January 16, 2021

On Being Too God-Centered

guitar_craftsmanUPDATE: Interesting column on the paradoxes of Calvinism.

Udo Middleman on “The Islamization of Christianity.”

This post is, without a doubt, an experiment in exploration and articulation. Many won’t care for where it goes, but I think a basic question must be answered, not just for the sake of answering atheists, but for understanding our own faith as “Christian humanism.”

A Facebook friend just asked me if I wanted to become a “fan” of Jonathan Edwards.

Too bad there’s isn’t a “NOT a fan” option, because I’m not a fan.

One of my consistent critics- who is also a respected friend- called to mind a statement I’d made in the past about the problem of being “too God-centered.” He was obviously wondering it, with time and reflection, I’d thought better of that phrase and wanted to repent.

Answer: No. It still concerns me. Not whether all things are centered in, related to, dependent on, destined for and exist to glorify God, but whether some expressions of Christianity can become so God-focused that the significance of what is not God- including all things in human experience- are devalued and even distorted to the point of confusion in the minds of God loving/God believing people.

I’ve sensed, as long as I have been around my intensely theological Protestant (mostly reformed and evangelical) brothers and sisters, a kind of clumsiness with the subject of the significance of anything in human experience. By clumsiness I mean that these matters are handled, but the constant pressure to be singularly God centered and God focused makes it difficult to handle both God and human life at once without one overwhelming the other.

I have felt this clumsiness and awkwardness throughout my life. For example, as a young Christian, I found myself at a post-citywide crusade prayer meeting with people involved in a James Robison crusade. Robison was speaking about the kind of prayer needed to bring revival to our city. He used a very dramatic illustration of having a vision of an open grave, where God asked him if he were willing to give the life of his child in order for revival to come. In highly emotional terms, Robison enacted this prayer where he laid his daughter in this grave, thereby signaling his willingness to sacrifice for revival.

I bring this up after reading, just today, an account of a sincere, God-loving Christian processing an incredible tragedy involving the loss of a child, and seeing the significance of the child’s death as a necessary requirement for God to bring the Gospel to many people who would otherwise not hear.

These incidents- and many more that I could tell you- seem to be clumsy, awkward, painful attempts to hold together the glory of God and the realities of human life: love, family, loss.

Regular IM readers will have heard me express my admiration for the book The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism by Louis Bouyer. Bouyer was a Lutheran convert to Catholicism. His assessment of Protestantism is amazingly generous, being founded on the idea that what Protestants value most is best expressed in Catholicism.

Bouyer commends the solas of Protestantism and especially the idea of soli deo gloria, but then he begins a detailed examination of Calvin and Calvinism’s focus on the singular significance of the glory of God as compared to anything else. Bouyer finds that Calvin’s focus on the glory of God reduced worship to a shred of its Catholic self, eliminated the significance of the eucharist, replaced everything in worship with scripture alone and made the significance of human life consisting solely of eternal worship. Following this track, Bouyer suggested, the glory of God becomes the only kind of significance that “weighs” anything in the experience of these Christians.

I was deeply affected by this insight, and I feel its impact in my own experience of evangelicalism.

For example, were it not for the work of N.T. Wright on eschatology (See Surprised by Hope), I would be approaching a point of despair with the evangelical “eternal praise and worship concert” view of the afterlife. Wright’s recovery of the doctrine of the resurrection and the connection of this world with the new world to come has been a sanity saver and a faith expander.

As I listen to evangelicals discuss the significance of the church, I can sense the exact process Bouyer described. More and more churches are now nothing but music and Bible teaching. Discussions of other forms of the church that embody community, encourage incarnational ministry or embrace servanthood are under deep suspicion among the heirs of Calvin. Why? Because the glory of God is at stake, the Bible is not being given enough emphasis and there are too many dangers in these human-level activities.

Many Evangelicals see a frightening and dark world. They are suspicious of art, music, literature and the imagination. Books are dangerous. Culture- be it high or low- is of little value. Those evangelicals who are not of that mindset know full well what the arguments are: How is this serving the glory of God? What is the value of this activity as compared to theology or worship? What is any of this when compared to God?

The reformed doctrines of depravity and corruption are applied to everything, and the only answer is God. But can the world of being human gain and keep its significance in and through the glory of God, or must it give way to the glory of God? That discussion seems to be going on in many different ways and places, with varying levels of helpfulness.

