Thus, today, I find myself disappointed once again. In his latest post he refers to the prominent view (particularly in Reformed circles) that God is concerned with His own glory. His post is filled with unfair characterizations such as this one:
Let me be clear that of course the Bible says it is our obligation to love, praise, and worship God, but this is a very different matter from the suggestion that God worships himself, is deeply worried about whether he has enough glory or not, and his deepest motivation for doing anything on earth is so that he can up his own glory quotient, or magnify and praise himself.
It's funny, I'm not sure I've heard any proponents of the view he is opposing (John Piper, for example) who argue that God worships Himself (though I realize I haven't read everything on this topic). I'm also not sure I've come across any that paint the picture of God as sitting around worrying about this. Lastly, I know that I've never seen anyone argue that God is trying to "up his own glory quotient." Such condescending drivel is unbecoming of a first rate scholar.
Obviously this issue is too large for a short treatment here, but I want to point out two things from his post that caused me to scratch my head. First, on Philippians 2:5-11, he writes,
If the Son is the very image and has the same character as the Father, wouldn't we expect this text to say--'who being in very nature God, devised a plan to glorify himself through his incarnation' if God really is so self-referential? In other words 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.
What I find so confusing, especially coming from a NT scholar (who has written a commentary on Philippians, no less) is the complete lack of contextual reading. What we see in vv6-11 is a Cliff Notes version of Christ's story, which ends with this (9-11, NET):
As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow– in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.The passage doesn't end with Jesus' act of self-sacrificial love (though that is clearly an indispensable portion of the story), it culminates in God performing an action (exalting Jesus and giving Him a name above all names) and man performing an action (bowing and confessing that Jesus is Lord) resulting in God the Father receiving glory! Christ's sacrifice borne out of a heart of love is part of that story, but it is not the full story. The story doesn't end until God the Father is properly glorified!
Which leads me to my second criticism: Witherington acts as if those who propose the view that God is concerned with His own glory have no place for God being motivated by His love for His people. While I'm sure there are some who may minimize this too much, most will certainly give it its due. No one denies that Jesus died out of love for sinners. I agree that it would be wrong to say that Jesus' death on the cross is merely a means to an end of glorifying God (though it does do that, right!?!?!). And when Witherington writes "God it would appear is not merely a glory grabber, but rather a glory giver", I say "Amen!" God being motivated to act out of love is not incompatable with being motivated for His own glory.
Finally, I'd recommend you read Ezekiel 36 (among other places, another commentor on Witherington's post mentions Isaiah 48 as well), in particular vv22-23:
Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake that I am about to act, O house of Israel, but for the sake of my holy reputation which you profaned among the nations where you went. I will magnify my great name that has been profaned among the nations, that you have profaned among them. The nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the sovereign Lord, when I magnify myself among you in their sight."