Saturday, December 30, 2006

Baxter on Criticism in Ministry

When pastors first enter the ministry, one of the most difficult things for them to deal with is the personal attacks and petty criticisms that come their way. In fact, they are most often blind-sided by it, and generally do not know what to do. In his 1656 book, The Reformed Pastor (Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA: 2005), Richard Baxter takes a refreshingly different look at the nature of ungodly criticism in the ministry:

“If other men may sin without observation, so cannot you. And you should thankfully consider how great a mercy this is, that you have so many eyes to watch over you, and so many ready to tell you of your faults; and thus have greater help than others, at least for restraining you from sin. Though they may do it with a malicious mind, yet you have the advantage of it…

“Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and do your work as those that remember that the world looks on them, and that with the quick-sighted eye of malice, ready to make the worst of all, to find the smallest fault where it is, to aggravate it where they find it, to divulge it and to take advantage of it to their own designs, to make faults where they cannot find them. How cautiously, then, should we walk before so many ill-minded observers” (75-76).

And how thankfully we should walk before them, because their malice is in the hand of God a refiner’s fire that will mold us all the more into the image of Christ--if we’ll have eyes to see, and a heart ready to receive the blessings of our Father.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

On Reforming the American Church

It is no secret that the American Church as a whole is in decline. David T. Olson, founder and president of The American Church (http://www.americanchurch.com/), reports that in 1990, 20.4% of the population attended church on a regular basis, whereas in 2003 only 17.8% did so. And if this trend continues, the attendance rate in the year 2050 will be about 11.7%. While evangelical churches are gaining slightly in numbers, mainline churches are declining rapidly (see Olson’s power point presentation entitled, 29 Interesting Facts about the American Church).

Have you ever wondered why this is so? A phenomenon so serious as national church decline cannot be reduced to a single factor, but surely among the most important factors is the state of the clergy, and more specifically, the manner in which we train and employ them. Consider what Richard Baxter wrote in 1656 (The Reformed Pastor, Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA: 2005):

“But, when languages and philosophy have almost all their time and diligence [i.e., those training for the ministry], and, instead of reading philosophy like divines, they read divinity like philosophers, as if it were a thing of no more moment than a lesson of music, or arithmetic, and not the doctrine of everlasting life—this it is that blasts so many in the bud, and pesters the Church with unsanctified teachers! Hence it is, that we have so many worldlings to preach of the invisible felicity, and so many carnal men to declare the mysteries of the Spirit; and I would I might not say, so many infidels to preach Christ, or so many atheists to preach the living God; and when they are taught philosophy before or without religion, what wonder if their philosophy be all or most of their religion” (60).

Having attended the Graduate Theological Union for four years, and having studied alongside so many preparing for the ministry in mainline churches, I can tell you that this paragraph reads more like a modern report on the state of our seminaries than like an ancient bemoaning of ancient problems. Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun! When we drift away from the Word of God and toward the philosophies of men, we reap a harvest of clergy who, for the most part, do not believe the Bible they preach. And if they do not believe what they preach, is it any wonder that they cannot inspire the souls of their hearers and impress upon them the great and urgent need to share the gospel with every man, woman, and child?

The nature of the ministry is that you have to be consumed with what you preach and teach in order for it to have its intended effect. (Except that in some cases, by grace, God is pleased to glorify himself through unbelieving clergy.) As with Ezekiel and the apostle John, you have to eat the Word of God before you declare it (Ezekiel 3:1; Revelation 10:9). The Word has to become part of the fabric of your being before it can flow out of you with power.

Thus, we would do well in our efforts to reform the American Church to start, not with reformation of the church, but with the reformation of the clergy—the content of their learning, the manner of our instruction, and the absolute insistence that everyone who takes a pulpit must be aflame with passion for what he preaches.

