God’s Purpose (Supremacy of God Doctrine)

One form of theology says that God’s chief end or purpose, his chief priority, the thing that He’s most passionate for, is His own glory, the glory of His name.

Basically, every single thing He does is primarily done to glorify Himself–even the Cross.  The world was made to glorify God (which is partially true); we’re saved to glorify God; the Church exists to glorify God; we evangelize to glorify God; we’re supposed to make this primary.

This doctrine comes from traditional Calvinism/Reformed theology and from dispensationalismThis page describes glory theology.  Also see What the Church Was Meant to Be by Reformed evangelical writer John MacArthur, posted on what appears to be a very Calvinist website.

This theology is also described by Reformed Baptist Pastor John Piper in his books, such as Desiring God (1987) and God’s Passion for His Glory (1998).  I believe it is called the Supremacy of God doctrine.  See the following pages, as linked and quoted below:

And I really mean it this morning: the chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy himself forever….

God loves himself more than he loves you, and therein lies the only hope that he might love you, unworthy as you are….

He chose you. Why? That his glory and grace might be praised and magnified.

Your salvation is to glorify God. Your election is to glorify God. Your regeneration was to glorify God. Your justification was for the glory of God. Your sanctification is for the glory of God.

And one day your glorification will be an absorbance into the glory of God….

Christ came to earth, clothed himself with flesh, and died so that you would give glory to his Father for mercy. He came for his Father’s sake. That’s the main reason why he came, for his Father’s glory. And his glory reaches its apex in the overflow of mercy….

He is coming [again] to be glorified, magnified in his saints, and to be marveled at. —Passion for the Supremacy of God, Part 1

Yesterday, in an attempt to torch the glacier and to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples, I tried to make the point that God does everything he does for the glory of his name.

God magnifies God. The most passionate heart in all the universe for God is God’s heart. That was the main point.

Passion ’97, as I understand it, is about God’s passion for God. Everything he does, from creation to consummation, he does with a view to displaying and upholding the glory of his name. —Passion for the Supremacy of God, Part 2

John Piper says it exceedingly well when he says that the Good News is not that He loves us but that God loves Himself.  God exists to glorify himself.

Miraculous deliverances, supernatural healings, and even the Good News of the Kingdom of God are means to an end; they exist to bring glory and honor and praise to the eternal supreme king of the galactic universe….

Friends, we too are a means to an end. “The chief end of man,” says the Westminster Confession of Faith, “is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”…

God’s love is a boomerang love, it goes out only for the purpose that it comes back to glorify Him not us. —What is the Supremacy of God? (Formerly at http://supremacyofgod.org/. Website now defunct.)

Apparently Piper’s books have been selling very well lately in Reformed and Evangelical circles.  Piper also seems to be influenced by Jonathan Edwards (even called his successor), who wrote about God’s supposed chief end here.

I first heard about this doctrine/theology when at an Evangelical Free church a few years ago.  Cugan and I both wondered where it came from; it was foreign to anything I (Nazarene) or he (Lutheran) had heard before.

Our pastor once made an analogy between God and a CEO, with God meeting daily with his staff (I forget who they were–the Trinity? angels?) to decide, “How can I glorify myself today?”

It bugged us to no end, as it made God sound like a warrior-king from Beowulf, not our Loving Father.  And we heard it every single week, month after month.  We’re still skittish at the sound of the words “glory” and “glorify,” even though they’re not bad things in themselves.

Apparently, even though we thought the Evangelical-Free Church was Arminian, its churches are allowed to be Calvinist.  And recently I discovered that the theology of the church is considered to be moderately Calvinist.

I do recall a lot of activity and fellowship between our church and local Reformed churches, but in those days I did not know that “Reformed” meant “Calvinist.”

We left for the not-so-Calvinist Presbyterian Church (USA), which had left traditional Calvinism and double predestination far behind and didn’t have this supremacy doctrine, but it would have been best to leave Calvinism completely.

The Orthodox Church does not teach this supremacy doctrine.  Proponents say the Church’s primary purpose is to glorify God; in Orthodoxy, the Church is seen as a hospital for souls, and man’s purpose as becoming like God so that man and God can be in union/communion.

According to Wikipedia,

Prior to dispensationalism’s 19-20th century inception and systemization, Covenant Theology was the prominent Protestant view regarding redemptive history and is still the view of the Reformed churches.

