Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Chief End of God

John Piper seems to be one of the most highly respected Calvinist thinkers today. I say this only to set up the fact that his book, Desiring God, is highly respected by Calvinists. Now, I can personally find much to admire in the devotion of many Calvinists. But by reading one little excerpt from Pipers' book, I found that the Latter-day Saint and Calvinist view on the chief end of God could hardly be any starker:
"The ultimate ground of Christian Hedonism is the fact that God is uppermost in His own affections:

The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy Himself forever

The reason this may sound strange is that we are more accustomed to think about our duty than God's design. And when we do ask about God's design, we are too prone to describe it with ourselves at the center of God's affections. We may say, for example, that His design is to redeem the world. Or to save sinners. Or to restore creation. Or the like.

But God's saving designs are penultimate, not ultimate. Redemption, salvation, and restoration are not God's ultimate goal. These He performs for the sake of something greater: namely, the enjoyment He has in glorifying Himself. The bedrock foundation of Christian Hedonism is not God's allegiance to us, but to Himself.

If God were not infinitely devoted to the preservation, display, and enjoyment of His own glory, we could have no hope of finding happiness in Him. But if He does in fact employ all His sovereign power and infinite wisdom to maximise the enjoyment of His own glory, then we have a foundation on which to stand and rejoice."


Turns out, according to Calvinists, that God is quite narcissistic. I'm almost stunned by the acceptance that God would create such a breath-taking universe and set up such a marvelous plan of redemption, ultimately merely for Himself. No. There's more to it than that. God maximizes His enjoyment and glory in seeing His children become more than we are now--more than we could ever become without Him. In short, God's work and glory is us! "For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39).

He takes joy in helping His children advance and become like Him, one with Him. Now that is true love and grace. That is certainly a reason to be filled with ultimate gratitude, love, and praise. Yes, God is superlatively great, but He's not selfish. Similarly to how I take the most satisfaction from seeing my own children learn and grow, I deeply believe He receives His chief pleasure by watching and helping his own children grow and become like Him. Through the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can become exalted through His grace, sharing in His quality of life. That, to me, is the chief end of God--not egotistically taking pleasure in Himself.

55 comments:

Thomas Parkin said...

Very well said. ~

inhimdependent_lds said...

Clean Cut,

Excellent post- and very helpful.

What you have highlighted here with Mr. Pipers words well illustrates for us what is in my opinion one of the deep dilemmas at the very core of the evangelical understanding of God.

Should each of us as believers strive to fully emulate God as described by Piper? Should we set every fiber of our being toward what Piper claims as Gods penultimate goal “namely, the enjoyment He has in glorifying Himself”? Should we do what He does and set as our ultimate goal of glorifying ourselves? Of course not. Such would be grievous error and not in alignment with what we see modeled by our role model Jesus Christ.

How can God possess qualities, attributes and ideals within himself that we do not see present in our great model Jesus Christ?

How can God possess qualities, attributes and ideals within himself that we should not seek after or want to emulate?

This is a cause of such deep spiritual confusion in my view. Much more could be said about this i am sure.

I am grateful to know a God that is much greater and much more full of true love than the god that Piper describes.

Clean Cut said...

Very good point. I do believe that the ultimate of worship is emulation.

Steve Martin said...

I think that God does not want us to become like Him.

That was, in essence, the nature of the first sin. That we would rise above ourselves and want to be as God... "to know".

Clean Cut said...

Note quite, Steve. I think C.S. Lewis put it best. The first sin had more to do with selfishly thinking one could set themselves up to be independent from God (as opposed to eternally "one" with Him):

"The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first—wanting to be the centre—wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race. Some people think the fall of man had something to do with sex, but that is a mistake. . . . What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come . . . the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy."

According to the apostle Peter, God wants us to "partake of [His] divine nature". According to Paul, we can become "joint heirs with Christ". The purpose of deification/exaltation is to take mortal man and transform us through grace to be like God. What else could it mean to "partake of the divine nature"?

