Monday, May 23, 2016

God's honor

If there's anything that gets God angrier than disrespect, it's loss of face…Moses understands this: when God threatens to destroy the ever-complaining Israelites, Moses persuades him to relent by appealing to his vanity–what will people think? Louise Antony: "Does God Love Us"? M. Bergmann et al eds, Divine Evil: The Moral Character of the God of Abraham (OUP, 2007), 42. 

I've commented on this once before, but I'd like to expand on what I said. In the OT, Yahweh does, indeed, seem to be very concerned with his image. 

In addition, Calvinists often accentuate God's glory. Everything happens to the honor of God's name. 

However, this does invite a prima facie objection: Why should God care what people think of him? If he's vastly superior to mere humans, why would he covet our opinion of him? Isn't this obsession with his reputation incongruous? There is something almost comical about Abraham, Moses, and even Satan (Job 1-2) dickering with God. Is God that insecure? Can he be manipulated?

I'm deliberately putting this in somewhat irreverent terms, both because that's how atheists depict Yahweh, and because I suspect some Christians have found this to be a disturbing characteristic of Yahweh. Indeed, I've read Arminians attack this trait in Reformed theism, even though that's just mirroring God's self-depictions in the OT–as well as the NT, for that matter. By way of reply:

i) I actually doubt that God is personally bothered by humans who disrespect him. I think God is too big for that. We can't hurt his feelings. 

ii) If, however, God is the exemplar of all that's good and true, then to disrespect God is to disrespect the source of all that's good and true. By definition, that's evil. Not only is that bad, but it's bad for the person who does it. 

iii) In addition, let's take a comparison: there are many cultures in which a deterrent to misconduct is fear of dishonoring the family name. For instance, a teenage son might be tempted to do wrong, but because he knows that if he's caught, that will shame his father, he resists temptation.

And that's a good thing. If you have good parents, you should avoid conduct that makes them look bad. "What will people say?"

To some extent, people are inclined to judge parents by their kids. For instance, there are situations in which juvenile delinquency is a reflection on bad parenting.

(Of course, there are many exceptions. Despite their best efforts, parents can raise kids who turn out badly.) 

Moreover, even if no one blames the parents, it greatly pains the parents when their kids get into serious trouble. Indeed, parents may feel more humiliated than their misbehaving kids. 

As a matter of divine pedagogy, God often assumes the role of a husband or parent who's been dishonored by his wife or kids. I think that's playacting, but it serves a purpose. If it's wrong to dishonor a human mentor, surely it's a greater wrong to dishonor God. It's a harmful attitude. God can't be harmed, but we can harm ourselves or others by behaving dishonorably. God is not embarrassed, but we should be. 

No comments:

Post a Comment