Like it or not, we are all worshippers
Question: When was the last time you used the word ‘noble’?
Ummm…having a hard time remembering? Me too. “No bull” doesn’t count, by the way.
‘Noble’ is not a word we throw around much today, and not simply because, at least here in the United States, we don’t confer on anyone a title of nobility. I wonder if perhaps we don’t value the concept of being noble like we used to.
Noble: having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals
You probably know this, but when you google a word you can access a graph that shows the incidents of a word’s use over time. Here’s how the usage of ‘noble’ has dropped over the last 200 years.
I point this out because I’ve been pondering a statement I read recently about worship, and how what or whom we worship impacts our own character.
“The truth is that our supreme fulfillment, as moral beings made in God’s image, is found and expressed in actively worshipping our holy Creator. When the object of homage is noble, the rendering of homage is ennobling; but when the objects of homage are not noble, the rendering of it is degrading… [But] it is impossible to worship nothing: we humans are worshipping creatures, and if we do not worship the God who made us, we shall inevitably worship someone or something else.”(1)
What the authors are asserting here is not a new idea; it goes back to the Old Testament.
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands….Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. ~ Psalm 115:4, 8
And more recently, 19th century American essayist, lecturer, and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying,
“The Gods we worship write their names on our faces; be sure of that. And a man will worship something … That which dominates will determine his life and character. Therefore it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.”
We become what we worship, or at least we grow to resemble it. Is whom or what you worship ennobling you or degrading you?
The word worship is a mashup of worth-ship…it’s what we ascribe the greatest worth to. So if one’s goal is to make as much money as possible, if that’s what’s most important to him, he’s worshipping the almighty dollar. Such an object of worship is ignoble and will always degrade its worshippers.
If humanity is deemed of greatest worth, as an uncreated happenstance of purpose-lacking time and chance, then we are worshipping a happy accident. Something that did not have to be, but is contingent on random mutations and the survival of the fittest is not a noble object of worship.
And if your god loves only those who obey him and commands conversion under threat of death, he is not noble and rendering him worship will result in you becoming ruthless and dictatorial as well.
But if your God is greater than you, if he is perfect in holiness, righteousness, compassion, patience, mercy, kindness, and love, then true worship of him will mold and shape you into his likeness.
If all this is true, doesn’t it make sense to foster and promote the kind of worship that will result in we worshippers becoming more noble ourselves?
(1) Thomas Howard and J.I. Packer, Christianity: The True Humanism (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 1984), 146.
Good post, Caroline. It’s an excellent point that everyone worships something. As a side note, I would like to comment on the quote from Thomas Howard and J.I. Packer. This is not a criticism of your post, but an observation on the state of the evangelical church. One year after “Christianity: The True Humanism” was published, Howard officially converted to Catholicism and has been an enthusiastic propagator of Catholicism via such books as “Evangelical is Not Enough” (1984), “On Being Catholic” (1997), “If Your Mind Wanders at Mass” (2001), and “Lead, Kindly Light: My Journey to Rome” (2004), among others. As a faithful Catholic, Howard worships the round bread wafer consecrated by a priest and professes that salvation is attained by sacramental grace and merit. J.I. Packer signed the 1994 “Evangelical and Catholics Together” declaration, which embraced Roman Catholicism as a Christian entity. Packer went on to lend his signature to subsequent ECT declarations. So Howard preaches Rome’s false gospel and Packer seems unable to distinguish between the Gospel of grace and a counterfeit.
Thanks, Tom. I didn’t know that about Howard, though of course, as I’m sure you’d agree, wherever he and Packer are now theologically, that doesn’t impact the truth of their statement. And though I generally agree with your evaluation of Roman Catholicism as to the falsehood of many of their doctrines and practices, as I have written of also, I do still consider them to be a Christian denomination. But a greatly distorted one.
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Thanks, Caroline. Yes, we do differ on Catholicism’s bottom line, as we’ve discussed before. I do agree the RCC upholds several orthodox beliefs including the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and some others. The biggest difference, among many, is how a person receives the gift of salvation. Catholicism’s salvation plan prescribes baptism and then the graces received from the other sacraments, which are said to enable the Catholic to avoid sin (cooperate with grace) so they can hopefully remain in a “state of grace” up to the moment of their death. I assume there are some Catholics who are genuinely saved because they realize they cannot possibly adhere to the Catholic formula and they trust in Christ alone in desperation. So they are saved in spite of standard Catholic soteriology, not because of it. I’m disappointed that many evangelicals now embrace Catholicism as a Christian entity. That wasn’t the case 50 years ago and Catholicism hasn’t changed any of its major doctrines. But a few men of great influence in the church were able to persuade others. I know my view on this is becoming increasingly unwelcome in evangelical circles.
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