Name That Glory!!

Written by Father Bill No Comments


What is the glory of Paris? The Eiffel Tower, you say? Good answer! Oh, I see. This other fellow says it’s the Arc de Triomphe. Well, okay. There’s no law that says Paris can’t have two glories.

And, so, what is the glory of Athens? The Parthenon! There you go. See? This isn’t such a hard game after all!

What is the glory of Rome? Most folks will say the Coliseum. Or the Seven Hills (though they’re harder to actually see than the Coliseum). No biggie. If Paris can have more than one glory, so can Rome.

How about the glory of Vienna (I used to live there; eat your heart out)? People who’ve never been to Austria might say the Blue Danube. Folks who live there might easily say it’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral smack dab in the center of the city.

You see, when we’re talking about places (at least in English), it is easy to understand “A is the glory of B.” “A” is what comes to mind when we’re speaking of “B.” The glory of a place is what always comes to mind when that place is mentioned. That’s why, in the Old Testament, we find several examples of the cedar tree as the glory of Lebanon.

When we’re speaking of people, however, English speakers don’t often use the formula “A is the glory of B.” However, we have seen that this formula is easily used in the Bible when speaking of people. And, so “strength” is the glory of young men, because strength is what comes to mind when young men are mentioned. Gray heads are the glory of old men, for the same reason – when old men are mentioned, we think immediately of men with gray hair. And, as we’ve seen, skill at psalmistry (composing/singing songs to a plucked instrument such as a lyre or a harp) is the glory of King David in the Old Testament.

Now here is an amazing thing …

I have often presented the subject matter of this and previous blogs in this series, at seminars held in churches or at men’s retreats or similar venues. My students have been able to follow the inductive steps that let them see what “A is the glory of B” means. They can play “Name that Glory!” with complete accuracy.

And then I say, “Okay. We come to 1 Corinthians 11 and Paul tosses off the statement that men are the glory of God and woman is the glory of man. What does each of these phrases mean? Any hands?

No hands!

I wait. Still no one raises his hand. Many puzzled faces look back at me. A few of the faces are not puzzled, but they are suddenly very wary. Many faces go completely blank and unreadable; and long experience has taught me that when this happens in men’s faces, it is because they are alarmed or angry or terrified, and they instinctively grab hold of their emotions and hold them with a very tight rein, refusing to let what’s going on in their hearts show on their faces. It’s a sort of social defensive maneuver, deployed to keep one’s options open.

Why do you suppose this happens? Why does “man [the male, that is] is the glory of God” produce these reactions?

One hundred years ago, I doubt I’d see such reactions. Since the ascendency of feminism beginning in the 1950s through the 1970s, since the dominion of feminist values in politics, economics, academia, and cultural media was consolidated in the 1980s and codified in law and court decisions ever since then, and – most importantly – since evangelicals have more or less made their peace with religious feminism within their own ranks (and, this includes the so-called complementarians), on this side of all these developments over the past 70 years, evangelical men either cannot or will not acknowledge the meaning of “man is the glory of God.”

If they cannot acknowledge the meaning of “man is the glory of God,” it is usually because they are so conditioned against the meaning of that phrase that they are simply incapable of attaching that meaning to the words which convey it.

If they will not acknowledge the meaning of “man is the glory of God,” it is because they know better than to own up to what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 11:7. They know very well how powerful are the deterrents against such an idea, how punitive are the consequences for candidly owning up to Paul’s meaning.

So, let’s put it out on the table and look at it in all its modern scandal: “man is the glory of God.” What this means is this: when God is the subject of our speech or thought, a man comes to mind. A woman does not come to mind (at least not in the Biblical faith!). That is why woman is not the glory of God.

No, it’s a man who comes to mind when Christians speak of God.

When Jesus ministered for three years before He was crucified, the awareness steadily grew in the minds of the religious authorities that this rabbi was saying and doing things that lead inexorably to the conclusion that He was God. And, it because a mere man claimed to be God that Jesus was crucified.

Today, Jesus would be crucified for exactly the opposite claim – that God is a man, not a woman. And, of course, the Apostle Paul would be crucified right alongside him.

We’ll begin to unpack this scandalous meaning of “man is the glory of God” in subsequent blogs. Stay tuned!

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