Extended Quotes on God’s Glory & Beauty
This page is gathering of quotes and passages from various authors that have helped me meditate joyfully on the glory and beauty of God.
The first passage has a helpful challenge to beware of making the glory of God first about our behavior:
In popular conception, the Reformation motto soli Deo gloria is sometimes reduced to a call for moral action: we Christians should pursue all activities for the glory of God as our only supreme end. Of course, there is nothing untrue about this statement— a couple of biblical texts even make this point explicitly. But there seems to be something imbalanced about focusing the soli Deo gloria theme exclusively upon Christians acting for God’s glory. For one thing, it produces the awkward and ironic result that soli Deo gloria becomes centered on us: how we are to act and what end we should pursue. These are important issues indeed, but when soli Deo gloria turns into a program for human cultural renewal, we may well suspect that what was meant to be a theocentric battle cry has been distorted by more than a little anthropocentric static.
Focusing soli Deo gloria solely on human conduct is also imbalanced in that it fails to reflect Scripture’s careful presentation of the topic. On many occasions Scripture calls the saints to give glory to God in their worship, and in a couple of places it exhorts Christians to do all things for God’s glory. But more often Scripture appeals to God’s glory as a way of describing God, especially as he manifests himself through biblical history, climactically in the Lord Jesus Christ, his Holy Spirit, and the new creation where Christ now sits enthroned. Soli Deo gloria has much to do with our Christian moral life, but biblical integrity demands that we first reckon with how the glory of God is truly about God himself. (David VanDrunen, God’s Glory Alone—The Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life, 26, 27)
In a similar way, I want this site to flesh out what we learn about God when we ponder HIs glory. Only when we have done that can we pursue a wise course of action.
C.S Lewis referred to pleasures from created things as “shafts of glory” and “patches of glory.” Below is the context of those statements:
That cushiony moss, that coldness and sound and dancing light were no doubt very minor blessings compared with “the means of grace and the hope of glory.” They were not the hope of glory, they were an exposition of the glory itself…
I was learning… that pleasures are shafts of the glory as it strikes our sensibility…
We—or at least I—shall not be able to adore God on the highest occasions if we have learned no habit of doing so on the lowest. At best, our faith and reason will tell us that He is adorable, but we shall not have found Him so, not have “tasted and seen.” Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are “patches of Godlight” in the woods of our experience. (C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm, chapter 17) Link to full chapter
Centuries before Lewis, John Calvin called the natural world a “theater of God’s glory,” a “mirror of his divinity,” and the “beautiful garment” the invisible God wears to make himself somewhat visible:
O Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
covering yourself with light as with a garment,
stretching out the heavens like a tent. (Psalm 104:1,2)
It is no small honor that God for our sake has so magnificently adorned the world, in order that we may not only be spectators of this beauteous theater, but also enjoy the multiplied abundance and variety of good things which are presented to us in it. (Commentary on Psalm 104
Wherever you cast your eyes, there is no spot in the universe wherein you cannot discern at least some sparks of his glory. You cannot in one glance survey this most vast and beautiful system of the universe, in its wide expanse, without being completely overwhelmed by the boundless force of its brightness. …This skillful ordering of the universe is for us a sort of mirror in which we can contemplate God, who is otherwise invisible. (Institutes, Book I, ch. 5, vs. 1)
In the cross of Christ, as in a magnificent theater, the inestimable goodness of God is displayed before the whole world. In all the creatures, indeed, both high and low, the glory of God shines. But nowhere has God’s glory shone more brightly than in the cross, in which there has been an astonishing change of things, the condemnation of all men has been manifested, sin has been blotted out, salvation has been restored to men. In short, the whole world has been renewed…(Commentary on the Gospel According to John)
Zachman summarizes Calvin:
By our contemplation, feeling and enjoyment of the powers of God—which we behold in the theater of the world—we are invited, allured, and attracted to seek the God who is the source of all these powers, in whom alone is found human happiness. The creation of all good things in the world for the benefit and enjoyment of humans is not, therefore, an end itself, but the way God reveals that he the author and fountain of every good thing. It would be a perversion of the theater of God’s glory and a sign of manifest ingratitude to feel and enjoy the good things of creation, and yet to ignore the one who invites us to Himself by means of these benefits. (Randall Zachman, John Calvin as Teacher, Pastor, and Theologian)
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was an influential pastor in New England. He wrote extensively on the glory and beauty of God.
