What about the glory of God?

According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, God’s goal for man is not abundant life. Rather,

Man’s chief end is to glorify[1] God, and to enjoy him forever.

Last week’s article, “The Goal of God” might not resonate with some, especially those trained in the Reformed Tradition because it seems to be in opposition to the answer to Question 1 from the WSC (above). However, while the ideas of abundant life and the glory of God must be placed in their proper order, they are certainly not in opposition. Consider:

1. The goal of abundant life for God’s creation is not in opposition to His glory; rather His glory is the means to abundant life.

It is actually because of God’s glory that abundant life is His goal in creation. God doesn’t need His creation to be glorified. He is perfectly and completely glorified in Himself without the need to create or creatures to give Him anything –including glory (Acts 17:25). In short, God exists in a state of abundant life—a state of being which is perfectly satisfied and fulfilled. Which means that what He does in creating and causing His creatures to glorify Him is for another reason: as the means to His creatures sharing in this same abundant life. Glorifying God then is how we receive abundant life and the refusal to glorify God is how we forfeit it (Rom 1:21-25). The glory of God is the means not the end (goal) both for God and us. 

2. To assume that God’s goal for creation (including man) is His glory, is to commit the deadly error of inferring that God’s glory was deficient before He created.

Consider the analogy of a person bringing food home that will perish within a matter of hours from a restaurant where he has just finished eating until he was completely full. There can only be one of two reasons why he would do such a thing: one, because there are others in the house who could benefit from the food, or two, because he plans on eating more because in reality he was not fully satisfied when he left the restaurant. To say that God created man for His glory is like the man in the second category. Though he claims to be full –or fully satisfied – the reality is that he is still lacking and therefore eats again. In the same way, God must not be truly satisfied with the glory He possessed in eternity past and therefore decides to create as the means to filling that deficiency. That again is what is inferred, when someone speaks of God’s goal in creation being His glory. It means that God was not fully glorified before He created; that God was not perfect in this way. This then is a deadly error committed by many well-meaning Christians when attempting to understand God’s goal or purpose in creation; an error mitigated by understanding that it was not for Him that He created, but for us. It is this view which both preserves His perfect glory and enhances it since it is here that we see most why we as the inheritors of His creation and its abundant life should recognize such glory. He has through this gift of abundant life manifested His glory most clearly (Psalm 104:31). 

3. All motivation to do the right thing in the Bible is tied to abundant life.

If the end goal was indeed God’s glory, one would expect to find this as the “carrot” which God uses to entice human beings into doing the right thing. It however never is! Rather, it is always the gaining or forfeiture of a particular blessing.

Examples:  Genesis 2:17, 17:1-2; Deuteronomy 11:13-15, 22-28, 28:1-68; Joshua 1:7-8; Psalm 1, 34, 112; Proverbs 29:18; Isaiah 1; John 3:36; Romans 2:6-8.


[1] To “glorify” means to honor, respect or manifest the worthy nature of the person receiving the act.