Interviewed by Andy Naselli
Chris Morgan is Associate Dean of the School of Christian Ministries and Professor of Theology at California Baptist University. He is author or editor of several books, and it’s the last of these that we discuss below:
- Christopher W. Morgan, Jonathan Edwards and Hell (Fearn, Scotland: Mentor, 2004).
- Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, eds., Hell under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004).
- Christopher W. Morgan and B. Dale Ellenburg, James: Wisdom for the Community (Focus on the Bible; Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2008).
- Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, eds., Faith Comes by Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism (Downers Grove: IVP, 2008).
- Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, eds., Suffering and the Goodness of God (Theology in Community; Wheaton: Crossway, 2008).
- Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, What Is Hell? (Basics of the Faith Series; Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2010). (Cf. my summary.)
- Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, eds., The Glory of God (Theology in Community; Wheaton: Crossway, 2010).
1. What motivated you to put together this book?
My good friend and co-editor Robert Peterson (professor of systematic theology at Covenant Theological Seminary) and I have rejoiced that pastors, students, and church leaders alike are increasingly pointing to the glory of God as their ultimate purpose. But as we hear people discuss this monumental truth, we cannot help but wonder: how many really understand what the glory of God means? Or will “the glory of God” become a cliché—much like “the love of God” to the previous generation, for whom too often love was reduced to sentimentality? The Glory of God strives to clarify this biblical theme, which is so central not only to the biblical story but to our overall theology and practice.
2. Summarize each of the chapters of The Glory of God in one sentence. (I’ll preface each sentence with the chapter’s author and title.)
- Stephen J. Nichols, “The Glory of God Present and Past”: Steve’s creative essay explores the theology and function of the glory of God in three contemporary theologians: Charles Ryrie, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and John Piper; it also shows their theological roots in the ideas of the church fathers, Jonathan Edwards, and C. S. Lewis.
- Tremper Longman III, “The Glory of God in the Old Testament”: Tremper’s foundational essay examines the vocabulary of glory and the teachings on glory in all major OT sections, and it shows how God’s glory is related to key OT concepts as exodus, wilderness, judgment, tabernacle, ark, temple, creation, battles, Israel, etc.
- Richard R. Melick Jr., “The Glory of God in the Synoptic Gospels, Acts, and the General Epistles”: Rick’s careful essay treats a variety of key texts, underscores the glory of God surrounding Jesus’ birth, transfiguration, and second coming, and points to the glory of God and its significance for understanding Jesus’ identity, the church’s suffering, and worship.
- Andreas J. Köstenberger, “The Glory of God in John’s Gospel and Revelation”: Like the other exegetical chapters, Andreas capably examines all of the central passages related to glory in his material; along the way, he unpacks some wonderful truths about glory: Jesus’ glory as the one and only Son, glory and Jesus’ signs, glory and the Trinity, the cross, the throne room, angels, and New Jerusalem.
- Richard B. Gaffin Jr., “The Glory of God in Paul’s Epistles”: Dick focuses on how the glory of God functions in Paul’s theology and insightfully points to the gospel-glory of Christ, Christ as the image-glory of God, and our conformity to the image-glory of Christ.
- Christopher W. Morgan, “Toward a Theology of the Glory of God”: My chapter tries to tie together and build on these previous and insightful exegetical chapters; it addresses the various meanings of glory in the Bible, points to an overall theology of God’s glory, uncovers some surprising tensions related to it, and then depicts how God’s glory is central to the biblical story and our salvation.
- Bryan Chapell, “A Pastoral Theology of the Glory of God”: Bryan drives home these truths by encouraging pastors to view their ministry in light of the glory of Christ’s three-fold offices: prophet, priest, and king.
- J. Nelson Jennings, “A Missional Theology of the Glory of God”: Nelson freshly instructs us on how God’s global purposes can help us think better about God’s glory, and then he passionately urges us to participate in God’s mission.
3. Your chapter, “Toward a Theology of the Glory of God,” helpfully synthesizes and builds on the five that precede it. What are the various senses in which the Bible speaks of the glory of God?
At a basic level, it is helpful to notice that the glory of God is sometimes used in the Bible as an adjective, sometimes a noun, and sometimes a verb. God is glorious (adjective), reveals his glory (noun), and is to be glorified (verb).
More particularly, the Bible speaks of the glory of God in several distinct senses:
- Glory may designate God himself (2 Pet. 1:17).
- Glory sometimes refers to an internal characteristic, attribute, or a summary of attributes of God. Scripture regularly depicts God as intrinsically glorious in the sense of fullness, sufficiency, majesty, beauty, and splendor.
- Glory may refer to God’s presence (Exod. 3-4; 13–14; 16:7; 20; 24; 32-34; 40:34-38, etc.).
- Glory may refer to the display of God’s attributes, perfections, or person. God glorifies himself in displaying himself. As he puts his works on display, he glorifies himself. His mercy, grace, justice, and wrath are all displayed in salvation and judgment (cf. Rom. 9:20–23; Eph. 2:4–10).
- Glory may refer to the ultimate goal of the display of God’s attributes, perfections, or person. Exodus and Ezekiel, for example, are replete with passages that unfold God’s actions for the sake of his name, or in order that people will know he is the Lord. Paul points out that God chooses, adopts, redeems, and seals us “to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). That is, in saving us, God displays his grace; and in displaying his grace, he brings glory to himself.
- Glory sometimes connotes heaven, the heavenly, or the eschatological consummation of the full experience of the presence of God (cf. Heb. 2:10; Phil. 4:19; Rom. 2:7; 1 Tim. 3:16; etc.).
