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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Showing posts with label worship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label worship. Show all posts

Monday, January 22, 2018

Reckless Love and Why Words Matter in Worship



In 1996 the alt-rock band Dishwalla became a one-hit wonder with their catchy “Counting Blue Cars." The song isn't well known by its title as much as its chorus:
We said, "Tell me all your thoughts on God
'Cause I'd really like to meet her.
And ask her why we're who we are."
Tell me all your thoughts on God
'Cause I'm on my way to see her
So tell me, am I very far,
Am I very far now?
When I first heard the song, I remember how it was a bit jarring having the singer refer to God as a woman. We know that God is a spirit; which means he doesn't have male or female chromosomes. In fact, there are many places in scripture that portray God as feminine or motherly. God says in Isaiah 66:13-14 “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you will be comforted in Jerusalem." Hosea 11:3-4 paint a vivid picture of God as a mother cradling and feeding her children, and there are others as well. However, God has also in scripture consistently referred to himself exclusively through male pronouns. He explicitly uses the term father and it is clear that this is the proper way to refer to him. Christians don't write worship songs extolling Mother God.

Is God's Love Reckless?

I offer this example because of a recent trend in worship songwriting I've noticed. Many popular worship songs aren't very careful with their lyrics and how they portray God. One such song that has grown in popularity is the Cory Asbury song “Reckless Love," published by Bethel Music. A lot of people have bristled at the song's hook. Should we caricature God's love as reckless?

I know that other song have tied God's love to negative actions, such as equating it to the destructive power of a hurricane or one drowning in an ocean. I don't believe such word choices are an attempt to make God an evil force. I believe the writers are earnestly trying to describe a feeling of overwhelming awe about God's mercy and power in their lives, though they seem to lack the vocabulary to say it in that way. They cheat a bit and their analogies bring a picture of breaking apart rather than building up. Still, since those are analogies I don't protest too much.

However, when a worship song teaches that one the attributes of God is recklessness, then the issue is more important and we need to think through what this may mean. To be reckless, as it has been defined, is to be "utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action; without caution, careless." Can God be in any way unconcerned with consequences? Can a holy God be without caution? Can a God who has defined himself as the very essence of love be careless? To use the term brings the very defining features of how God has revealed himself to be under question. And given that the worship we sing is a form of teaching in the church, the words we choose in our worship songs fall under the same admonition of James 3:1 and require a greater strictness.

What about the Positive Aspects of Recklessness?

In discussing this with others some have offered a different take on the word reckless. One friend asked :
But what about these:
  • "Giving, utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action; without caution"
  • "Serving, utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action; without caution"
  • "Loving, utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action; without caution"
When taking the term "Reckless Love" and looking at it in the context of the rest of the lyrics, it's clearly used in the positive sense of the word.
I still don't think this works, and here's why. There is a type of giving that is utterly unconcerned about consequences, such as when someone gives an addict a $100 bill or when parents give their children whatever they ask. That is reckless giving because the consequences of those gifts will actually harm the recipient. In giving, Paul teaches us to be intentional (2 Corinthians 9:6-8) and also that the one who doesn't work shouldn't simply be given food (2 Thess. 3:10). So, it isn't careless giving but thoughtful giving. Similarly, one can serve recklessly. It may be as benign as finishing your child's homework or as dangerous as aiding them in covering a crime or enabling an abuser.

In each of the sentences above, the word that may be used is selfless, not reckless. Selflessness means we ourselves feel it when we give or serve yet value others more. But word matter. Recklessness is not selflessness. So my response is:
  • Giving, utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action = spoiling
  • Serving, utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action = aiding and abetting
  • Loving, utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action= dependency
So to describe God's love as reckless reduces God to at best fallible and at worst dependent. Again, I don't believe the writers or the people who sing the song are intending to this, but one cannot reconcile recklessness with a perfect God.

