous comment states, to give any other reason for creation would subtilly remove God from the center of all things and place man there. But even more to the point, the Bible tells us that God’s desire is for the whole earth to be filled with His glory.

    Numbers 14:21 But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.

    Psalms 72:19 And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.

    Habakkuk 2:14 For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

    That may not be the stated purpose of creation but it comes pretty close to it.

    As to God being an egotist, I would submit that God is the only One worthy of being glorified. When God states He is holy, or sinless, or all powerful, He is not being arrogant but truthful. And when God places the understanding of why He demonstrates His kindness, His mercy, or His generousity into our hearts, and we understand it is so that we will see His worthiness and proclaim His glory, He is not being arrogant, just revealing the truth. He alone is worthy.

    1 Peter 5:11 To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

    Jude 1:25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

    Lastly, to suggest that God created us so that He would have someone to show generousity or love toward (your last two thoughts), is to “deny His aseity” (a new term to me but an interesting one.)

  9. Mr. Patton states that someone handed a Bible for the first time would, upon reading it, , most likley “be overwhelmed by the generosity and mercy of God.”

    If he truly believes that a person unfamiliar with Christianity would read the Old Testament and be struck by God’s mercy and generosity…that simply illustrates his inability to distance himself from faith born presumptions.

  10. C Michael Patton August 10, 2008 at 12:45 pm


  11. Dear Mr Patton – I recently read Revelation 4.8-10 for the first time in quite
    sometime. For days I’ve been disturbed by the image that suddenly overtook
    me; that of God sitting egotistically on His throne as the four creatures
    and twenty-four elders bowed and threw down their crowns worshiping day
    and night without rest forever and ever. I have never considered my Lord
    and Savior as a possible self-centered egotistical God until that moment. I’ve
    talked with a few people about it, but none were able to give an explanation
    that satisfied.
    When I came across this website and began reading your reasons for not
    subscribing to the “egotistical God” school of thought, I found for the most
    part an element of consolation. But when you finally quoted scripture to
    substantiate your theology my heart lept within me and I was instantly
    comforted by the treasures He has given through His word.
    Thank you, for taking the time to share and encourage.

  12. I appreciate your blog on this subject. Having been to a church where the “chief purpose was to glorify God”, I felt that there was this constant drive to somehow please God or gain his favor.

    A great friend of mine asked me the same question – what is man’s chief purpose? I threw out “to glorify God” to bait him and he answered in a way that I found liberating:

    “our chief purpose is to love God”

    This is embodied in the greatest commandment that God expects from us – to love Him. Love implies relationship – glorification does not.

    Everyone, whether believer or not, “will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glorify of God the Father.”

  13. If I picked up the Bible and read through the First Testament I would be struck by God’s patience.

    The Israelites would not have survived if I had been God.

  14. I totally agree with you. Everything God created glorifies Him. But what makes us human beings different from say a dog or a tree is HIS special love relationship with us. If I was told that my meaning in life is for the sole purpose of glorifying and serving HIM, then I would tend to feel like my Filipino maid at home. Think what’s wrong with that definition is that the love part of the equation is missing.

    I also use the same parent-child analogy that you used to illustrate to others about the point. Think a lot of the things in life that God done start to make sense when you think of HIS motivation from a parent’s perspective.

  15. Michael,

    BTW, I have a question for you. When do you think God is most glorified? And what is your definition of glorifying God?

  16. Michael,
    I have just read today a 1765 work by Jonathan Edwards who promulgated this idea about the purpose of creation being for the glory of God. Worth reading. This work has permeated into philosophical theology since then. Still just as problematic as before even with the passing of time. Can be downloaded from if you are registered.
    Typical of eighteenth century thinking.
    But your reasoning is closer the truth. The explanation of the reason for creation is to be found in the quality of the fellowship within the Trinity, and why that led God to extend their circle to created intelligences with an ability to appreciate love as freewill agents, as They are, which in turn inspires love to others.
    Only seeing God face to face can help us to appreciate the dynamics of this intense experience and can understand why he wanted us to taste what has been His experience since all eternity past.
    I think Jonathan Edwards has a valid point, and your ideas can be incorporated into his theory, but the way he reduces the purpose of creation to “Glorifying God/His Name” does nothing for our existential drives for valuable meaning in life.
    There are better ways to express it. When we see God face to face we will be able to appreciate the argument that the purpose of creation was to glorify His name, but until we understand much better who the Father really is, and look into his eyes, and see the love he has for each of us individually, this reason must leave us with numb brains.

