THE GLORY OF GOD
Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher
vanity of vanities. All is vanity.
– Ecclesiastes 1:2
I recall a religious song I learned as a child. It detailed the story of a young girl whose father who often went into tirades at every mention of the word, God. I suppose you could say he was the predecessor of the New Atheist. One day, the young girl discovered an old-timey tent revival had come to town. Desperate to learn more about the God whom her father hated, she crept from her bedroom window to make her way to the revival. That night she found her heart filled to the brim with joy by the things she learned about God from the revival preacher. Later, as she crept back into her room, she discovered her father waiting for her. B-r-r-r, can you imagine? Anyway, after she confessed to her father her tiny heart had been filled to the brim with the joy of God, her father immediately begat a very dour look on his face. The look begat a cursing which in turn begat more cursing. Soon her father was begatting all over the place. Heartbroken, the little girl clenched her little fists high and began some begatting of her own. She cursed God. A few days later, for some reason the song never explained, or maybe I just want to recall, the young girl lay on her death bed. As she lay dying, she cried out in agony as the eternal flames of Hell which would soon consume her soul began to lick at her poor feet. Tickle, tickle. Her father, at her side, found himself horrorstruck. Mah baby girl, he would cry, mah precious, baby girl. What have I done?
My mother loved that song. Who knows, she might still. She would often crank the volume on the radio up every time the local religious station played it. Between that and the twiggity-twang of the self righteous bluegrass songs, everything I learned about God as a child would be enough to keep anyone awake at night.
Opposite the god of my childhood is what I call the god of American Churchianity. This is the god of the mega church. He is the corporate, self-help guru who exists to teach you how to impress people and win friends. He is often found in barroom bathrooms or gas stations cleaning toilets and giving away free cans of Coke-Cola to “show God’s love in a practical way”. When he is not serving, then he is leading the congregation at his church in another resounding chorus of, “Precious Are My Feelings.” His favorite sermons are the ones where the pastor shows scenes from popular movies and television shows. His son is in a Christian rock band and his daughter is not afraid to let the world know Jessus is her boyfriend.
Yes, I am embarrassed to say, after eighteen years of living in terror of the god of my childhood, I spent twenty-two years serving the god of American Churchianity.
The truth of the matter is this. The God of the Bible is as far from either of these two gods as the east is from the west. It isn’t even that the God of the Bible is found somewhere in between these two gods. No. Rather, it is that the God of the Bible is utterly alien to these two gods. He has nothing even remotely in common with them.
So what is the God of the Bible really like then? And what is so wrong with thinking of Him in the way I did as a child or later as a young adult?
The answers to those questions begin where the Bible begins. With Genesis and the Bible’s account of creation.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. He created the universe, and then He created mankind. As the Creator, God has the right to design His creation in whatever fashion He so chooses. In the case of mankind, God designed His creature which He called Man to be more than just the mere pinnacle of His creation. Rather, He also designed man to be a creature able to perceive the Creator’s splendor and majesty. You could say that everything God created exists for the sole purpose of perception. That is, that creature man might perceive God’s majesty and splendor in all things God created in order that man might give glory to God for having created it.
Of course, this presupposes that man know this. And man does know it. Every man and woman is born with this innate knowledge built into them. Innate means it is natural to man. No man or woman needs anyone to teach this knowledge to them. Even a child knows intuitively that God exists and that He is worthy to be worshipped. All the wonders of the universe, everything from galaxies and stars to the tiniest intricacies of the human blood cell, it all functions and works and operates smoothly within billions upon billions upon billions upon billions of interlocking parts that must all be immediately and instantly present for the system to work. Even a child knows intuitively that Someone incredibly and infinitesimally powerful and intelligent created it all. And yet today, we find men and women all over this world who do everything they can to suppress this knowledge. Why?
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
Man was created to commune with God. He was created to perceive God’s glory in the wonders of creation, and to then worship Him for it. This required that man make a choice. He must choose to be who he is – a creature created to fellowship with God. That is, he must choose to recognize that he is the creature and God the Creator. How is he to do this?
God gives the first man a command. Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for in the day you eat of it you shall die. Shall man obey? If he obeys, then he affirms the truth he is the creature and God is the Creator. But man did not obey. The Bible tells us the first man disobeyed instead, because he believed a lie.
Genesis 3:4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will like God, knowing good and evil.”
The lie was “you will be like God.” In other words, choose what you will come to learn as good rather than what you will come to learn as evil, and you will prove that you are as righteous as God. Take of the tree and eat. Learn what is good and what is evil. Then use that knowledge to your advantage to prove you are as righteous as God.
The first man, the first couple, believed this lie. And it was not that they believed this lie for only a moment, but then later changed their mind after they realized the consequences of believing it. No, they continued to believe it even long after the consequences were realized. Every religion today with the exception of true Christianity is fashioned upon this lie. So is Atheism and Agnosticism. The entire world is built upon this lie.
