At the same time, I am reading Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics 2.1 (T&T Clark, 1985) for a PhD seminar currently underway, and I came across a bit of text (reproduced below) and the contrast between Barth and Piper jumped out at me. I wanted to post about it.
So, here are quotes from both Piper and Barth on the relation between God’s love and God’s glory. As you will see, Piper makes God’s love for us subordinate to God’s glory, while Barth makes God’s glory subordinate to God’s love for us.
“God’s ultimate goal therefore is to preserve and display his inifinte and awesome greatness and worth, that is, his glory. God has many other goals in what he does. But none of them is more ultimate than this. They are all subordinate. God’s overwhelming passion is to exalt the value of his glory. To that end, he seeks to display it, to oppose those who belittle it, and to vindicate it from all contempt. It is clearly the uppermost reality in his affections. He loves his glory infinitely. This is the same as saying: he loves himself infinitely.” (43)Barth:
“God’s loving is an end in itself. All the purposes that are willed and achieved in Him are contained and explained in this end, and therefore in this loving in itself and as such. For this loving is itself the blessing that it communicates to the loved…Certainly in loving us God wills His own glory and our salvation. But He does not love us because He wills this. He wills it for the sake of His love. God loves in realising these purposes. But God loves because He loves; because this act is His being, His essence and His nature. He loves without and before realising these purposes. He loves to eternity. Even in realising them, He loves because He loves.” (279)I have the sneaking suspicion that if Piper had lead with his last thought in the quote about (that God loves himself infinitely), and subordinated the language of 'glory' to this, he would have arrived at a position similar to Barth's. As it is, notions of 'value' and 'worth' to which God is subordinated means that God's love cannot ultimately be free. There is a 'why' behind God's love (and a rather abstract metaphysical 'why' at that), a goal to which it is directed and to which it is the means. I prefer Barth's tack. God's very being is love, and that love is not a means to a further end. No further end exists. God's love is the end in itself.
In any case, one of these options seems decidedly more in line than the other with what the New Testament has to say about Jesus.