And let not the evangelical church think this is an issue for the mainline church only—it is not. In the last few decades we have been subtly sliding away from the Word of God to the extent that we are now sending men out to plant churches who do not believe in such crucial doctrines as the inerrancy of the Word of God or the substitutionary atonement or the uniqueness and primacy of Christ. We are a stone’s throw away from the liberalism that has sacked the mainline church, and we would do well to get back to the Word of God—learned and lived—as our primary means of instruction.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Rejoicing in the Wrath of God

One of the first essays I wrote in college was on the wrath and love of God, and probably the main effect it has had on my life is to cause joy to rise up in my heart whenever I contemplate God's wrath. I recently shared this with a pastor friend of mine and, though he said nothing to me in response, the look on his face seemed to say, "If you knew anything about the wrath of God you would not rejoice in it." At the time, I wasn't sure how to respond, but I knew that the joy in my heart was not stemming from a belittling of the horror of the wrath of God.

Then just the other day, as I was reading through the book of Revelation, I came across a couple of passages in chapters 15 and 16 that helped me understand and articulate the joy in my heart. Chapter 15 begins like this: "Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished" (v. 1).

And what was the reaction of those who heard that God was about to pour out that great and terrible and final wrath? "And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, 'Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed'" (15:3-4).

And then in the middle of the sixteenth chapter, right after the third bowl of the wrath of God was poured out, there was another outburst of praise: "And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, 'Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!' And I heard the altar saying, 'Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!'" (Rev 16:5-7)

So, what is it that causes joy to rise up in the hearts of those who love God when they contemplate and even see his great and terrible wrath?

(1) They rejoice because God's deeds are great and amazing (15:3). The essence of worship is delighting in the glory and greatness of God, and thus seeing a visible display of the same, even in terrible wrath, strikes awe and joy in the soul for those who love God, by grace, and it causes them to worship.

(2) They rejoice because God is holy and his ways are just and true (15:3; 16:5-7). Indeed, as the Psalmist has written, "You are good and do good" (Psalms 119:68). Even in his wrath the children of God rejoice because they know that he is infinitely holy, that his motives are pure and right, that he does not lash out in unholy anger as do they. And they know, therefore, that his judgments are just and right and fair, and that everything he thinks and says and does are perfectly in accordance with truth. He never gets it wrong--NEVER! Can you imagine being so perfect in your character that you never misstep with your words or actions? This is true of God, and this truth strikes awe and joy in the hearts of those who love God, by grace, and it causes them to worship.

(3) They rejoice because they know that, in the end, "All nations will come and worship [God], for [his] righteous acts have been revealed" (15:4). They know that, in the end, "...every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:10-11). They know that, in the end, everyone will honor and revere this God who they have come to love, by grace, and it causes them to worship.

In short, the reason the children of God rejoice in the wrath of God is because it is a display of the infinite power and holiness of God. They do not rejoice in death and destruction, rather they rejoice in God himself who does all things well--even wrath.

Ministry & the Fear of the Lord

The primary thing a vocational-pastor needs in his life is a vision of God Almighty so vivid and exact that it stuns and captures his soul and puts the rightful fear of God in him. In this regard, William Perkins writes the following (The Calling of the Ministry, 128-29):

"The more afraid they [ministers] are and the more they shrink under the contemplation of God's majesty and their own weakness, the more likely it is that they are truly called of God and appointed for worthy purposes in his church. Anyone who steps into ths function without fear puts himself forward, but it is doubtful whether he is called by God as the prophet Isaiah clearly was...

"A minister is subject to pride and to being puffed up with self-conceit...To prevent this, God in his mercy has planned that all true ministers will by some means or other be humbled and emptied themselves. They will be driven to such fear and amazement at the sight of their own wickedness, that they will throw themselves down at Christ's feet, and deny themselves wholly, acknowledging that anything they are they are only in him, and rely and trust only on his grace and help...

