There has been something of a debate unfolding in the comments of my previous post, “John Piper on the Calamity in Minneapolis.” The lines of the debate are fairly neatly drawn between those who are determinists and those who are not. The determinists are arguing that God was in control of the collapse of the bridge, and the non-determinists attribute the tragedy to the activity of Satan or some other non-divine source.
One commenter argued that belief in God’s sovereignty over such calamities means that all tragedies would then be nothing more than “the narcissistic expression of an all powerful being.” This comment brought a question to my mind that I will throw out to you the reader.
Is it possible for God to be a “narcissist”? Of course we get our word “narcissist” from Greek mythology, but the term’s meaning in common parlance is “inordinate fascination with oneself.” So the question can be rephrased as follows. Is it possible for God to be inordinately fascinated with Himself? Or as the myth goes, can God be so enraptured with the reflection of His own image that it becomes a vice?
I would argue that the Bible teaches that in this sense it is not possible for God to be a narcissist. God is the only being for whom self-exaltation is not a vice, but a virtue. That God would exalt the beauty of His own perfections for others to admire is the essence of love. That is why you have texts in the scripture that express God’s jealousy concerning His own worship and glory: “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, Nor My praise to graven images” (Isaiah 42:8).
Only with God is self-exaltation a virtue, since He is the first and best of beings, the only One who can satisfy the soul. When sinful humans exalt themselves, it is not loving because it is a distraction from the One who truly can meet the deepest needs of fallen humanity. It is a vice for sinful people to call others to admire them and so to distract them from admiring God.
God is love. Therefore He must exalt Himself so as to draw people into worship. This is not narcissistic because it is no vice for Him to exalt the beauty of His own perfections for His creatures’ enjoyment and blessing.