Certainly there's a danger in thinking that we will become gods if Latter-day Saints don't recognize that it will only be in/through a relationship WITH God, not independent of Him. Our happiness is tied up with His happiness. We recognize that we will be connected with Him through our covenant relationship for eternity.

"Throughout the eternities, Mormons believe, they will reverence and worship God the Father and Jesus Christ. The goal is not to equal them or to achieve parity with them but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love and other divine attributes." http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,317272,00.html

C.S. Lewis, though not a Mormon, certainly understood and accepted a notion of theosis (not necessarily the LDS notion but a notion nonetheless) more strongly than is usually discussed today. Here’s how he put it:

“It may be possible for each of us to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden, of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you may talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you now meet if at all only in a nightmare.”

http://www.jberryman.com/quotebookLewis.html

Clean Cut said...

And personally, I think C.S. Lewis practically articulates the LDS position word for word in his book "Mere Christianity":

"The command Be ye perfect [Matt. 5:48] is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were "gods" and he is going to make good His words. If we let Him - for we can prevent Him, if we choose - He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what he said."

inhimdependent_lds said...

Steve,

In every way Jesus Christ has admonished us to follow (emulate) him and his father in heaven. This is the clear teaching of scripture and the example of Christs life. I have a really hard time imagining Jesus Christ saying “Be like me and my father.. oh, except for this part... dont be like Him in that way”

There is no aspect, quality or attribute that God and Jesus Christ possess that we should not want to model ourselves after. How could there be?

The dilemma occurs if one has an erroneous view of God and imagines him to be as narcissistic as apparently Piper thinks he is. The view asserted by Piper is certainly not what we see modeled in Jesus Christ.

However, if one understands God as not selfish in the way Piper asserts but rather a being of true love and service and full of a desire to lift and spread to all others the good that he has, just like what we see modeled in Jesus Christ, then one can wholly and fully strive to emulate him in every way- and that is very pleasing in the eyes of God and the highest form of worship.

Clean Cut said...

inhimdependent_lds, another great comment.

Bruce in Montana, I deleted the comment merely because I'd like to cut down on speculation we don't have much proof for. Thanks.

MadChemist said...

Great post, Clean Cut.
I agree completely.

One other thing I'd like to add for Steve. It sounds like you haven't finished reading the rest of the chapter in Genesis talking about the fall. God himself says, "The man has become one of us." You may assume that God was disappointed in this, or you may interpret Jesus words "Be thou therefore perfect." Part of perfection is knowing the difference between good and evil. That, my friend, is the danger of prooftexting, and why it should be avoided.

NM said...

Being the existentialist that I was for a season (and wasted the precious years in it), I'm swimming in the sea of Christian Hedonism =)

God is gracious - because of His love for Himself has spilled over to me; a mere vessel of mercy - I'm caught up in and by His love.

Great post Clean Cut =)

Tom said...

Pretty much every commandment is given to help us become like God - to act as He would act and think as He would think, love as He would love, etc.

Peter says we can be "partakers of the divine nature." John says that when Christ shall appear, "we shall be like Him." Jesus prayed that the apostles would be one with Him even as He is one with the Father. And we are commanded to be perfect even as the Father.

I don't know how all of the above can happen if we don't become like God. Becoming like Him seems to be the absolute core of the gospel!

Jessica said...

Hi Clean Cut,

I'm not a Calvinist, but I do enjoy reading John Piper. I can understand how the things he said might seem to be making God out to be narcissistic. However, I think you are missing the underlying philosophical reasoning behind what Piper is saying here.