A relatively recent view, which is seen as a third alternative, especially among Reformed Baptists, is called New Covenant Theology.

Outside of Protestant Christianity, however, the other branches of Christianity (for example, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox) reject both dispensationalism and Covenant Theology.

The Lutheran Church also rejects dispensationalism, by the way.  Pages 44-45 of this paper put out by the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) seems to agree with what I’ve found in Orthodox theology: The End Times: A Study on Eschatology and Millennialism  To quote:

Nevertheless, dispensationalist teaching contradicts the Scriptures at many critical points and therefore seriously endangers the pure teaching of the Gospel….

Dispensational premillenialism tends to regard the glory of God as the center of theology, rather than the mercy of God revealed, and yet hidden, in the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross for the sins of the world.

The visible manifestations of God’s power at the end of history and obedience to the will of God become the primary foci, instead of the grace of God revealed in the cross of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 2:2)–

which by faith the Christian regards and accepts as the place of God’s definitive triumph over sin and every evil (in Lutheran theology, the ‘theology of the cross’ as opposed to a ‘theology of glory’).

Also, Luther’s Small Catechism states,

What is the key to the correct understanding of the Bible?  Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, is the heart and center of the Scripture and therefore the key to its true meaning….Jesus revealed Himself as the center of Scripture (Luke 24:13-27) (p. 49).

I have recently discovered that this theology is quite common in Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches, that dispensationalism and Calvinism are as well, though I had always thought that Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches are Arminian.

The theology of “God’s glory being His ultimate purpose” seems to be present even in churches which are otherwise not Calvinist.

It seems that people don’t realize the supremacy of God doctrine is being promoted in Evangelical churches by a Calvinist, John Piper, who believes in and promotes the Calvinist understanding of double predestination.

It seems that many people don’t realize that, taken to its obvious conclusion, this theology turns into full-blown Calvinism, with some being predestined for glory and some being predestined for damnation–not from their own choice, but so God can be glorified.  The unchosen ones become vessels displaying God’s wrath.

One former Calvinist, posting on a message board, noted that the statement often quoted from an old Calvinist catechism–“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”–sounds great at first.  But it’s all external; it doesn’t emphasize union with God.

Here, the Orthodox view of why God created, under section III.b., a different take on glory:

The goal and purpose of God’s creation is the participation of this creation in God’s blessedness: St. John of Damascus speaks of “God’s glory and man’s theosis“;

however, God’s glory is man’s theosis, for God creates to communicate Himself, His blessedness and glory to the creatures He creates – the entire creation, and in this creation, man in particular (The Dogmatic Tradition of the Orthodox Church).

The page then goes on to speak of man’s specific call to become like God in character, and to be the link between creation and God, bringing creation into communion with God.

Lutheran, PCUSA and Orthodox churches do not follow the supremacy of God doctrine.  Traditional Calvinist/Reformed churches do.

The Orthodox say that union with God (not just the glory of God) is the chief end or purpose of man, and that the final end/purpose of the world is man’s union with God.

“The whole purpose of the Incarnation of the Son of God was to restore humanity to fellowship with God”  (Rev. Thomas Fitzgerald, “Spirituality”).

“It is in Christ that the purpose of human existence is realized: communion with God, union with God, deification”  (Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, “An Online Orthodox Catechism: Redemption”).

The Earth shows God’s glory–so that man can see it and commune with God.  The “end purpose of all things” is God.  One of God’s purposes in anything could be glory, but making glory the be-all and end-all of everything makes theology seriously one-sided.  And how can we presume to say we know all of God’s purposes in everything?

Of course, we must not assume that God’s glory has nothing to do with our purpose, Christ’s purpose, creation’s purpose, God’s purpose, etc.

The problem with the focus on glory in Calvinism and dispensationalism, is that it is imbalanced: It takes the focus off God’s love for mankind, His caring for those who suffer, His desire to be in communion with us, and makes us sound selfish for desiring Him to feel this way.

Somehow, our wish to help others find God so they, too, can commune with Him, is made to sound self-serving.

But there is far more to “ultimate purpose” than just making God look good (though it is a big part of it).  Father Thomas Hopko writes (and note how he defines glory):

The Holy God of the Old Testament revealed Himself to His chosen people who were able to behold His glory.

