Maybe you’ve heard this one before: God wanting honor and Glory makes him arrogant and I’d never worship a being that desired honor and glory for himself.
What is the proper response to this? This is a common objection and I think it’s built on the skeptic’s inability to imagine a truly perfect being. The atheist builds this objection on a limited platform of what it means to be human – any person we know of, no matter how great, would be considered an egotistical megalomaniac if he demanded others to tell him how great he is.
But God is not a human, not fallen, not in any way imperfect. God is the greatest conceivable Being. Therefore the atheist is here guilty of a failure of the imagination to consider the motivations and actions of a being of truly infinite power, wisdom and love.
So if we do start with such a Being, what should we make of a repeated desire that he be worshiped and that glory be ascribed to him? Well, if we reach in our minds for a PERFECT being, we reject out of hand a motivation as base as arrogance or insecurity. An all-sufficient being has no need to prop up a sagging ego. The atheist has in mind the flighty, petty deities that inhabited Mount Olympus when he sees the God of the Bible being worshiped. He thinks of a schoolyard bully who demands homage and we know why: he fears his own weakness.
But the God of the Bible never comes across like this. Instead, his glory (literally, his “weight”) is simply said to be a fact of his all loving, all holy, all powerful nature (Ex 24:16). His glory is not first a thing he seeks from us, it is first an unalterable fact of his very being. God IS glorious, whether you or I acknowledge it or not.
So in that sense, his seeking to be worshiped by us, is not arrogance but a desire to teach a primary lesson in the nature of reality. If God is aback all things, this God is glorious, and when we align ourselves with this fact, we come into truth, and then it goes better for us. Far from being selfish then, God’s desire for glory is a gift to us.
Example: A person can live their life without ever knowing fully what electricity really is. They see it, but maybe ascribe it to unknowable forces. But the more they find out what electricity is, the more they develop a healthy fear of its power, while at the same time developing more awe of the benefits of that power if channeled correctly. You can live OK without a really accurate view of electricity, but when you bring your life in line with reality, life takes off. If electricity had a “will” to bless us, it might instruct us to “glorify” the lightning bolt – for our own sake!
Just like that, it is God’s gift to us to show us (in Creation and Redemption) that behind the Universe is a First Cause, who necessarily must be all powerful, self-existent, eternal and spiritual. In a word, Glorious. When we get in line with this reality, we find the Source of our being, the Source of meaning, the Fountainhead from which we sprang, the Source of eternal comfort.
Moses, after being faced with the awesome power of God in the Egyptian plagues, had only one request, to see more of the glory of God (Ex 33). This request was not born out of a man being an obsequious runt, playing to Yahweh’s pathetic need to be feel “great”! Far from it. Read the text, the OPPOSITE is true. His desire to see the glory of God was born out of God bringing him along in relationship and intimacy – in short, his desire to see more of God’s weighty splendor came as a result of God deciding to share that splendor with him.
How is this arrogant? This is the opposite of petty arrogance or insecurity. This is generosity! God wants to share who he is (his glory) with his creation. And only people who hunger for that glory, will get in on it – again a natural consequence of living in line with reality. Paul says that the people who will not so hunger (IE who did not glorify God) received in themselves all manner of troubles (Romans 1:21-25). Their chief error is that they believed a lie – and certainly if there is a God responsible for this grand universe, to ignore his existence and nature is a terrible oversight and will naturally lead to life not working right – and that’s just how Paul’s describes those who diminish or deny God’s “glory” (Romans 1:29-31).
As for people being somehow bullied by God into giving God this glory, two misunderstandings are probably happening.
Number one, the skeptic is probably incorrectly interpreting a specific Calvinistic branch of Christianity. They perhaps have a vague idea that Calvinists talk about God’s glory being the sole purpose of all his activity. And when one hears (as some Calvinists believe) that this God has pre-selected people for an eternity in hell, all for the “sake of his glory”, it’s not hard to imagine they have a problem with such a God.
I won’t chime in here in on the debate within the church about predestination to hell, but suffice to say that most Calvinists struggle with this so-called “double predestination” (election to hell) and so the whole objection to God seeking Glory by sending people to hell, is probably a gross misunderstanding of A) how election works and B) God’s motives within election. We should rightly look at predestination as a separate problem to work out, aside from the problem of God’s glory.
Number two, they probably are imagining this God saying time after time, “give me glory!” Perhaps some psalm or proverb in the Bible puts this sentiment in God’s mouth just like that… but I can’t think of even one time myself. I’m ready to stand corrected on that point. But the larger point is the repeated examples in Scripture of those human agents who have experienced the glory of God, who willingly and energetically “give God glory” and encourage others to do the same (Ps 29:1,2). Again, most of the time God’s glory is described as a simple fact of his perfect, splendorous and weighty nature – and how is that arrogant?
When the call is made to glorify the Lord, it’s usually not (if ever) God’s demand, but the fellow traveler’s plea to us: “I’ve seen the glory of the King, bring him worship, he’s worthy.” This is therefore the furthest thing from an arbitrary, self centered demand from a petulant Deity. In Scripture we never find this formula from God’s mouth: “I’m great, say it, say it!” Rather, the formula is something closer to, “I have greatness within my very Being, and if you will align with it, you will share in it.” (Romans 8:17)
So God’s glory turns out to be awesome good news and speaks to God’s awesome liberality, not conceit.