The Importance of Words and Their Meanings

Words are important. Christians recognize this when we discuss issues like homosexual unions. We recognize the word marriage has a specific meaning and that marriage at its core means the joining of a man and a woman. Christians balk at how popular culture seeks to redefine the term to fit their opinion. We would likewise balk at an attempt to label God as transgender simply because he has spoken off himself with motherly tendencies. The word reckless also has a real meaning. When we try to use that attribute of God, we are trying to pour a new meaning into the word, but it then affects the very idea of God to the listener.

I don't think anyone would cheer a worship song that extols God the Mother. Yet, there is more scriptural support for that phrase than there is for God being reckless in any aspect. Let's face it, entitling a song “Reckless Love" is a little bit of clickbait. The writers want people to ponder the incongruity of the phrase. Yet, this is exactly where caution should be exercised more. Accuracy over intrigue, especially when discussing something as central as God's character, is what is called for. Even if I'm wrong, the very fact that so many are concerned about its message should at least caution us to avoid the song for fear that the danger of misrepresentation is a real one (1 Cor. 8:7-13) .

I can sum up my argument in the following sentence: “Reckless Love" delivers reckless theology brought about by a reckless use of language. I don't think anyone can honestly read that sentence and believe that I've just given the song a compliment. And if that's true, perhaps it's time to rethink teaching that God's love is reckless to our congregations.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Atheists Dragging God Down to Our Level



The Christian God is a God who expects worship. I don't think that point is controversial. However, many atheists have offered this fact as some kind of flaw or as an example of a contradiction within the Christian view of God. They see God as some kind of egomaniac since he demands his creation worship him.

One good example is this quote from Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Roddenberry supposedly gave Paramount a script for a Star Trek treatment whereby he sought to tease out the fallibility of the traditional concept of God:
One of the Vulcans on board, in a very logical way, says, 'If this is your God, he's not very impressive. He's got so many psychological problems; he's so insecure. He demands worship every seven days. He goes out and creates faulty humans and then blames them for his own mistakes. He's a pretty poor excuse for a supreme being.1
I've sourced this story back to a 1994 book by Edward Gross, but I cannot find a hard copy to confirm the quote. Still, regardless of whether an actual script was offered, the quote has since turned into a meme promoted by atheists online as one way to show how the biblical God doesn't make sense. But does it show a God who demands worship is insecure? If so, he is hardly worthy to be worshipped as God.

Is God Insecure in Asking for Worship?

I think the objection says a lot more about the objector than it does about God. Firstly, the meme ignores the fact that God is not on the same level as man. Certainly one man demanding worship from another would demonstrate a psychological imbalance, but that's because we recognize the equality of human beings. We also recognize that all human beings are flawed. It is the fact that that other person is not God as to why we their demand for worship as wrong.

On the other hand, God holds certain unique attributes that make it sensible for humans to worship him. One of these is the fact that God is the very essence of goodness. We certainly see the value in acknowledging the good in people. That's why we name streets and celebrate a holiday in Martin Luther King's honor. We don't worship King, but parents will tell their children that it's important to uphold applaud the good that people do. The concept of good should be held in the highest regard. Thus if God is the locus of the good, then he is rightfully exalted for his nature.

Secondly as creator and provider, God should be worshipped. We see this in a smaller way within human relationships, too. Children should honor and respect their loving parents. This is appropriate and children who are defiant of parents who only have their best interests at heart are considered spoiled.

While each of us is indebted to our parents, our indebtedness to God as our creator is of a greater kind. As the author of all life, it was God who not only gave us life, but shaped us into the very individuals we are. He didn't simply stop there, either. He sustains us, blessing us with the ability to breathe moment by moment, gives us the very food we eat, and a rational mind to know Him.

The atheist who claims God is being egomaniacal or insecure by demanding worship has a woefully underdeveloped view of God. God is not simply a bigger, more powerful human. God is different in kind from us, not simply different in degree. Given that even within our own humanity, we see it as logical and right to honor someone for upholding the good and appropriate to give deference to parents and those in authority, then is certainly would be logical to worship a being from whom all goodness derives and by whom we owe every aspect of our existence. If a parent demands such respect from a child (and not demanding such is actually detrimental to the child by spoiling her), then I cannot see the supposed logic of the Vulcan's statement. In fact, it strikes me as illogical to treat a being like God as just another human creature. It's simply one more attempt to drag God down to the atheist's level.

