What is the purpose of history?
Okay, so the question might be a bit overbroad at first brush. But it’s a serious question, and it has serious implications for theology.
Is the purpose of history the salvation of man? Or of creation at large? If so, the Scriptures are a story about man, rather than God, and salvation must take center stage in our reading, thinking, and living. But if this is so, how are we to explain the many statements within the Scriptures that state God’s purpose is God’s glory?
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. -1 Corinthians 10:31
So the point of history is the glory of God. But what is this glory? The dictionary defines glory as:
Exaltation, praise, or honour, as that accorded by general consent the glory for the exploit went to the captain 2 something that brings or is worthy of praise (esp in the phrase crowning glory) 3 thanksgiving, adoration, or worship glory be to God 4 pomp; splendour the glory of the king’s reign 5 radiant beauty; resplendence the glory of the sunset 6 the beauty and bliss of heaven -Collins English Dictionary, 8th Edition
So, then, is God concerned with showing his power, or splendor, or worth? Is God mostly interested in receiving praise? This presents us with another problem: If God’s primary concern is in getting praise, then God is, himself, self-centered. And yet… God love the world by giving his only Son to redeem us from our sins. How does this selfless love coincide with a God who only gives in order to gain praise?
We should know, by now, to be careful with what the dictionary says about a word, particularly a word of such crucial importance as this one. Instead, we need to turn to the Scriptures.
For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. -Romans 3:22-25
If the glory of God is all about praising God, then how can humans fall short of praising God because of sin?
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. -Romans 5:2
Something isn’t quite right here –the Glory of God can’t be “glory” in the sense provided above. So what is the Glory of God?
There is another definition that makes sense in the context of the Scriptures above, and also makes sense out of human history.
The Glory of God is the sum total of God’s personality.
We fall short of the standard of God, which is based on his character. We can rejoice in the hope of God’s character.
What is the implication of seeing God’s glory in this way? In this way, we can see that the purpose of history is to show God’s faithfulness, his mercy, his justice, and all of the rest of his character. In seeing glory in this way, we can see that history is arranged so that God’s mercy is shown through the salvation of men and the redemption of his Creation. This definition places the proper weight on God’s praise and the importance of man’s salvation within the larger scheme of history.