I recently found Robin Mark’s book Warrior Poets of the 21st Century in a bin of free books outside one of Edinburgh’s used bookshops, and I started reading it today. It’s an easy read, and says some useful things to help us orient our minds concerning worship. Well, the first 60 pages, anyway. In chapters 3 and 4, Mark (of ‘Days of Elijah’ and Revival in Belfast fame) identifies four reasons why we should worship God:
- It’s what we were made for.
- It’s what this world is all about.
- It’s because of the ownership of God.
- It’s because it’s for our own good and the communities around us. (see p. 60 for list)
I am not going to dispute Mark’s four reasons for worshipping God. They are all good reasons, if you ask me. There is a fifth that hasn’t emerged in the book yet — maybe it will in the pages to come. This fifth reason strikes me as the most important reason of all:
- It’s because God is worthy of it.
This question goes to the heart of Who God is and the foundations of our relationship to Him. Many critics of the Judaeo-Christian theology of God and worship criticise the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because only a selfish, narcissistic jerk would require worship. The argument that He made us to worship Him doesn’t really address this concern — what kind of a self-absorbed person creates something in order to be worshipped by it?
The first thing to set in order concerning many of the misotheist arguments is that God is not a man. In this instance, not even not male — not human. The Divinity is completely different from human beings. When we say He is transcendent, that’s what we’re getting at. He is not just a man only bigger; that would be a god, like Jupiter, the sort of divine being we invent. The God of the Bible is holy because He is wholly other. His thoughts are as far from ours as the heavens are from the earth. Earth is his footstool, heaven his throne. His ways are not our ways.
God is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent.
He is everywhere, this immanence being part of his transcendence.
The Christian conception of God, through prayer, worship, and searching of the Scriptures, has discovered the unfathomable truth that God is a Trinity of persons who, in the philosophical and theological language with which we feebly try and express the inexpressible, exist in perfect unity because they have a single substance. God is one and three at the same time. This is, indeed, not strictly logical by the rules of creation — but somehow it makes sense, and helps the world make sense.
If you want a good sense of what sort of God we’re dealing with and why He ought to be worshipped, I recommend A. W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy.
So. Thus God. God is not one of us. He is above and beyond all of creation.
By the nature of worship, God is worthy of it.
Since I’m a bit obsessed with the Oxford English Dictionary, here’s the etymology of ‘worship’, which first appears c. AD 888:
Worth + ship = worship. -ship, if you’re curious, is defined thus:
1. Added to adj[ective]s. and pa[st]. p[artici]ples. to denote the state or condition of being so-and-so.
2. Added to n[oun]s. to denote the state or condition of being what is expressed by the n[oun].
By 1200, the noun has become the verb, whose current (2015) primary definition in the OED is:
To honour or revere as a supernatural being or power, or as a holy thing; to regard or approach with veneration; to adore with appropriate acts, rites, or ceremonies.
In worship, we are honouring God as He is worthy. At a certain level, this is simply basic manners, isn’t it? I mean, we are expected to treat other humans as they are worthy of being treated. So we honour our parents, treat waiters and waitresses with basic respect, do as our bosses tell us, obey laws, are respectful to judges, and so forth.
If God, then, is as I’ve described (and so much more, so much better!), how could we not worship him? It strikes me that worship is simply the basic response we have in relation to the Divine Person(s).