The Bible makes it clear that our ultimate purpose is to glorify God (1 Pet 4:11, among many others). The Westminster Catechism summarizes the chief end of man as to glorify God and enjoy Him. I want to suggest there are several levels or layers of glorifying God that we can pursue or enjoy. In many ways, God is like an artist, crafting His creation, writing His story, I think it is a helpful analogy to consider the fame and reputation of artist (like a writer, painter, or even engineer) as a way to think about His glory. In this list, I will draw from this analogy to describe different levels of glory.
- The most basic and shallow level of glory is simply knowledge that a subject, an artist exists. We can come to know of the existence of an artist, just like we can come to know of the existence of God, but this says little of whether they are good or bad. This is weakest form of glory, although proclaiming the existence of God is an important and foundational step towards the greater levels, particularly for those who have not been introduced to our God.
- The next level is information about the artist. We can share information about the attributes of an artist (or God), for example their purpose and focus in their art, and how they wish to interact with their audience. Some of this information may be favorable (he is popular), but this is still not sufficient to show how the artist is really good, or great, it is just informative, although it is an important foundation for establishing praise-worthiness.
- Moving on, a deeper declaration of glory, is the declaration of the goodness of the subject. Here the glory goes beyond just declaration of existence, but declaring that he is good, great, or better than others. For an artist this equates to receiving acclaim or adoration for the works of art.
- Next, we can give great praise by showing, with the explanations, reasonings, or stores, why the art is superior, how it is more lucid, evocative, or compelling than other works.
- Going deeper is the manifestation of the goodness of the subject. This is the actual individual works of art of an artist. This is a deeper glory, as declarations are only commentaries on the actual works of art. The works of art are the substance that is being commented on. Occasionally God supernaturally interjects some event or creation, but God’s most common visible works of art, are on display in his central creation, people, and their behavior, attitudes, kindness, perspectives, and the work of their hands, visible demonstrations of God’s work, redemption, and creativity in their lives. Most real artists invest the majority of their effort into their art, and rather than marketing.
It is worth noting that the 4th level’s foundation on the 5th can be comparative. Seeing lesser works of art or absence of art allows us to talk about the superiority of the great artist. In the case of contrasting with God, seeing evil is a critical contrast that demonstrates God’s goodness.
- The penultimate level of glory of an artist is the collective set of all his works. The collection of all works demonstrates not only his skill in single piece, but the range and diversity of his skills. Leonardo da Vinci is famed not just for the Mona Lisa, but for his remarkable mastery across various mediums and arts, including painting, sculpting, music, engineering, and mathematics. The collective works can also speak to how they relate to each other, and perhaps even forming a coherent narrative. J.R.R. Tolkiens writings are adored partly because many of his greatest works come together to form an epic narrative, greater than the sum of its parts. Likewise, with God, His kingdom, His church, and how they relate to each other and weave together the great narrative that He has composed is the greatest demonstration of His artistry. It is also worth noting that this is the deepest level of glory that we can participate in.
- The final and ultimate level of glory is the subject himself. The works of art, and all other lower forms of glory flow from the artist himself. Even before an artist has even began to paint or sculpt, the talents, creativity, and potential exist. All else flows from that. The ultimate substance of God’s glory is Himself, and we can neither add nor subtract from it.
There are implications to this perspective on the levels of the glory of God. The act of communicating to people and introduction to who God is and why He is good (often the focus of preaching the gospel), points towards a lower glory of God, but it is a critical foundation towards the higher levels of glory. To those who no know nothing about God, it is difficult to move on towards a deeper appreciation of God, and skipping this step can result in misattribution and misunderstanding of God.
However, once introduced, the main focus should turn towards greater levels of glory, towards participation, as a reflective piece of art of God. The Great Commission makes this goal clear, pointing past simple evangelism, towards the explicit goal of disciples who obey God (the manifested art of God, his obedient people), and towards the diversity of disciples in every nation, together shaping the mission around the image of his God’s collective artwork, made visible.
What do you think, is this a helpful perspective on how we participate in glorifying God?