The glory of the Lord was a special divine manifestation of the Person and Presence of God. It consisted in the vision of light, majesty and beauty and was accompanied by the voice of the Lord and His holy angels.

It created in the persons who observed it overwhelming feelings of fear and fascination, as well as profound convictions of peace, well-being, and joy….

The main teaching of the Old Testament and the foundation of all of its life was that God’s people should share in His holiness. This was the purpose of the entire Law of Moses in its commandments of morality and worship….

The people were to be holy and to gain the wisdom and righteousness of God through their service and worship of Him.

All of the so-called Wisdom writings of the Old Testament, and all of the teachings of the prophets and psalms are centered around this same fundamental fact:

God’s people should acquire and express the holiness, wisdom, glory, and righteousness of God Himself. This, and nothing else is the meaning and purpose of man’s life as created and guided by God.

The ultimate perfection of God’s purpose for man is fulfilled in Christ. He alone is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. He alone is the “Holy One of God” (Mk 1:24, Lk 1:35, 4:34).

He alone is perfectly righteous and wholly without sin. Thus, St Peter speaks of Jesus to the people after the event of Pentecost.

The glory of God is revealed in the person of Christ. This is the consistent witness of the apostles who beheld the “Kingdom of God come with power” on the mountain of the Transfiguration (see Mt 17:1-6, Mk 9:2-7, Lk 9:28-36).

“And the Word became flesh and dwell among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (Jn 1:14).

“Now if the dispensation of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such splendor that the Israelites could not look at Moses’ face because of its brightness, fading as this was, will not the dispensation of the Spirit be attended with greater splendor?

“For if there was splendor in the dispensation of condemnation, the dispensation of righteousness must far exceed it in splendor. Indeed, in this case, what once had splendor has come to have no splendor at all, because of the splendor that surpasses it.

“For if what faded away came with splendor, what is permanent must have much more splendor. Since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 

“For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 3:7, 18, 4:6).

In and through Christ, by means of the Holy Spirit, all men can share in the glory of God and become participants in God’s own holiness….

The participation of men in the “nature of God” already begins in the Church of Christ, the final fruit of the salvation history of the Old Testament.

In the Church, the Kingdom of God is present which is “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17).

In the Church of Christ already begins that perpetual praise of the Holy God which exists now in the heavens and will fill all creation when Christ comes in the glory of His Kingdom at the end of the ages (p. 112-115, The Orthodox Faith: Vol. iii, Bible and Church History).

My priest says that our chief purpose in life, our number-one reason to exist, is to worship the almighty Lord and to worship at the Cross (which we do when we participate in the Eucharist).

He says our highest, sacred responsibility is to attend Divine Liturgy (services including Eucharist).

He says this is how we unite and communicate with God, how we commune with him, through worship and the Eucharist.  Christ’s very real presence is there; that is our chief purpose in worship, to unite/commune and communicate with God and with each other, to experience the real presence of Christ.

Isn’t that beautiful?  Doesn’t that transform even the so-called “boring” liturgies into something far more glorious than just sitting in a pew, listening to a sermon which may or may not be inspired, and singing a few songs that may or may not be your favorite music style?

In an article about the teachings of St. Gregory of Nyssa, Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos writes,

Man’s basic aim, according to St Gregory of Nyssa, is deification. We must look at man’s salvation only from this perspective. But in order for anyone to succeed in this very high aim, he must be purified, which is essential for man.

In The New Testament: An Orthodox Perspective, Theodore G. Stylianopoulos describes the view of the Early Church Fathers:

As the fulfillment of the Old Testament and the fullness of historical revelation, Christ is the chief aim and main subject of Scripture and, therefore, the beginning, center, and end of biblical interpretation.

In both biblical revelation and biblical interpretation the living Christ personally reveals himself as the ultimate interpreter by the power of the Spirit.  In an important way, interpretation is a fruit of the personal revelation of Christ, the Word, to the interpreter.

This is different from what my Evangelical Free pastor taught, that God’s glory is the chief aim and main subject of Scripture.

Piper’s opening salvo is remarkably insightful and immediately pulls the reader into his argument: “People are starving for the greatness of God. But most of them would not give this diagnosis of their troubled lives. The majesty of God is an unknown cure.

