shared glory

In a recent discussion about Catholicism, someone told me that she disagrees with the position of the Virgin Mary in Catholicism because “God does not share His glory,” and to back that up there’s a passage in Isaiah where God says something to that effect. From curiosity, I googled that exact phrase and came up with about 26,000 hits (well, now 26,001 because I posted it too) so I assume it’s fairly common.

I plugged this concept into my “God as an author” model.

Let’s say you meet your favorite author. You’ve read all his books and you love several of his characters; you’ve written fanfic and you follow his blog and you read anything about him you can get your hands on. Finally you’re face to face, and you say, “Mr. Smith, you are the best author ever!”

Mr. Smith says, “Why, thank you!”

You go on, “I love everything you’ve ever written! It’s awesome! It’s the best writing ever!”

Now Mr. Smith says, “What was your favorite book?”

You reply, “Oh, I don’t want to sully my praise by talking about your books. I just want to keep telling you what a grand writer you are, and how wonderfully you use nouns and verbs, and how skillfully you employ your adjectives.”

Mr. Smith says, “Oh, okay. What was your favorite sentence?”

You say, “It would only detract from your brilliance as a writer to discuss your best sentences.”

If you’re a writer yourself, you already want to strangle this theoretical fan. I think “God does not share his glory,” when used as a blunt object to prevent people from honoring the saints, does something similar.  Humankind (in the Christian and Jewish worldview) is the pinnacle of material creation. We are placed a little less than the angels and told to be stewards over the earth.

The “no sharing glory” crowd would seem to say it’s okay to praise a flower, but not a human being, even though Jesus says a human being is worth more than many flowers.

God made us. God isn’t insecure.  I think God likes it when we recognize the beauty and the cleverness and the sweetness of what He made. It’s okay to talk about it. It’s okay to tell Him about it. Because just as praising the book is indirectly praising the writer, isn’t praising the created thing a way of praising the creator?

What author wouldn’t want you to sit down with him and say, “When Raphael had to make that choice, my heart was in my throat.Later on, when I faced that kind of choice, I remembered what he did, and I was able to follow through too”?

God made humans to be in a community. It’s okay to honor one another, even others from long ago, as long as we know who gave us the things we’re honoring in the first place.


  1. cricketB

    That reminds me of thank-you letters in this house.

    “Dear Grandma, Thank you for the book.” (I put it on my shelf where it collects dust.)

    “Dear Grandma, Thank you for the book. I read it by flashlight under the covers. I want to know what happens in the next book.”

    “Dear Grandma, Thank you for the book. I couldn’t put it down until Frodo reached Rivendell. Gandalf reminds me of Grandpa. Sister would like Arwyn.”

  2. littlehouseofpenguins

    Hmm, an interesting thought. I’ve actually never heard that argument about Mary. What I’ve heard more often is the “we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

    What I find a more compelling argument for why Mary isn’t perfect is the idea that humans, by their very natures, are imperfect. We have a tendency to sin. If one human could do it, then why can’t we all? Why would/should she be the only non-sinner in the history of mankind? (Unless you believe in the theory that her maternal line didn’t sin, all the way back… although Eve sinned, so I’m unclear on how that worked anyway.) And if she never sinned, doesn’t that mean that Jesus’s sacrifice wasn’t for her, that she did it all by herself?

    That said, I do agree that it’s okay to praise humans. I don’t think a human has to be perfect or without sin to be worthy of praise. William Wilberforce is such a man in my estimation. He certainly wasn’t perfect (his way of getting his Parliament seat would be considered scandalous in our day, although it’s how it worked in his day), but the choices he made and his contributions to the world at the expense of his health, time, money, and reputation were definitely worth lauding. *All* of creation is worthy of praise. Just looking at anatomy and how so many tiny parts of the human body work together so perfectly… God does His work well. 🙂

    1. Ivy

      Of course Mary wasn’t perfect. She was a weaver, and (horrors!) practiced naalbinding. If she were perfect, she’d have knit. 😉

      Silliness aside, Abraham was also considered to be free of sin.

    2. 321liftoff

      The best explanation I’ve heard is that all of us have been saved by Christ. Mary was saved by being prevented from walking into the mudpit. The rest of us have to be drug out.

      Having a perfect mother certainly would make the family life much easier!

      1. philangelus

        I don’t know – think about it: “Your mother is a SAINT and you can’t even make your own bed in the mornings?!?” LOL!

        Mary too was saved by Christ. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception says it was done in a different way than the rest of us were saved, but it was definitely through His power and His sacrifice.

  3. Pat

    That makes perfect sense, Jane. I like the analogy – it would be silly indeed to refuse to praise the book because that takes away from praising the writer!

    If someone tells me that my children are so polite, and such a joy to be with, I don’t think “Well, gee, I put a lot of effort into raising my kids, why don’t you say something good about ME?” Someone who says that *is* saying something good about me!

  4. Colleen

    I really like this post. A different way of answering that question. Have you heard the sun and moon one? Mary is like the moon. She has no light of her own. She receives it from the sun (Son) and reflects that light. We all love the moon, We think it is beautiful. But it gets its beauty from the sun (SON).
    You have won a copy of my book! I will be contacting you for your mailing address! God bless!