All the beauty to be found throughout the whole creation, is but the reflection of the diffused beams of that Being who has an infinite fullness of brightness and glory. (The Nature of True Virtue)
The glorious excellencies and beauty of God will be what will forever entertain the minds of believers, and the love of God will be their everlasting feast. (Cited in The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader, ed. Kimnach, Minkema, and Sweeney)
There is a difference between having an opinion, that God is holy and gracious, and having a sense of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness. A person may have the former who doesn’t know how honey tastes; but a person cannot have the latter unless he has an idea of the taste of honey in his mind. (A Divine and Supernatural Light)
Dane Ortland highlights Edwards framework of beauty:
And Edwards has given us the beauty of the Christian life— first, the beauty of God, beauty that comes to tangible expression in Christ, and second, the beauty of the Christian, who participates in the triune life of divine love. Divine loveliness, enjoyed and reflected in his creatures: this is Edwards’s legacy. Sinners are beautified as they behold the beauty of God in Jesus Christ. That is Edwards’s theology of the Christian life in a single sentence.
“What an honor must it be,” preached Edwards, “to a creature who is infinitely below God, and less than he, to be beautified and adorned with this beauty, with that beauty which is the highest beauty of God himself, even holiness.” This comes from a sermon entitled “God’s Excellencies” and therefore provides a good opportunity to clarify that, for Edwards, God’s “excellency” is another way of speaking of God’s “beauty.” Edwards makes this connection earlier in this very sermon when he speaks of “the infinite excellency of Christ” as “delightful, beautiful, and pleasing.” We today do not use the word excellency, but we do know what beauty is. (Dane Ortlund, Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God, 24)
Therefore the essence of true religious experience is to be overwhelmed by a glimpse of the beauty of God, to be drawn to the glory of his perfections and sense his irresistible love. George Marsden once wrote that it is something like being overwhelmed by the beauty of a great work of art or music. We become so enthralled by the beauty that we lose consciousness of self and self-interest, and become absorbed by the magnificent object. Our hearts are changed by an irresistible power. But this power gently lures; it does not coerce. [Jonathan] Edwards taught that our eyes are opened when we are captivated by the beautiful love and glory of God in Christ, when we see this love most powerfully demonstrated in Christ’s sacrificial love for the undeserving. Then we feel forced to abandon love for self as the central principle of our lives and turn to the love of God. (Gerald McDermott, The Great Theologians, 117,118)
Theological Reflections on God’s Glory
Approaching this God and knowing him truly requires us to humble ourselves and to seek him in the lowliness of the cross. Yet far from debasing us, humbling ourselves by faith in Christ crucified reconciles us to God and enables us to become the sort of creatures God made us to be. God grants us the privilege of reflecting his own glory as we grow in holiness and ascribe him glory in our worship, and by one day joining him in the glory of the new creation— which Scripture wonderfully calls our glorification. God draws supreme glory to himself, in part, by glorifying us. The Reformation theme of soli Deo gloria is indeed a beautiful aspect of the good news of the gospel.
(David VanDrunen, God’s Glory Alone—The Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life, 25)
In the Old Testament, God displayed his glory in typical, visual form as an awe-inspiring expanse of bright light (the shekinah, as later Judaism called it). This was the sign of his beneficent presence in both the tabernacle and the temple (Exodus 40:34; 1 Kings 8:10ff.). The essential and abiding revelation of God’s glory, however, was given by his great acts of merited judgment and unmerited love, and in his “name”—which was no mere label, as our names are, but a disclosure of God’s nature and character. Yahweh means “I am (and will be) what I am (and will be)” (see Exodus 3:13–15), and the full statement of God’s “name” declares precisely what he is and will be. This statement was made to Moses; when Moses asked God, “show me thy glory,” God responded not only by a visual manifestation, but also by declaring “my name ‘the LORD’ (Yahweh) … a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty …” (Exodus 33:18–34:7). This moral character is the essential glory of God.
