Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Glorifying God: Illumination

25 Comments

Over the last few days I’ve been bouncing around questions about God’s purpose in creating us (mankind).  Various purposes have been proposed.  For me the most interesting of the ideas has been to glorify him.  When we talk about glorification what exactly do we mean?  Why would God need to be glorified?  If he is all that the Bible claims he is glorious already.  I put it out there that I thought that might be a bit narcissistic.  Make that a lot narcissistic.  In any case it developed into a rather pleasant exchange with David who said, “Interesting, I always thought our purpose was to glorify God (and no I don’t just mean singing hallelujah in the clouds – please).”

We went back and forth exploring what exactly this means – to glorify God.  So here are some definitions:

glorify –

1.a : to make glorious by bestowing honor, praise, or admiration b : to elevate to celestial glory
2: to light up brilliantly
3a : to represent as glorious : extol <a song glorifying romantic love> b : to cause to be or seem to be better than the actual condition <the new position is just a glorified version of the old stockroom job>
4: to give glory to (as in worship) 
David turned our attention to 2:) to light up brilliantly.  The nuance of illumination.

il·lu·mi·nate (-lm-nt)
v. il·lu·mi·nat·ed, il·lu·mi·nat·ing, il·lu·mi·nates
v.tr.
1. To provide or brighten with light.
2. To decorate or hang with lights.
3. To make understandable; clarify: “Cleverly made attacks can . . . serve to illuminate important differences between candidates” (New Republic).
4. To enlighten intellectually or spiritually; enable to understand.
5. To endow with fame or splendor; celebrate.
6. To adorn (a page of a book, for example) with ornamental designs, miniatures, or lettering in brilliant colors or precious metals.
7. To expose to or reveal by radiation.
v.intr.
1. To become lighted; glow.
2. To provide intellectual or spiritual enlightenment and understanding: “Once you decide to titillate instead of illuminate, you’re on a slippery slope” (Bill Moyers).
3. To be exposed to or revealed by radiation.
n. (-nt)
One who has or professes to have an unusual degree of enlightenment.
It helps to know if we’re all talking about the same thing.  Having asked David to elaborate, he kindly did so.
Pretty simple really…
God is light.
The plan is we become like Him.
We are light.
We illuminate (glorify) God.

I imagine a force and power in that light that makes the process richer than the description, but I’m daft.

You asked.

I did ask.  I actually really liked his reply and had a lengthy response all typed up in the comment section and then decided to make it an article to itself. You see I’m not hostile to the gospel.  It’s something I’ve believed for the better part of my life and mostly look back on with fondness (if you discount The Hard Stuff).   It’s principals and teachings have guided me through most of my life.  If I’m hostile toward anything it would be against those who think they have all the answers, who think they’ve arrived.  I’m not even really hostile toward hypocrites, at least not the ones who know that they are and admit it.  Self admission:  I’m a hypocrite.  Can I practice everything I preach inside or outside of religion?  Maybe, but if I’m honest I don’t.  I’ve shouted absolute truths from the roof tops but when it came right down to it, where the rubber meets the road, I realized truth is actually pretty relative.  When it comes down to the hard decisions in life, where reality meets ideal, absolute truth looks pretty much like a train wreck.

As for David’s answer.  That sounds really nice. And I hadn’t considered David daft at all. Sometimes we have thoughts that are awfully difficult to verbalize. But I do have questions about it.

1.)  I’ve always thought the goal was to become like him.  But that’s not the way he created us(assuming you believe the literal translation of Genesis). He created us innocent and naive and it really pissed him off when as Genesis 3:22 says, “And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”  Was that the goal in creation?  For us to become like him?

2.)  We glorify God by becoming like him, which in turn illuminates him – shows him off so to speak.   Again, to whom?  For what purpose? Am I missing something here? 

See the picture I have in my head is this:  In the beginning there was God – outside of time and space, no beginning and no end.  He at some point created the angels and heavenly hosts.  Do they not illuminate him?  Maybe not enough.  So he creates earth and puts things in it, including us humans.  And apparently he’s still not satisfied. Does this all-powerful, all-knowing God keeps botching his own glorification process?

Click to enlarge

Why is that the more I read these accounts in Genesis it sounds like a human attempt to explain things that they just didn’t understand?  Kind of like when a 4 year old asks where babies come from?

Advertisements

25 thoughts on “Glorifying God: Illumination

  1. My father makes a pretty decent (if not terribly Biblical) argument that if God is truly omnipotent and omniscient, then He self-evidently doesn't actually need anything from us. The purpose of Creation, then is simply Creation: the joy of making something, entirely for its own sake. The idea that human beings serve to "glorify" God is interesting, though – and as you observed, not daft at all. I can imagine, for example, a deity which created mankind not to praise His glory, but simply to be intelligent and aware enough to recognize it – illuminating Him, then, in much the same way that an array of mirrors 'illuminates' a light.I wouldn't care to build a theology around that image, but I wouldn't deny its appeal, either.

