Some Thoughts on “Divine Selfishness” from the Mind of C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis provides a great explanation to the accusation that God’s love must be selfish if God seeks it for His own glory when Lewis says,

What is called selfish love among men is lacking with God. He has no natural necessities, no passion, to compete with His wish for the beloved’s welfare. . . . A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell. But God wills our good, and our good is to love Him.[1]

Lewis’ point is not that God needs our worship, but that God’s desire in making us is for worship.

God of mere miracle has made Himself able so to hunger and created in Himself that which we can satisfy. If He requires us, the requirement is of His own choosing.[2]


God has infinite glory without our existence; yet He has made us for the purpose of glorifying Him. That is His desire for humanity. And this desire for our worship (which is what many claim is God’s selfishness) is actually for our good.

God’s love, far from being caused by goodness in the object, causes all the goodness which the object has, loving it first into existence and then into real, though derivative, lovability. God is Goodness. He can give good, but cannot need or get it. In that sense all His love is, as it were, bottomlessly selfless by very definition; it has everything to give and nothing to receive.[3]

If He who in Himself can lack nothing chooses to need us, it is because we need to be needed.[4]

God does act for the purpose of and desires His own praise and glory, but His doing so is not selfish. Besides having the right to do so, we cannot complain, for it is only beneficial to us. This is what John Piper calls “Christian Hedonism”: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”[5]

When we want to be something other than the thing God wants us to be, we must be wanted what, in fact, will not make us happy. Those Divine demands . . . In fact marshal us where we want to go if we knew what we wanted.[6]

Our salvation and sanctification is for God’s glory. And we know this is true, that our salvation which includes our sanctification (Rom 8:29-30; Phil 1:6) is all for “the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph 1:6). It may seem strange to think of the purpose of salvation does not revolving around those being saved but God who is saving. But it is true: the purpose of salvation is God’s glory. However, in addition to the purpose of our salvation being to glorify God, our salvation has another purpose that brings about that greater purpose–our sanctification towards Christlikeness. In other words, it is not that God’s desire to be glorified is at all selfish, for this is done by our salvation and sanctification which are both gracious actions. The means that His goal is gracious to us. Furthermore, this dependency of ourselves in Him is that His joy may be in us, and that our joy may be full (John 15:11). What a relationship!

God never pursues His glory at the expense of the good of His people, nor does He ever seek our good at the expense of His glory. He has designed His eternal purpose so that His glory and our good are inextricable bound together.[7]

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[1]C.S. Lewis, The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics: The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2002), 577.

[2]Ibid., 576.

[3]Ibid., 576.

[4]Ibid., 576. Now, please note that Lewis goes too far in saying God needs us, for if God did not need us prior to our creation He surely doesn’t need us at all.

[5]John Piper, We Want You to Be a Christian Hedonist!, http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/we-want-you-to-be-a-christian-hedonist

[6]C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 577.

[7]Jerry Bridges, Trusting God, 25-26.

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Originally posted on former blog, I’m Calling Us Out.

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