References

1. Gross, Edward, and Mark A. Altman. Great Birds of the Galaxy: Gene Roddenberry & the Creators of Trek. London: Boxtree, 1994. Print. 27.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

How Can You Love God Fully If You Can't Show Jesus' Divinity?



Before the advent of instant communication, separated sweethearts would communicate via handwritten letters. Receiving a note from one's beloved from across the ocean was a source of great joy and comfort and the recipient would pour over the letters, treasuring them and reading them multiple times. Many times the couple actually became more familiar with each other as their thoughts and feelings were transferred to the written word. One could see how his or her beloved thought and which matters they deemed important by their continual exchange.

The New Testament offers the Christian a similar experience as we await the return of our bridegroom, Jesus. Even though we are temporarily separated from him, we are not left without a way to draw closer to him and to know him more intimately.

In their book, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ, Rob Bowman and Ed Komoszewski have given us a wonderful resource for not simply arguing for Jesus's deity with non-Trinitarians, but a way to more deeply experience who Jesus is:
It's easy to be tempted to focus our efforts on making Jesus "relevant" to today's cosmopolitan, postmodern tastes. Non-Christians are becoming increasingly guarded—if not hostile—toward traditional Christian beliefs. By emphasizing Jesus' humanity, some Christians are, indeed, bending over backward to make Christianity-and Christ himself-more "approachable" They may not deny the deity of Jesus, but in practical terms his humanity overwhelms his deity. In the end, though, a lack of appreciation of Jesus' identity as God makes him less approachable. As New Testament scholar Grant Osborne warns, some of us have lost the holy reverence and awe that we should have toward Jesus:
Christians are guilty of the syndrome "Your Jesus is too small." We have made Jesus our "big brother" and "friend" to such an extent that we have lost the sense that he is also our sovereign Lord. We must recapture capture the realization that he too is our God and worthy of worship at the deepest level."
If we are to experience a healthy relationship with God, we need to be intimately acquainted with the biblical teaching about the divine identity of Jesus. This involves more than merely knowing about, and agreeing with, the doctrine of the deity of Christ, though that is certainly essential. It must become come more to us than a line we say in a creed. We need to know what it means to say that Jesus is God and why it matters. We need to see Jesus as God. We need to think about Jesus and relate to him in the full light of the truth of his identity. We need to appreciate the significance of his divine identity for our relationships with God and others. 1
I've written before on Putting Jesus in His Place and the HANDS argument therein. This is an important book that you should pick up if you don't yet own it.

References

1. Robert Bowman and J. Ed Komoszewski. Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (Kindle Locations 135-149). Kindle Edition.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?



Last December, a Wheaton College professor ignited a firestorm when she created a Facebook post including a statement that Muslims and Christians "worship the same God." This exposed a very interesting debate that has gone on within Christendom for some time with devote Christians and good thinkers coming down on both sides of the issue.

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? The question may not be as easy as it first appears. Certainly, there are vast differences in the way each faith understands the nature and attributes of God. Jews and Christians hold to a God that is all-loving and who revealed himself through the Old Testament prophets and writings. Christians would go on to distinguish God as a Triune being, one who is three in persons but single in essence. Muslims would reject these descriptions.

However, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam do share some beliefs about God. Each of the faiths are monotheistic in what can be termed a classically theistic way. That is, each understands God as a being who is eternal, self-existing, and necessary. There is no conceivable universe where God does not exist, for any possible universe must have its origin in God. Realize by defining God this way, one defines God as a unique being, distinct from everything else. There can only be one necessary being. So if each faith points to the necessary being as their God, doesn't that mean we worship the same God?

Getting God's Properties Wrong

Philosopher Francis Beckwith argues that we must be talking about the same being. At his blog, Beckwith argues that while Muslims may get many properties attributed to God wrong, that in itself doesn't invalidate the fact they are referring to the God recognized by Christians and Jews. He explains:
But doesn't Christianity affirm that God is a Trinity while Muslims deny it? Wouldn't this mean that they indeed worship different "Gods"? Not necessarily. Consider this example. Imagine that Fred believes that the evidence is convincing that Thomas Jefferson (TJ) sired several children with his slave Sally Hemings (SH), and thus Fred believes that TJ has the property of "being a father to several of SHs children." On the other hand, suppose Bob does not find the evidence convincing and thus believes that TJ does not have the property of "being a father to several of SHs children."