I am sad to say this, but there is a point at which the relentless God-centeredness of some believers makes them into the adversaries and almost the enemies of much that is good in human life. They become the enemies of normal, especially in the lives of young people, creative people and people who feel that life in this world is good and shouldn’t be devalued by religion. My recent experiences regarding the rosary at solamom.net are a perfect example. Soli deo gloria was the only reason anyone can have for anything at all, and that is not to GIVE significance, freedom, liberty and beauty, but to question the purpose for anything other than the constant study of God, God and more God.

Christianity bears a weight in this area, and not all forms of it have handled that challenge equally well. Bouyer would have some questions from me about celibacy and many other aspects of Catholic practice (especially the marriage of Joseph and Mary,) but I get his point.

I see the erosion of significance in endeavor after endeavor, area after area of evangelicalism. I see artists and servants being hounded. Standards becoming meaningless. Beauty and heritage tossed in the trash. Theological abstractions set up higher and higher as the goal of any genuine Christian.

I find myself wondering how Jesus lived a God-centered, God-glorifying life, and was fully, wonderfully, completely, healthily, human?

I see that humanity and love of God in the lives of many people, both past and present, but in the articulation and proclamation of the church, there’s the clumsiness; the disconnect. There is, sometimes, the outright adversarial attitude towards whatever is not God and God Alone.

What Bach was able to sign at the end of each piece of music….can it be signed on all of human life? Even what is not religious? What is ordinary? Normal? Merely human? When Piper says we can drink Orange juice to the glory of God, is he opening the door to finding a way for God-centered theologians and preachers to relax about people who want to do dozens and dozens of other things, in their own simple, human way, to the glory of God?

My thoughts are incomplete, but important to me at this point in my journey. I believe the glory of God preserves and fills human life with meaning and significance. I do not believe that meaning and significance only comes when we overtly, consciously allow our sense of God to make all things meaningless compared to Him.

Is our humanity validated? Or obliterated?

Something is wrong and I feel it. Perhaps my friend is right and I need to repent of what I’ve thought, felt and written. Or perhaps, as is so often true in these pages, I’m far from being the only one who’s noticed.


  1. Éric Wingender says

    Some years ago, I experienced what I would describe as an “anthropolical shift” brought about by reading scholars like Bruggemann. Thanks to their work, I started to really pay attention to the details of the OT stories and their oddness (a term Bruggemann uses very frequently). Gradually, because of the biblical witness, I was sort of sent back into the “real world”. That is, I was able to grant myself the permission to reclaim large chunks of my humanity (raised a nominal catholic in a french-speaking home in Québec, I had a conversion experience at 15 in a context where many people seemed to have lost part of their humanity simply by virtue of trying so hard to live “in the Bible” and for God, instead of living life with God, guided by the Bible ).

    I take from this experience that, unknowingly, several streams in the Christian church seem to be playing host to a defective and imbalance (and implicit) anthropology. It is defective and imbalance because it tends to underplay if not outright deny the presence and the importance of many facets that make human life…human. They seem to imagine man as a sort of a floating spiritual entity with no real history, no real connection to society, no real connection to the environment,etc.

    The OT frankness about the messyness and ambiguity of life, its witness to the “thickness” that caracterizes the human experience (the fact we exist through being connected to a wide variety of realities and spheres (social, cultural, historical, economical, ecological, etc), and how God achieves his saving design through all this, is one way to correct this defective anthropology.

    The OT as a witness to this complex and deep anthropology also forms the larger context we need to read and understand the New Testament. In short: too weak an appropriation of the OT may lead to a docetic view of christian life.

    And what is truly tragic is the fact we live in a culture (specially here in Québec) where it is more and more about the here and now. So evangelicalim’s mesage about what it means to be saved (I submit that it is a very narrow and overly spiritual perspective) seems more and more irrelevant and foreign to my fellow Québécois.

  2. Andy D, I’m not trying to convert you but you should read Hugh Ross, who, I think puts sagan in perspective and was a student of Sagan.