Man believed a lie. And he continues to believe that same lie today. And he continues to suffer the consequences of believing that lie even as he continues to deny the truth that the lie is, in fact, a lie.
In summary then, God had created the first man and the first woman for the purpose of perceiving His wonder and majesty to the end that He who is worthy to be worshiped should indeed be worshiped and glorified as God.
Now, we must pause here to say something about this last sentence, because some people have a problem with it. That is, they insist that a God who made everything for the purpose of His own glory makes God egocentric and selfish. Point in fact, they only say this because they are suppressing the truth they innately know about God. This is one of the consequences of believing the lie.
Consider, for example, that if God really is the most magnificent and wonderful Being in all the universe, then it follows that He must be chiefly and supremely concerned with His own glory. Otherwise, if He were concerned more with something other than His own glory, then whatever else He would be more concerned with would itself be more magnificent and wonderful than He.
God is worthy to be worshiped precisely because He is the most magnificent, the most wonderful, the most majestic, the most splendid and holy and righteous Person in the universe. The self righteous man tries to suppress this truth about God by insisting God is egocentric and selfish for refusing to worship Mankind as equally magnificent, splendid, majestic, righteous and holy.
The lie is impossible to achieve precisely because it is a lie. The creature can never become the creator anymore than the lumber can become the architect. Nevertheless, man believes this lie. He has exchanged the truth about God for a lie and now serves and worships the creature rather than the Creator who is forever blessed.
As a consequence, man’s appetites have turned inward. He finds himself gratifying every impulse to worship himself. His understanding, ever consumed with thoughts of himself, become clouded and confused. Worst of all, as God warned, he has begun to die.
Most English Bibles translate the text of Genesis 2:17 to read, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it you shall die.” Most English Bibles translate it this way, because the wording in Hebrew is a difficult text to say in English. That is, it sounds strange in English. But if we were to translate the text literally, it would read as follows:
“but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it dying you shall die.”
In the day you eat of it dying you shall die.
In other words, at the very instant man disobeyed, man was plunged into a state of death whereby the processes of death has begun. He has entered into a state of dying. The unalterable advance towards the day of his certain death had begun. Think about that. We sometimes question the moment at which life begins. Prolife and Prochoice groups have built their entire organizations around an answer to that very question. Some say this moment is at conception, while others insist it is at birth. But in one very true sense, there is no moment at which life begins. In reality, there is that moment at which death begins. From our conception, the unalterable and steady advance towards our death has begun. Birth, childhood, pubescence, adulthood, these are all events which merely serve to carry us inevitably forward to the day of our certain death. Dying we shall die.
But why should every human being die? After all, wasn’t it merely the first man who had disobeyed? If that be the case, why then should everyone else be forced to follow in the footsteps of one man? Why should I be held accountable for something I didn’t do?
This is an excellent question, and it is one we will address very soon. But before we do, we must first address an even more important question. Why did God even create the serpent in the first place? After all, if God is omniscient, meaning He knows all things, then it is follows that He knew what the serpent would do before He created the serpent. And yet He created the serpent anyway. Why?
Ponder this for a moment. God created the serpent, knowing full well what the serpent would do after He created him. And yet He created him anyway. Consider something even more startling though. God creates people who He knows will end up in hell, yet He creates them anyway. Why?
There can only be one logical answer. God purposed the serpent to do what it did! In other words, He designed this to happen! God planned for the serpent to do exactly what the serpent did, just as He also planned for man to do exactly what man did.
This is a problem America Churchianity tries its best to hide from. Small deeds done with great kindness will not change the world. Rather, it is merely an attempt to bury one’s head in the sand.
Some people have tried to resolve the problem of evil by introducing the entirely absurd and unbiblical notion of free will. According to this fantastical concept, God is glorified only if His creatures are free to choose to love Him. But what are we supposedly free of? We are not free of the consequences of Adam’s choice. Quite the contrary, dying we shall every man and woman die. What about believing the lie then, are we free of this? On the contrary, as we have just established, men and women are still quite convinced that the lie is true. Then what are we free of?
We must conclude from this free will absurdity that the only thing free will frees us from is God’s sovereignty and dominion, which is at the very heart of the lie itself. You shall be free to be like God.
Man has no free will, nor does the Bible speak of man as having a free will. On the contrary, the Bible speaks of man as being a slave to sin. He is a slave to his own nature. And since it is nature to sin, he wills always to sin.
I do not deny man has a will. Rather, I deny man’s will is free. It is not free. Rather, man’s will is a slave to sin. Nevertheless, the proponents of free will complain that any other way makes man out to be a puppet. Yet is these very same proponents who have, in effect, made God out to be the puppet. They have argued that it is God who must respond to man’s choice, rather than man responding to God’s. In asserting that man is free to choose, the proponents of free will have simply reasserted the serpent’s lie. But the truth is that man is not autonomous. He is not a creature free from the constraints of his Creator. Man has a will. Man chooses. He is not a puppet. But because his nature is bent towards sin, what he always wills to do is sin.
The answer is not free will. The answer is the Cross.