In The Pleasures of God, Piper explains:

"Only God should be self-reliant. All the rest of us should be God-reliant. In the same way, we were created for something infinitely better and nobler and greater and deeper than self-contemplation. We were created for the contemplation and enjoyment of God! Anything less that this would be idolatry toward him and disappointment for us. God is the most glorious of all beings. Not to love him and delight in him is a great loss to us and insults him. But the same is true for God. How shall God not insult what is infinitely beautiful and glorious? How shall God not commit idolatry? There is only one possible answer: God must love and delight in his own beauty and perfection above all things. For us to do this in front of the mirror is the essence of vanity; for God to do it in front of his Son is the essence of righteousness. Is not the essence of righteousness to place supreme value on what is supremely valuable, with all the just actions that follow? And isn't the opposite of righteousness to set our highest affections on things of little or no worth, with all the unjust actions that follow? Thus the righteousness of God is the infinite zeal and joy and pleasure that he has in what is supremely valuable, namely, his own perfection and worth. And if he were ever to act contrary to this eternal passion for his own perfections he would be unrighteous, he would be an idolater. This is not irrelevant speculation. It is the foundation of all Christian hope...In this God-centered, divine righteousness lies the greatest obstacle to our salvation. For how shall such a righteous God ever set his affection on sinners like us who have scorned his perfections? But the wonder of the gospel is that in this divine righteousness lies also the very foundation of our salvation. The infinite regard that the Father has for the Son makes it possible for me, a wicked sinner, to be loved and accepted in the Son, because in his death he vindicated the worth and glory of his Father. Now I may pray with new understanding the prayer of the psalmist, "For your name's sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great" (Psalm 25:11). The new understanding is that Jesus has now atoned for sin and vindicated the Father's honor so that our sins are forgiven "on account of his name" (I John 2:12)... the Father's infinite pleasure in his own perfections is the fountain of our everlasting joy. The fact that the pleasure of God in his Son is pleasure in himself is not vanity. It is the gospel" (pp. 43-44).

Clean Cut said...

So what, exactly, am I missing here?

NM said...

I wonder if a big part of not-understanding is the differences between Mormon-extra-biblical cosmology and Biblical cosmology?

Biblical cosmology would point to the idea that God stands separate to everything-else; that God is over and above everything including matter, time and space - that He is the standard against which all things are measured by... God simply is. There is nothing more beautiful than He, because He is the origninator of beauty itself. Everything that we see in creation and know of in the universe is simply a reflection of, or points to, His magnificence...

To reiterate, I wonder if part of the difficulty with you coming to appreciate the Biblical understanding of the Sovereignty of God is that you subscribe to the idea that God was once a man, like you and me? This of course, would mean that God himself is governed by time, space, matter, virtues etc. and would probably infer that He is not sovereign?

inhimdependent_lds said...

Mormon "extra-biblical cosmology" or evangelical "extra-biblical philosophy"?- what difference does it make?

The bottom line as it relates here is that the God expressed in evangelical thinking and illustrated by Piper is incredibly narcissistic- regardless of how he is arrived at. That much seems rather simple and obvious.

I admit im a bit unclear as to what new or different insight Jessica hopes to shed on the issue using the extended version of Pipers words in her post. Thats the part that is unclear to me. To me they seem to only verify what we learned by Pipers words posted in the original story.

That God as expressed by Piper is in incredibly narcissistic- which is a really common evangelical view of him.

Ryan said...

When a similar discussion came up months ago, I started asking myself, "why do I worship God?"

Is it just because He's older, bigger, smarter, whatever-er than anything else in the universe? Or is it something about the way He *is* and *acts* ?

To paraphrase D&C 121 a bit, "God's power and influence are maintained by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, without hypocrisy, and without guile. His scepter is an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it flows unto Him forever and ever."

The latter makes strikes me as very much more worthy of worship than mere Bigness.

Ryan said...

NM, I guess my previous comment reflects my understanding of how God simply "is" -- if God's nature is what makes Him great and brings Him glory, that means He remains great regardless of what surrounds Him.

The need to compare ourselves against others in order to define ourselves and our worth is a very human failing. Unlike us, God doesn't need to be *-er than anything -- in fact has no need for comparisons at all -- and His sovereignty is not threatened at all by helping His children become more like Him.

NM said...

Ryan,

I whole-heartedly agree with you sentiments.

And consider this: the peak of his infinite worth is expressed through the death of his Son.

Mind-blowing.

