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Is God an Egotistical Maniac?

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“It is absurd to believe that the deity has human passions, and one of the lowest human passions, a restless appetite for applause.” -David Hume

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 31

“Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God . . . so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever.” 1 Peter 4:11

There is a popular notion among Evangelicals that I think has become part of our folklore. Indeed, it is the shibboleth (secret pass code) of my fellow Calvinists. When I call this “folklore” I don’t necessarily mean “not true” (as we will see), I simply mean that it is uncritically accepted without much thought. Many would say that God’s sole purpose, intent, and motivation for creating humanity and all of creation was for His own self-glorification. If you were to ask God, “Why did you create us?”, his answer, without hesitation, would be, “Easy, to glorify myself.”

Many unbelievers will bring this up as a primary point of departure from the Christian faith. They would say that the Christian God is an egotistical maniac, only out for his own self-glory. As one person put it: “If I had a child I would not bring him into this world and say, ‘Congratulations, I created you to worship me’. I would not want a son simply to serve me.” He goes on, “I never asked to participate in this game of life. I was nothing and then I was created simply to serve him or I’d have to burn for eternity?” He goes on to accuse God of being egotistical, sharing in the most base traits of humanity. Is this true? Does God have a “relentless appetite for applause”?

Wrong Answers

Wrong answer #1: Yes, God is an egomaniac. But it is okay since he is God.

This is the answer many people would give (though not in so many words!). The idea is that being self-serving and demanding of recognition is acceptable so long as the recognition is warranted. It’s only bad when we do it because we don’t deserve it. Therefore, God’s egotism is a “righteous egotism.” What is base and sinful for man is not so with God.

I am going to let you in on a little secret. I am from Oklahoma. We have a certain way of getting by with things here through the way we talk. We can sanctify many conversations by using certain qualifiers. For example, we can get by with any gossip by simply adding the words “God bless his/her/their soul” to the end of the sentence. “Did you hear about Bobby and Susan? They are having marital problems, God bless their souls.” “I hear  Rick is starting to drink again, God bless his soul.” I think we have something similar in Christianity. We can attribute just about anything to God so long as we tag it with the word “righteous.” God is vindictive, but it is a “righteous vindictiveness.” God is jealous, but it is a “righteous jealousy.” God is cruel, but it is a “righteous cruelty.” I think we need to be careful here. Sometimes these things are true, such as God’s jealousy (Deut. 5:9). But simply placing the word “righteous” in front of the character trait does not often do justice to what is trying to be said.

To say that God is egotistical or a glory monger without lots of qualification can do great damage to his character. It is not okay for us to ascribe attributes that do not fit God’s personality as revealed in Scripture.

However, let me first say this: God could very well be egotistical and self-consumed and we, as His creation, could not say anything to change that. We don’t have a vote in truth. Our ballots won’t get tallied in the heavens. God is who he is and we simply discover this. We don’t create him. But the fact still remains that 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 humans can possess is being focused upon others, and not on 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.

Theological Considerations: When we, without qualification, concede that God is only out for his own glory we implicitly deny His aseity, thus 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 him by giving him glory.

I love this passage of Scripture:

Psalm 50:7-12
“Hear, O My people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you; I am God, your God. 8 “I do not reprove you for your sacrifices, And your burnt offerings are continually before Me. 9 I shall take no young bull out of your house Nor male goats out of your folds. 10 For every beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know every bird of the mountains, And everything that moves in the field is Mine. 12 If I were hungry I would not tell you, For the world is Mine, and all it contains.”

God does not need people’s sacrifices. God does not need people’s prayers. God does not need people’s love. God owns everything. He is fully self-satisfied. And God did not and does not need us to glorify Him. Unless qualified with the reality of God’s aseity, saying God created us to glorify himself will do more harm than good.

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 creators of our children, we do serve as secondary causes and, from a human standpoint, do have a choice 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 in a paddy wagon, and rightly so. But this is not the case. Kristie and I had Katelynn because it is 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 this does not make it 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 (again, unless qualified).

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. I flip the pages of Scripture as if reading it for the first time and ask “Why is he doing all of this for man?” 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 to give man 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 sole unqualified 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 some egotistical self-glorification, why is it that he is found consummating all things by sharing in his glory with us? Remember, when all is complete and the restoration of all things has come to pass, he gives his own glory over to humans.

“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 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 God is presented in the Scripture as one who is egotistically seeking to puff himself up. On the contrary, he is one who is continually giving of himself and sharing in his glory.

Wrong answer #2: No, God does not care about his own glory.

I think this answer is just as bad as the first. God does care about his own glory. God does seek to be worshiped. God does demand the allegiance of every created thing. But the reason is not because he needs these things. Nor is it because he has this one small eternal vice. The reason why he seeks his own glory is because he wants all of creation to be brought into concert with reality. He wants his beauty to be seen because he created us in such a way to find the most fulfillment and satisfaction in a recognition of the way things actually are. And the way things actually are is found in his glory.

