Piper, Keller, Witherington: God Seeks Own Glory?

In 2002 at my Christian college I remember James MacDonald giving a sermon in which he quoted an Isaiah passage about how God seeks his own glory. In 2003 I read John Piper‘s book Desiring God and was convinced of it.

In 2008 I read Tim Keller‘s The Reason For God in which he talks about God being a trinity and the endless giving that takes place within this relationship. Keller then said something that shocked me:

“That is why God is infinitely happy, because there is an ‘other-orientation’ at the heart of his being, because he does not seek his own glory but the glory of others.”

–Tim Keller, The Reason For God pg.218

Tim Keller & John Piper are on the same page about almost everything; this seems like a pretty big thing, though.

Piper quotes some Bible verses to back up his opinion here.

New Testament scholar Ben Witherington seems to be more in line with Keller’s assertion. He says this on a blog post titled, “For God So Loved Himself? Is God a Narcissist?“:

“I am arguing Christ, the perfect image of God’s character, reveals that God’s character is essentially other directed self-sacrificial love. God loves people, not merely as means to his own ends, but as ends in themselves.”

Does God seeks his own glory or does he seek the glory of others?



  1. I interviewed at the one in Grandville. Is the Kentwood one the one on 28th by Woodland?

    Oh, and in reference to the question in your post, I think God seeks his own glory in relationship to Himself but is still seeking to pour that love into others because His love is other directed within the Trinity and outside of the Trinity. I don’t know if I would personally say that he seeks the ‘glory’ of others (outside of His relational self), although there are verses that could support that view (just do a word search for ‘glory’ on Bible Gateway).

    grace and peace

  2. Interesting thoughts. I can definitely see what Keller is talking about (to some degree), but I can’t fathom totally understanding Witherington’s thoughts.

    How can God love us as an end in itself? Whenever God loves, he’s displaying himself (i.e. – glorifying himself). If I were the “end” of God’s love at times, then it wouldn’t be love because God’s not giving to me what would ultimately satisfy – namely himself.

    While I do agree that God functions within himself as a community and loves sacrificially within himself. And, I do agree that the Scriptures talk about God glorifying us to another “level” through Christ, I definitely don’t think he could ever “glorify” us without glorifying himself ultimately. Because, again, if he were to do that, it would not be loving.


  3. Timothy,
    God loves us BY giving himself to us, right? So loving us as an end in itself by giving himself to us is the most loving thing he can do. If he were self-centered rather than other-centered, he couldn’t love.

  4. I think in God we see the only expression of self-centeredness as other-centeredness. I believe our greatest joy comes when we see how amazing God is, to know in the depths of our hearts how loved and forgiven we are, or, as the bible says, “in God’s presence there is fullness of joy.” this seems very other-centered because we get so much joy. But why do we get it? Because we see how glorious God is. Some say that God is self-centered because He continually invites us to praise him, but what if, as piper says, our praise of God is the consumation of the joy we have in Him, like a lover praising his mistress. So God’s self-centeredness, namely, glorifying Himself to us, is very other-centric because it gives us the greatest joy imaginable.

  5. I think this is a false dichotomy. That’s the beauty of the Trinity. Before God created anything else his love was both for another (his Son) and therefore for Himself, because the Word is God. They are both true and Piper actually holds both in balance (he explicitly mentions this in Desiring God) and Keller seems to be missing the implication of what he was saying. I havent read the quote in context though and can’t judge what he believes just based on that.

  6. While I agree with most of Piper’s theology of Christian Hedonism I think that one thing that Piper messed up on is that he needs to realize that God DOES NOT need to love Himself at all. Let me explain.

    As with all his attributes, love is not an attribute that God has, is full of, or is a part of His being. Rather love IS His very being and PERMEATES His very spirit which essentially “satisfies him”. (1 John 4:8, 16) This love is made manifest by His infinite love for US as an end in and of itself which He accomplishes by giving HIMSELF to us and satisfying our souls with HIMSELF, in which this will be confirmed by our love for others by reflecting HIS glory to them.

    Yes God is God-centered and the center of the universe. However, the way that I understand it is that God lives by his own will and purposes and is devoted to being God and accepting no one else as God. It is precisely because God is God-centered that he is other-centered when it comes to us as his purpose is for our joy in Him. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

    Yes God does everything for His glory and what He is essentially saying is that His passion for His own glory is nothing other than a passion for US (our joy in Him) The chief END (not ends as if they were seperate) of man is to glorify God and/by to enjoy Him forever.

    If you have any questions ask me!

  7. God isn’t just some bully who always wants to take the spotlight, attention and the fame for Himself while forcing us to be subordinate. If this is the picture we have of God, it is difficult to imagine him as someone worthy of everything we can offer him. This is NOT what the Bible is about. In fact, the bible shows us a very different picture of God. The bible is actually a story of God’s radical love (Romans 5:8). A story that is not primarily about some “needy insecure attention seeking God” but rather about a God who has a desire to have relationships with all of his created beings.

  8. I just read this post, more than a year and a half after I read it and realized how much this question has shaped my perspective on God and how much more developed it was. I still think what i said before was true, but now I think all of reality was born out of and purposed by (does that make sense?) God’s kenotic love. I think God loves each other. And I think God’s love for each other pours out into his creation, and his creation is created to love each other, and him (in all three parts. It’s all about kenosis. Emptying himselves and ourselves into everything else in love. Reality exists for the purpose of an all encompassing, dynamic embrace.

  9. God seeking the glory of others is His glory! It is what makes Him glorious and us able to glorify Him!

    1. Bingo Kimberly. I agree, that is what sets God apart and makes Him truly glorious: He loves and seeks the good of others, “even death on a cross.” This love for us is what calls the attention of the universe to give Him glory. The Psalmist says, “with You there is forgiveness, therefore You are feared.” We are in awe of His selfless love.
      I have often asked the question, “Does God love His neighbor as He loves Himself” as He calls us to do?

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