So, when the Word was made flesh in lowliness, having emptied himself of the glory he shared with the Father before creation, the breathtaking brilliance of the shekinah was hidden, save for the one isolated moment of transfiguration; yet Jesus’ disciples could testify, “we beheld his glory,” the glory of personal deity “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14; 17:5; Philippians 2:7). (J.I. Packer, Growing in Christ)
The giving of glory to God in worship is called doxology. The psalms are full of it. Formal doxologies appear in Rom. 9:5; 11:36; 16:25–27; Eph. 3:20–21; Phil. 4:20; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16; 1 Pet. 4:11; 2 Pet. 3:18; Jude 24–25; Rev. 1:6; 5:13.
God so made us that we find the duty of doxology to be our supreme delight, and in that way the furthering of our own highest good. This coinciding of duty with interest and devotion with fulfillment was classically formulated in the first answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.’ (J.I. Packer , New Dictionary of Theology)
“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment... The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.” (C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms)
We never truly glory in him until we have utterly discarded our own glory. (John Calvin, Institutes Book III, ch. 13, verse 2)
The principle of human sin (which is the devil’s image in man) is this: glory is not God’s, but mine. Accordingly, we parade what we think of as our glory, so that admiring watchers will give us glory. This is one facet of our pride: we call it vanity. Vain persons put on a show with their features, physical shape, clothes, skills, position, influence, homes, brains, acquaintanceships, or whatever they are most proud of, expect applause, and feel resentful and hurt if people do not play up to them and act impressed.
But Christians know that vanity is a lie, for it assumes that it is we who should be praised and admired for what we are; and that is not so. Christianity teaches us, not indeed to pretend that we lack qualities which we know very well that we have, but to acknowledge that all we have is God’s gift to us, so that he should be praised and admired for it rather than we.
The test is to ask yourself how pleased, or how displeased, you become if God is praised while you are not, and equally if you are praised while God is not. The mature Christian is content not to have glory given to him, but it troubles him if men are not glorifying God. (J.I. Packer, Growing Christ)
When David asserts that the “one thing” that he will seek after is “to behold the beauty of the Lord” in the temple (Ps 27:4), the experience of beauty expresses his longing to see God face to face. It is really God that he seeks, not a beautiful image. This beauty of the Lord represents one of the many paradoxes of Christianity, for it is clear from the Scriptures that the beauty of God refers at one and the same time to literal appearance and to that invisible quality that makes God the definition of beauty. Somehow in God beauty of spirit and beauty of appearance are perfected, as captured in the evocative picture of “the perfection of beauty” that “shines forth” from Zion (Ps 50:2).
The explicit references to beauty in relation to God seem to be an attempt to express the inexpressible, to describe the “immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tim 1:17). Hence the following verses: “Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty in his sanctuary” (Ps 96:6 RSV); “In that day the Lord of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty to the remnant of his people” (Is 28:5). Here beauty is related to the majesty and glory, the kingship and sovereignty of God-words full of mystery that will only take on their full meaning when, as David longed to do, we “behold the beauty of the Lord” (Ps. 27:4). Yet the beauty of God is linked with solid and tangible objects and real places-a crown, a diadem and the sanctuary of the Lord. Isaiah promises that “your eyes will see the king in his beauty, they will behold a land that stretches afar” (Is 33:17), a verse that exquisitely combines the visual image and the unsearchable depth of the beauty of the Lord. When Moses descended from Mount Sinai, his face was shining simply from being in the presence of the Lord. (Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, entry for “Beauty”)