Is God a Megalomaniac?


Sam Storms:

I’m currently reading through John Piper’s most recent book (and so should you!), Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Crossway, 2017). I’ll have a more complete review of it when I’m done, but I can assure you that it will most definitely be on my list of Top Ten Best Books of 2017. Early on in the book Piper picks up the objection that C. S. Lewis voiced concerning the way in which God constantly demanded praise of himself (especially as we see this in the Psalms). Lewis struggled to understand how God could be loving towards us at the same time he seemed so obsessed with his own praise. In other words, how does God escape the charge of being a megalomaniac? Shouldn’t God “humble” himself by seeking our good above and prior to his own glory? Piper’s answer follows:

“If God demeaned his supreme worth in the name of humility, we would be the losers, not God. God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is the highest virtue. For there is only one supremely beautiful being in the universe. There is only one all-satisfying person in the universe. And because of his supreme beauty and greatness, what the psalmist says in Psalm 16:1 is true: ‘In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.’ If God hides that, or denies that, he might seem humble, but he would be hiding from us the very thing that would make us completely happy forever.

But if God loves us the way the Bible says he does, then he will give us what is best for us. And what is best for us is himself. So if God loves us fully, God will give us God, for our enjoyment and nothing less. But if our enjoyment is not complete until it comes to completion in praise [this, by the way, was the discovery that changed everything for Lewis], then God would not be loving if he was indifferent to our praise. If he didn’t pursue our praise in all that he does . . . he would not be pursuing the fullness of our satisfaction. He would not be loving.

So what emerges is that God’s pervasive self-exaltation in the Bible – his doing everything to display his glory and to win our worship – is not unloving; it is the way an infinitely all-glorious God loves. His greatest gift of love is to give us a share in the very satisfaction that he has in his own excellence, and then to call that satisfaction to its fullest consummation in praise. This is why I maintain that the supremely authentic and intense worship of God’s worth and beauty is the ultimate aim of all his work and word” (59).

I, like Lewis (and Piper), would argue that apart from this singular truth a person can never fully and accurately understand the Bible and God’s purpose in redemptive history. I suggest that, if it strikes you as odd or even outrageous, you read again two simple (but profoundly deep) sentences and ponder them in prayer:

“But if God loves us the way the Bible says he does, then he will give us what is best for us. And what is best for us is himself.”

My hope is that the Holy Spirit will awaken you to the far-reaching, life-changing implications of this truth the way he did me.

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.