Recently I was asked (by Kait Dugan, check out her blog) about how John Piper (check out this video for some context), about whose perverse theology I’ve written about previously, manages to come to understand God’s glory as a sort of self-directed hegemonic tyranny. What are the theological moves that lead one to come to think “the glory of God” in terms of chauvinistic self-aggrandisement? Why would one come to conceive God as a self-directed center of power whose “glory” consisted of simply asserting and impose his own supremacy and domination?
My first instinct in responding to this question is to point out that it really isn’t as much of a formally (and that word is the key qualifier here) theological issue as it is fundamentally an issue of gender and power. Piper interprets God as a self-directed man, concerned ultimately which the maximization of his own power (which is of course “good” because this one particular male really is supreme and thus deserves and warrants this rigorous self-fixation). I think it really is just the upshot of thinking God according to the logic of patriarchy.
If there is a theological reason for it, I’d have to say that it is the functional (though not acknowledged or admitted) rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity speaks of a God that does not seek the maximization of any singular self or, but rather of a united yet multidirectional and primordially other-directed love. The God who is Triune never is concerned with “himself.” Rather “the Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand” and the Son has come “not to my will but the will of him who sent me” and the Spirit “will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears.”
The Triune God is never concerned with the maximization of a “self” since God is not a self, but rather a singular reality of three identities (to borrow some language from Robert Jenson). No identity of the Trinity seeks their own, but always and only seeks the maximization of the other(s). Thus the Son offers up the kingdom to the Father and the Father places everything in subjection to the Son and so on. The glory of the Triune God is thus the glory of an othering that seeks only to empower, never to claim power for one’s own. Piper’s nontrinitarian theology of self-directed glory is the denial and opposite of this. Indeed the “glory” that he proclaims is nothing less than the projection onto God (at the expense of the witness of the Cross) of patriarchal, homicidal power, the power of sin and death. This is the “glory of God” that he so adores.