Would it follow from this that Fred and Bob do not believe that the Third President of the United States was the same man? Of course not. In the same way, Abraham and Moses did not believe that God is a Trinity, but St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Billy Graham do. Does that mean that Augustine, Aquinas, and Graham do not worship the same God as Abraham and Moses? Again, of course not. The fact that one may have incomplete knowledge or hold a false belief about another person – whether human or divine – does not mean that someone who has better or truer knowledge about that person is not thinking about the same person.1

Distorting God Beyond Recognition

I appreciate Beckwith's point. Are Christians willing to say that Abraham didn't worship the same God we do because he wouldn't have ascribed the property "Trinity" to him? Yet, I don't think his analogy is quite correct. The Trinity is not the only aspect of God where there is division. The points at which Fred and Bob disagree about Jefferson are not substantial to describing the third president one way or the other. However, if Fred held that TJ was born in Virginia in 1743 and wrote the Declaration of independence while Bob held that TJ was born in Chicago in 1920 and played a trumpet, then it is his assumption that he is speaking about the third president of the U.S. that is in error. There are too many points of difference between the descriptions.

Here's the problem. The Muslim conception of God reminds me of what you get out of a pressed penny machine at Disney land or some other tourist spot. You start with a penny, which is recognized as legal tender and must be recognized as payment debts in the U.S.2 If you owe a creditor $50, he is obligated to accept 5000 pennies as payment. However, let's say you ran all 5,000 pennies though the Disneyland penny press so they now look like the image at the top of this post. The press distorted the penny so much it can no longer be called a penny. It can no longer be used as legal tender; it's value is only measured by the price of  souvenir's copper bullion on the open market.3

This is exactly what Islam has done to the concept of God. While it began with the classically theist conception of God from the Jews and Christians, it has squished, stretched and distorted the description of God to the point where it has become unrecognizable by Christians or Jews. The Islamic God is capable of deception and evil (Surah 4.142, 14.4). He is not only non-Trinitarian, but anti-Trinitarian claiming that Christians are sentenced to hell (5.72). The Islamic god is not a father with whom one may develop a personal relationship (5.18).The Islamic God can and does change his mind, not in an anthropomorphized or conditional way, but a true change of intent. The God of Islam is actually capricious and not at all trustworthy.

When one looks at how the Allah is described in the Qur'an, it becomes clear that the properties he holds are not those of a necessary being. The descriptions don't fit; they're completely out of place and undermine the idea of a God who is the source of morality, love, and existence. To claim the Islamic God the same necessary being referred to by Christians like trying to use a pressed penny in a gumball machine. It simply doesn't fit.

References

1. Beckwith, Francis J. "Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?" The Catholic Thing. The Catholic Thing, 16 Dec. 2015. Web. 20 June 2016. https://www.thecatholicthing.org/2015/12/17/do-muslims-and-christians-worship-the-same-god/.
2. "Legal Tender Status." Resource Center. United States Treasury, 4 Jan. 2011. Web. 20 June 2016. https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/faqs/Currency/Pages/legal-tender.aspx.
3. "Mutilated Currency and Bent or Partial Coin." Federal Reserve Bank Services. Federal Reserve Banks, 2016. Web. 20 June 2016. https://www.frbservices.org/operations/currency/mutilated_currency_and_coin.html.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

We Don't Need to Recreate the First Century Church



The world in which we live is loud, distracting, and difficult. Attention spans are decreasing and the influence of secular society seems to loom ever larger in our lives. Many believers feel it is becoming harder and harder to honestly live out their Christian faith properly.

Moreover, the Christian church as an institution isn't immune from the influence of the culture. Churches today struggle with balancing a proper worship time with congregational participation. Pastors worry about how much theology they can present in their sermons before it becomes too "heady" and a "turn-off" for the congregant. They also want to figure out just which ministries they should be offering and how much technology should play a part in the worship service.

