Platt really shows his Reformed cards throughout the book when he discusses his understanding of God’s motivations for saving the world. After citing Ezekiel 36, Platt goes on to say, “What a statement! God goes so far as to say that when he acts among his people, he doesn’t show his grace, mercy, and justice for their sake but for the sake of his holy name among the nations.” (68).
There is much to be said about this, but one of the conclusions one must come to when Platt’s words are traced throughout his book is that the God he worships is a God who is self-centered and self-serving – He’s a God who seeks his own glory above everything else and is self-referenced in all of His actions. Indeed, Platt even says this, “God centers on himself.” (71)
The problem is, when I look at Jesus on the cross, I see there a God who took on shame, not glory. I see a God who acted in love for sinners. I see a God who gave up his own glory for death.
Platt would criticize my understanding of Jesus’ death, to be sure. Beginning on page 70, pay attention here(!), Platt argues that, “‘God loves me’ is not the essence of biblical Christianity. Because if ‘God loves me’ is the message of Christianity, then who is the object of Christianity?….me.”
Now, here’s the thing: First of all, I understand that we have a very self-referenced understanding of Christianity. And this self-referenced understanding needs to be criticized and we need to repent of our “me” focused religion. But this is much different than what Platt is arguing.
For when I say, “God loves me,” who cares if I’m the object? Because God is the subject! It doesn’t take glory away from God for him to love me. It doesn’t take away his centrality to the gospel story for him to love me! Rather, it magnifies it! I didn’t love him first, he loved me first! I didn’t make the move toward knowing him, he made the move toward saving me! Yes, I am the object of God’s affection! But God is the subject of the sentence and the subject of creation and redemption! Let’s stop laying this either/or game. God is both glorious and great. And God loves me enough to give up that glory for me and you and all of creation. That’s what love means – it is self-giving and finds glory in the ‘other’!
In the end, Platt wants to argue that God is the object of God’s affection and love, not me.
This is a really complicated discussion that I will take up in the final section of my review. But in the end, it’s just another one of his false dichotomies. God loving me and God seeking to make his name great among the nations are not antithetical. In fact, quite the opposite, it is through his great love for me/us that he makes his name great among the nations…so that he might love them too, and they might love him! His love for us does not put the focus on us. His love for us puts the focus on his self-giving (not self-serving!) nature! There’s no theological reason for Platt to separate God’s love and His glory. Neither his love nor his glory end with us; they are always to be offered to the world for the sake of His great name and love being given to all people. (Please see my final section, “What was missing” for further reflections on this subject.