Glory of God (End of Creation)

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The glory of God is a favorite theme of the Old and New Testaments. Its roots lie in the presence of the k ebôd Yahweh, the δόξα το[symbol omitted] θεο[symbol omitted]. The theological interpretation of the glory of god as the purpose of creation must reflect the scriptural data, which basically reveals two mutually related and complementary themes: the glory of God as the divine perfection and as the divine praise.

Divine Perfection. Scripture identifies the glory of God with God Himself, with His power whereby He tramples His enemies underfoot and terrifies men, with His beauty, with the image of light and splendor that includes a sweetness and attraction, so that whoever beholds the glory of God is filled with joy and lightness. This sweetness and attraction is especially perceived in God's generous benevolence, in the pouring out of His divine goodness, in His mercy and fidelity toward all His creatures. It takes shape in the production of a likeness or an image of the divine goodness in creatures. The Old Testament expresses this in describing the wisdom of God as the pure emanation of the glory of the Most High (Wis 7.2526). Isaiah says that "all the earth is filled with his glory!" (Is 6.3). Creatures, therefore, are the image and glory of God. All created things, especially men, are filled from the expansive fullness of the glory of God (cf. Eph 3.16). By their very existence they announce this glory [Ps 18 (19).2].

The glory of God is poured forth in Jesus Christ in a very special way. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature (Col 1.15). He is the effulgence of His splendor and the stamp of God's very being (Heb 1.3). In Him and through Him all things are (Col1.1617), and are redeemed (Eph 1.314). Through the knowledge of Christ the Savior, the glory of God is diffused to all Christians. The gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the very image of God, dawns upon us and brings us to the revelation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4.4, 6). The result of this influence of the Lord who is spirit (2 Cor 3.17) is that we all reflect "as in a mirror the glory of the Lord" (2 Cor 3.18). Christ Himself tells us that He shares with us, His friends, the glory He has received from the Father (Jn 17.22). Our life in Christ is not merely a new birthit is a new way of life. The glory of God in the just is not only the divine indwelling (1 Cor 6.19) but likewise all the good actions of the just (1 Cor 10.31).

Divine Praise. The most frequent meaning of the word glory is the fame, praise, and good reputation that comes with the recognition of one's excellence. Frequently Scripture exhorts man "to give glory to the Lord." Revelations tells us that the Lord is worthy of receiving glory (4.911). The glory of God is contrasted with and opposed to the glory of men (Is 42.8; Jn 7.18; Rom 1.23). Here the glory of God is the admiration of the grandeur of God, an admiration that is expressed in praise, not only by the words of men, but much more by the Christian way of life. For our lights are to shine before men, so that they may see our good works and give praise to the Father (Mt 5.16). Indeed, all creatures "declare the glory of God" [Ps 18 (19).2]; and in this sense all the works of the Lord ought to bless Him, to praise and exalt Him (Dn 3.5288). It is because of this dumb, yet eloquent, praise that the greatness of God is so visible in creation that for man not to recognize it and to join in it is inexcusable (Rom 1.2123).

Glory of God and the Purpose of Creation. Confronted with this double facet of the glory of God as identified both with the divine perfection and the divine praise, the theologian must beware lest he give undue importance to one over the other.

The supreme purpose of God in creating is the divine intrinsic goodness and glory. God's purpose in creating cannot be any created good because God cannot be moved by anything outside Himself. Rather, God's purpose or intended end in creating is Himself, His divine intrinsic goodness and glory. For the divine goodness is the sole adequate object of the divine volition, and love and is the sole adequate reason for which God freely willed to produce creatures. Creatures exist because of the divine goodness, because God wishes in His super-abundance of love freely to communicate this same divine goodness to them and to manifest it externally through them. The finite communication and manifestation of the divine intrinsic goodness and glory in creation are but conditions for the production of creatures and are not to be identified with the purpose or object of the creative will as such. Hence, God does not create because He desires some gain for Himself from creation. His extrinsic glory is in no wise the good on account of which He produced creatures.

The supreme purpose of creation is God Himself. The divine intrinsic goodness and glory is also the ultimate good toward which all creatures are ordered as their supreme purpose. For God's own supreme purpose in creating and the ultimate purpose of creation must be one and the same. In fact, all creatures by their innate sensitive or rational appetites tend toward God as the supreme good, as that which ultimately perfects them. Thus, all creatures have the very same ultimate objective end, God Himself. They do, however, have specifically different ultimate intrinsic ends, for each attains God in its own way. Only man, because of his spiritual faculties, is capable of attaining God directly as He is in Himself. All other creatures attain God in their service of man.

The extrinsic glory of God is a true end of creation (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, ed. A. Schönmetzer [Freiburg 1963] 3025). God's extrinsic glory is a reflection and manifestation through creatures of the intrinsic and substantial glory that is God Himself. As such, God could not create without ordering all things to His extrinsic glory. He is free, nonetheless, to choose any universe with any extrinsic glory, because extrinsic glory is something on which He in no way depends. Extrinsic glory, however, is a consequence of creation and at the same time is the last created end of creatures. For in attaining its ultimate intrinsic perfection, a creature attains that participation in and manifestation of God's goodness to which it is ordered by God as a part of the total universe. In this way the creature's own intrinsic perfection is really the same as the extrinsic glory of God.

See Also: glory (in the bible).

Bibliography: Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 190350) Tables générales 1:1817. e. pax, ed. h. fries, Handbuch theologischer Grundbegriffe (Munich 196263) 1:680685. m. flick and z. alszeghy, Il creatore: L'inizio della salvezza (2d ed. Florence 1961); "Gloria Dei," Gregorianum, 36 (1955) 361390. p. j. donnelly, "St. Thomas and the Ultimate Purpose of Creation," Thological Studies, 2 (1941) 5383; "The Vatican Council and the End of Creation," ibid. 4 (1943) 333. d.-j. ehr, The Purpose of the Creator and of Creatures according to John of St. Thomas (Techny, Ill. 1961). g. padoin, Il fine della creazione nel pensiero di S. Tommaso (Rome 1959).

[d. j. ehr]