    Like

  2. For the record I think your dad might be right. God doesn't need anything from us. Then again, as I contemplate the possibility of having a child, I feel a bit differently about it. I don't need to have a child, but I crave and desire to know the love of a child. Which almost translates into a need. Which goes to that reproductive nature that David mentioned. So then I wonder about necessity again. 🙂

    Like

  3. D'ma, all I can say is, one should be careful about building entire theologies based on Genesis. ;~)

    Like

  4. phil,I'm asking a sincere question. Not being rude so please don't take it that way. Do you honestly think I haven't read the rest of the Bible? I'm not building an entire theology based on Genesis. But it is part of it, and to deny that is a betrayal of the text.

    Like

  5. D'Ma, great Genesis reference! I had forgotten about that one! It really kind of shatters the whole we-should-be-God-like philosophy.Correcting my misdirected comment on your previous post, and perhaps tying in with my recent post, I think that the real purpose of our existence is self-evident (if there is a God).That purpose? Entertainment. It really can't be any other. Earthly, mortal life isn't necessary for an eternal life. The Bible tells us that vast majority of the billions of people who were, are, and ever will be, will not be saved. Why would God then create a system like this if it was not pleasurable, or at least agreeable overall to Him?

    Like

  6. I'm befuddled by this as well. I just spoke with a friend about this, who believes God desires worship because humans tend to become like whatever/whoever they worship, so it allows us to be more like God in character. Now, your Genesis reference challenges that. However, that is only the case if Genesis in any way correctly describes what God did or said in the garden. I vote for it being nonliteral, so it doesn't necessarily invalidate the argument that God wants us to be like Him. So, you created your own cartoon? Pretty cool. Nice work.

    Like

  7. Michael Mock says:"I can imagine, for example, a deity which created mankind not to praise His glory, but simply to be intelligent and aware enough to recognize it"Hi Michael. It seems to me, the word 'Glorify' means different things:http://www.blueletterbible.org/search/translationResults.cfm?Criteria=glorify&t=KJVAll the references to "glorify" in Psalms sees the word as an active verb, not a state of being. The House of Jacob will fear The LORD, and praise him, and glorify him. I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore. etc. Glorify seems to mean active praise and fear of The LORD.The only thing I can see where 'glorify' might refer to some state of being is in John's Gospel and Paul's Epistles, but it is pretty tough to know for sure.These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: – John 17:1.What does THAT mean?? Nothing about us becoming more like God, but The Son and the Father glorifying each other.I guess you could make a case for it here from 1 Cor 6:20For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. The whole context here is for the believer not to sin against his own body by committing fornication – so I suppose not sinning against one's own body also glorifies God.Just some quick thoughts. Must get ready for work now…

    Like

  8. DoOrDoNot,As I look at that one verse it unravels a whole lot of things for me. For instance, and something I didn't point out in the article, it says: "And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us. Is that us referring to the trinity? Is it referring to the fact that may God isn't just one? Does this go to the fact that the early Hebrews were pantheistic? So many questions from one little verse. And yes I can definitely see the thought process behind a non-literal translation, but I'm not sure I buy into it being entirely allegory either. I'm not quite sure what to make of the first 3 chapters of Genesis.Yes, I did create my own cartoon. It was fun and it was free. Thanks!

    Like

  9. HeIsSailing,"It seems to me, the word 'Glorify' means different things"Such is the problem I'm finding with individual interpretations. I included in my post the dictionary definition of glorify. I would tend to think that to glorify anything/anyone would encompass the entirety of that definition. What do you think?

    Like

  10. I'm reading a book (need to finish it this week in fact) "Virtue Reborn". The author talks about how the word "agape" in Greek in fact has as many nuances as the word "love" in English. One of the problems with Biblical interpretation (IMO of course) is that if it really is the "Word of God" (as I believe it is BTW) then the ideas it needs to convey are in many ways incomplete when considered from a purely earthly perspective. The "sorry" truth for those of us with a "need to know" is that Faith (with a capital F) is required in the understanding.The rationalist comes to this precipice and is understandably dismayed (there is a cartoon in my head now). The fact is however it cannot be understood from our human perspective. I don't believe God makes it any harder on us than it must be, but sometimes it MUST be that way.IMO once again.