The only sure way I know that God is merciful, gracious and loving is because of Jesus. In order to deal justly with my sin so I can stand before an infinitely holy God is: for an infinitely powerful and righteous God to die – and in dying: pay death’s due.

The height of our worship to God is because of Jesus – who died in our place. And personally speaking, God’s God-centeredness simply puts extra ballast to this existing thankfulness.

All praise [joyfully] goes back to Him, right? Like Mr. Piper says, “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him”.

NM

Jessica said...

Sorry, have been busy and forgot I had contributed to the discussion over here. I wish there was a reminder that popped up somewhere. Anyway, I should have summarized my point instead of quoting the long section.

Here's the thing. If God is the most glorious of all Beings and worthy of all worship and adoration, then WHO/WHAT is most worthy of God's worship?

If God were to set His affections first and foremost on unrighteous sinners, doesn't that reduce His worth? A person is defined by what they esteem as most valuable.

What would we think about a judge that would let a perverted criminal off the hook just because he loved him so much and found value in the criminal in spite of all the evil the criminal had done?

Therefore, if God places the greatest value on sinful human beings, what does that say about Him?

Rather, out of love for us, He values what is infinitely most valuable - Himself! He is the most glorious and most worthy Being!

Now, this is where we get into the difference in our understanding of who He is. I tend to agree with Piper's understanding of the Trinity: that Jesus is the embodied image of God the Father. Or, in other words, Jesus is the personified expression of the invisible God and is Himself an entirely separate person from the Father, but they are one Being because Jesus eternally existed with the Father and is of one nature with Him.

I think it makes most sense to me like this: As long as God has been God he has always been conscious of Himself - that consciousness is so infinite that He actually reproduces a whole other person that personifies that consciousness.

That other person is the Son. Their love relationship together generates the Holy Spirit - another separate person.

So, when I think about God esteeming Himself, I am thinking of His love and esteem for the Son - a separate person, yet of one nature with the Father.

Anyway, these are some philisophical explanations (from Piper and Jonathan Edwards) that help me make the most sense of the Biblical data that there is only one true God and yet the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each referred to as God.

Aaron said...

Jessica,

I think God sets His affections first and foremost on truth, love, rightouesness and all that is good. Which just so happens to be just who He is. Not that He sets his affections on Himself.

For us as His children He sets His affections on gently and patiently helping to guide us to learn those same attributes. He loves us and wants to see us succeed. He knows that for us to succeed He has to let us make the choices ourselves. Hence we will all make mistakes and hopefully we will personally choose the better feelings (propmtings from the spirit that we are on the right track) associated with rightousness as opposed to the carnal feelings of unrightousness. Heavenly Father is glorified by us when we choose His side and repent of our sins.

Heavenly Father's worth is not deteriorated by us being so important to Him. We are so important to Him that He sent His Son. He sent His Son to bridge the gap between our inadequacies and His perfection. With all of the glory that He has, the greatest part of that glory is His children. Namely Jesus Christ (His only begotten) and all of mankind.

NM,

I really liked thinking about

"And consider this: the peak of his infinite worth is expressed through the death of his Son."

Good thoughts,

Aaron

Papa D said...

A) "Go to earth; suffer terribly; come back and tell me how great I am; give me all the praise as I remain eternally removed from you."

B) "Go to earth; suffer terribly; change your very nature to become like me; honor me by becoming all that I have created you to become; you are my work and my glory."

I'll take B) any day - and it is FAR more consistent with the overall message of the Bible than A) [especially the NT, and particularly the words attributed to Jesus in the Gospels].

CC, I don't know if you saw this, but you might be interested in the following post I wrote for Mormon Matters long ago:

http://mormonmatters.org/2008/07/07/praise-honor-glory-be-to-god/

NM said...

Papa D,

The trouble with both options is that you attribute them to the LDS paradigm. The doctine of the 'Sovereignty of God'/'Doctrine of Grace' must be understood the way that Calvin intended them using Sola Scriptura.

