It’s not a word we can define quickly or easily. We know God is glorious (Ps. 106:20; Jer. 2:13). We know we’re supposed to “glorify” God (Ps. 69:30). But what does it mean? Theologians have debated this for centuries, but one of the best directions to move in is consider what glory literally means: “weight.”
When something is “weighty” it’s important; or it matters. What is important to you possesses glory.
After The Lord of the Rings trilogy was published in the 1950’s, a woman named Rhona Beare wrote Tolkien and asked him about the chapter in which the Ring of Power is destroyed and the Dark Lord Sauron’s power collapses as a result. She found it inexplicable that this overwhelming power could be wiped out by the erasure of such a little object.
Tolkien responded, "The Ring of Sauron is only one of the various mythical treatments of the placing of one’s life, or power, in some external object, which is thus exposed to capture or destruction with disastrous results to oneself.”
In other words, if we want to kill ourselves after losing something, we’ve given it too much glory; too much weight. To put it differently, the amount of glory you ascribe to something external to you creates the conditions needed for suffering’s impact to be significant. All it takes is for the loss of that thing to cause you to collapse.
So one of the many things God may be doing in our suffering is reestablishing himself as the one who is to be most glorious in our lives. Tim Keller writes, “Only if you make God matter most…will you have a safe life."
In my last post, I contend that a God who is infinitely more powerful than me would also be infinitely more knowledgeable than me. So if God is infinitely knowledgeable, why couldn’t he have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil that I can’t think of? Just because I can’t think of any, doesn’t mean an infinitely knowledgeable God doesn’t have any. In the end, to believe that a truly good and all-powerful God exists in a world of evil and suffering requires humility.
Consider an illustration. Think of little children and their relationship to their parents. Three-year-olds cannot understand most of the reasons a parent may allow or disallow certain things. But they are capable of truly knowing and understanding their parents’ love for them in spite of this deficit. The difference between God and human beings is infinitely greater than the difference between a thirty-year-old parent and a three-year-old child. This ought to show us that while we may not understand all the reasons God allows or disallows certain things, through the cross of Jesus Christ we can know God’s love in a very real and deep way.
A truly good God would not want evil to exist.
An all-powerful God would not allow evil to exist.
Therefore, a God who is both good and powerful cannot exist.
So goes the logic.
But there is a hidden premise buried inside the argument. The premise is: God does not have any good reasons to allow suffering and evil to exist. But suppose someone has a very strong desire for something and is able to obtain that thing, but doesn’t act on it because he has reasons for not doing so that appear to outweigh the desirability of the thing. How do we know it doesn’t work this way with God? Might God have reasons for allowing suffering and evil to exist that in his mind outweigh the desirability of their non-existence?
The problem of evil and suffering used to be a personal struggle for me until I began to realize some of that struggle comes from intellectual arrogance. Those who argue against the existence of God based on evil and suffering seem to say, “If I can’t see any reasons God might have for permitting evil, then he doesn’t have any.”
But a God who is infinitely more powerful than me would also be infinitely more knowledgeable than me. I began to realize that if God is infinitely knowledgeable, why couldn’t he have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil that I can’t think of?
This is why, in the end, to believe that a truly good and all-powerful God exists in a world of evil and suffering requires humility.
A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride… - Proverbs 14:3
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” - Psalm 14:1