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Monday, July 06, 2015

You Worship WHAT?

What do you think: worth dying for?
This is interesting.

Debate.org asked the following question: “If there is a god, does that being necessarily deserve worship?”

Get this: 73% said no. Are you surprised?

Probably not. But ignorant as it may be, perhaps the logic and underlying assumptions of the “no” brigade are worth a moment’s consideration.

Here are some of the responses they came up with:
“I don’t see a reason why I should worship someone who brought me into existence for the sole purpose that I have to believe in him.”

“If there truly is an ‘all mighty’ being that created the universe then why would it deserve worship? Do scientists worship the big bang for creating us and everything we know?”

“The only deity possibly worth any form of worship would be one that wouldn’t care whether we did or not in the first place, because it wouldn’t be an egomaniac.”
These readers seem to want God to demonstrate his worth to them intellectually before they are prepared to acknowledge it, the last of them in a most peculiar way. “Prove your worth to me, God, by not caring what I think about you” is a pretty self-defeating request. We should worship God only if he demonstrates himself utterly uninterested in his own creation? Really?

In any case, the questions these folks consistently pose imply God owes them an explanation of some sort. To be acknowledged by them he must first satisfy their curiosity.

The Concept of Worship is Offensive

Further, each of these negative comments evinces varying degrees of offence at the notion of worshiping. Perhaps these individuals find nothing in the universe worthy of regard? Ah, but that’s not the case. Apparently there is one thing worth worshiping, and unsurprisingly it turns out to be … us:
“If anything this being should worship us because we bring meaning to its existence. If there was no us, what would god be? Just a lonely omnipotent being with no meaning.”
So apparently in this sort of mindset there ARE things worthy of worship. God, however, does not appear to be one of them. (Tangentially, if the proper object of worship in our universe ultimately turns out to be the quintessential entitled bratty atheist, I am going to find myself more than a little disappointed. I suspect even the atheist would find it peculiar.)

But let’s not infer too much serious reflection from what is likely nothing more than empty bravado.

The Concept of Worship is Misunderstood

It is also evident that the majority of negative responders view the concept of worship very much in the Islamic mode: taking a position with your face to the ground. That’s actually implicit in the original question, which is illustrated with a photo of a man on his face. Having drunk deeply of the spirit of the age, most of the people responding to the question seem deeply opposed to any gesture which might humble them.

But actually biblical worship and Islamic prostration are quite different, both in motive and mechanics. While some of the groveling is undoubtedly sincere, much Islamic prostration is undeniably a product of peer pressure. Worship of Allah is not always optional, as evidence in the Middle East confirms. It is also very much an external show. It is entirely possible to go through life in Syria, Iran or Turkey as an agnostic or even an atheist so long as one observes the necessary religious exercises. There are even websites dedicated to explaining how to prostrate yourself properly.

Biblical Worship

On the surface, Old Testament worship had one or two things in common with Islam in terms of its ritual and formality, not least in the fact that it was easily faked. But there is nothing contrived or ritualistic about an encounter with the true God.

While there are many examples in scripture of men falling on their face in the presence of God, it is clear that such reactions were entirely unplanned. John says, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead”. He didn’t debate whether God was worthy; his body knew it at the atomic level. “Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord,” says Ezekiel, “And when I saw it, I fell on my face”. He wasn’t troubled his God might be an egomaniac. He wasn’t slowed by any delusions of his own dignity.

We must acknowledge that in the presence of God in heaven there are men who are constantly falling down before his throne. But the very fact that they can fall over and over again tells us something wonderful: that God has made them able to sit and stand in his presence. Their worship is completely voluntary. It is the most natural thing in the world, neither mechanical nor calculating. His worth is abundantly evident and they rejoice in acknowledging it over and over again.

It is this sort of voluntary, intelligent worship of Christ to which believers in the church aspire when we meet together, though we often fall short in practice. We aim to see him as he is through the eye of faith and, like those elders in heaven, to respond accordingly.

So far, then, the Christian mode of worship is either a spontaneous act brought on by the exceedingly rare encounter with the presence of God himself in this earthly sphere, or a voluntary and enthusiastic heavenly expression such as we see perfected in the book of Revelation (and as we occasionally and gloriously experience when we fellowship together here on earth). It is never mechanical, forced or prompted by fear of men.

Worship as a Lifestyle

But if we leave it here we are failing to complete the New Testament concept of worship, aren’t we. We have not looked at worship in its broadest sense, which is perhaps the only sense in which the commenters at Debate.org can relate to the concept at all.

The Lord Jesus described a change in God’s plan for worship made possible by his incarnation. He said:
“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”
Paul sets out for us how this “true worship” that the Father seeks displays itself both in and outside of church gatherings:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
Thus New Testament worship, on earth at least, involves the whole person and the entirety of life. Worship becomes not a mere external exercise of duty but an act of love resulting from in an inward transformation and evidenced by a change of lifestyle and a refocusing of our affections on what really matters to the One we love. New Testament worship acknowledges the worth of its object by aspiring and endeavoring to give him everything.

Here Comes the Irony …

This one aspect of New Testament worship  the way it permeates all of life  is a mode of religious expression that the naysayers at Debate.org might subconsciously find relatable.

You see, the world knows all about gods, and is forever professing to give its life for those things it deems worthy of its service. A short list of examples:
“Space will be ours! For the glory of Communism!
— Russian poster, 1961

“There are some things worth dying for. I think the country is one of them.”
— Edward Snowden

Life is not worth living if I cannot have pasta or bread again.”
— Monica Seles

“Good writing excites me, and makes life worth living.”
— Harold Pinter

“The is a difference between a society in which sexism is expressed in the form of female infanticide and a society in which sexism takes the form of unequal representation on the Central Committee. And the difference is worth dying for.”
— Barbara Ehrenreich

“If worship of mammon had such an exalted position in national life, the end result might not be entirely unlike today’s England.”
— Savitri Hensman, The Guardian
The sentiment, the commitment and the affection for these various objects of worship are terribly familiar. The only problem is that the chosen objects of worship are all vastly, immeasurably inferior to the living God. Man, though he clearly does not understand it, was made to worship. He simply can’t help himself. The jaded naysayers may only worship themselves, but you can bet they do it with all their energies.

Country or cash, food or feminism, your ideology of choice  people profess to be willing to live or die for such things. These are their gods, and this is how they worship.

And they think Christians are strange!

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