Do you often ponder yourself and how awesome you are at Madden while smoking a swisher sweet? Do you ever find yourself looking in a mirror with a sexy gaze, unable to stop winking at your image as you shoot a finger gun? Do you ever non-ironically dance the Roger Rabbit at weddings?
Then you might be God in the context of a theology of glory.
I might be speaking to the choir on this one. I’ve not heard much about a theology of glory on ol’ Homebrewed Christianity, and I’m glad for it. So, folks, let’s team up here make fun of the most pernicious type of Christian theology I can think of: theologies of glory. Here’s what they are and why they’re as helpful to theology as a bear doing your dishes is to your household economy.
Theologies of glory sum up all of God’s actions in the world to be done for the sake of bringing praise, glory, or some kind of honor to God. God acts so as to make himself known and, in making himself know, sits back with a Zima, his feet directly on your dining room table, and belches in a third-person epithet, “YHWH rules!”. This might not sound bad at first. Since when is “God making himself known” a bad thing, we might ask? Well, never—so long as the subject of that knowledge is not God’s self, which is precisely what a theology of glory presupposes.
Yep, in a theology of glory, which we can find in many otherwise awesome and awesomely named theologians such as Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Karl Barth (two favorites of mine, actually), God becomes the subject of his own knowledge. God acts in the world. The world comes to reflect God’s perfection and order based on the way God arranges the world (which if we’re honest, isn’t a ton different than how Sid in Toy Story 1 arranges his army figures), and then God looks at the whole shebang with a “Yep, I’m pretty rad for doing that.”
John Calvin might be the worst on this front. You see, aside from the bad name Calvin gets, he actually does lay out some pretty cool stuff, especially on the concept of the divine nature (God’s a God willing to Be who God is). But most of his theology is grounded in precisely the above theology of glory, which comes to fruition in his doctrine of double predestination. The doctrine of double predestination holds that God wills and even nigh causes from the beginning of all eternity some to turn toward God and enter into eternal bliss and some to turn away and enter eternal torment—and that both are necessary to fill out the whole of finite creation, showing that God is both just by sending some to a place of hell and merciful are merciful by holding a praise concert for all eternity for the elect. (That’s my nightmare, by the way.)Any particulars aside, here’s what’s wrong with a theology of glory and why we should reject them as quickly as Calvin’s God rejects the reprobate.
When we look at the Christian narrative, the logic at play is not a logic of self-fulfilling glory but a logic of kenotic love. God is not a God who acts by wearing a tank-top on a cold to simply to show off his guns; God acts for our sake and for the sake of a creation that God by no means needs but beckons and calls into existence either way. In other words, it’s the selflessness of God through Christ that should emerge in any genuine Christian theology, and it’s a selflessness that ought to draw us into our own finite but real “best possibilities,” that we might freely reflect a divine in love that has come to us for no reason unto himself but out of love for us.
Accordingly, the opposite of a theology of glory, and its appropriate response, is the theology of the cross which holds that “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-18)”
So, go give a buddy a sandwich and celebrate theology in its truest sense: not self-service but loving-service.
If you wanna keep having this much fun with theology and philosophy, give my audaciously titled book a try: Homebrewed Christianity Guide to God: Everything You Ever Needed to Know about the Almighty. It’ll put hair on your chest.