Thursday, April 21, 2011

Larry David - More Like God Than Ted Danson (This Time, at Least)

A few years ago, the television show Curb Your Enthusiasm ran an episode called "The Anonymous Donor," where Larry David donated money to a children's hospital (or some sort of charity) and they named a wing of the hospital after him. Meanwhile, at the grand opening, someone else had donated a wing of the facility as well, only this donation was done "anonymously." Larry becomes agitated when it becomes clear that this anonymous donor is upstaging him, since everyone sees the anonymous donation as being more noble than Larry's publicized donation. The funny part of the episode was that Ted Danson was quietly telling everyone that he was actually the anonymous donor, which only caused everyone to praise Ted even more highly. If you've ever watched Curb (and I'm not saying that you should), then you will know that predictable Larry confronts Ted and tells him what a dirtbag he is for donating the hospital wing anonymously while a crowd of people just stares at him incredulously.

What caused me to think about this was the idea of philanthropy which was raised in a brief but helpful section in Geerhardus Vos' Biblical Theology.
"God is not a philanthropist who likes to do good in secret without its becoming known; His delight is in seeing Himself and His perfections mirrored in the consciousness of the religious subject. No compromise is possible here" (p 235).
So in one sense, Larry David is more like God, strictly speaking, in this episode of Curb than Ted Danson was, because God is not interested in doing good without his goodness being recognized and rejoiced in. Ultimately, everything is a manifestation of God's desire to be known and rejoiced in by His creatures. In other words, God is not strictly altruistic. When He does good, it is for a selfish reason - a glorious, selfish reason which promotes His glory and our own happiness.

However, lets temper these thoughts by recalling, as Jonathan Edwards argued, that this is not selfishness, strictly speaking because it actually is God extending the kindness of communion with Himself to a needy, hungry, and lonely creation which is badly in need of the Creator's touch. So everybody wins. Humanity's yearning for communion with God is met, and the Creator is glorified by being rejoiced in because of it.

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