  3. I have been working through this issue recently in my thinking. On the one hand I love Barth because of his relentless smashing of idols and his theocentrism, but then I love the Orthodox writers like Staniloae and Soloviev with this peaceful vision of the beauty of the cosmos united to God, the whole world as a material icon where we participate in fellowship and communion with the Trinity and other believers. I think you need to lose the world before you can get it back truly. But you need to get it back!

  4. Speaking for myself, I don’t think I actually know God well enough yet to to be completely and utterly God-centered or God-focused in my life. And if I set out on a personal crusade to become completely and utterly God-centered, I fear I would just end up centering my life on my own beliefs and opinions of who I think God is (or who I want Him to be). Another possibility is that I would center my life on how some pastor, Christian writer, denomination, or popular Christian culture portrays God.
    But I don’t want that. I want God to teach me and show me who He is and what His will is for my life. And from what I’ve discovered so far, He can reveal bits and pieces of Himself through just about anything — be it a walk in the park, a seemingly random encounter in Wal-Mart, a tire that goes flat at an inconvenient moment, learning to be a good neighbor to the annoying people next door, or even getting dumped by your girlfriend. Sure, He can and does reveal Himself through the official “Godly” stuff, like attending church services, reading the Bible, and praying. But if we limit our God input to just those officially sanctioned sources, then I fear we’ll come to know a seriously abbreviated God (not that I’m trying to reopen that discussion). That can lead to the mistaken belief that we can successfully file away everything in the universe under the headings “Of God” and “Not Of God” and then limit what we do, watch, hear, and read, as well as who we associate with, to only those things and people in our “Of God” file. Sure, you might win the Christian of the Year award by doing that, but I don’t think it will bring you into a real centered orbit around God. Only His gravity will accomplish that.

  5. Salome van Niekerk says

    Thank you for articulating some of the thoughts that I have recently been struggling with. I love my church and church family, but I feel more and more that I live two lives – the life I live around my church friends, and my “real” life, with my books, music, movies, dance classes, everything that’s important to me and help make me what I am, and what I keep quiet and sort of hidden because so many of them are not “useful”, “edifying” etc. in the eyes of many in the church. A subject that I need to think about a lot more!

  6. It is a convenient human habit to justify obsessiveness in our individual pursuits by simply redefining it. “I’m not too (insert practice here) because what I do is actually (insert redefinition here).” Words are a wonderful thing, especially lofty, churchy ones.

    I think this little bit of data in part answers the question posed:
    Discussion on “God – centerdness” – 157 posts
    Discussion on “Gospel Application” – 5 posts

  7. “Christ came to give us life . . .” –MDS

    That reminded me of Jesus’ first miracle, turning the water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana. Somehow I don’t think He spent the entire feast huddled in a corner with the disciples. Plus, according to the math, He didn’t make just a pitcher or two; it was anywhere from 120 to 180 gallons of wine. Talk about keeping a party going!

    I think the whole idea of being “God-centered” in the extreme really boils down to “It’s so much easier to shut the world out than to deal with it.” Doing it in the name of holiness gives a justifiable reason and makes one feel better about it.

  8. This is an absolutely excellent post. I think you are very, very right to see that “God-centeredness” is dangerous and deadly to true humanity when it essentially becomes the dissolving of all things into God Himself and the obliteration of the individual. I have never really thought of my own experience in terms of the struggle you describe but I can see it now. My background is Pentecostal and the same sort of God vs. everything else, Spiritual vs. everything else, and Holy Ghost-experience vs. normal life experience causes a great deal of struggle, turmoil, and questions particularly about just living life, what to do with one’s life, and how to live.

    Not long ago, a man, told me that a few years back his employer offered to send him to school in a technical engineering-related field. He thought about it and said no because he wanted to give all his life and time to God. This man is not a minister and does not participate in any of the church departments! Now he is a single-parent struggling to make ends meet and probably wondering and praying for God to meet His needs…. Hmm…. To be honest I just want to smack people like this!

    I don’t think one can be too God-centered in the right sense, but when one responds to life like a teenage Sunday School student responds to every discussion question with, “uh, God?” then we’re off base.

    Of course, God Himself was pretty interested in the universe, the world, and humanity-He made them and He did work to do it!