  17. That link provides you with the full volume of Jonathan Edward’s Works. The section I am referring to is “Dissertation on the End for Which God created the World” –about 80 pages.

  18. I found your post thought provoking. But I think it is missing a key truth that biblically God’s glory is the display of who he is. Therefore to say God created everything for his glory is to say God created the word to display his mercy, grace, goodness, kindness, wrath, justice, beauty, love, patience, knowledge, majesty, and power, etc. – because those things are his glory. But let me back this understanding up with Scripture: In Exodus 33:18 Moses asks, “Please show me your glory” to which God says in 33:19, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” This seems like God decided not to answer Moses’ request and show his glory until 33:22 where God says to Moses, “and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock” which shows that God considered the display of his nature to be his glory. So saying God created the world to glorify himself is to say he created the world to display his nature which I think is very similiar to your thought about God creating the world to give of himself. It shows that God is not an egomaniac because his motivation is to display himself – the one and only thing that can satisfy us for enternity. I don’t think anyone would consider God to be a self-centered egomaniac if his motivation to glorify himself results in my greatest joy. May God always seek his glory so that I will always be satisfied. Finally, I’ll close with this observation – for a conversation as theologically deep as this one – I think it is unhelpful not to deal directly with passages of Scripture that address these issues.

  19. For God to glorify Himself is not egotistical because He is Three, not only One. For the Holy Trinity to “glorify Himself” is the same as each member of the Trinity pointing to the glory of the other members. God’s triune nature is what makes Him the antithesis of eogtism. It is also what makes Him love. If God was love before creation (which he was), who was He loving? How could He be love if He is the only One who exists? The answer I think is that The Holy Trinity loved each other selflessly, and in that sense He loved Himself. I think this also explains His motive for creation; His unspeakable trinitarian selfless love sought expression in creation, and in trinitarian terms creative expression is “glorifying Himself.”

  20. Proverbs 16:4 The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. (KJV)

    Can’t add much here.

    Rom 11:36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.

    Same deal with this verse

    Rev 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

    and again…

    ISA 42:8 I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images

    The greatest glory of God is reserved for Himself.

    1 Cor 15: 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.

    God may bestow some “lesser” glories on His creatures as he sees fit.

    Rev 21:23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.

    God’s desire to display glory does not make Him an egomaniac. It is beautiful and precious beyond all human imagination. It emanates from Him alone and shines forth His wonderful attributes from love to wrath, from justice to mercy and from knowledge to creativity. Rev 21:23 above reveals that God’s display of His glory is anything but selfish, it is a priceless gift to all of the creation which was created to display it. We will bask in and enjoy it for all of eternity.
    much of the problem in understanding God is the total lack of any frame of reference to things infinite and eternal. I pray that we all may gain a vision of our great and holy God that reaches the limits of our understanding and that we may trust Him in everything that exceeds these limits.
    Brother, I believe that God is much bigger than you think he is. You can’t just stop at the limits of human comprehension. There is infinitely more to God than we can possibly understand. The desire to have a bit of God’s glory for oneself was the downfall of Satan and ultimately the downfall of man as well “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods”. The scriptures are divinely inspired and therefore come as close as we are going to get to a complete picture of God’s character, given our limitations. Look scripture to build your view on such lofty things as “the purpose of the universe”.

    Prov 16:25 ¶ There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

  21. I agree with the idea that God being ‘motivated’ by receiving glory suggests, albeit unintentionally, a lack of sorts. I see a difference between God RECEIVING glory and God DISPLAYING his glory. I’ve spent a lot of time the past year on the statement in 1 John that ‘God is Love’. While there isn’t a clear statement in Scripture of God’s purpose in creation, I think we can safely say that God created out of love and that God’s glory is displayed in creation. Maybe we go too far when we try to second guess God’s intentions. Maybe all we can do is observe what he has done and continues to do.