Is it egotistical for the ocean to roar Is it egotistical for the sun to shine so bright. Is it egotistical for romantic love to make our hearts drop? Is it egotistical for chocolate to make our mouth water? Is it egotistical for the expanse of the universe to cause us to stand in awe? Is it egotistical for sex to feel good? Is it egotistical for music to affect our emotions? Is it egotistical for the sky to be blue? Yes, all of these are attributes of impersonal things. But they all call out for recognition nonetheless. This recognition brings fulfillment to us, not to the things themselves. When we see a personal God who not only created all these things that summon us to joyful recognition, but is also the very embodiment of them calling on us to glorify him, he is doing nothing else but what is expected from a loving God. He is calling us to recognize him and his beauty. In doing so, we experience the greatest pleasure existence has to offer. His call for us to recognize him is nothing other than a call for our own ultimate fulfillment.

Not only this, but it brings glory to God to be who he is and to act out his character. When God says through the prophet Isaiah, “Everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made” (Isa. 4:7; emphasis mine), he is not talking about an ego trip that he went on at creation, but the glory that he receives by being who he is—the creator.

My Answer:

The reason this made my list of questions I hope no one asks is not because the answer is that mysterious. Neither is it because (like so many of these) I don’t really want anyone to ask it. It is because it takes some deep thinking and is so often misunderstood. God is not an egomaniac. Far from it. I think it is clear from Scripture that he is the most giving and loving God we could imagine. He is a God who created us to share all things with us, including his glory.

While becoming man was the most humbling thing God has ever done (Phil. 2:5-8), I think creating man has to come in a close second. He knew man would reject him. He knew that without drastic intervention the very work of his hands, to whom he gave so much, would raise their fists in the air in defiance. He knew he would have to sacrifice his own Son to rescue the ones who hated him. Yet he did it anyway. And we want to call that egotistical? An egotistical God would not have dared to create man, knowing how much his ego would suffer from said creation.

God’s purpose in creating us was to give to us life, love, and joy. His purpose in creating us was for us to share in his glory. He calls on us to worship, serve, and adore him precisely because he wants us to be fulfilled. His glory is reality. Our glorifying him is merely a recognition of that reality. Therefore, our purpose in life is to bring God ultimate glory in hopes that all of creation will be completely fulfilled.

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

40 Responses to “Is God an Egotistical Maniac?”

  1. That is good stuff! Thanks Michael.

  2. I really appreciate your Scriptural approach to what it means that God desires glory, and why He desires glory. I think one of the most radical statements Jesus made was, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Even the day that God set aside especially for His own glory, it turns out, was created for the sake of man, so that man might experience the blessed experience of wonder, awe, and humility.

  3. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of this answer as well, but I’m not sure it works within Calvinism. If we say that God knew beforehand that mankind would reject Him, that He would have to kill His own Son to rectify this, and (also) that this still would only result in a portion of people being saved, then I think the following is a valid observation:

    God did not create “us” (which in the OP, I assume means “everyone”) to have life, love, joy, etc. IF that were the case, He could have just given that to us. Instead, He made it conditional: you can have XYZ *IF* you do ABC. Free will (assuming we have it?) ruins the peace, love, and joy argument. No, it seems more probable that the reason we’re created is that God wanted to be wanted, or He wanted to share – even if He did not need to do so. And although we may in fact obtain untold joy in the end, the fact remains that not everyone will want Him/that, and so it also remains true that God did not create us with the purpose of ALL of us having love, joy, etc. No, He created ALL of us, so that SOME of us could, conditionally.

  4. When we see Jesus, we see the heart and soul of God. Jesus was not an egomaniac but a humble, loving, just person.

  5. Jesus called the Caananite woman a “dog” and allowed Himself to be washed by a woman with her hair and an expensive perfume, even as it was suggested that it be sold so that the proceeds could go to the poor.

  6. Based on some (probably not well remembered) parts of Michael Reeves book “The Good God”, I wonder whether or not part of this is tied up in the mystery of the Trinity? Reeves suggests that if God were not Trinity, but were still a God of love, then prior to creation His love would be self-directed and creation would be a selfish act, but in Trinity God’s love is in relationship, and creation is a result of the outpouring and overflow of that love. Maybe the same could be said of His glory?

  7. “the answer IS that mysterious”

    egotistic: indifferent to the well-being of others; selfish; having too high an opinion of oneself

    beholding His glory, He is transforming His own into the same image from glory to glory; illumining His bondservants for reigning forever and ever

  8. Truth unites... And divides November 25, 2013 at 9:53 am

    What a great post. I want to glorify God even more now!

