In the first of Two Dissertations (aka The End for Which God Created the World)*, Jonathan Edwards, arguing that God’s glory is chief end of creation, anticipates several objections to his thesis.
One of these objections, against the idea that God’s chief end in creation is his own glory, is that it is customary to consider “a desire of popular applause” beneath men truly great men. The objection goes,
The notice and admiration of a gazing multitude would be esteemed but a low end, to be aimed at by a prince or philosopher, in any great and noble enterprise. How much more is it unworthy the great God to perform his magnificent works, e.g. the creation of the vast universe, out of regard to the nice and admiration of worms of dust: that the displays of his magnificence may be gazed at and applauded by those who are infinitely more beneath him, than the meanest rabble are beneath the greatest prince or philosopher.
Now Edwards proposes several answers to this objection. For example, he notes if God has an end in view, that end is valuable in and of itself. In other words, the fact that God himself considers his own glory a worthy end itself makes his own glory a good and noble thing. Moreover, if lowly people find something valuable, that does not make the valuable thing invaluable. If God loves himself, he must find others loving him good as well; if he loves his creatures, he must approve of their finding delight in loving God for themselves.
But (if you’re still with me), his third answer is best of all, and it is a very relevant word to our trendiness-crazed society:
As to what is alleged of its being unworthy of great men to be governed in their conduct and achievements by a regard to the applause of the populace: I would observe, what makes their applause to be worthy of so little regard, is their ignorance, giddiness and injustice. The applause of the multitude very frequently is not founded on any just view and understanding of things, but on humor, mistake, folly and unreasonable affections. Such applause is truly worthy to be disregarded. But ’tis not beneath a man of the greatest dignity and wisdom to value the wise and just esteem of others, however inferior to him.
If Edwards is right, and I’m inclined to think that he is, all the religious organizations who, in the name of evangelism, so vigorously clamor after pleasing unregenerate men with cheap and poorly executed imitations of whatever is the latest “relevant” trendy craze in popular culture are guilty of anti-Christian vices.
And we need to be very careful over cultivating religious movements and using marketing that panders to this kind of impulse in men. . . . and I say this, even as I write this on a blog. Keep us, O Lord, from “ignorance, giddiness, injustice,” and “unreasonable affections.”
*I quote from the Yale edition (Volume 8: Ethical Writings; ed. Paul Ramsey), pp. 453-8. You can also find the entire first dissertation in John Piper’s God’s Passion for His Glory.