  9. grimtraveller says

    I think that alvin_tsf has it right in stating that sometimes we do “overspiritualize” things. Perhaps it does demonstrate, in part, how unused to God we really are at times. Does that sound judgementally horrible ? It’s not meant to be either. But for a long time now, I’ve wondered just how possible it is to let someone truly be and have them let you truly be without either party imposing value systems/judgements on the other and actually co-existing in the body of the Lord. Current evidence and human history seem to reveal me as a dreamer !
    For me, doing and being to the glory of God is like breathing. An essential aspect of life that comes naturally, which I might sometimes focus on and at other times not be conscious of at all. But without which I can’t live. Back in the 80s and 90s when the “Don’t get involved in rock/cinema/TV/politics/education/science/etc, etc” notion was very prominent in church circles, it’s fair to say that there may have been some good reasons that one might have for staying away from certain things. The vice was also versa – that one’s brother or sister could be as involved in those “things” as another was not. The key for me was that neither was to judge the other. Paul makes this point in his letter to the saints in Rome. He says, in effect, that our God is big enough and deep enough to accept both sides, even though they may hold entirely differing ideas, ideals and practices over the same thing. So there is both a communal level and an individual one.

  10. grimtraveller says

    Slightly going off track, it’s interesting to me that many of the early Jesus rockers of the late 60s/early to mid 70s saw themselves primarily as evangelists “trying to win their generation for Christ” as opposed to simply between artists contributing art. That had some interesting effects on the songs that many of them produced. Because lyrically, so many of the writers felt that every song had to somehow be “about God” (or at the very least, something contained in the bible). So in trying to be “God centered”, actually, in my opinion, many of the artists {and I’m versatile, so I can dig the songs} ended up being narrow in focus and presenting the supposedly rich vibrant life in Christ as a life that was rather restrictive and monotonous…..

  11. I just wanted to point out that the raising and discussion of THIS topic is why I love this sight–Believers and unBelievers are unafraid to discuss this openly, frankly and irenically.

    God bless.

  12. Christopher Lake says

    I echo Jeff Tingle’s comment. Understanding Reformed theology has helped me to appreciate all the more God’s glory in nature and in art and other forms of culture.

    At my former church (Capitol Hill Baptist) and in my current church (Desert Springs Church), people read the Puritans. The main preaching elder is writing his dissertation on John Owen. He mentioned and recommended Owen’s book, The Glory of Christ, in a Lord’s Supper sermon on Wednesday night. He also likes Run-DMC, Led Zeppelin, and the Cure.

    Our music leader loves John Piper’s books, and he also has a jazz piano trio that regularly plays at a local restaurant and a cigar bar here in Albuquerque, NM.

    I do believe that there are Reformed Christians who are so “God-centered” that they cannot see God’s glory in art and culture. Sadly, there also seem to be some Reformed Christians who are so unBiblically “God-centered” that the glory of God in the face of *Jesus Christ* is actually obscured for them.

    I am so thankful that neither has been my experience of God-centered, Reformed Christianity and/or Reformed Christians. In my church, to be God-centered *is* to be Christ-centered (as Christ *is* God), and vice versa.

  13. There clearly are some ‘life-savoring’ Calvinists – Abraham Kuyper’s ‘Lectures on Calvinism’ and Michael Horton’s ‘Putting Amazing Back into Grace’ come immediately to mind, but there clearly are various reformed evangelicals who have heavily bought in to the dualistic heresy. Whilst the ‘Wittenburg’ school of reform seriously dissuaded such a malady, aspects of the Genevan/Zwingilian branch have certainly and seriously impoverished a faith which must inherently reflect God’s work of reconciling the world through Jesus Christ – that is the work, begun in creation, that will truly express the significance of the love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

  14. Renoah,

    I’m aware of that sort of “you must feel a certain way” kind of attitude. I was trying to avoid it, but I was sort of skirting the edges of a disclaimer without going into the full details of a disclaimer, because I wasn’t sure it was needed. 🙂 So let me be a bit more specific.

    I don’t think it’s about how we feel. I think it’s about our attitude. It’s about what we choose. Now, for most people, what we feel tends to follow what we choose. If we choose to say “Thank you God”, we are more likely to feel grateful. But it doesn’t always happen that way, and with people with depression, I think it’s pretty rare for it to happen that way.