  22. I think this topic is very important. If we don’t ask the question Mr. Patton is asking regarding what the Bible means when it speaks of God glorifying Himself, we begin to slander God’s character, describing Him as self absorbed, insecure, needing praise, etc. We begin then to worship a different god, maybe not too different than Muslim’s Allah who is feared, revered, and obeyed, but not loved. And we all agree that the Christian understanding of “fearing God” and “obeying God” involves knowing and loving God (Jn 15:9-12), not just acknowledging that He is sovereign. So thank you, Mr. Patton, for putting your neck out there.

    Does this issue not resolved itself with a proper understanding of the Holy Trinity? At least for me, the idea that the three members of the God-head share their glory with each other, points to a model that is the opposite of narcissism. It speaks of “all for one and one for all,” thereby transforming the concept of self-glorification into a “Holy Community of sharing.” In other words, the “self” of God’s self glorification is really the glory of the Three, each sharing His glory with the other.

  23. I too think this question is best addressed if we approach it in a very trinitarian manner, although in a slightly different way than Kevin. Think of the members of the Trinity existing before creation in a beautiful fellowship, perfectly loving within themselves, and free from any need to create to receive glory or to have somebody to love (thus preserving God’s aseity). From here God graciously decides to create a people that he might welcome into this fellowship, to partake in this love and delight in the glory that exist between them. Through union with Christ, his people are entered into this fellowship. This results necessarily in their glorifying of God, though this wasn’t the purpose of his creating them per se. there Is much more I could say about this, but I think this communicates the thrust of how I think it should be understood.

    • Thanks, Zach, for your thoughtful, clear and concise response!

      So I agree with you when you say, “From here God graciously decides to create a people that he might welcome into this fellowship, to partake in this love and delight in the glory that exists between them.” But when you say, “this [glorifying of God] wasn’t the purpose of his creating them per se,” I struggle a bit. As a previous blogger points out (Carl Hall, August 9, 2008 at 9:09 pm), it’s hard to interpret the many biblical passages that speak of God’s glory as though receiving glory were not His intended purpose, perhaps even His primary purpose. I agree that the large majority of the passages don’t point to God forcing Himself onto the stage, saying “Look at Me, Look at Me!” But a few do, like Isa. 43, for example, where He explicitly says that He created those called by His Name “for His glory.”

      So I’m back to having to trying to understand God’s “self-glory” in a non-egotistical way. I THINK (as in not 100% sure) that this can be done when we examine what is implied in the Trinity. An earthy example … and I admit probably too earthy … of how this might work would be the manner in which I could unselfishly want people to notice a project my family and I completed; I personally had a part, as did my son, my wife, and my daughter. The biggest thrill of the project was doing it together, and I want everyone to rightly see what we made together. In fact, the project was one that symbolized our family togetherness. As a healthy father, I would not be nursing a wounded ego if I jealously pointed out to critics of my project that my family and I made it, and that it was meant to put our family love on display. I want my son to get the credit due him, and my son wants his dad to get the credit due him, and so on, … and we jealously guard our family honor. I realize that “Family” is not the same as “God in Three Persons,” but I do think the Genesis account of creation alludes to the idea that the family was created to be, among other things, a partial pictures of Trinity. My point in all this is simply that when “self” is understood in holy and Trinitarian terms, the concept of God glorifying Himself is transformed into a display of selfless love.

  24. Thank you for this article. You concisely stated the key point that I have maintained with my friends. I would like to share my thoughts on the aseity of God thought… He is without need in every way, but, to the point of the “created for His glory” camp – He is without need for glory. Those who feel He created us for His own glorification talk about it as if we must keep His glory-battery charged for Him. But the scriptures show Him as the ALL-Glorious without-need God. My understanding of “whatever you do, … do it for the glory of God” teaching is that God has chosen to allow us to be involved in His advertising campaign. He is all-glorious, we point people to that fact for the purpose (God’s real motive in creation) of their redemption. His real motive is for a relationship with free mankind. This is the only thing that the aseity of God cannot provide Him.

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