  9. . . . unless God being for his own Glory is the most loving and merciful thing he could do for us? It’s only insane and egotistical for a Being to demand his own glory if he/she doesn’t deserve it and it doesn’t benefit the others. In this case, if God is not for his own glory that’s to our detriment and is not the most loving way for God to interact with us.

  10. I agree that giving God glory is ultimately about being in proper alignment with the universe. It is the natural order of things and the ultimate purpose and joy of the creature is to love and give praise to the Creator who alone is Good. Like my dog finds fulfillment spending time just being next to me, glorifying God is our chief purpose and our deepest delight. And by glorifying Him, I do not mean singing or shouting praises, it is by living thankfully and delighting in His goodness.

  11. Intriguing post. A couple of thoughts from someone not driven by biblical perspective.

    1–Rather than seeking to find motives for God creating it seems possible that He has no choice but to create. It seems to be in keeping with who He is. At some point He simply has to create something. If He Is, He has no choice but to act in character. It was simply a matter of time. Does this require a motive of some kind? What happens after Creation is nothing more than the result of that.

    2–Second is the notion that His Creation must in some way persist and endure forever, even ourselves. Why would this be so? If not the case, would this in some way threaten His perfection?

    Just a couple of thoughts.

  12. It’s ridiculous to claim that God “is an ego maniac” or that He “does not care about his own glory” when He has sent His only begotten Son to die for us on the cross.

  13. Btw, it appears I might be on the “band” list perhaps? As what I wrote went to who knows where once again!

  14. And btw, thoughts without the “biblical perspective”, are really secondary at best in any real evidence. Again, God In Christ, both the “Logos” and the “Rhema”, are the only lasting “evidence”! (And yes, I have said this before, as many times! But it is still the truth!) Good ole Van Til!

  15. One more quick word with regard to a non-biblical perspective however “secondary” it might be. Things are what they are.

    When I offer the prospect that God creates because it is in keeping with His character and there is no motive beyond that, I mean just that.

    I assume Him to be Just before there is any need for Him to display Justice. I assume Him to be Merciful before there is any need for Him to display Mercy. Additionally He is the Creator before He creates. If anyone is going to create, after all, it’s going to be Him. And He creates because it is in keeping with who He is and He does so because He enjoys it and it brings Him pleasure. That brings us to the Nature of His Creation, which strikes me as a different matter. What happens after He creates are things that just occur or are things that He wants to occur. This is how it strikes me. Obviously room to be in error here in this “secondary” view.

  16. To some degree I am with Cornelius Van Til, who held that the Bible never sets out to prove the truth of God’s existence or the gospel by human reason. Rather, it presupposes God. God is not someone whose existence may be questioned or denied, because HE is necessary to the existence of all the facts, including the faculties of human beings. God proved by reason alone is always less than the true God. Thus the Christian task is not to prove but to proclaim the Gospel of God itself, for this the Christian stands beneath the Judeo-Christian history & revelation, which is of course the Sacred & Holy Scripture!

  17. *Note I do not hold to the whole system of Van Til’s apologetic, but I do agree with his presupposition of the whole of Holy Scripture! The Scripture is GOD’s alone: “But know this first of all, that no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved (pressed-along) by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1: 20-21)

  18. Btw, an Amen to # 13 and “Francis”! Rock on!

  19. The troubling thing about this post and the Reformed understanding of God and creation is that the term “love” is hardly ever invoked. God created because he is love and he wanted to share creation with his beloved image-bearers. Yes this brings glory to him. But he is glorious in and because of his perfect love. That creation is described as anything but a loving action of God is completely to miss the point and totally distort Christian teaching. This has been done by the Reformed that the reactions of Hume and others is completely understandable. God is not egotistical. He is triune. In the life of God there is no selfishness or self-seeking glory. So not only is this emphasis on God’s seeking glory for its own sake not the Traditional understanding of creation, it is also sub-Trinitarian.

  20. People pointing that glorifying God is our greatest purpose and/or it gives us the greatest joy, etc. still keep overlooking the fact that if that was the chief end, then there is simply NO POINT to giving us free will. He could have created a chorus of automatons to sing His praises all day, every day. Clearly something else was in mind.

  21. @Simon: I can see that you have not read much of John Calvin himself! He often talks about the love of God In Christ! ‘He is moved by pure and freely given love of us to be receive us into grace…. Therefore, by his love God the Father goes before and anticipates our reconciliation in Christ’ (Inst. II. xvi.3).

    I would too recommend Calvin’s Commentary of Genesis (Two volumes in One), first published in 1554 Latin; first English Traslation 1578, reprinted and translated in more modern English in 1847. But reprinted by The Banner Of Truth Trust, 1992, 523 pages with Index.