    So, doing the dishes and trying to avoid complaining about it with words or body language, even though you spend every second hating it, but doing it the same just because you are choosing to do the right thing by your family, is glorifying God. Telling God “Thank you” for the ice cream, even if you don’t feel particularly grateful, and then eating it, is glorifying God. (With the exception that if you are really really sure you’re not supposed to be eating it, it probably doesn’t glorify God much to tell him thanks.) Every time that you choose to think or do something because it is the right thing to do, or for the sake of God or another person, then you are loving and glorifying God, even if all you feel is tired and bitter and hateful or nothing at all. That help?

  15. There were two kings. One king’s subjects, to give him honor and glory, stripped the castle of all art, sculptures, tapestries, beautiful music, etc. The object of honor and glory was the king, and any other things of beauty might detract from the king’s glory, so thought his subjects. Entering the castle and approaching the throne, one would find cold, gray, bare stone floors and walls. One would hear only the echos of footsteps and the murmuring of adjacent conversations. The second king has a marvelous castle and throne room with amazing art, sculptures, tapestries, and elaborate carvings. Entering the castle, one hears beautiful melodies, and walking the halls, one is immediately struck by the beauty and granduer of it all. This king’s subjects know that the king’s glory is relfected in that which surrounds him. “See all of this! We have a grand and glorious king!,” they say.

    An Incarnational and sacramental understanding of the world provides a marvelous balance for Christians. Chesterton said, regarding Christ’s two natures, human and divine, that neither of his natures will swallow the other. Christ is flesh and spirit and so are we. Christ’s perfect union of flesh and spirit delights the Father, and our growing in sanctification and holiness in flesh and spirit delights the Father.

  16. I won’t pretend to have read all of the comments–there are a lot of them–so I apologize if someone else has already said this. I don’t think that the problem is being too God-centered. I think the problem is a distortion of what it actually means to be God-centered. To be truly God-centered isn’t to reject everything that doesn’t fit into the small little box that we call “worship” but to recognize that every interaction with others, creation, God and one’s self is sacred. To cheesily quote Rob Bell, “everything is spiritual.”

    Jesus amended the Shema to emphasize the sacredness of human relationship when he added “love your neighbor as yourself.”

    I wouldn’t blame Calvinism across the board though. I think Kuyperian (although I won’t claim to have read Kuyper) Calvinism goes in the right direction by emphasizing God’s sovereignty over all creation.

  17. grimtraveller says

    To Patrick Lynch at post 105 {or thereabouts}
    I’ve been thinking about your response and I have a couple of thoughts in reply. First off, while I understand the analogy with one’s lover {and scripture points to it sometimes}, it has certain limitations. Personally, I don’t think in those terms. I dig being with my wife but there’s never been a time when she was the only thing on my mind. When you’re part of one another’s world and being, for me such a thought just can’t be quantified. And so it is with our Lord. He wants to be our all in all. But what does that mean exactly ? I think good relationships ebb and flow. They bounce from weak to strong to intense to slow to fast to complacent to still to whatever else, you know ? Whatever my struggles, doubts, joys, frustrations, etc, I know he’s always with me. I really mean that.
    There’s this song that’s been kicking around church circles for yonks, called “Draw me close” and it has this chorus of “You’re all I want – You’re all I’ve ever needed”. I love the melody, the way the chords interact with the lyrics and the build up and all that……but I can’t stand the words because for me, it’s simply not true. I’ve been causing a bit of a ruckus over the last 12 or so years when I say things like “I don’t like the words of that song. I find them shallow or not steeped in real life” in relation to many of the big church hits. For the record, I do that with all songs ! Those lurve songs that declare “limitless undying love” or “I would climb mountains and swim across oceans for yooooooouuuuu!!!” are lyrically ridiculous to me, even though I might love the actual song. But going back to “Jesus, you’re all I want”…..for me that’s not true. Paul the apostle gave the impression that was how Christian life was meant to be lived, but then, we don’t really know what he thought of many things because in the letters of his that we do have that are part of the NT, feelings on art, politics, and a whole range of other things weren’t his brief. I might want lots of things. I wanted a wife, kids, friends, family, recording equipment, a job, albums, the list is endless. None of that is incompatible with being in Christ because he is number one. None of the things I want or like or have to do are the centre of my existence. I can make loads of decisions myself – that is not incompatible with being led by the Spirit. I can dig many things in the world and equally detest many things in the world. Hating horror movies or porn doesn’t mean that I’m God centered. Not subscribing to the standard Christian norms of daily bible study or one hour prayer or whatever doesn’t make a person a reprobate. It’s been hard, but I’ve learned over the years to cultivate a relationship with the Lord on the move and in the stillness and quietness and in the hubbub of company. I’ll talk with him anytime and anywhere about football, music, war, sex, his church, history, my kids, my wife, buses, the shower, politics, pain, things I understand, things I don’t, telly, friends, attitudes, work, riding a bike, you name it. Nothing is verboten. I’ll talk and try to listen as I drive, walk, watch TV, listen to music, joke with the kids, play the guitar, read, argue, work – you name it. Is that God centered ? Sometimes, we won’t chat extensively or with depth for days and days. That does not mean that he plays second fiddle or that “the world” has or is crowding him out. In fact, I think that when we have to think of life with the Lord in this way, maybe we’re the ones who really haven’t really grasped what it is to be led by him. There is one powerful NT example {among many} that stands out to me and that’s when Paul brought back to life the kid that fell out the window and died. In the record written, there is no mention of God. But that Paul simply went and confidently prayed for the guy says something. He often moved in the life of God within him. But this is the same guy who, when the disciples in Tyre urged him through the Spirit not to go to Jerusalem, he ignored them and went. This indicates to me that being led by the Spirit is what the Lord truly desires for us because I doubt many of us would argue that Paul wasn’t God centered. But he was a bloke like half of us and human like all of us and didn’t get it always right. I also realize that for the rest of our days we’ll be learning, ebbing, flowing, but hopefully closer to and more led by our God. I don’t want “Heaven” to be the place where I tell him I love him and know I mean it. I want Kingsbury in London or wherever I am at the time {regardless of what I’m doing or how I feel} to be that place.