Obviously, option (b) sounds way better - only because option (a) makes Christianity sound like deism; when we both know that God is not a cosmic clock-maker: because of Jesus and the sanctifying work of Holy Spirit: God is very involved =) For us monergist types, we would further argue that it is He who does ALL the work! :)

inhimdependent_lds said...

NM,

Why must the doctine of the 'Sovereignty of God'/'Doctrine of Grace' be understood the way that Calvin intended them using Sola Scriptura?

inhimdependent_lds said...

Papa D,

Good comments.

And i would add to "A)" as follows...

A) "Go to earth; suffer terribly; come back and tell me how great I am; give me all the praise as I remain eternally removed from you. And if you dont do that i will cast you into the most unimaginably horrific and torturous hell to be tormented for all eternity with absolutely no hope of escape forever and ever and ever.

If an imperfect human where to conceive of such a notion we would consider him to be rather sick. Certainly we can expect more from a perfect God of love.

NM said...

I included Sola Scriptura because (I assume) the doctrine of polytheism is found in the book of Abraham, which, of course, is in addition to the 66 books.

NM

Clean Cut said...

NM, a plurality of gods is very different than a doctrine of polytheism.

inhimdependent_lds said...

NM,

polytheism?!? hmmmm?

NM said...

My bad. I apologise for the ignorance there. Would someone care to explain the difference between the plurality of gods as you understand it, and polytheism?

Clean Cut said...

NM, although I disagree with some of his depictions of Mormons' beliefs about God, even evangelical scholar Gerald McDermott has conceded that Mormons are not polytheists--"Polytheism portrays a world in which competing gods either vie for ultimate authority or have delimited provinces over which they rule".

For us, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost function as one God, or Godhead, which oversee, bless, and save the human family. There is no competition between Them. They are "one", and share a perfect love and unity. Moreover, They desire that we too share a relationship of love. See "That They May Be One As We Are One".

NM said...

I think I understand that to the LDS: there is one God - for this earth and so on...

I have no concern about your (and our shared) understanding of the triune God. I just thought that according to the book of Abraham: there was a god before God - which would infer more than one god: polytheism. Right?

So, it is on this understanding that I asked if someone could tell me more about my misunderstanding of the doctrine of a-plurality-of-gods against polytheism.

Clean Cut said...

To avoid confusion, I should clarify and separate two different concepts here. There are two different kinds of plurality: the plurality within the Godhead (only three) and the plurality that arises from the fact that exalted children of God can be called gods.

Whether we're talking about a plurality of Gods within the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost), or a plurality of gods (ie: all the "sons of God", it doesn't change the fact that there is only one true source of worship, love, power, light, and glory in the universe--God the Eternal Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.

I'm not sure when or how much of the Book of Abraham you read, but it says nothing of a plurality of gods above God the Father. It does mention a God who is more intelligent than all the other intelligences. Joseph Smith also elaborated on the concept of the Most High God, or Head God, presiding over a divine council of gods before the foundation of the world. On this point of a plurality of Gods, the Bible doesn't contradict. See Psalm 82:1, for example: "God (elohim) stands in the divine council; in the midst of the gods (elohim) he passes judgment." There are multiple references to a plurality of Gods functioning together in unison, as one--not in conflicting competition vying for power (ie: polytheism). Genesis 1:26 seems to concur with the Book of Abraham's use of "Let us go down" and a plurality of Gods: "Let US make man in our own image".

inhimdependent_lds said...

NM,

Have you ever actually read the Book of Abraham for yourself?

NM said...

I have read the book of Abraham, inhimdependent_lds. I'm just wary that we have strayed slightly off-course from Clean Cut's original post. I wonder if Clean Cut could, for my sake, write a separate post regarding some misunderstood concepts that I, a non-LDS, have of this plurality-of-gods?

inhimdependent_lds said...

NM,

I am glad to hear you have at least read it. That is more than some have done.

In regard to staying on-course with Clean Cut's original post do you believe the comments by Piper in the original post describe a narcissistic being?

