Mexican Father Mario Arroyo Martinez shared with Exaudi’s readers his weekly article in “Theology for Millennials” entitled “God’s Self-Esteem.”
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I’m transcribing a conversation in my Theology class: “Why did God create the universe?” “Out of love and to manifest His glory” — “Why did He create us?” — “To know Him and to love Him in this life and enjoy him afterward in Heaven” — “What is the end of man’s life?” – “To give glory to God by serving our brothers” — Professor, does God have low self-esteem?” — “No, why do you ask? — “It’s simple: He feels alone and He creates us so that we love Him and give Him glory; it’s as if He needed our love and our glorification, without needing it. People with low self-esteem need to be recognized, to feel loved . . . God does too.”
As you can see, the questions of my Philosophy students aren’t simple. Clearly, God doesn’t have low self-esteem, He doesn’t need to create us, creation is a free and loving act of God. However, how can both things be combined? That is, that God doesn’t “need” to create us, He doesn’t need to manifest His glory. He doesn’t “need” our glory or our love, with the reality that He in fact has done so and His glory is the end of all things, including our life, and, in fact, waits for love on our part.
There are two insufficiencies in the approach — one is anthropological and the other theological. Moreover, it’s guilty of “anthropomorphism” namely to project on God, automatically and “without translation” to say it some way, the human canons. The anthropological insufficiency is simple: the need to be loved is not a sign of low self-esteem; it is a human need. Man’s happiness, as a fundamental appetite of our nature, which even escapes our liberty, consists in loving and in being loved. To be love is, consequently, a basic need of man, without which his essential appetite, the good to which he necessarily tends, happiness, would be frustrated. However, there are normal ways to seek to be loved and pathological ways of doing so, but the desire to be so is innate in our nature.
The theological insufficiency is to apply without further ado human concepts to God, as if there were equally pertinent, forgetting that, God is a mystery in His profundity. What we preach of God is more unlike Him than like Him; of Him, we know more what He is not than what He is. Whatever we affirm of Him is insufficient, because it comes from projecting our human ideas and experiences in a divine reality that, by definition, is not unknown, although sufficiently known to know that it’s radically different from our world and from our way of knowing.
The easy answer to my student’s question is to say to her, simply and plainly: “God is a mystery,” which is equivalent to saying “we don’t know” or, in other terms, not to say anything. Can’t rationality advance a bit more to illumine this legitimate questioning of my student? Finally, it implies a stumbling block for her faith. Then there came to mind the famous sentence of Saint Irenaeus: “The glory of God is the living man; the life of man is the vision of God.”
Perhaps it’s understood with the analogy of the artist. God makes us; we are His masterpiece; we give Him glory with our existence, but more perfectly with what is proper of ourselves: our intelligence and our will when we do so freely. God creates to manifest His glory, and it’s man where that glory reaches its zenith. There lies the theological root of Christian humanism: we are God’s glory, His masterpiece. It’s for us to realize, to recognize it; the vision of God enables us to do so.
In sum, God doesn’t need to create us, but He has done so to manifest His glory. We are the living manifestation of divine glory. That’s our reality; to recognize it implies giving glory to God not only with our existence but with our freedom; in it, we find the fulness of our life, which thus fits perfectly with its meaning and end. This, however, doesn’t imply any lack or fragility in God. God’s self-esteem is guaranteed or, said another way, it’s identified with His glory. What is glory? According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, it’s a “certain clarity that contains in itself beauty and manifestation.”
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester