November 22, 2014

iMonk: “Show Me Your Glory?”

Moses and the Burning Bush (detail), Chagall

Moses and the Burning Bush (detail), Chagall

From Michael Spencer’s classic post, Moses Wannabes

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As churches have put more and more emphasis on experience in the corporate worship setting, “glory” language became more common. Revivals are the “glory” of God descending on a church. Manifestations of the Spirit are God’s glory in the midst of his people. Intense and emotional worship experiences are glimpses of God’s glory. The Charismatic/Pentecostal side of evangelicalism is not without stories of God’s visible glory descending in a cloud during a meeting.

This hunger for a repetition of visible glory, and equating personal and corporate experiences with such glory, has made it much easier to sing about the glory of God in the way we encounter in contemporary worship music. We want to see your glory, say the songwriters. Meaning: We want to have an experience that we have labeled “the Glory of God.”

In his book, Before the Face of God, author and theologian Michael Horton demolishes the current resurgence of a gnostic “theology of glory” by reminding us that the glory of God was a traumatic, even deadly experience to sinful humans and even to God’s people. The entire Exodus and Moses narrative teaches the need for a mediator, and it is the New Testament’s affirmation that the glory of God has now come to us in the person of Christ. In fact, an even greater glory than that seen by Moses is now seen in the Gospel.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (II Corinthians 3:18) Here Paul is concluding a chapter that contrasts all the different kinds of visible glory in the Old Covenant with the glory of God revealed in the Gospel. When you read this chapter, you have to wonder….why are modern Christians singing about Old Covenant glory?

The reason is that they are actually singing about their own experiences. What Moses experienced has been equated with what may happen in corporate worship or in the mystical subjectivity of personal spirituality. Moses’ glimpse of glory isn’t the glory that was revealed when Jesus came to be the savior of men (John 1:14) but a glory of another kind- a far less glorious glory, because it is the glory of individual experience.

I can safely assume that Moses, given the choice of the glory of Sinai or the glory of knowing Jesus Christ, would have no trouble choosing. Certainly, Moses would never mistake the glory of any Charismatic worship service for the glory of the Son of God. The “glory” sought after in worship theatrics and music is hardly worthy of the term.

Comments

  1. Chagall is marvelous. His paintings capture the awe, reverence, joy, holy terror and astonishment of God’s presence. The souls of his figures seem about to burst from their bodies.

    • But why does Moses have rabbit ears?

      • Those are columns of light entering in and pouring out – comparable to a halo.

      • Actually, they are “horns,” which comes from a mistranslation of the Hebrew text of Exodus 34:49 in the Vulgate. Here’s the old Douay-Rheims English translation based on the Vulgate: “And when Moses came down from the mount Sinai, he held the two tables of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned from the conversation of the Lord.”

        Artists since Michelangelo have depicted Moses with horns because of this translation.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          In other words, it’s an artistic convention to show it’s Moses.

          (I remember Michelangelo’s famous statue of Moses also has “horns”…)

  2. Michael was the best Secret Christian Decoder Ring ever.

  3. Eugene Peterson makes the point that “this glory must now be reimagined and received and entered into as Jesus reveals it: Jesus ignorable, Jesus unimpressive, Jesus dismissed, Jesus marginal, Jesus suffering, Jesus rejected, Jesus derided, Jesus hung on a cross, and — the final and irrefutable indignity — Jesus dead and buried. All this is included in the context of ‘we beheld his glory.'”