I just finished reading God’s Passion for His Glory, which is not a new book, but a reprint of a book by 18th-century philosopher and theologian Jonathan Edwards called The End for Which God Created the World, with a new (nearly book-length) foreword by John Piper. I greatly enjoyed this book. It has challenged and even reshaped my perceptions about God, the world, and scripture. I recommend this book to every reader. If you’d prefer not to read Piper’s foreword, at least pick up some edition of Edwards’ book and give his claims the careful consideration they are due.
An aside about old and new books
I’ve all but given up on new books lately. Several months ago I found myself in a rut of always looking for something to read among the latest releases and current bestsellers. The problem is that’s a total crap shoot. The overwhelming majority of new books aren’t any good, and, as the old adage goes, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, so you never know which ones are good before you spend (or, as the case may be, waste) the money and time to read them.
The great thing about old books is they’ve already stood up under scrutiny. If something’s called a classic, it means lots of people have read it and enjoyed it and continue reading it and recommending it to others. Also, many older books are in the public domain and therefore free to download as ebooks and generally cheaper to buy in print. So, in a quest to read more old, good books, I have recently read Edwards’ Freedom of the Will, and I plan to read his Religious Affections soon. I’ve also heard good things about, and plan to read, John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. I’d also like to read many of the classic novels—e.g., Dickens’ David Copperfield is first on my list in that category.
Piper actually discusses the value of old books in his foreword. He echoes the following recommendation from C.S. Lewis:
“It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.” —C.S. Lewis, “On the Reading of Old Books,” in God on the Dock, 1970
I fully intend to follow this advice from now on.
My review of God’s Passion for His Glory
The End for Which God Created the World, (and by extension God’s Passion for His Glory) is about exactly what the title implies, viz., the reason God created the world (or universe, if you prefer). It answers the question, “Why are we here?”. Edwards’ answer—and I believe, the Bible’s answer, since that is Edwards’ proof-text—is surprisingly straightforward and simple: God esteems himself as the ultimate end for which he made the world. The world was (and we were) created for God, or, to put it a different way, for God’s glory.
One thing that stood out to me early in the book is Edwards’ simple yet profound interpretation of a few verses I had seen a million times before, but had never considered in the context of this question. Edwards cites verses like Isaiah 48:12 and Revelation 22:13, where God calls himself the first and the last, and interprets this to mean that God is not only the first cause but also the last end or purpose of all creation. He similarly cites verses such as Romans 11:36, Colossians 1:16, and Hebrews 2:10, where all things are said to be from God, for God, and to God, to show that all things proceed from God as their creator and flow back to God as their ultimate end or reason for existence, and that all glory will ultimate flow back to God, so that the glory of God is the last end and final consummation of the existence of the world.
In fact, I’ve never seen so much scriptural support for any belief as Edwards provides for his claim that God makes himself his purpose in the creation of the world. Many times in the book Edwards lists off a half dozen passages and then says something like, “but places to this purpose are too numerous to be particularly recited; see them in the margin,” and if you follow the footnote you’re presented with a list of two or three dozen passages that are similar to the five or six already given.
I have been blessed by this book. I will never think about God’s purposes and intentions in quite the same way again, nor will I read or understand many passages of scripture in the same way. I’m overwhelmed by how great God is and how insignificant I am in the scheme of things, and yet how significant I am to God in fulfilling his own purposes because I have the capacity (albeit only as the Holy Spirit works in me) to recognize God for who he is, to take my delight in him, and enjoy him forever, thereby giving him the honor, praise, and glory he alone is due. As Piper has said elsewhere many times, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him,” and, “the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever.”
One last thing is worth mentioning. Consequent to my reading this book, I have added some new text to the footer of every page of my blog. The first part is the Greek from the last verse of Paul’s epistle to the Romans, “μόνῳ σοφῷ θεῷ, διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, ἀμήν,” which translated means, “to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ, Amen.” The second is the Latin, “Soli Deo gloria!”, which is one of the five solas of the reformation, and which translated means, “glory to God alone!” I will strive for the rest of my life to live out this creed and make the highest end in everything I do the same as God’s highest end in everything he does.