NM said...

inhimdependent_lds,

Mr. Piper's presentation of God in this way is very similar to all other reformist theologians :) Most of what Mr. Piper says is actually very similar to what Jonathan Edwards, one of America's greatest thinkers, had said. In fact, Mr. Piper joins many others who view God's God-centeredness in the same manner, with people such as C.H. Spurgeon, Macarthur, Luther, Pink, Tozer, James White, Sproul etc.

As a mental-health professional, I am too aware that the term 'narcissism' is something that has a negative edge. I use the term on a daily basis, in describing clients who I feel err toward an unhealthy side of ego-centricity. It is negative, firstly because of the story of Narcissus and also the way in which Freud presented this as a disorder.

I would point to Jessica's second comment: a summary of God's God-centeredness as Christians who subscribe to reformed theology, understand it.

NM

NM said...

The term 'narcissism' sounds abhorrent; and rightly so, when we use it in reference to us. But we make a mistake by thinking negatively about the term, when it is attributed to God's God-centeredness.

inhimdependent_lds, I can appreciate that you would probably find this a difficulty, but I'd invite you to think it through logically? I know when I first came across it, it just sounded wrong; I detested the God-centeredness of God. But now, as one who has encountered grace and mercy: it is simply beautiful :) These doctrines serve in putting ballast in my humble worship to a merciful God...

inhimdependent_lds said...

NM,

Well, saying Pipers words are similar to all other reformists theologians only goes to reinforce the pervasiveness of this troublesome idea- that is at the core of the evangelical understanding of God.

That is sort of the point of the post.

The fact that so many people subscribe to it, and not just Piper, is what i would consider to be a big part of the problem.

I am no mental health professional- that is for sure. But i cant see how anyone would read that description and not see it as very self centered and self absorbed. Can you really read it and not see it like that??

My sense is that when it is really laid out in the manor that Piper has laid it out that even evangelicals are uncomfortable hearing it as it does not sit well with them on some deeper level- as when they listen with their spiritual self. But this spiritual awkwardness is then trumped by the strong external philosophies of men and tradition surrounding the subject.

That might all be rather difficult to express in a tiny blog post but to me it is a truly deep and pervasive troubling issue.

inhimdependent_lds said...

NM,

I did not see your second comments until after i posted.

inhimdependnet_lds said...

NM,

As a former evangelical Christian of more that 30 years i do know what you mean when you speak of grace and mercy. I really do, and i can assure you that i have not forfeited any of that wonderful grace and mercy by becoming a LDS Christian.

When i hear the argument that somehow qualities we find in God would be abhorrent to find in man i just have to shake my head. That is just really messed up thinking in my view. If that idea has bothered you in the past- it should!

When all is said and done Jesus is the model of his father and for us all. And we certainly do NOT find the qualities described by Piper in what we know of Jesus Christ. We just dont.

Clean Cut said...

NM, by your request, I made a new post so you can ask any questions you'd like without fear of threadjacking this strand. Thanks.

Jessica said...

Aaron, you said

Jessica, I think God sets His affections first and foremost on truth, love, rightouesness and all that is good. Which just so happens to be just who He is. Not that He sets his affections on Himself.

That's an interesting way of putting it. So are you saying that "truth, love, righteousness, and all that is good" can exist independently of God? Or that these qualities are somehow above Him or existed before Him?

If He is the source of all these qualities, then wouldn't it make sense that in loving these qualities He is actually loving Himself?

Again, my idea here isn't that He is a person focused on Himself, but rather that He is so infinite and incredible that His very thoughts of Himself have eternally generated another person.

You can kind of relate to the idea of having a thought about yourself - an idea of who you think you are. Well, the way I understand this - God's thoughts of Himself are so infinite that His thoughts are personified in the person of Christ. Jesus is the express image of God's idea of Himself: "the express image of His person" (Heb. 1:3). Jesus is "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15).

When I say eternally I mean there was never a time when Jesus did not exist. As long as God has been God ("from everlasting to everlasting") He has been fully conscious of Himself and His consciousness of Himself is represented in the person of Christ.