Given these stresses, it shouldn't be surprising that a common refrain heard in Bible-believing churches is the church needs to simplify. It needs to go back to its roots and look a little bit more like the first century churches. After all, those churches were started by the apostles, making them somehow more pure than the rather complicated practices the modern church adopts in the 21st century.

In fact, there was a big push to return and do church "the way the apostles did it" in the early 19th century, a movement known as Restorationism. It spawned several denominations such as the Churches of Christ and the Disciples of Christ1. More recently, the Jesus People movement in the 1960s sought in some way to do the same thing, and the very recent house church trend claims to be "a return to first-century Christianity in its simplest form."2

The Problem of Purity

Perhaps you have heard someone say something like "we need to return our church experience to the way the first Christians did it." I've heard the statement from both pastors and congregants. But, I think there's an awful lot being assumed in such a statement. In fact, the first century churches were no more pure than those of today.

Let's begin by looking at what we know about the first century churches from the Bible itself. Several of our New Testament books are letters written to Christian churches of the first century and they give precise details on the real world problems those churches wrestled with. The church at Corinth, which was founded by the Apostle Paul himself, seems to be an absolute mess. There was a scandal rocking the assembly since one of its members had begun sleeping with his father's wife (1 Cor. 5:1). Further, because different members thought the pastor they liked best was the one who should be authoritative, Paul said this caused "jealousy and strife" among the congregation (3:3). Doesn't that sound pretty familiar?

The Corinthians had other struggles, such as the more "mature" members believing they were somehow better than their newer brethren on the matter of what they could or couldn't eat (8:1). Pride and selfishness had even crept into even the celebration of the Lord's Supper (11:21-22). They had already reduced communion to something it was never meant to be, even getting drunk during the service.

Problems Throughout the Churches

Lest we believe that Corinth was some singular exception to the rule in the early church, the Bible gives us ample evidence of other churches wrestling with various problems of their own. The Galatians were teaching some bad doctrine and thought only those who followed certain Old Testament precepts would be considered true Christians. The letters that Jesus dictates to John in the book of Revelation outline a slew of problems facing the churches in the first century, including wooden doctrinal adherence without love, accepting false teaching without discernment, allowing the cultural heresies to infect the church, operating on only dead works, and even being completely spiritually dead, holding on the only the name of Christian. James rebukes the church for quarreling, gossiping, and showing partiality. Even in the book of Acts, the church continually wrestled with what to do about the divisions between those who were Jewish converts and those who were Gentiles.

Main Thing Stays the Same

All of these examples serve to show that the first century church wasn't a panacea. Christians of the first century had as many struggles, complications, personality battles, and confusion as the church does today.They battled issues of sexual sin within their ranks as well as without. They had problems with pride. They mixed up what was cultural convention with what was essential doctrine. The first century church was very much like the 21st century church. Their problems were simply couched in the milieu of their time.

This shouldn't be a surprise to us. The Christian church of the first century was comprised of people and people are very, very fallible. I recently heard one non-believer say one of the reasons he isn't a Christian is because there are so many divergent opinions and practices within Christian denominations and secondly, there are many examples of injustice done by Christians on their fellow man. I cannot argue with either of these points; both are true.

However, as Christians we understand that it isn't the practices of the church we hold as the standard for life, but the example of Christ. It is our love and devotion to the one who sacrificed himself for our salvation that knits us together as a community. In that aspect, Christians of the first century and Christians of the 21st century are identical. We both worship the Son of Man who alone became the propitiation for our sins and who rose again on the third day. We recognize that we are sinners deserving to die but we have been reconciled to God. In that, we are as close to the apostles' teaching as the first century church was, and we can walk confidently forward in our faith knowing that is the model one must follow to be authentic.