    Like

  11. HeIsSailing – First of all, and appropos of nothing: owing to the font, I misread your name and thought you were a Norse Pagan. So I was a bit startled to realize that the third letter of your name is an I, and not an L. And so but anyway, the use of glorify: I think if you're discussing common meaning and usage, you're absolutely right about the use of "glorify". On the other hand, the Bible is full of figurative and poetic language (I'd love, for example, to see a truly literal reading of "All flesh is grass") – so I wouldn't rule it out entirely. But yes, I wasn't really making a Biblical argument, so much as indulging in a bit of deductive speculation. At the risk of going wildly off-topic, John 17:1 seems to be another of those passage where Jesus is considered the "son" of God in much the same way that Herakles or Perseus were considered the sons of Zeus – i.e. with no indication that they were "of one being with the father". But then, I've always considered the Doctrine of the Trinity a bit dodgy.

    Like

  12. @ David – yes, given the qualities that God is commonly assumed to possess (omniscient, omnipotent, eternal) that strikes me as a pretty fair assessment. It becomes more of a problem in light of some of the other things that God is sometimes presumed to be doing – like using the Holy Spirit to guide us to greater understanding of the Word. The sheer number of different denomination would seem to argue against that.

    Like

  13. David,"The fact is however it cannot be understood from our human perspective."And that, that, I have serious reservations about. He created us human with reasoning abilities and then said, "You can' know me with that reasoning ability, the only frame of reference you have"? "I don't believe God makes it any harder on us than it must be, but sometimes it MUST be that way." It's like a game of cat and mouse. The mouse peaks his head out of the hole and when the cat pursues he hides. The mouse doesn't want to be caught. I thought God did. The whole concept is extremely frustrating to me. Not your answers or perspectives per se. They are yours and I appreciate them. I just can't seem to wrap my mind around them.

    Like

  14. *can't , "can't know me"stupid keyboard *grin*

    Like

  15. Michael Mock said:"First of all, and appropos of nothing: owing to the font, I misread your name and thought you were a Norse Pagan. So I was a bit startled to realize that the third letter of your name is an I, and not an L."That's what I get for trying to be all artsy. 😛 We can't have people running around thinking you're a Norse Pagan, HeIsSailing. Thanks for the heads up on the reading difficulty, MM.

    Like

  16. oh good grief… I am definitely not a Norse, nor any other kind of Pagan. Just your friendly neighborhood glorified apostate with a funny internet handle

    Like

  17. @MM – Consider the parable of the wheat and the tares (avoiding the literal error that God was sleeping of course 😉 ). This idea of mixing, independent of scale fascinates me. I would not build a theology on it because it leads quickly to judgment, but it is an interesting parable.@D'Ma – Precisely. Comprehension has an inference of control, i.e. to grasp the thing comprehended. (Hmmm, Jacob comes to mind). The issue comes when, as you say, reason is our "only" knowing. If "reason" is the only knowing then atheism is the only choice (a non-choice for me). Is reason our only knowing?I was at a Dave Brubeck concert a couple of years ago and he played a piece of music that made me weep. I looked around the auditorium and there were many other people weeping too. Did he communicate to us? Did we understand without reason? I think that's why music is part of worship, and the Psalms. It is a mode of communication that bypasses language and with it reason.Don't get me wrong, I strongly believe we are to love God with our mind (as commanded). It just isn't the only way to "know" Him.Coming back to the words, there is a difference between comprehending and understanding (to my earlier point). In one I grasp in the other I accept. The difference is the position of the one seeking knowledge.I can accept that 😉

    Like

  18. Exrelayman said@David,Emotions are not a way of knowing. They are a way of feeling. Muslims feel the certainty of their faith. As do Hindus, Christians, et al. Whence cometh this feeling of conviction? The semi-hypnotic elements of worship. (Music, prayer, sermon, fellowship.)Scientist don't pray to the gravity god to make things fall. But they do perform tests in order to confirm or repudiate what they think.What are some of your other ways of knowing, and what are the tests used to confirm or repudiate what you think you know by these other ways? I mean, you need some test to show that your Christian feeling is right and yon Muslim's feeling is wrong, or don't you?

    Like

  19. In high school (secular) in psychology I was taught there were three ways of knowing. Reason (deductive etc), intuition (subliminal) and revelation. I understand there is a fourth, instinct, being considered as well these days.Not sure about testing. I suspect you are really talking about fact verification (i.e. subject A claims to "know" something. Is that thing true, rather than can we determine how "A" came to know that thing?)As for music, we are talking about the evocation of emotion, not the emotion itself. If an artist is capable of evoking a similar emotional response in many people the artist needs to communicate the stimulus to evoke the emotion, and the listener needs to perceive (understand, probably not rationally) the emotion the artist is attempting to express.What you have done is mistaken the mechanism for the result. If you think about it a bit more I believe you will see how they are different.