  18. Christ redeemed our humanity and did not take us out of this world, but he wants us to be kept from the darkness.

    He made us live, feel, love, cry again. He set us free.

    I love to live my life in Christ. Not all of it is “God-glorifying”, but I am certainly thankful for what I got in Him.

    So glory to God for the beers I have with friends, the concerts I sometimes go to, the bike I ride, the stuff I study at university. Because only in Him can I have life and enjoy life “abundantly”. No, this is not living according to the flesh. I simply am thankful for the life, the context, the culture and personality that God gave me or put me in.

  19. Thanks for this thought-provoking article. I admit it’s an angle I’ve never considered before.

    Although I haven’t listened much to or read much of James White, I’m interested to know where he mentions something about Jonathan Edwards being too God-centered or something. Inquiring minds and all that…


  20. grimtraveller says

    Perhaps everyone that uses the phrase “the glory of God” should define precisely (or even loosely !) exactly what they mean by it. I bet that you’ll get loads of different understandings and definitions. Then, I feel each one of us should make the effort to find, from the actual languages that the scriptures were written in, what the words translated as “glory” actually are and what they mean. I think that would revolutionize our understanding and ensure that we don’t use that and other words / phrases quite so easilly/glibly. Having done that with words we often use like worship, pastor, church, Lucifer, preaching, woman/wife and many others, it’s revolutionized many of my previously held notions and I just won’t simply accept whatever I hear, without scrutiny….

  21. No, Mr. Monk, it’s not just you: This very topic drove my husband and me away from Evangelicalism. I was raised Nazarene, he was raised Lutheran–neither of us Calvinist–so we had never before heard such doctrines about glory being at the center of everything. We finally left, my husband returning to the Lutheran church, while I (having no Nazarene Church nearby) eventually fell in love with Eastern Orthodoxy. In Orthodoxy, the focus is on union and communion with God, a beautiful thing.

  22. A couple of years back I heard a well-known evangelical leader speak at my church. During his message he gave an illustration in which he spoke about going to see a play with his wife and her grandmother, whom he praised as a very passionate follower of Christ. Midway through the performance, they asked her how she was enjoying it and she said she wasn’t; that she would not have wanted to be found at that theater when Jesus returned.

    I thought about my own grandmother, who also was a passionate follower of Christ and who would never in a million years have had a problem with going to the theater. This made clear to me that something is very wrong within evangelicalism.