"If we ever aim to be made instruments of God's glory in saving souls, then at the outset let us set before our eyes not the honour [sic] but the danger of our calling, and 'Humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt...in due time' ( 1 Pet 5:6). Let us be content for God to employ any occasion or means to pull us down either by outward crosses or inward temptation. And let us rejoice when we are humbled so that we cry out from overwehlemed spirits, as Isaiah did: 'Woe is me, for I am undone.' Otherwise if we follow the direction of our proud natures and trust in our own ability, gifts, and learning, we are using carnal weapons in a spiritual warfare."

Thus, let us shrink under the contemplation of God's majesty, that we may be sanctified and used of God to build up his church.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Why We Must Preach the Word

William Perkins in his little book entitled, The Calling of the Ministry (Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA: 2002), gives a compelling argument for why pastors must preach the Word of God. Here he employs the word "angel" to mean "messenger," which in the Greek language is its basic meaning.

"You must understand your duty: prophets and ministers are angels; that is the very nature of their calling. Therefore, you must preach God's Word, as God's Word, and deliver it just as you received it. Angels, ambassadors, and messengers do not carry their own message, but the message of the lords and masters who sent them. Similarly, ministers carry the message of the Lord of hosts, and are therefore bound to deliver is as the Lord's , not as their own" (85, emphasis mine).

If Perkins is right, and I think he is, then the "Doctor Phil with Bible verses" method seems a great danger to me. Instead, we ought to heed the simple and emphatic words of Paul to Timothy,

"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Life in Light of Death

"God hath concealed from us the day of our death, without doubt, partly for this end, that we might be excited to be always ready, and might live as those that are always waiting for the coming of their Lord, agreeable to the counsel which Christ gives us (see Matt. 24:42-44; Matt. 25:13; Mark 13:32; etc.)"

Jonathan Edwards, The Sin and Folly of Depending on Future Time

Edwards on Meddling

In a sermon entitled, The Sin and Folly of Depending on Future Time, Jonathan Edwards writes the following:

"Inquire, whether you would not much less meddle with the concerns of others, and be much more employed with your own hearts, if each day you had no dependence on living another day. If you were sensible that you had had no other day to depend upon than this, you would be sensible that you had great affairs of your own to attend to. You would find a great deal of business at home between God and your own soul; and considering that you cannot depend on another day, it would seem to you that you have but a short time in which to do it, and that therefore you have need to be much engaged. You would say as Christ did, I must work while the day lasts, for the night cometh, wherein no man can work (see John 9:4). You would find so much to be done, and so much difficulty in doing it, that you would have little leisure, and little heart, to intermeddle with the business of others. Your business would be confined to a much narrower compass. You would have so much to do at home in your closets, and with your own hearts, that you would find no occasion to go abroad for intermeddling business to fill up your time."

Grounds for Obedience

One of the things I love most about the Bible is that it is not just a list of groundless dos and don'ts. In other words, it gives reasons for why we should do certain things and not do others. And let's be honest, God is God and he does not have to give us reasons. He has every right to command as he desires and expect perfect obedience. This is the right of the creator. Therefore, when we see that God does indeed give reasons for his commands, specific commendations for obedience, and specific warnings against disobedience, we ought to see that as a sign of grace and we ought to rejoice in who God is.

Consider, for example, Colossians 3:1-17. Verses 5-11 state the "don'ts," verses 12-17 state the "dos," and verses 1-4 state the grounds for both. Here is the passage in its entirety:

[1] If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [2] Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. [3] For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. [4] When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

[5] Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. [6] On account of these the wrath of God is coming. [7] In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. [8] But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. [9] Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices [10] and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. [11] Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

[12] Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, [13] bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. [14] And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. [15] And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. [16] Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. [17] And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

When you reflect carefully on verses 1-4, the rest of this passage just makes so much sense. And I think the end effect of solid grounds like these is that they fuel passion for and joy in obedience. Augustine once said something like, "Lord, command what you will, and enable me to do what you command." One main way God enables obedience is by giving grounds for the same. May we have ears to hear, eyes to see, and humble hearts that long to stand on that ground!

