For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
In his book, Desiring God, John Piper writes,
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 employ all his sovereign power and infinite wisdom to maximize the enjoyment of his own glory, then we have a foundation on which to stand and rejoice. (31)
In case you missed it, Dr. Ben Witherington has written a critique of this idea of Christian Hedonism as well as Dr. Schreiner’s NT Theology in his post, “‘For God so Loved Himself?’ Is God a Narcissist?” Witherington concludes,
I suppose we should not be surprised that in a culture and age of narcissism, we would recreate God in our own self-centered image, but it is surprising when we find orthodox Christians, and even careful scholars doing this.
Recreate God in our own self-centered image? Quite the charge I must say. Denny Burk has written a nice response/rebuttal to Witherington’s scathing analysis. Here’s an excerpt:
Only with God is self-exaltation a virtue, since He is the first and best of beings, the only One who can satisfy the soul. When sinful humans exalt themselves, it is not loving because it is a distraction from the One who truly can meet the deepest needs of fallen humanity. It is a vice for sinful people to call others to admire them and so to distract them from admiring God. God is love. Therefore He must exalt Himself so as to draw people into worship. This is not narcissistic because it is no vice for Him to exalt the beauty of His own perfections for His creatures’ enjoyment and blessing. Witherington misses all of this, and like other Arminians, removes the firmest grounding that we have for God’s love—God’s own desire to exalt the glory of His own perfections.
Michael Spencer (iMonk) has chimed in over at The Thinklings blog. Spencer writes,
Would that statement- God so loved himself that he gave…- disturb most young Calvinists today? I tend to think a significant number wouldn’t see any problem. Once you have a truth, you can over-compliment that truth to the point of distortion, lack of ability to read Biblical texts honestly, rejection of those who use different language than you do and overall clarity.
This is happening with sovereignty, God-centeredness, inerrancy. Piper specializes in the “highest” possible logical form of theological statement, to the point that theology that doesn’t join him at the pinnacle of language and illustration (rejoicing in God’s sovereignty after your child is killed in an accident for example) is doubt and heresy. . . .
I have a feeling this is what BW is offering: does Piper’s God “come off” as a Narcissist when we hold conference after conference and publish book after book saying all that matters is God God God?
This is why I call myself a Christian Humanist. The light of the incarnation is the light by which I know MYSELF as well as God. We matter. A lot. Not in ultimate terms, but in created, God-reflecting terms. But these theologians are on the path to saying 100 things about God and nothing about humanity except we suck and it’s amazing Jesus died for such scum.
I have heard arguments similar to what Witherington has posited, such as while we should be God-centered, God is man-centered. One particular article worth reading is Piper’s “Is God for Us or For Himself?” which was written at the start of his ministry at BBC (1980). What do you think? Do you think philosophical commitments have clouded Piper’s vision of biblical texts? Schreiner’s NT Theology does not do justice to the love of God?