- Giving glory to God also may refer to responding appropriately to God in the form of worship, exaltation, or exultation (cf. Psalm 29:2; Luke 2:9, 14, 20; doxologies; etc.).
4. What’s the difference between what you call God’s intrinsic and extrinsic glory, and why is this important?
The glory of the triune God is both intrinsic and extrinsic. God is intrinsically glorious, in the sense of fullness, sufficiency, majesty, honor, worth, beauty, weight, and splendor. God’s glory is then extrinsically set forth, as John Calvin memorably puts it: “The world was no doubt made, that it might be a theatre of the divine glory.” Because of God’s gracious communication, his glory is something that may be seen, marveled at, and rejoiced in.
This is important for several reasons, but one example may be helpful. People have offered many different definitions of glory. Some highlight God’s presence, others see the intrinsic glory as an attribute, or as some sort of summary of his attributes, or even more broadly as God’s holiness, essence, or nature. Some sort of holistic or macro approach to understanding the intrinsic nature of God’s glory becomes necessary, however, because the Scripture plainly links the extrinsic display of God’s glory to a variety of God’s attributes and works, as well as to terms that stress his very person and nature.
Put differently, if the display of God’s power is a display of his glory, if a display of God’s holiness is a display of his glory, and if his presence is a central meaning of his glory, then God’s intrinsic glory must be something broad enough to cover such wide-ranging depictions.
Further, much biblical data suggests that God’s intrinsic glory is broader than a single attribute. It corresponds with his very being and sometimes functions as a sort of summation of his attributes.
5. What is the relationship between God’s glory and our salvation?
From our vantage point, the story of our salvation as it relates to glory is this: as humans we all refused to acknowledge God’s glory and instead sought our own glory. Through this we forfeited the glory God intended for us as his image-bearers. By his grace and through union with Christ, the perfect image, God restores us as full image-bearers to participate in and reflect the glory we longed for the whole time. Thus, we are recipients of glory, are undergoing transformation through glory, and will be sharers of glory. Our salvation is not merely from sin but is also unto glory. What grace we have received: we who exchanged the glory of God for idols, we who rebelled against God’s glory, have been, are being, and will be completely transformed by the very glory we despised and rejected. Even more, through union with Christ, together we are the church, the new humanity (Eph. 2:11–22; 4:11–16; 4:20–24), the firstfruits of the new creation, bearing God’s image, displaying how life ought to be, and making known the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10–11).
From an even broader vantage point, salvation history is the story of the intrinsically glorious God graciously and joyfully communicating his fullness, chiefly through his creation, image-bearers, providence, and redemptive acts. As his people we respond by glorifying him, and in this God receives glory. Further, through uniting us to the glorious Christ, the perfect image of God, God shares his glory with us. And all of this redounds to his glory, as God in his manifold perfections is exhibited, known, rejoiced in, and prized. In this sense, the entire biblical plot—creation, fall, redemption, and consummation—is the drama of God’s glory.
6. The Glory of God is the second book in Crossway’s Theology in Community series. What characterizes this new series, and what are some forthcoming volumes in it? (Readers can view the short series preface here.)
The books in our new Theology in Community series strive to address historic and current theological issues. We not only follow a sound theological method, but we also display it. As such chapters addressing the Old and New Testaments on the book’s subject form the heart of each volume. Other chapters synthesize the biblical teaching and link it to contemporary, historical, philosophical, systematic, pastoral, and missiological concerns.
Far from being mere collections of essays, the volumes are carefully crafted so that the voices of the various experts combine to proclaim a unified message.
Theology in Community also seeks to demonstrate that theology should be done together, by the church and for the church. So we bring together highly qualified evangelicals to research carefully and write clearly on subjects related to their expertise that are central to the people of God. This results in better books than any of us could have written on our own.
Our first volume was Suffering and the Goodness of God. Some of the future ones include:
- The Deity of Christ
- The Kingdom of God
On a side note, last week the Theology in Community series received a wonderful recommendation from D. A. Carson:
I do not know another series quite like Theology in Community. Each volume is grounded in both the Old and New Testaments, and then goes on to wrestle with the way the chosen theme has been developed in history, shaped the lives of men and women, and where it fits in the scheme of confessionally strong Christian theology. The volumes are characterized by rigor and reverence and, better yet, they remain accessible to all serious readers. If we are to pursue more than unintegrated biblical data, but what Paul calls “the pattern of sound teaching,” this is an excellent place to begin.
7. In addition to the Theology in Community Series, what other writing projects are you working on?
I am working through the final edits of a book I completed: A Theology of James: Wisdom for God’s People (in the new Explorations in Biblical Theology series for P&R). It clarifies the pastoral burden of James, its key themes, and its overall theology.
With my CBU colleague Tony Chute and Robert Peterson, I am co-editing Why We Belong: Stories of Evangelical Unity amidst Denominational Diversity (Crossway). We will address contemporary questions about the state and future of denominations. More importantly, contributors like Gerald Bray, Timothy George, Timothy Tennent, and Bryan Chapell will contribute essays on why and how they promote evangelical unity while they are affiliated with a denomination.
With Ken Easley, I am co-editing The Church (B&H). Similar in structure and goals of the Theology in Community series, it seeks to construct a theology of the church for the church, one that is biblically centered, theologically grounded, historically aware, culturally relevant, and pastorally edifying.
Thanks, Chris, for serving the readers of Justin Taylor’s blog!