Soli Deo Gloria

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

More from Perkins

In chapter ten of The Art of Prophesying, Perkins writes the following:

“Such a ‘demonstration’ [of the Spirit] will come to expression either in speech or in gesture. The speech must be spiritual and gracious. Spiritual speech is speech which the Holy Spirit teaches (1 Cor. 2:13). It is both simple and clear, tailored to the understanding of the hearers and appropriate for expressing the majesty of the Spirit (Acts 17:2,3; 2 Cor. 4:2-4; Gal. 3:1). For this reason none of the specialized vocabulary of the arts, nor Greek and Latin phrases, nor odd turns of phrase should be used in the sermon. These distract the minds of those listeners who cannot see the connection between what has been said and what follows. In addition, unusual words hinder rather than help people in their efforts to understand what is being said. And they also tend to draw their minds away from the subject in hand to other things. In this connection, too, mere story-telling as well as vulgar or foolish statements must be avoided.”

Remember, this was written over four-hundred years ago: indeed, there is nothing new under the sun!

Wolves & the Word

Lately I’ve been reading a book by William Perkins entitled, The Art of Prophesying (Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA: 2002). Perkins was a late sixteenth-century Puritan (1558-1602) who had an “enormous impact on generations of preachers” (foreword, vii). So much of what he says speaks to modern times that I have often forgotten I was reading an ancient book!

In the preface of the book he writes, “In keeping with its dignity, preaching has a two-fold value: (1) It is instrumental in gathering the church and bringing together all of the elect; (2) It drives away wolves from the folds of the Lord. Preaching is the flexanima, the allurer of the soul, by which our self-willed minds are subdued and changed from an ungodly and pagan life-style to a life of Christian faith and repentance. It is also the weapon which has shaken the foundations of ancient heresies, and also, more recently cut to pieces the sinews of the Antichrist.”

I was particularly struck by the idea that one of the chief functions of preaching the Word of God is to drive away the wolves and shake the foundations of ancient heresies. If this is true, then the opposite is also true: when the church exchanges the Word of God for politics, right or left, or psychology or sociology or anything else, it invites the wolves into its fold and sooner or later they will kill their prey.

Recently a colleague of mine was at a church planting assessment center where he listened to a church planting candidate wax eloquent about the “fact” that we have for too long chosen Paul’s gospel over Jesus, and that this has led us astray. The most grievous thing about this for me is that this man was approved for church planting. Can you imagine that? A man who rejects the apostle Paul, and therefore at least thirteen books of the Bible, was approved for church planting by a panel of evangelicals.

How did the evangelical church get here? The answer probably does not boil down to one factor, but I think that the main factor this: in the 1980s the evangelical church, at least to a large extent, exchanged the preaching of the Word of God for psychologically based, felt-needs, topical messages. Instead of the Word of God being the meat of the church, it became the “book of quotes” that was used to prop up the points of the message and set up cute stories, alluring illustrations, and movie clips. And because the Word of God was not there to drive the wolves away, they have settled in and are sinking their teeth into their prey even as we speak.

Robert Schuller, who is by many accounts the father of the seeker movement via his great influence on Bill Hybels, once said in my presence that he did not have time to develop biblical sermons because he had to lead. He said that he could discuss and debate theology with the best of them, but that biblical preaching was inappropriate for Sunday morning worship because it hampered church growth and swallowed up too much of the leader’s time. He pitted leadership against biblical teaching, and thus, he exchanged the Word of God, at least in the prominent services of the Crystal Cathedral, for the power of positive thinking and interviews with famous people. I’m sure that Robert Schuller did not make a conscious decision to invite the wolves in to devour the church but that is exactly what he did.

And so have other prominent church growth leaders. And in the process many evangelicals have become so biblically illiterate and theologically ignorant that they cannot even spot heresy, and what is worse, when they do, their souls do not grieve over it and their mouths do not war against it.

Oh brothers and sisters, how desperate a time is this? Let us not pit leadership against the Word of God but rather let us lead by the Word of God. Let us feed the sheep, allure souls to worship, and drive the wolves away with that great Sword of the Spirit.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

What does it mean "to give glory to God"?