    Like

  20. Exrelayman said,@David,"What you have done is mistaken the mechanism for the result. If you think about it a bit more I believe you will see how they are different."I am not getting your point here. The song plays. The mechanism is melody and tempo. The result is emotional response. So how am I confused about this? This is not rhetorical, I just don't get your point. How is this emotional response knowledge of anything except this music elicits this response (in me). I look around and many others are weeping. Perhaps I look around more carefully and notice there are also some who seem impatient with the slow mournful music and are fidgiting while waiting for something more lively. What is the test of who is correctly responding to the music? My whole point is how do you know that what you know (with these 'other ways of knowing') is really so?Or you have an intuition and my intuition contradicts yours. What is the test for choosing between the intuitions? Does the intuition occurring in the most people gain truth status?So, as to the internal ways of knowledge you were taught about, I discount them, not as valueless, but as unreliable guides to truth. The impetus can be an intuition, but the idea involved remains conjecture until tested in the real world.I am a bit pessimistic (aha, a feeling!) about us coming to agreement, but am willing to hear it if you have a better support for your viewpoint than the mere assertion that if I think about it some more I will come around to your way of thinking.

    Like

  21. "What is the test of who is correctly responding to the music? My whole point is how do you know that what you know (with these 'other ways of knowing') is really so?"So the real issue for you is as I said:"I suspect you are really talking about fact verification (i.e. subject A claims to "know" something. Is that thing true, rather than can we determine how "A" came to know that thing?)"You limit the discussion to reason. As you say, you reject any other form of knowledge. But music does convey information, and that information evokes response. How does the hearer understand the message enough to have the response evoked?

    Like

  22. @MM – Consider the parable of the wheat and the tares (avoiding the literal error that God was sleeping of course 😉 ). This idea of mixing, independent of scale fascinates me. I would not build a theology on it because it leads quickly to judgment, but it is an interesting parable.@D'Ma – Precisely. Comprehension has an inference of control, i.e. to grasp the thing comprehended. (Hmmm, Jacob comes to mind). The issue comes when, as you say, reason is our "only" knowing. If "reason" is the only knowing then atheism is the only choice (a non-choice for me). Is reason our only knowing?I was at a Dave Brubeck concert a couple of years ago and he played a piece of music that made me weep. I looked around the auditorium and there were many other people weeping too. Did he communicate to us? Did we understand without reason? I think that's why music is part of worship, and the Psalms. It is a mode of communication that bypasses language and with it reason.Don't get me wrong, I strongly believe we are to love God with our mind (as commanded). It just isn't the only way to "know" Him.Coming back to the words, there is a difference between comprehending and understanding (to my earlier point). In one I grasp in the other I accept. The difference is the position of the one seeking knowledge.I can accept that 😉

    Like

  23. Michael Mock says:"I can imagine, for example, a deity which created mankind not to praise His glory, but simply to be intelligent and aware enough to recognize it"Hi Michael. It seems to me, the word 'Glorify' means different things:http://www.blueletterbible.org/search/translationResults.cfm?Criteria=glorify&t=KJVAll the references to "glorify" in Psalms sees the word as an active verb, not a state of being. The House of Jacob will fear The LORD, and praise him, and glorify him. I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore. etc. Glorify seems to mean active praise and fear of The LORD.The only thing I can see where 'glorify' might refer to some state of being is in John's Gospel and Paul's Epistles, but it is pretty tough to know for sure.These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: – John 17:1.What does THAT mean?? Nothing about us becoming more like God, but The Son and the Father glorifying each other.I guess you could make a case for it here from 1 Cor 6:20For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. The whole context here is for the believer not to sin against his own body by committing fornication – so I suppose not sinning against one's own body also glorifies God.Just some quick thoughts. Must get ready for work now…

    Like

  24. It occurs to me that my initial response must have come across as defensive and rude though I didn't intend it that way. In the past my theology has been based on Genesis. My fixation on that particular book, aside from the fact that it's one of my favorites, is undoing that. So, yes, I can agree with your statement here.

    Like

  25. I never used to have a problem with this. God DESERVED to be glorified because he was SO GREAT!But then I got thinking about it. Think about all the great people in history who have done amazing things. If they said, "You need to glorify me," we would not think as highly of them. Humility is much more appropriate, even in greatness.If God was just a man, say "George," that in the future with cool technology was able to create his own universe, it would be understandable if he would want his creatures to appreciate him. But if he then demanded that they constantly tell him how great he was, and he got off on it, we would really think that George was mental (or narcissistic, as you put it). For me, this problem leads me to believe the bible less. Because if there really is a God who created this incredible universe and earth and people and creatures, I don't think he would be like George. It doesn't fit for me. I don't think he would be small and petty.PS D'ma would you email me at evangelicallyincorrect@gmail.com? I have a request.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s