No theme in the Bible is more central than the glory of God. From Genesis to Revelation, from creation to new creation, the pages of Scripture are drenched with the story of divine glory. While every major Christian doctrine is significantly connected to God’s glory, few theology books have been written expressly to explain what God’s glory actually is. The Glory of God, the second volume in the promising Theology in Community Series, aptly fills this void.
In the introduction, the editors note the recent emphasis among several ministries on the importance of living for the glory of God. While this is surely a positive development, a real danger exists that without a clear understanding of what this actually means, living for God’s glory will become little more than a thought without content. In short, this book seeks to save “the glory of God” from becoming a cliché.
The eight essays in this work explore the answer to the question: “What does the Bible actually teach about the glory of God?” (20) In addition, the contributors seek to bring a rich application of this doctrine into the life of the church. The editors summarize the aim of the book as follows:
The Glory of God examines this oft-discussed but rarely understood biblical theme and develops a theology of God’s glory that is historic and contemporary, explores Old and New Testaments, treats biblical and systematic theology, and adopts pastoral and missional perspectives (21).
Stephen J. Nichols begins the volume with “The Glory of God Present and Past” by describing the importance of God’s glory in the writings of three contemporary theologians (Hans Urs von Balthasar, Charles C. Ryrie, and John Piper). Nichols shows the theological debt these men owe to the church fathers, Jonathan Edwards, and C. S. Lewis. Next, Tremper Longman surveys the expansive terminology and theme of God’s glory in the Old Testament. Richard R. Melick Jr. traces the glory of God through the Synoptic Gospels, Acts, and the General Epistles. Andreas J. Köstenberger examines God’s glory in the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation. Richard B. Gaffin Jr. unpacks both the “gospel-glory” and “image-glory” of Christ in the epistles of Paul.
In “Toward a Theology of the Glory of God,” Christopher W. Morgan synthesizes the five previous exegetical chapters and presents a coherent theology of God’s glory that intersects with the biblical story of salvation. Bryan Chapell answers the question of how pastoral ministry ought to be viewed in light of the glory of God. J. Nelson Jennings concludes the book by connecting God’s glory with his global purposes in Christ and explains how this connection should translate into a theology of mission.
There is much to love in this book. Each contributor not only provides needed clarity to the major biblical theme of the glory of God but also writes with a spirit of humility and awe. According to Morgan, “We can study nothing as monumental or overwhelming as our glorious God” (154). This tone pervades the entire volume.
Other highlights include Köstenberger’s essay that, by itself, is well worth the price of the entire book. His identification and exposition of Jesus’ crucified glory in the Gospel of John alongside Jesus’ risen and returning glory in the Apocalypse is exceptional. He writes: “In John’s Gospel, Jesus is the Lamb who gives his life for the sin of the world; in the Apocalypse, he is the risen Lamb who was slain, the one to whom all judgment is entrusted and who returns as the conquering warrior at the end of time” (125). Chapell’s essay will prove to be a source of great encouragement to pastors who need to be reminded of the tremendous privilege of serving as shepherds in the body of Christ. He writes: “The glory of the Son in the church that is his body is the assurance of every pastor that Satan cannot defeat Christ’s purpose in us” (208).
A fourth highlight is found in Morgan’s essay where he gives a careful and nuanced understanding of how to see God’s glory as his ultimate end alongside other ends described in Scripture. Instead of muting God’s glory, stressing these multiple ends actually magnifies it. Morgan offers God’s saving work in the exodus as an example of this multifaceted approach: “In the exodus, God displays his love, covenant faithfulness, jealousy, providence, and power through his wonders, salvation, and judgment, in which he manifests himself and thus glorifies himself,” (176). Morgan’s synthesis is particularly helpful in modeling how a theology of God’s glory must remain faithful to encompass all that Scripture says about God’s purposes in Christ.
The Glory of God is an excellent book, full of careful exegesis and thoughtful analysis. Pastors, theological students, and ministry leaders will find much benefit in reading this volume. While the two practical chapters-chapters seven and eight-are superb, this book could have been strengthened with the inclusion of additional chapters exploring more implications of a theology of God’s glory. While no single volume of theology can fully plumb the depths of such a majestic biblical theme as the glory of God, this book is certainly a step in the right direction. It is filled with the kind of robust theology our churches desperately need to hear and faithfully proclaim. It helps the careful reader both to see “our glorious God” more clearly and treasure him more deeply.