Saturday, July 13, 2013

Grudem 13c: God's Perfection and Glory

... continued from last week.
E. Summary Attributes
In this final section of chapter 13, Grudem finishes his list of God's attributes. He does not believe that these four attributes fit very well into any of the previous categories but that they, in some sense, capture the other attributes as a whole.

17. Perfection
"God's perfection means that God completely possesses all excellent qualities and lacks no part of any qualities that would be desirable for him" (218).  He "fully possesses all of his attributes and lacks nothing from any one of those attributes."

Surely almost all Christians would agree that God possesses every excellent characteristic to its fullest.  In terms of anything we could possibly know, God is the best possible being.

Grudem does not do a great job of interpreting the Bible in context, as usual. Matthew 5:48 is about God being "complete" in his love of the world, loving not only his friends but his enemies as well.  The Sermon on the Mount commands Jesus followers to do the same. So while God is obviously perfect, Grudem does not find a good verse to pin it on.

18. Blessedness
"God's blessedness means that God delights fully in himself and in all that reflects his character" (218). Grudem basically equates being blessed with being happy "in a rich sense."  Predictably, Grudem connects God's happiness with God's self. Even God's delight in the creation becomes God rejoicing in "his own excellent qualities" (219). Similarly, "we imitate God's blessedness when we find delight and happiness in all that is pleasing to God."

Grudem probably hits a bit far of the mark when he more or less equates blessedness with happiness. This is what we might think with the mindset of an individualist culture.  But in an honor-shame culture, blessedness has to do with the honor that comes from embodying the values of the group--and thus reflecting God's values.  It is not about individual emotion, even if it is God's.

So God's blessedness turns out to be quite similar to his glory.  It reflects the honor and glory of being God, the greatest of all things.

As for God more or less narcissistically delighting in himself, this is quite typical of the Calvinist tradition, especially the thoroughgoing one.  However, from a Wesleyan-Arminian perspective, God created the world with somewhat of a will of its own, distinct from his own. In that sense, while the goodness of the creation is God's doing and indeed a reflection of his own greatness, he has given the creation a glory of its own as well.

19. Beauty
"God's beauty is that attribute of God whereby he is the sum of all desirable qualities" (219). Grudem sees God's beauty as closely related to his perfection. If God's perfection means that he does not lack anything desirable, his beauty means that he has everything desirable. "We reflect God's beauty in our own lives when we exhibit conduct that is pleasing to him" (220).

It is interesting that Grudem actually had defined perfection in terms of God possessing all excellent qualities, while here he says it is that he does not lack anything desirable. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that we should associate God with everything that is beautiful.

Beauty is more often than not a matter of affect. No doubt there is an objective basis for what we find beautiful, and no doubt God fits such characteristics to the highest degree. But like honor and glory, beauty is an adjective humans ascribe to God far more than adjectives he would ascribe to himself.

20. Glory
"God's glory is the created brightness that surrounds God's revelation of himself" (220).  Glory is the final attribute Grudem ascribes to God. Here he says something he might have said about God's blessedness and beauty: "The glory of God is not exactly an attribute of his being but rather describes the superlative honor that should be given to God by everything in the universe."

But he goes on to speak of God's glory as the "bright light that surrounds God's presence" (220).  It is a "created light or brilliance that surrounds God as he manifests himself in his creation" (221). Similarly, "there is a brightness, a splendor, or a beauty about the manner of life of a person who deeply loves God."

Grudem's description of God's glory as the superlative honor he deserves from the universe is completely appropriate. It is of course possible that Grudem takes the imagery of light from the Bible too literally at some points. The way he talks about the brightness of a life devoted to God probably comes closer to the metaphorical nature of language about God's brightness.

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