God's Loving Self-Exaltation:
A Response to Ben Witherington

Article by

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Recently Ben Witherington reacted to Thomas Schreiner's forthcoming New Testament Theology by suggesting it calls into question "God's essential moral character." He cites Schreiner's point that the most basic theme of the New Testament is, "God magnifying himself through Jesus Christ by means of the Holy Spirit."

He concludes with,

I suppose we should not be surprised that in a culture and age of narcissism, we would recreate God in our own self-centered image, but it is surprising when we find orthodox Christians, and even careful scholars doing this.

This is really astonishing for five reasons:

  1. The explicit biblical textual foundation for Schreiner's thesis is pervasive and overwhelming.
  2. God's exaltation of his own glory is not narcissistic but loving, because it directs our attention away from ourselves to the one glorious reality that can satisfy our souls forever.
  3. God's self-glorification is not the alternative to our glorification but the foundation and goal of it, as Schreiner will make plain.
  4. The real cultural bondage today is not that too many people are making God radically God-centered, but that most people cannot conceive of his being loving unless he is man-centered.
  5. To suggest that Tom Schreiner is "creating God in our own self-centered image" because he says, with the apostle Paul, that God saves us "for the praise of his glory" (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14) is less an indictment of Tom than of Ben.

If you would like to read more, these articles may be helpful:

  • A sampling of the texts that support Schreiner's thesis.
  • One of my explanations for why God's pursuit of the display of his glory in all that he does is the essence of his love.
  • Thoughts on how God's self-glorification folds in our glorification.