Some years ago I undertook a study of the glory of God in which I located, read, and categorized every occurrence of the word “glory” in the Bible, as well as several corollary words. Part of the way through this study I became a bit perplexed at what the Bible could possibly mean by the phrases “give glory to God” or “glorify God” (see, e.g., Jer. 13:16 & Rev. 14:7). After all, I reasoned, what do I have to give God that he does not already have? How can I in any way, or in any sense, give God anything?

I was greatly helped in this by getting clear in my mind what the two primary meanings of the words for “glory” are. First, “glory” means radiance, effulgence, brilliance, brightness, and the like. It is the intrinsic brilliance of God that is of necessity, and in a variety of ways, displayed and beheld and prized and praised. As one carefully studies the Bible, he will see that we are never commanded to give God glory in this sense of the word. That would be like asking a book of matches to add to the brilliance of the sun—not only would it fail, it would be utterly consumed in the attempt!

Second, “glory” means honor or respect or praise or credit. Take, for example, Matthew 15:29-31, “Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.”

What happened here? The crowd (1) beheld the outworking of the great power of God through Jesus, (2) they had a natural and irrepressible sense of awe and wonder in their souls about it, and (3) they expressed that awe and wonder by giving verbal honor or credit or praise where these things were due, namely, to God. What the Bible means, therefore, when it commands us to give glory to God is that we should give him honor in all things, for it is due him in all things—whether in healing or eating or drinking or sleeping or working or playing, ad infinitum.

It is tempting to say, then, that giving glory to God is simply a matter of integrity and honesty, that it is a matter of giving credit where credit is due. But the Bible is calling for more than this: the Bible is calling for us to behold the glory of God, which is manifested in a variety of ways, to prize and love and rejoice and stand in awe of the glory of God, and then, with glad and sincere hearts, to declare the beauty of what we have seen, first to God and then to others. In other words, the Bible is calling for deep, heart-felt, authentic, grateful, humble responses to the surpassing greatness of the glory of God beheld. It’s calling for the kind of honor that is completely enamored of the person being honored.

I know this post is getting long, but I can’t resist raising and then oh so briefly addressing one more question: Why did God design creation to elicit this kind of response? Or put another way, why did God make himself the ultimate end of creation if he was already full in himself? To state the answer briefly, God did not create the world to add to his fullness, he created the world to display his fullness and to share his delight in himself. To say that the glory of God is the end or the ultimate purpose of all things, including our joy in him, is to say that he created us to delight with him in the infinitely delightful, i.e., in God himself. The God-centeredness of God, far from being the death of joy, is its very fountain and life and fullness and longevity. And hence John Piper’s now famous dictum, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

Thanks for being patient with such a long post.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

More Thoughts on Edwards

The following quote is from Chapter 1, Objection 2: “Some may object, that to suppose God makes himself his highest and last end, is dishonorable to him; as it in effect supposes, that God does everything from a selfish spirit.” This is what I call “the narcissistic problem,” and it has been my main objection to the God-centeredness of God, or at least my main confusion about it. What follows is my reflections on this problem:

1. The problem arises from an assumption that is, in the end, false. Specifically, I have assumed that self-centeredness or ultimate self-interest is intrinsically corrupt, but this is true only insofar as the nature of the being in question is corrupt. Since God is infinitely holy and incorrupt, he cannot be corrupt in any of his thoughts, choices, or actions, even if that be to commence and consummate all things in himself, for himself. Thus, the nature of his self-centeredness is as infinitely different from ours as his character and perfections and holiness are infinitely different from ours.

2. The praise of worth rightly belongs to the source of worth, and since God is the source of his own worth, it is right for him to praise his own worth. What else shall he praise? The reason it is unbecoming for a person to praise his own worth is that his worth is derived from God, and thus, to praise himself is like a painting praising itself rather than the painter. But since God is the source of his own worth it is becoming of him, and others, to praise his own worth.