So, my understanding is that when Piper and Edwards talk about God delighting in Himself they are thinking of His delight in the Son who is the image of the Father.

This is the God I worship. He's WAY cool!!! = ) Not narcissistic at all. Just HUGELY infinite and incredibly complex!!! And way too big to wrap my mind around. He amazes me and thrills me with His awesomeness.

Jessica said...

Papa D said,

A) "Go to earth; suffer terribly; come back and tell me how great I am; give me all the praise as I remain eternally removed from you."

It's interesting to hear an LDS make this comment. I was talking with some LDS friends recently about the nature of God and one of them was remarking that if they were God they would probably be hanging out on a beach on Kolob.

In my opinion, the teaching that God the Father is not omnipresent is a teaching that creates a distant God.

My God is with me everywhere I go and deeply involved in every detail of my life. He is not distant at all.

NM said...

inhimdependent_lds,

I can't help but echo all that jessica has said.

The Sovereignty of God rests on who you think God is. Maybe it's worth worth asking (for clarification's sake) you who think God is? How did God come to be, as you understand it?

Clean Cut said...

Jessica, I appreciate being able to step into your shoes, so to speak, and to try to see things as you see them. So thank you for your comments. I especially appreciate your understanding "that when Piper and Edwards talk about God delighting in Himself they are thinking of His delight in the Son who is the image of the Father." I like that take much better. However, is that truly what Piper means? Just curious. It also just seems to me that talk of God loving "himself" lends itself well to the heresy of modalism. If the Father is not the Son, and the Son is not the Father, than how can the Father love "himself" by loving the Son?

Clean Cut said...

And just FYI, the "teaching that the God the Father is not omnipresent" is not an LDS teaching. Similarly to how you believe that God is spiritually present everywhere, but not physically, we believe that God's Spirit is everywhere, and thus God is omnipresent. We believe God has a body but His body does not have Him.

I like how Elder Bruce D. Porter put it in his excellent article in First Things:

"God's divine, embodied being is the center, not the limit of his power. We believe that a tangible glory or light “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne . . . who is in the midst of all things” (D&C 88:11-13). By means of this spirit, God's power and influence are present at every point of time and space."

Jessica said...

Hi Clean Cut,

From what I've read of Piper and Edwards I think this is absolutely what they are referring to.

I quoted from a section of Piper on my blog recently where He talks about this aspect of the Father delighting in the Son:

http://ilovemormons.wordpress.com/2009/06/05/the-pleasures-of-god/

It also just seems to me that talk of God loving "himself" lends itself well to the heresy of modalism. If the Father is not the Son, and the Son is not the Father, than how can the Father love "himself" by loving the Son?

That's a good point and an important distinction to make. The difference is obviously in our understanding of "who" God is. If Christ is the image of the Father, they are obviously the same essence even though separate persons. I think this is where the idea of "loving himself" comes into it. In this understanding, God's glory and radiance in and of Himself and His enjoyment of Himself is how the Son has been eternally generated. The Spirit has eternally generated by the love relationship between the Father and the Son. So they are separate persons yet one in substance/essence.

The attempt here is to hold to both truths - the separateness of the persons in the Godhead and the clear monotheistic teaching of scripture. This is how the doctrine of the Trinity developed and continues to be developed today as students of the Bible read and ponder the revelations that have been given to us thus far.

Interesting point on God's omnipresence. So, to further clarify: is it your understanding that God the Father's spirit is omnipresent or that the Holy Spirit is omnipresent, acting on behalf of the Father?

Clean Cut said...

Thanks for sharing that, Jessica. I can especially appreciate this line of Pipers': "God himself takes full pleasure in the radiance of his Son. He reveals him in blinding light, and then says, ‘This is my delight!’"

It reminds me of a well known event in the Book of Mormon in which the voice of the Father bore witness of the Son: “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him."

On your other point, you wrote: "The attempt here is to hold to both truths - the separateness of the persons in the Godhead and the clear monotheistic teaching of scripture. This is how the doctrine of the Trinity developed and continues to be developed today."