References

1. Mallett, Robert. "Restoration Movement." The Christian Restoration Association. The Christian Restoration Association, 2003. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.
2. Henning, Jefferey. "The Growing House-Church Movement." Ministry Today Magazine. Charisma Media, 31 Oct. 2000. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Making the Most of your Daily Devotions (Free Bible Download)



I am in the book of Revelation in my devotions this morning, reading the message of Jesus to the church in Ephesus. Jesus praises the Ephesians for their passionate and diligent pursuit of truth. However, he also warns them they were in danger of losing their place because "You have forsaken the love you had at first." (Rev. 2:4, ESV). This first love seems to be tied to the good deeds they did at the beginning of the church's ministry. Because of this, commentators see the first love to refer both to the love of Jesus and their love for one another.[1]

All Christians need to cultivate and nurture their love of Christ and for others. The first and best discipline to do this is during your daily devotions. As an apologist, my devotion time is critical, as it would be easy to slip into a habit of faith-defending without love. However, a few years ago, I noticed that even my devotions started to become a rote exercise. My prayer time would be dominated by my requests and my reading was all about quickly finishing the chapter so I could move onto something else.

In order to break out of this habit, I decided to be more deliberate in approaching my prayer time. I liked the ACTS outline of prayer (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication) but needed a grid in which to place it. So, I came up with the following outline that I keep in my Bible and update monthly. I've created a downloadable template for you to save and use for your own devotion times. You can grab either the PDF or the editable Word version. Fill it in, print it out and keep a folded paper copy in your Bible to use each morning. Then, update it each month.

Here's my approach:

1. Contemplating the Nature of God through the Names of God

In God's word, God reveals different aspects of who he is through the various names he uses for himself. So I took eleven different names of God and laid them out in a two-week grid — one for each weekday and a dual-meaning name for Saturday and Sunday. I then contemplate in my prayers the different ways God fulfills the attributes of the "name of the day."

For example, if I am thinking about "Jehovah Sabbaoth - The Lord of Hosts," I contemplate how my holy God s the God over the armies. He can command legions of angels. He is the one who nothing or no one can overwhelm. I let me mind work on that aspect o God's character and I see if I can find new ways of understanding God as the Lord of hosts. Because this is a two-week cycle, it keeps my thoughts about God fresh and my desire to more keenly understand him.

2. Contemplate the Cross and the Sacrifice of Salvation

Coming to the Cross is hugely important. I think about Jesus and what it meant for him to give his back to the torturers. I think about his taking my sin upon himself. I think as a father with children about the sacrifice the Father made as he gave his beloved son to die so that I may live.

3. Ask for forgiveness of sins.

This is the place where I review and confesses my sins. It may be something big or small, but even a sin of hubris or not trusting should be honestly offered here. Make sure you use the Christian's bar of soap (1 John 1:9)!

4. Give thanks for blessings.

We all have more to be thankful for than what we can imagine. I normally open my eyes during this part of my devotional time, so I can be reminded of the many blessings I do have. When I do devotions outside, this drives me to be thankful for God's creation and the oxygen in my lungs.

5. Pray for self.

Here's where I begin the Supplication area. First, I pray I would reflect Jesus in what I say and what I do and what I think. I want to see others the way Jesus would see them. I then pray of my responsibility as a father, as a Christian witness, and any immediate needs I have.

6. Pray for family members

Next, I list out each immediate family member and pray for then. Usually, I pick four or five areas that I pray for. I always try to make sure I think about how can God change/use myself to be more effective in helping them as opposed to "change this thing I don't like" kinds of prayers. Also, because I update this list monthly, it is god practice to come up to your spouse and your children and ask them "What can pray for for you this month?" This ai a great way to stay in touch with your kids and hear what's critical in their, lives.

7. Pray for ministry/job/household finances, etc.

After I've prayed for people, I thin pray for my job or ministry, any financial issues, any difficulties our family may be facing, and other issues affecting us.

8. Weekly rotating prayer for community

Lastly, I use a one week rotation of specific, focused prayer for the larger community. The breakdown is below and also on the template:
  • Mon - Church
  • Tues - Martyrs & those suffering
  • Wed - Government and elected officials
  • Thurs - Apologetics ministries
  • Fri - Educational institutions
  • Sat/Sun — special requests
This list has helped me in my daily devotional time to really pray better, to draw closer to God and to focus my prayers more specifically. I hope it helps you in your devotional time as well. Let me know of any additions or suggestions you have. I can always learn more.