  23. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    …as a person who struggles with major depression, I got totally burnt out on the kind of church that put so much emphasis on feeling the right way. You had to feel really, really, scummy, then really, really sorry, and then really, really happy- and it’s just not possible (not to mention not healthy) to live at that extreme of emotion all the time. — Renoah

    I believe “living at that extreme of emotion all the time” used to be called “manic-depressive”, is now called “bipolar”, and is treated with Lithium among other drugs.

    This does beg the question as to whether this “Calvary Road” type of Gospel is specifically creating or enhancing manic-depressives.

    As well as encouraging a “Can You Top This” attitude of Spiritual One-Upmanship in both the really, really, really, scummy lows and the really, really, really, happy highs.

  24. Budster:

    I had the same experience too a few years back. A girl that I was interested in said that she did not want a relationship with me because she felt that I was distracting her from pursuing God.

  25. I’m jumping into this conversation way late. Can anyone tell me if, in the previous 170+ comments, the terms “glory” and “glorify” were themselves defined and explored? My wife reads my sermons every week before I speak. Many are the times when she’ll simply ask me, “What does this word mean, e.g. “glory”? If I then proceed to to use the term itself to define it, I know I’m in trouble.

    I agree with iMonk’s points and am just wondering if someone tell me if anywhere this issue of clear definition and description has been brought up yet. A pastor in a church I attended in England was asked to define “glory” in terms a young mom could understand. After doing so, she asked him why he hadn’t done the same in his sermon. His response was that he didn’t want to “violate the integrity of the biblical language,” whatever that meant.

  26. Windblown says

    iMonk, I see that many commentators agree with you but hasten to add something along the lines of “its not really about being too God-centered”. They then make valid points about better understanding how God delights in His Creation, and that engaging with that creation is ultimately being God centered.
    And I understand why someone might feel the need to (reflexively) say that its impossible to be too God-centered.
    To think otherwise for many evangelicals is dangerous, to risk offending God, and perhaps worse denying a central principle of reality.

    But its at precisely at this point that its important to be able to say you think that its dangerous to be “too God-centered” because of the massive weight of ‘everything for the glory of God’ exhortation on the landscape of least some of evangelical lives.

    I’d also like to say its about something else, because in my view its about God’s character, who God is. RonH is right when he says “I don’t think even God is God-centered enough for some folks. After all, near as I can tell from the Bible, He spends most of His time and energy on creation and humanity.”

    But I am not going to do that. Because its not helpful, because it won’t enable us to turn away from the official portrait of the King, to wander outside and look at the stars, and encounter the strangers, beggars, dancers and philosophers.

    I think I know how the story goes, because I think God has slipped out of the throne room himself, bored with the endless court ritual, to come to us, maybe as a beggar, a dancer, a philosopher, maybe in the starlight. But we can’t race to that ending, its too slick then, we won’t take the time for the conversation, won’t spend time just looking at the stars.

    So yes its about the character of God, but saying that won’t help, going on the journey will help.

  27. Windblown says

    On a related issue I find this notion of “glory” curiously empty. If the whole point of God, and focus of the universe is God’s glory then what is the point of God’s glory?
    What does glory mean then? Does it mean primacy? In other words does the centrality of God’s glory mean that the centrality of God’s centrality is central?

    It seems to me that glory doesn’t work well as a noun, it works better as an adjective. If I say God is glorious, or God’s love is glorious then I am talking about something, and glory helps to describe that something, or better someone.

    RonH said “If you believe that your most important function is to give God *all* the glory, then you must constantly be on watch to make sure you don’t give *any* glory to anyone/thing else. This can get really complicated, especially depending on your definition of glory.”

    Which raises a question I ask my Calvinist friends but they never answer. Doesn’t the utter depravity of man give too much glory to Satan, that he was able to wreak such havoc on God’s creation?

    iMonk you said that “I would suggest that the tool is a definition of “glorifying God” that is violent, narrow and ultimate oppressively negative toward much of human existence.”
    I’d suggest that one reason for the destructiveness of this tool is that its an attempt to constrain a wild and passionate God in a religious construct, to make the adjective glorious into the whole of God, to reduce Him to “Glory”, and He doesn’t do that.

    I’ve read the claim that God is not only entitled to be ‘selfish’ but that its a good thing that He is concerned with His own glory.
    I think that is blasphemy, an slur on the character of God. When God talks about Himself in Scripture He says that He is Love, not that He is Glory.

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