No matter what happens, God the Storyteller of reality will get glory for Himself, shining His wondrous worth either over or through the choices we make, in many colorful ways. That includes the stories we enjoy, or in some cases create.
Steve DeWitt in Eyes Wide Open: Enjoying God In Everything, defines glory like this:
Glory is the light of divine delight. Specifically, it is the brilliant, emanating overflow expression of God’s infinite delight in being God. Glory light expresses God’s glorious worth. God chooses to express His invisible, infinite worth in a visible, created way. A created thing can reflect or express a spiritual reality.
And what better created things can we discuss here but stories, in this (likely soon-ending) series about how Reading Is Worship? Here’s a review of the series’ second half thus far:
- Stories have meaning beyond themselves. Knowing this meaning makes them better.
- Scripture alone is how we know God and what glorifies Him, and know that its Story is what all other hero-quest-and-world stories reflect (even if unintentionally).
- God glorifies Himself in more ways than a “dimmer switch” of a single light shade. His glory is an array of colors, seen in heavenly visions in Scripture and in the literal colors beheld in creation. We only give Him glory by re-mixing those colors.
Yet how we re-mix His colors, and often try to recombine them into something perverted or ugly, or simply shut our eyes and refuse to see them, leads to more questions. Does that mean “it’s all good”? Do non-Christian storytellers get credit for reflecting Biblical truth in varying hues? Might some stories be so bad they have no “color” of God’s glory?
In my view, and in order: no; no, God does; and it depends. Here’s more about why. And I believe the proof lies first in seeing the ways God gets glory, whether over or through either real-life choices, or the stories we read and enjoy.
Glory over choicesEx malo, bonum, goes the Latin phrase. Augustine wrote it to contradict the teaching of Seneca the Younger. That Roman philosopher had written bonum ex malo non fit, “good does not come from evil.” Augustine disagreed. “Out of evil [comes] good,” he wrote.
That’s a Scriptural concept: God works good, for His glory and our good, out of evil (Gen. 50:20, Romans 8:28, and more). Evil is real, God is not the Author of evil, yet God is in control of evil and has never lost Authorship of His Story. Its villains are His villains.
One of those is Pharaoh, whom Paul first used as a good sermon illustration for both human responsibility for sin and God’s desire to use those sinful choices for His Name’s sake:
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
It turns out this paradox — Pharaoh’s evil, God’s good — wasn’t the apostle Paul’s idea:
“I [God] will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.”
God is not the only One who sees good come from evil choices. We ourselves may even see benefits from evildoers’ unintended consequences, as Joseph famously told his brothers:
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
Joseph’s brothers, and Pharaoh, had their own “stories” in mind: respectively, to get rid of Joseph, and disobey God’s command to let His people go. God had his own Story in mind, and His Story, which He used to glorify Himself, was over theirs. That’s a vital preposition, over, lest we are tempted to minimize human sin while identifying the glory due to God.
Glory through choices
By contrast, God works specifically in His people to glorify Himself through their works.
One can’t speak of God’s glory without explicitly referencing Christ, the Hero of the Story: He emptied Himself and as a human obeyed God, died and rose, and ascended, so that all would know He is Lord, “to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2: 5-11).
With creation fallen, only Jesus can glorify God perfectly. And it’s only through His life of righteousness that people are made righteous, and can begin to glorify God more directly.
Thanks to Jesus, God can be glorified through us consciously, not only over us.
That’s the exploration of God’s glory over and through reality. Next comes more about how He glorifies Himself over and through different sorts of stories.