God and Egomania

bigA common objection against the character of God is levied against his commands to love him and worship him. Why does God command his people to love him in Deuteronomy 6:5? This seems indicative of a needy being who desperately lacks validation by his creation. Why does God says that he is a jealous God in Exodus 34:14? This seems to present a God who is petty and insecure, like an emotionally abusive boyfriend. Why does God say that he is acting for his own sake and that he will not give his glory to another in Isaiah 48:11? Doesn’t this present a God who is an egomaniac? This is a fair objection in some sense, though I categorically deny it and believe that with a little careful thinking, its error can be shown.

It is necessary, before proceeding, for me to prove one integral principle. It is this: The benefits of love received by a subject depend wholly on the goodness or lack of goodness regarding the object of that love. For instance, saying “John loves Katie” implies two things. The first and obvious principle is that Katie benefits from this love in the degree that John is good. If John is evil, Katie receives evil from his love, because that is a fundamental quality of John. This principle is apparent in abusive relationships. A man is evil, and though he loves his significant other, he hurts her because he is evil. Therefore, the benefits received by the object of love depend on the goodness of the subject who is loving, but as I stated earlier, this is obvious.Yet, the principle remains appropriate if inverted.. If Katie is evil, then John is not benefitted by this love in the same way as he would be if Katie were good.

Henry Scougal in his classic, The Life of God in the Soul of Man, postulates this idea. Though written in rather antiquated language, it is worth quoting at length for its eloquence:

That which imbitters love, and makes it ordinarily a very troublesome and hurtful passion, is the placing it on those who have not worth enough to deserve it, or whose absence may deprive us of the pleasure of their converse, or their miseries occasion our trouble.

This argumentation returns us to the original premise, that the benefits a subject receives by loving a thing are constitutionally committed to the goodness of the thing that the subject loves. This point is crucial to understanding the legitimacy of God’s command to love and worship him.

It is easy to see how this applies to the question of God and egomania. If God is perfectly good, commanding humans to worship him is not egomania; it’s natural. This, however, can be quite easy or quite difficult to prove depending on your view of Scripture. If you view the Bible as the literal revelation of God to humanity, verses such as 1 John 1:5 or Psalm 100:5 would certainly satisfy your curiosity that God is good. If you do not view the Bible in this way, you must come to either view the Bible as character revelation or view God as good independent of the proof of Scripture. If it were in the scope of this article, I would certainly attempt to tackle both, but for now, I must take a different route to meet this end.

For now, I will simply use a modification of Anselm’s argument for the existence of God. To summarize this argument, Anselm said that God is by definition a maximally perfect entity. Were he less than that, he would not be God. If God did not exist, he would be less than maximally perfect. Therefore, God exists. If we replace the factor of contingency that is existence and replace that factor with goodness, my point is clear. God is by definition a maximally perfect entity. Goodness is necessarily related to maximal perfection. Therefore, if God were not good, he would not be God. In short, God must be good because he is maximally perfect. Were he not good he would not be maximally perfect and by consequence not God.

Now, I must gather all of this evidence together into one cohesive argument. A person receives benefit from the object of their love proportionally to the goodness of that object. God is an infinitely good God. God commands humans to love and worship him. Finally then, we see that by making this commandment, God is commanding this for the unlimited good and benefit of the subject (humans) he commands to love him, the perfect Object.

I am certain that others could make a much more convincing case for God as being free from the negative trait of egomania in many fewer words. However, I felt that it was useful to write down my own thoughts on the subject. There is a greater truth here than just an argument or proof. Ultimately, the greatest truth in this line of thinking is this: loving God is for our perpetual good and satisfaction. It is the natural position of a creature created by such a Creator. Because of this, I say, “To God be the glory; great things he hath done.”

Avery Thorn is from Belmont, MS. He is a junior at Blue Mountain College, where he is a Biblical Studies major and a History minor. He is a member of Belmont First Baptist Church. He has a passion for preaching and studying Scripture. Avery’s hobbies include exercising, music, politics, reading, writing, and making and enjoying coffee. You can follow Avery on Twitter @Avery_thorn.


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