The Why Question
Though we may have great interest in discussions concerning causality, our focus will migrate away from causality and toward purpose. Belief that God created you, the universe and all things in it, is not sufficient. This answers the fundamental question of how but does not get to the fundamental question of why. The deist holds to a rather scant purpose statement with their belief in an impersonal Creator. This view holds that God created the universe and then, as an unengaged and disinterested observer, He peers in occasionally just to see the outcome of His scientific experiment. In the end, this worldview is practical atheism. It addresses the overwhelming evidence that there must be a cosmic cause but fails to give a sufficient reason for the cause. Atheists believe there is no God. The deist lives as if there is no God. Intellectually there may be a difference, but practically speaking there is no distinction.
If God is impersonal, something along the lines of the impersonal deistic force from Star Wars, then this God is neither good nor evil. That is why the children’s catechism moves so quickly (just the third question out of 50 questions) from cause to purpose. The affirmation that “God made me and all things,” is helpful. However, this is insufficient and irrelevant in my life if that is the beginning and end of God’s involvement in the matter. Significance cannot be manufactured by insignificant pawns moving aimlessly in a deistic science experiment. Purpose must proceed from the reality of the God who personally made me and the universe. The third catechism question turns to the fundamental question of purpose, significance, and relevance. “Why did God make you and all things?” “Why?” The question is loaded with a pursuit of purpose and the answer explodes with purpose. “God made me and all things for His glory.”
When my son was about four, I brought home a new laundry sorter and declared with great excitement, “We’re going to put this together.” A father son project unfurled. Opening the box and dumping all the parts into the living room floor made him extremely happy. As we began our project Austin asked, “Dad, who made this?” I grabbed the box and read the company name off the front. Assuming this would satisfy his four year old mind, I plunged back into the sorting of parts and looking at the directions. (As a side note, I only looked at the directions to assuage my wife. All men know that you only look at the directions after you have attempted to put it together and it doesn’t work.) After a few moments of pause and reflection Austin asked, “Why?” Even a four year old sees the fallacy in the mind of the deist. No one would design, produce and sell a laundry sorter without some legitimate purpose. Why did the company make the laundry sorter? I assume they designed and built it to make money. They designed it to make a profit by producing a product that met the needs of consumers. The four year old knows instinctively that there must be a purpose behind any maker’s act. Notice the personal nature of my four year olds’ question, “WHO made this?” He asked WHO and not WHAT. Even four year olds know that designing and building requires a mind. There must be a mind behind every thought. A mind requires that there must be a person behind the mind.
Why? Why did these individuals at the company design and build a laundry sorter? “Why did God make me and all things?” “God made me and all things for His glory.” The statement brings clarity to both cause and purpose. We are here because God created us. God did this for the purpose of manifesting His glory. God made us to demonstrate His glory. God created the universe to display His glory. This brings us to the place of understanding the cause and purpose of His work. God’s desire to show His glory motivated Him to create the universe. As a personal extension of this, God’s desire to show His glory motivated Him to create you. This is the reason we are here. You and I, we exist for the glory of God. What is God’s glory?
How do things like the creation, the Bible, His Son Jesus, history and the church, demonstrate His glory? To understand how each of these may be instrumental in accomplishing this goal, we will spend some time defining the term “glory.” After defining the term, we will take a look at the various ways God’s work achieves this goal.
Show and Tell
When I was in elementary school, we had show and tell on Fridays. When it was my turn, I longed to ‘wow’ the class. I wanted my moment of show and tell to be the greatest on the planet. Since my last name is so late in the alphabet, my turn usually fell toward the end of the school year. This gave me time to observe others and to really think about the best way to stand out among the masses. In second grade, after listening to the paltry offerings of my classmates for twenty weeks, I finally got my chance. My selection – a miniature Civil War canon I purchased on our family vacation the summer prior. The class was mesmerized (actually they mostly ignored the entire 30 second presentation, but I’m retelling the story with no refuting eyewitnesses). I finally got my chance to show something of great value to me and it brought me great joy.
In the same way, God hosts show and tell. Unlike my one Friday out of the school year, God’s show and tell occurs continuously. Creation becomes an instrument through which God shows His attributes. His intervention in the course of human history becomes another tool through which God puts His attributes on display. God works in my life and in yours, bringing salvation, producing good works and preserving you in and through death to eternal life. God speaks through the Bible, demonstrating His attributes as they are communicated through written words. All of these works function as a means to an end. They are God’s show and tell. God demonstrates His specific attributes through His works. God chooses when and how to display His attributes. He demonstrates His particular attributes in specific divine works at specific moments for maximum impact. His intentionality in this allows us to focus our minds on His specific attributes. Each one of these attributes is infinitely beautiful and infinitely glorious. For instance, the creation of the stars reflects God’s power (and a host of other attributes) while God’s kindness may not be readily obvious when studying the heavens. The cross of Jesus reflects God’s justice and mercy (and a host of other attributes) but the attribute of God’s invincibility may be cloaked in that event – at least until the resurrection when the invincibility of God is demonstrated in full force. God communicates each of these attributes with purpose and intent. Nothing that God does is by accident. He acts in a manner to maximize the revelation of His own glory for His own pleasure. It pleases God to reveal His attributes. He created the universe in order to accomplish His revelatory desire.
Jonathan Edwards gives us some help on this front. In The End for Which God Made the World, Jonathan Edwards says that it seems “proper and desirable, that the glorious attributes of God… should be exerted in the production of such effects as might manifest his infinite power, wisdom, righteousness and goodness.” Edwards goes on to argue that these attributes, and many more, would still be present within the Godhead without the creation but without the creation “these attributes never would have had any exercise.” God inherently possesses these attributes. However, it brings God delight to “exercise” His attributes. Edwards reflects on the joy and goodness manifest in our own lives because God has made His glorious perfections known to rational beings beside Himself.
All things exist for God’s glory. All creation and each individual work of God in creation display specific attributes of God. Glory is the term to summarize all of these attributes condensed or coalesced in a single expression. God’s “glory” describes the summation of all of His attributes. His glory is shown in the individual attributes of God woven into the fabric of our lives.
(Part 3 in the June Blog)