3. The measure of rightful praise is equal to the measure of actual worth. The reason it is unbecoming of a person to praise himself, and more so, to do everything he does with a view to the praise of himself, is that such praise is disproportionate to his actual worth. It is like a robot seeking praise for itself because it can walk, rather than seeking praise for its creator who has made it to walk. But since God is infinitely worthy, the measure of rightful praise of him is likewise infinite, and it is becoming of him to do all that he does with a view to his praise. God’s infinite delight in himself, far from being corrupt, is a proper assessment of his worth.

4. Two quotes help elucidate the next point: “And it is impossible that God, who is omniscient, should apprehend his interest, as being inconsistent with the good and interest of the whole” (Objection 2, answer 3). “This supposes that God having respect to his glory, and the communication of good to his creatures, are things altogether different: that God communicating his fullness for himself, and his doing it for them, are things standing in a proper disjunction and opposition. Whereas, if we were capable of more perfect views of God and divine things, which are so much above us, it probably would appear very clear, that the matter is quite otherwise: and that these things, instead of appearing entirely distinct, are implied one in the other” (Objection 4, Answer 1).

I think my main confusion about God’s self-centeredness, or ultimate self-interest, lies in a failure to comprehend the infinite difference between the nature and effects of his self-centeredness and the nature and effects of human self-centeredness. The nature of human self-centeredness is the vain attempt to fill up the emptiness of the human soul with that which is finite, e.g., praise, honor, fame, wealth, carnal pleasure, etc. Thus, in its effect it tends to devalue, demote, and suppress the worth of other things and beings, to puff up the self by degrading the other, or by misappropriating the value of the other. It is like a black hole that has to suck everything into itself in an attempt, however vain, to fill itself up.

The nature of Divine self-centeredness is delight in the infinitely and ultimately delightful, it is delight in fullness, and thus its effects are infinitely distinct, and opposite from, human self-centeredness. It is nearly impossible to comprehend, because we are finite and corrupt, that a creature so great as God can seek his own interest and seek the interest of the other simultaneously, and that this is no contradiction, but a necessary consequence of his nature and being. But this indeed is the case, even if we grant that the seeking of his own interest is superior to the other.

Enough for now, more musings to come.

Thoughts on Jonathan Edwards

As part of the process of planting a church in the northwest suburbs of Minneapolis, our core group is working through the letter to the Ephesians. In the first fourteen verses Paul makes abundantly clear what is God's ultimate purpose in salvation: "...the praise of his glorious grace...the praise of his glory...the praise of his glory" (vv. 6,12,14). This presents a bit of a problem, because we are forced here to deal with a God who does all things ultimately for himself, and not ultimately for the objects of his grace. Or to put it another way, we are forced to deal with the God-centeredness of God.

So, to help me grapple with this problem, I turned to the master-theologian, Jonathan Edwards, specifically to his essay, “The End for which God Created the World." You can download a copy of that essay here. What follows in the next couple of posts is some of my rambling thoughts as I process what Edwards is helping me to see.

In Chapter 1, Section 1.4 Edwards writes the following: “The worthiness of others is as nothing to his [God's]; so that to him belongs all possible respect.” Reflecting on this truth, I articulated the matter to myself as follows:

1. Every thing and every being outside of God has a measure of worth.

2. The worth of every thing and being outside of God is derived from God and is thus finite.

3. The collective worth of every thing and being outside of God is as nothing before God because it is derived and finite, whereas God’s own worth is underived and infinite.

4. Therefore, it is absurd to think that God would have as his ultimate and highest end in creation the praise or exaltation of any thing other than himself. It is utter nonsense to think that God, who is of infinite worth, would spend of his worth to exalt that which is, by definition, infinitely less worthy and intrinsically worthless.

5. Since God is infinite in his perfections, he is not and cannot be improved by the praise of his worth among finite beings. Put another way, because God is infinite in his perfections, he is not and cannot be self-centered in the way we are self-centered.

This leads to another series of reflections which I will save for another post.