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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Morning Mashup 08/17

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A daily mashup of Kindle deals, articles, and videos for your information, edification, and enjoyment.


KINDLE DEALS

Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith | Alister McGrath | $2.99

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On Guard for Students: A Thinker’s Guide to the Christian Faith | William Lane Craig | $1.99

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Church History 101: The Highlights of Twenty Centuries | Sinclair Ferguson, Joel Beeke, and Michael Haykin | $3.99

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ARTICLES

Patience Isn’t Passive | Barnabas Piper

But my understanding of “waiting” has been sorely lacking. The description above is hollow. Waiting is an experience full of careful thought and action, at least if one is doing it well. If your waiting experience is one of sitting by until something happens then you’re doing it wrong.

How Does a Pastor Deal With Awkward Silence With Visiting Folks? | Brian Croft

This is a question that came to me by a young and introverted pastor who is struggling to know how to make conversation with elderly folks when he goes to visit them.  I wish more and more young pastors knew their weaknesses and desired to grow like this young brother.  Because I think this is a growing struggle among young pastors especially, here was my response to this brother for your consideration…

What Do You Do If the Sunday Sermon Was Bad? | Scott Slayton

The Sunday sermon is important because we understand that this is how God has ordained for his word to be taught to his people. So when the Sunday sermon falls flat and is unhelpful, what should we do?

A Playboy for President | Ross Douthat

But in the year of Donald Trump, the religious conservatives who fought many of those transformations find themselves reduced to a hapless rump. The best have retreated to rebuild; the worst have abased themselves before a sybaritic, irreligious presidential nominee.

Golden Moments in Rio | Boston Globe

More than halfway through the Summer Olympic games in Rio, over 150 gold medals have been awarded. Here are some of the winners whose performances during competition earned them the top spot on the podium.

Your First Breath After Death | Marshall Segal

Think about your first breath after death. That moment has everything to do with this one (and every moment between now and then) — that first newborn inhale in heaven. Why will that gasp of air be any better than your last breath before death?

VIDEOS

Morning Mashup 08/03

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A daily mashup of Kindle deals, articles, and videos for your information, edification, and enjoyment.


KINDLE DEALS

The God I Don’t Understand: Reflections on Tough Questions of Faith | Christopher Wright | $3.99

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Reasons for Faith (Foreword by Lee Strobel): Making a Case for the Christian Faith | Norman Geisler | $4.99

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Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics | Jeremy Schaap | $2.99

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ARTICLES

Donald Trump’s Character Counts | Michael Brendan Dougherty

But Grudem’s case for trusting Trump is not very persuasive. He simply asserts that the “most likely” outcome is that Trump would not renege on all his campaign promises, so voters have to assume he will follow through on them. There are serious problems with this argument.

Southern Seminary’s Skeleton in the Closet | Ashlie Stevens

Interesting look at an 1896 article about a crazy story about a mummy and Southern Seminary.

Why We Should Be Grateful for Flourishing Evangelical Seminaries | Joe Carter

Aside from the local church, there is arguably no more important religious institution than the schools that train ministers of the gospel. As history has shown, when they begin to drift into theological liberalism it has a profound and negative affect on the character of our nation and the vitality of our churches. We should be especially grateful that during a time when our country’s other institutions—from local colleges to the federal government—are becoming weaker and less trustworthy, our seminaries remain strong and committed to God’s Word.

America’s Lost Boys | Samuel James

At a time when our culture desperately needs bold and compassionate models of Christian masculinity, the prospect that an entire generation’s potential should be wasted on an addiction to stimulation is deeply sad. Sin is always double-edged like that—it’s a matter not only of doing what one ought not do, but also of neglecting to do what one ought. What might these millions of young men be doing, if they were not doing this?

Elevation Church Debuts Water Slide Baptismal | The Babylon Bee

Excellent satire is a sad commentary on society. Sad, but funny.

On Satire, with Karen Swallow Prior | Mere Orthodoxy

Speaking of satire, here is an excellent podcast the Mere Fidelity boys did with Karen Swallow Prior. Great stuff.

Six Practical Reasons ‘Free Will’ Matters | John Piper

In this article, I simply want to draw out some of the practical implications of believing that the human will is in bondage to preferring other things above God. We are freed from this bondage only when God’s sovereign grace opens the eyes of our hearts in such a way that we find Jesus Christ to be the most beautiful and desirable reality in the world. This is what happens when we are born again.

The Lord’s Supper is a Rehearsal Dinner | Derek Rishmawy

Jesus’ miracle at the wedding at Cana—turning water into the finest wine—was a sign of the coming of his kingdom, the glory of the wedding feast to come. Our celebration of the Lord’s Supper is like a wedding rehearsal we practice until our Lord returns.

VIDEOS

 

Morning Mashup 09/07

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Start your Labor Day off right with a mashup of articles for your information, edification, entertainment, and enjoyment.


How Andy Mineo’s “You Can’t Stop Me” Became Baseball’s Top Walk-Up Song – Andy Mineo’s “You Can’t Stop Me” just proved it’s universal popularity by winning Baseball Tonight’s inaugural Whammy award.

(Almost) The Whole Continuous Story of the Old Testament in 11 Books – There are 11 books in the Old Testament, that almost tell the entire story of God’s redemption before Christ.

When Does Your Religion Legally Excuse You From Doing Part of Your Job? – Very helpful article from The Washington Post.

Need We Jail Each Other Over Marriage Licenses? – “The situation in Kentucky reminds all of us that America is extremely divided on issues that show no signs of weakening. This zero-sum culture war cannot continue if the social fabric of America is to have any chance of unifying around a robust pluralism.”

11 Easy Steps to Repenting on the Internet – Barnabas Piper on the brutal realities of repenting online.

The Promise of God in Threatening Pain – NFL center, Garrett Gilkey, offers helpful reflections on the sovereign promises of God in the midst of pain.

Defending the Bible, Protecting the Faith – Dr. Timothy Jones, my current family and discipleship professor discusses how believers should respond to skeptics in this interview about his new book, How We Got the Bible.

Church Discipline, Contemporary Grace Style – Rick Phillips with some weighty questions with those who identify with Tullian Tchjividjian and the Contemporary Grace Movement.

Can a Label Edify? – And here is Ray Ortlund’s response to Phillips. Admittedly, he doesn’t address any of Phillips’ questions or concerns, but does raise legitimate questions over the benefit of labels.

Pop Atheism and the Power of the Gospel – “As conservative Christian convictions continue to be marginalized, I fear the evangelical response might be something other than courageous love. We could be tempted to shrink back in fear if we aren’t properly propelled by the power of the gospel. Like Sayers, we may wish they all would just leave us alone.”

How I Learned to Live Joyfully – I try to read everything J.I. Packer writes. He is a superb teacher. This piece recounting Packer’s personal experiences only proves this to be true.

Faith’s true office is to see life in the midst of death. –John Calvin