That is my understanding of the Trinity as well--really as a solution to that "problem". However, most of my practical experience with creedal Christians is that they either conceive of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as separate individuals (similar to Latter-day Saints) OR they don't emphasize their "separateness" enough and thus error on the side of modalism, thinking that all three are the same person anyway.

I don't blame them--after all, all of us mortal "beings" are our own "person". In striving to better understand the mystery of how three distinct persons can share one ousia/essence, it's hard for me to understand/conceptualize how they are truly separate if they are of the same being/essence.

Moreover, how I should understand that a physical, created, yet resurrected body applies to just one of the three divine persons, if those three persons are one being/substance/ousia?

As for your last question--it's a good one. "Is it your understanding that God the Father's spirit is omnipresent or that the Holy Spirit is omnipresent, acting on behalf of the Father?"

I don't really know how to separate this. When I'm feeling the Spirit, am I feeling God's presence, the Holy Spirit, or both? After all, they work as "one". Maybe the right answer is "all of the above".

Jessica said...

Moreover, how I should understand that a physical, created, yet resurrected body applies to just one of the three divine persons, if those three persons are one being/substance/ousia?

What is your definition of being/substance/ousia? Seems like you are thinking in terms of matter rather than spirit.

Clean Cut said...

Then what I mean is, where is Jesus' physical body in the midst of this "spiritual" essence called God?

inhimdependent_lds said...

NM,

My explaining to you (for clarification's sake) "who I think God is" or "How I think God came to be" might both be worthwhile topics at some point somewhere but I dont think i have much interest in dragging all that out here. Nor do i really think it would matter.

Those are both really huge issues. If it is really that important or that clarifying to you to hear my views on those issues i would be more that willing to talk to you on the phone about it. (assuming you are in the USA) You can e-mail me at: inhimdependent_lds@yahoo.com if that appeals to you.

Otherwise i dont think i have an interest in dragging all that out here- especially if we are trying to "stay on-course".

I really dont think one has to have all of that figured out to have a competent view of what Piper is talking about anyway. Nor does it matter when comparing the evangelical/LDS view of the chief end of God.

I really dont know that i have anything else to contribute to your particular comments at this point.

On a side note i will be curious to hear if CC post on the "polytheism" issue is helpful to you at all- should you choose to post on that thread.

Anders said...

You wrote: “Through the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can become exalted through His grace, sharing in His quality of life. That, to me, is the chief end of God--not egotistically taking pleasure in Himself.”

I want to comment about atonement.

(le-havdil) How to live in order to enable the Creator in His loving kindness to provide His kipur –atonement- is outlined in Tan’’kh ; and was also taught by the first century Ribi Yehoshua from Nazareth (the Mashiakh; the Messiah).

Read it here: http://www.netzarim.co.il
Anders Branderud

NM said...

Hi Clean Cut,

I must say, you've been quiet for quite a while now; I hope you're not getting too bogged down with work and what not! I also hope you and your family are all well...

Mr. James White, over at Alpha and Omega Ministries, has just uploaded a study-sermon on Romans 9. I'm still only half-way through, but I gotta say, everything he says pretty much resonates with my own experiences of mercy :)

God's sovereignty, if properly understood, drives us to humble, broken thanksgiving and praise...

Rich Alger said...

I thought this was interesting
21 Questions Answered About Mormon Faith Published December 18, 2007

My favorite question and answer

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe its followers can become "gods and goddesses" after death?
A: We believe that the apostle Peter’s biblical reference to partaking of the divine nature and the apostle Paul’s reference to being 'joint heirs with Christ' reflect the intent that children of God should strive to emulate their Heavenly Father in every way. Throughout the eternities, Mormons believe, they will reverence and worship God the Father and Jesus Christ. The goal is not to equal them or to achieve parity with them but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love and other divine attributes.

Clean Cut said...

Thanks Rich. I too like that statement. I believe I shared it above in the 5th comment in response to Steve. It's a good one.

Rich Alger said...

Wow, I missed that (Because I didn't review the previous comments)