  22. Btw, in the very second paragraph of chapter one (his Genesis Commentary), Calvin speaks of the great “Elohim, a noun of the plural number. Whence the inference is drawn, that the three Persons of the Godhead are here noted..”

  23. Except that Calvin was wrong, it is known that Elohim refers to a Caananite pantheon. The language reflects an ancient polytheistic understanding of God, just as the mode of creation described in Genesis does not reflect creation ex nihilo, but molding already-existing material.

  24. Two for nothing in seeking to reply to # 24? Indeed where do my posts go? Humm…

  25. Btw, where are the blog hosts here? Are they really Reformed? And just really what is Reformed today? Serious questions!

  26. Thank you JB Chappell.

  27. This article fails to reckon with the covenant of redemption. The members of the trinity covenanted before time began to redeem a people. We weren’t created because God is generous — we were created for God to redeem.

  28. “Clearly something else was in mind.” -JB Chappell

    Do you have an idea to what that is?

  29. It appears that very little gets accomplished by way of all these posts. Essentially everyone has their views or beliefs, and everyone wants to get their two cents into the discussion.

    It seems that the only thing that essentially matters is that we are all here, and none of us by our own choosing. How we choose to live our lives and to what end seems to matter most.

    Love your neighbor as you love yourself, and, after that, all else seems to matter little.

    Of all the people posting here, however, I would least follow the advice or observations of someone who followed a king who was filled with rage, lust, and violence.

  30. @Brian (re: #31)

    No, although certainly I can throw out possibilities. I think I said before, that one is simply that God wanted to be wanted. In order to be wanted, one must have a counterpart. And, of course, in that scenario God could also have just created automatons, but it is hardly satisfying to have people want you for no other reason than you created them to do so. Enter, free will.

  31. WOW! This is …. so well written. Your use of imagery and different approaches is both so ‘familiar’ and so ‘fresh’ at the same time. Really great use of creative imagination all while grounded in solid theology. Really really impressed, and learned SO much.

    Thanks for your writing!

  32. A good article Michael.

    God bless.

  33. Amen. Good post.
    I wish CMP would carry his understanding of the oxymoron of speaking about “righteous vindictiveness” into his understanding about Eternal Conscious Torment (ETC). I fully agree with this post, but I think it is incompatible with other threads wherein CMP postulates God’s unending vindictive wrath on sinners in Hell and yet calls it “righteous.”

    “Aseity” is such a good word(last paragraph WrongAns#1). Only theology nerds like us around here know what that means. In case you haven’t been reading Aquinas recently: Aseity means self sufficient and without need. All Christians acknowledge that only God was existent in eternity past. He existed alone without any outside parameters, not even time/space. God created everything. He alone has aseity. His existence is not dependent on any factor. Ironically, ECT claims (without really thinking this through) that in Hell for eternity the wicked will be alone, cut off from God, total banished from His presence. Aseity for the wicked?

  34. “For His own glory”…Would that possibly mean something we miss here?
    I once taugt this one uncoordinated kid, to kick a moving ball perfectly squared…but it took sometime, at first it was a joke how his out of sink, out of strength little legs could hardly flap the air…Little by little he got better, I pushed him until one day he kicked it perfectly…he right away bow to me in respect and I bowed to him in the joy and gratitude for the privilege to get him to that point….It was indeed a bow from him…but I only felt joy…..for him!

  35. I think the analogy of being a father to being to the creator has gross intrinsic flaws. For starters I believe we can all agree that God is an omniscient being, and him being so changes the entire nature of this situation. You stated you and your wife decided to have a child so you could have someone to love, and being a father I’m sure you can also attest to the fear that comes with being a father. When my daughter was born I was filled with such joy and also great fear, I couldn’t help but think of the world she was being born into and how I wish I could protect her from it all. You must understand that if God is the creator of the good he must then intrinsically be the creator of the bad, there is no “bad creator” biblically. He knowingly at the beginning of time created an existence that would be filled with pain and injustice. If you had the power to ensure that your daughter would never see harm come her way, wouldn’t you? The fact is God wouldn’t, and that is where I believe this analogy falls short. I believe you don’t want your daughter to glorify you all the time, but would you damn your child to hell if she didn’t recognize your glory? And for those who don’t believe that God sends people to hell, that somehow people send themselves to hell, that’s where the argument that we didn’t have a choice but to exist comes into play. Biblically God pins you between two choices, heaven or hell, and that’s it. You speak of God’s generosity when giving life, but what of those that view existence as a constant struggle? What of those people who would’ve rather just not played this game at all? To them God just seems like a tyrannical maniac, and that is where the feelings of egotism set in. If God does not need glory, why does he punish those that do not give it to him? I’ve never met a man that would punish another for not giving him something he didn’t need, but I guess that could be chalked up to Gods “Mysteriousness”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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