Questions I Hope No One Asks: Is God an Egotistical Maniac?
by C Michael Patton
“Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God . . . so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever.” 1 Peter 4:11
“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
“It is absurd to believe that the deity has human passions, and one of the lowest human passions, a restless appetite for applause.” -David Hume
There is a popular notion among Evangelicals that I think has become part of our folklore. Indeed, it is the shibboleth (secret pass code) of my fellow Calvinists. When I call this “folklore” I don’t necessarily mean “not true” (as we will see), I simply mean that it is uncritically accepted without much thought. Many would say that God’s sole purpose, intent, and motivation for creating humanity and all of creation was for His own self-glorification. If you were to ask this question to God: “God, why did you create us?” His answer, without hesitation, would be, “Easy, to glorify myself.”
Many unbelievers will bring this up as a primary point of departure from the Christian faith. They would say that the Christian God is an egotistical maniac, only out for his own self-glory. As one person put it: “If I had a child I would not bring him into this world and say, ‘Congratulations, I created you to worship me’. I would not want a son simply to serve me.” He goes on, “I never asked to participate in this game of life. I was nothing and then I was created simply to serve him or I’d have to burn for eternity?” He goes on to accuse God of being egotistical, sharing in the most base traits of humanity. Is this true? Does God have a “relentless appetite for applause”?
Wrong answer #1: Yes, God is an ego maniac. But it is okay since he is God.
This is the answer that many people would give (though not in so many words!). The idea is that being self-serving and demanding of recognition is acceptable so long as the recognition is warranted. What makes it bad for us is because we don’t deserve it. Therefore, God’s egotism is a “righteous egotism.” What is base and sinful for man is not so with God.
I am going to let you in on a little secret. I am from Oklahoma. We have a certain way of getting by with things here though the way we talk. We can sanctify many conversations by using certain qualifiers. For example, we can get by with any gossip by simply adding the words “God bless his/her/their soul” to the end of the sentence. “Did you hear about Bobby and Susan? They are having marital problems, God bless their soul.” “I hear that Rick is starting to drink again, God bless his soul.” I think we have something similar in Christianity. We can attribute just about anything to God so long as we tag it with the word “righteous.” God is vindictive, but it is a “righteous vindictiveness.” God is jealous, but it is a “righteous jealousy”. God is cruel, but it is a “righteous cruelty.” I think we need to be careful here. Sometimes these things are true such as God’s jealousy (Deut. 5:9). But simply placing the word “righteous” in from of it does not often do justice to what is trying to be said.
To say that God is egotistical or a glory monger without lots of qualification can do great damage to his character. It is not okay for us to ascribe attributes that do not fit God’s personality as revealed in Scripture.
However, let me first say this: God could very well be egotistical and self-consumed and we, as His creation, could not say anything to change that. We don’t have a vote in truth. Our ballots won’t get tallied in the heavens. God is who he is and we simply discover this. We don’t create him. But the fact still remains that even among the best and brightest of our kind, we do not honor glory mongers. Why? Because anyone who only seeks to draw attention to themselves is seen as a dysfunctional human who needs physiological help. We understand that one of the greatest characteristics that humans can possess is being focused upon others even in their own greatness. Do we really want to allow God to bear a great dysfunction and call it a virtue simply because His is deserving? I would be very careful with this…
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