References

1. See note for Revelation 2:5 in The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008. Print. 2465.









Sunday, October 11, 2015

Is God An Egomaniac In Desiring Worship? (video)



One of the more flimsy objections to the concept of God I've heard is "Why would God create beings so they could just turn around and praise him? Doesn't that seem needy or egotistical? Why does an all-powerful God need us to worship him?" The question displays both a superficial understanding of what worship is and how it shapes the believer. It also demonstrates an amazing level of arrogance by the person who thinks that he should never have to show deference to his creator.

In this short video, Lenny explains why t is both decent and proper that human beings should worship a God of love who created them.

   

Monday, June 22, 2015

Is God an Egomaniac for Desiring Worship?

There's a famous episode of I Love Lucy where the always star-struck Lucy Ricardo visits Hollywood and wants to see some real movie stars. She decides to dine at the Brown Derby, a Hollywood restaurant famous in the 1950's for its movie studio clientele. She didn't wait long; soon, the maƮtre d' seats 50's icon William Holden in the booth behind her.



Of course, Lucy must turn around and stare at Holden, which understandably annoys the star who simply wants to eat his lunch in peace. After a few uncomfortable moments, Holden decides to flip the tables on Lucy. He begins to stare and sigh at her! This completely unnerves her, who ultimately can't take it. She rushes out of the restaurant, accidentally dumping a plate of spaghetti on the star in her hurry to get away.

I bring up the episode because it plays into a common objection I hear from atheists: "Imagine what an egomaniac God must be if He commanded everyone to worship him!" In fact, a friend wrote me last week and said he was in a conversation where someone asked "Why does God demand to be worshipped?" Is the worship of God similar to Lucy's fawning over Holden? Do only egomaniacs seek out such devotion while well-adjusted individuals would be bothered as Lucy was?

Ignoring Who God Is

In looking at the claim that any god who seeks out worship is egotistical, one should immediately notice that it errs in making a specific assumption. It assumes that God is something on par with you and me. When humans accept worship from other humans, I can see how that is ugly and uncomfortable. That's because all men are equally subject to both the forces of nature as well as their own fallibilities. While the ancient Romans declared Caesar to be divine, he could neither stop Vesuvius from erupting nor stem his own death. It makes no sense to worship a man who has no power that any other man could not also assume in the right circumstances.

God, however, doesn't fit into this category. In fact, it is a function of worship to draw attention to the differences between God and us. Through worship we recognize that God created the universe and its rules are subject to Him. It is through worship that we acknowledge God as the author of life, we are his creation and as such we are subject to him. We also recognize God's goodness and holiness. Worship helps us to remember that we are not God. That's something Caesar forgot.

Showing Proper Deference

A general and a private are both human beings. We would expect any doctor in the emergency room to try and save both lives with equal effort. Yet a general would demand a salute from a private. Is this arrogance? A father would demand obedience and respect from his son. Would that be considered arrogant on the part of the father?

In both cases, the show of deference and respect by the younger person is considered right and appropriate. Worship shows the proper deference to God. The Father is He who gives us every good and perfect gift and in him we exist moment by moment. Thus it is good and right to show deference to God for his provision and sustenance. How other than worship could such deference be recognized?

The Objection Points to the Necessity of Worship

Lastly, worship is necessary for humanity. In raising the charge of egotism, the atheist is actually demonstrating why proper worship is necessary for human beings. Worship is necessary to humble ourselves. By objecting to even the concept of worship, atheists demonstrate subjecting oneself to another is not a task to take lightly. It raises all the flags to uncover our desire to be subjected to no one and nothing. But certainly the atheist, like Caesar, has no control over either his own mortality or the forces of nature. Sure, scientific advancements allow us to cool our homes but they can't stop a volcano. They may prolong life a couple of years, but they cannot grant immortality. Worship humbles us and reminds us to not become egotists ourselves.

Worship shows proper respect to God, it differentiates God from us, and it humbles us by reminding us just how limited we are. It isn't God who is egotistical because he commands us to worship; it is our egotism that worship of God guards against.
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