“There are far more popular prescriptions on the market, but the benefit of any other remedy is brief and shallow” (p. 9).  Regardless of one’s theological perspective, this statement rings true….

No good preacher will argue with Piper’s opening statement. However, many good preachers may choose to argue with Piper’s view of the shape and content of the kind of preaching that meets this human need.

Because of Piper’s strong Reformed leanings, he clearly favors preaching that emphasizes God’s sovereignty in a distinctively Edwardsian package. Sadly, he seems to discount all other preaching as missing the mark in demonstrating God’s majesty….

Piper’s guidelines for carrying out his burden are more indicative of his own theological position than they are of Biblical revelation. Is it really true that the “dominant note of preaching [should] be the freedom of God’s sovereign grace”?

Why this doctrine over others? Why not the incarnation or the Trinity or salvation by grace or any of a number of other significant doctrines?

And must the unifying theme of preaching be “the zeal that God has for his own glory”? Why not the zeal God has to glorify those who respond to His grace?

Obviously God has created the universe with more intention than merely displaying His glory. He has also created it in order to share his glory — to glorify those who are his own.

By overemphasizing one facet of Biblical revelation, Piper seems to leave humankind entirely out of the picture. Would it make any difference if humankind had ever existed at all? If not, why did God choose to create humankind?

Even more importantly, why did God choose to identify so intimately with humankind through the incarnation?

It appears that Piper has merely taken his integrative motif and demanded that all preachers share the same emphasis lest they be guilty of undermining true God-centered preaching….

In reference to Piper’s third guideline: Is it really true that the “grand object of preaching be the infinite and inexhaustible being of God”?

Does the Bible present us with a systematized, categorized series of abstract reflections on God’s infinite and inexhaustible nature?

Or does it present the glorious God in the context and flow of human history, demonstrating his nature and character in light of his interactions with human beings?

Piper’s “grand object” can all too easily boil down to abstract, decontextualized, depersonalized and ahistorical philosophical jargon.

I would argue that the “grand object” of Scripture is God’s saving purpose worked out in human history. Insofar as this demonstrates God’s nature, I agree with Piper.

However, beginning with God’s “infinite and inexhaustible being” and working down to God’s saving acts seems to invert the order Scripture presents and the way in which Scripture presents it. –Richard J. Vincent, God-Centered Preaching: An Analysis and Critique of The Supremacy of God in Preaching

Also see:

Internet Monk: On Being Too God-Centered (catch the comments, too)

I find this frightening–the thought that TULIP Calvinism has become newly popular among evangelicals.  It also explains why my old Evangelical Free church suddenly turned Calvinist after having been Arminian:

“Young, Restless, Reformed: Calvinism is making a comeback–and shaking up the church” by Collin Hansen

See for some good old-fashioned deep theology that does not come from 500-year-old Calvinism: Theosis: The True Purpose of Human Life

Written between late 2004 and probably late 2006/early 2007

 

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church

 

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7 Comments

  1. God Himself did not come down. He made it possible that the young girl Miriam (Mary/Maria) got with child. That child was of flesh and blood, which could seen by many (God cannot be seen by man or they would die), had to learn everything (God knows everything and has nothing to learn), even did not knew when he would be coming back to the earth or who would sit next to him (that is all up to god to decide Jesus said himself), was tempteed more than once and could go into the temptation or sin but did not (God cannot be tempted and cannot sin), was tortured and impaled until death overtook him (God cannot die). Was three days in hell (sheol = the grave) before he was taken out of the dead by his heavenly Father, the Only One God, the God of Abraham, the Divine Creator, to whom Jesus was taken to sit at His right hand (and not on the throne of God) to be a mediator between God and man (once more a proof he is not God, because then he would not be able to mediate between himself).

  2. What is meant by the “glory” doctrine and my reaction to it is described above and in links above. It is not the doctrine of my church, or of many others.

    As for Jesus not being God, as a Trinitarian and Eastern Orthodox believer, I reject that based on the teachings of the church. I am taught instead that when Christ appeared not to know something, he did know and was testing a person. And that while in the grave, his spirit was preaching to the souls in Hades, and that he took the keys of Hades and death and burst out with the souls of those who believed in him. Not something a mere man could do, or redeeming humanity and the earth through his death.

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