Old Doxoblogy

Monday, June 19, 2006

Delighting & Displaying: Then & Now

By Marc Heinrich

Some ideas I've been working out since the early day's of my worship blog that's not fully developed yet. I'd like your input.

Delighting and Displaying "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" in the age to come: Implications for today

Athanasius has taken heat for his writings concerning the idea of deification. John Piper argues that what Athanasius is actually referring to is what we call glorification. Piper extends the thinking to meditate on Heaven and what this means for our future worship. Following is a lengthy excerpt from Piper's biographical sketch of Athanasius*.

*The full version on DG website: http://www.desiringgod.org/library/biographies/2005_athanasius.html

"And thus Athanasius raises for me one of the most crucial questions of all: What is the ultimate end of creation-the ultimate goal of God in creation and redemption? Is it being or seeing? Is it our being like Christ or our seeing the glory of Christ? How does Romans 8:29 ("predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son") relate to John 17:24 ("Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory")? Is the beatific vision of the glory of the Son of God the aim of human creation? Or is likeness to that glory the aim of creation?

Athanasius has helped me go deeper here by unsettling me. I am inclined to stress seeing as the goal rather than being. The reason is that it seems to me that putting the stress on seeing the glory of Christ makes him the focus, but putting the stress on being like Christ makes me the focus. But Athanasius will not let me run away from the biblical texts. His language of deification forces me to think more deeply and worship more profoundly.

My present understanding would go like this: the ultimate end of creation is neither being nor seeing, but delighting and displaying. Delighting in and displaying "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). And the displaying happens both in the delighting, since we glorify most what we enjoy most, and in the deeds of the resurrection body that flow from this enjoyment on the new earth in the age to come. The display of God's glory will be both internal and external. It will be spiritual and physical. We will display the glory of God by the Christ-exalting joy of our heart, and by the Christ-exalting deeds of our resurrection bodies.

How then should we speak of our future being and seeing if they are not the ultimate end? How shall we speak of "sharing God's nature" and being "conformed to his Son"? The way I would speak of our future being and seeing is this: By the Spirit of God who dwells in us, our final destiny is not self-admiration or self-exaltation, but being able to see the glory of God without disintegrating, and being able to delight in the glory of Christ with the very delight of God the Father for his own Son (John 17:26),48 and being able to do visible Christ-exalting deeds that flow from this delight.

And in this way a wave of revelation of divine glory in the saints is set in motion that goes on and grows for all eternity. As each of us sees Christ and delights in Christ with the delight of the Father, mediated by the Spirit, we will overflow with visible actions of love and creativity on the new earth. In this way we will see the revelation of God's glory in each other's lives in ever new ways. New dimensions of the riches of the glory of God in Christ will shine forth every day from new delights and new deeds. And these in turn will become new seeings of Christ which will elicit new delights and new doings. And so the ever-growing wave of the revelation of the riches of the glory of God will role on for ever and ever.

And we will discover that this was possible only because the infinite Son of God took on himself the human nature so that we in our human nature might be united to him and display more and more of his glory. We will find in our eternal experience that his infinite beauty took on human form so that our human form might increasingly display his infinite beauty."

Accepting the premise that, the ultimate end of creation is neither being nor seeing, but delighting and displaying. Delighting in and displaying "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ", we must ask what bearing, if any, does it have on us today, before the age to come? If the Westminster Divines statement the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever,[1] and Piper's formulation, the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever [2] are correct, then must not this delighting and displaying take place now as well as then? Piper argues successfully for "Christian Hedonism" [3] as the way to live now and then, and I would apply that reasoning to the idea that we should delight and display today, before the age to come, as well as after.

Then delighting and displaying (Piper also refers to this as Seeing, Savoring, and Showing) has radical impact for today in all of life, including but not limited to the following areas: our worship, the body, our sanctification, our love for God, and our future enjoyment of heaven. We should look for evidences of grace in each other's lives and consider it "visible actions of love and creativity". Thus encouraging and inspiring us to "elicit new delights and new doings". Our delighting and displaying will not be perfectly Christ-centered, God exalting and sin free while we are in this present age, nor is our glorifying by enjoying, but we must strive toward the goal of "the ever-growing wave of the revelation of the riches of the glory of God".

[1] Creeds of Christendom
[2] Desiring God
[3] Desiring God

Posted by Marc


pilgrim said...

You probably have a good point there.

The Eastern Orthodox Churches do get this mixed up.

Jeremy Weaver said...

That's a great post Marc.
I think those two ideas of seeing and being are blended together pretty well in First John 3:2.
And then the display side of this truth in the present is represented in the surrounding verses.

Sojourner said...

Hey, I think that the quality of this blog just went even higher. I could not have imagined it possible with the stellar heights it had already reached.:)

(Is that laying it on too thick?)

Jeremy Weaver said...

A little more Brad. You're almost there.

Sojourner said...

Is this a repost?