What God looks like?

Why is it important to be stunned by the God-centeredness of God? Because many people are willing to be God-centered as long as they feel that God is man-centered. It is a subtle danger. We may think we are centering our lives on God, when we are really making Him a means to self-esteem. Over against this danger I urge you to ponder the implications, brothers, that God loves His glory more than He loves us and that this is the foundation of His love for us.

~ John Piper
Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for a Radical Ministry, Broadman and Holman, 2002, pp. 6-7

Now, I realize that Johnny Bravo is probably a cheap caricature of Piper’s point of view. But I bring it up to point out that Piper’s presentation of God is as much a caricature, although he’s not yet identified it as such.

To most, this oft repeated quote needs no specific refutation: it’s obviously bad. But for those not yet convinced, and to get something off my chest that’s been there since I first heard Piper present this theology in person a few years ago…

John Piper wants to emphasize the importance of not thinking the universe revolves around us, which I agree is all too real a danger. But I believe that Piper’s end can be met by telling us to do what the New Testament authors insisted that we do: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…” They thought we could look at God’s face as seen in Christ and be instructed how we should order our relations with everyone else: by imitating Him. If being centered on God and others to the neglect of his personal glory was the hallmark of Jesus’ life, then we have an entirely sufficient reason not to think the universe revolves around us — and we can accept that reason without maintaining a repugnant view of God that the NT explicitly tries to correct.

For all the world, what Piper seems to be maintaining is that there are two types of love: self-sacrificial love (that’s our responsibility), and love meant to get people to love you more (that’s God’s love).

As long as we understand love to be as glorious as it actually is, we will see that God’s love can only ever be His glory, and cannot be merely a tool for His own self-aggrandizement.

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