What is Apologetics?

Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the Christian faith. The word “apologetics” derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used as a speech of defense or an answer given in reply. In ancient Athens it referred to a defense made in the courtroom as part of the normal judicial procedure. After the accusation, the defendant was allowed to refute the charges with a defense or reply (apologia). The word appears 17 times in noun or verb form in the New Testament, and both the noun (apologia) and verb form (apologeomai) can be translated “defense” or “vindication” in every case.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Is There a Conceited and Arrogant God Forcing Us to Worship Him?

I love tough questions, and students who want to throw their "skeptical curveballs." Sometimes a skeptic will present an objection with the thinking that there is no way it can be answered. Such was case with one of our students who shared with me that he was given such an objection from a fellow college student. The student's objection was about believers worshiping an infinitely creative God went something like this: "Why should I worship a God who is self-centered and conceited, just because He created an entire Earth and universe just to sit around and worship Him?"

If we don't afford ourselves to think deeply, that question would puzzle even mature believers. But have you ever thought about that question? Let's dissect this objection shall we? 

At face value, this sounds like a tough challenge. But there is a way to "defang" this objection by exposing two key misunderstandings. The first misunderstanding deals with the nature of God, and who God is. The second deals with the value of our worship.

What is God Like?

In looking at the first starting point to answer this objection, we need to see whether the God spoken of in the objection has any substance. Looking at the view of God presented in the objection, this is not a God that would not be worthy of my worship due to the finite understanding of God in the objection. The one posing this objection/question has a misunderstanding of the God of the Bible.

When Christians talk about God, we need to understand that we are talking about God as spaceless, timeless immaterial, all powerful, totally moral, personal, infinitely intelligent, Sustainer, Creator, and First Uncaused Cause of the universe. What does this mean? If God is the Creator of all that we see in the universe, then we are worshiping a Creator Who is the First Uncaused Cause of the universe and all that we see.

The God presented in the objection is brought to a level of finiteness, and to the nature of pagan deities like Zeus or Jupiter.[1] But this is not the nature of the God we worship as Christians. I will speak to this more in just a moment. Let's move to the second issue, and address this value of our worship.

What Good Does Worship Do?

What value does worship have in reference to our relationship with God?  Here is one way to look at the question. Let's say we are created, as both the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms state, "to glorify God and enjoy Him forever,"[2], what good does our worship do for God? Does our worship really affect God in any way? Is this God that we worship somehow better off because we humans have been worshiping Him?

Once again, let us not forget that this objection seeks to bring God down to a lower level of a Zeus, Jupiter, or the 'flying spaghetti monster" (FSM). Keep in mind that God is infinite in all His attributes. So can a God who is infinite in His attributes be impacted or demeaned in any way? Simply stated, no. Looking at this this way, when we think of this infinite God that we worship, God is not encouraged, or enlarged or changed in any aggrandizing way just because we have worshiped Him. I don't know how to break this to you but God receives no benefit from our worship. He is God.

So. . . what good does worship do?  When we talk about worship, we often think selfishly thinking that we are doing something for God. But we need to understand that true worship involves our understanding of God, as it relates to God's own self-knowledge and His comprehensive understanding of us. Think of it this way. God must treat Himself as the greatest good, because He IS the greatest good. He is perfect in His being, based upon His infinitely perfect nature, apart from any function that is related to finite human beings.

Let's assume for a moment that God treated something else, like Zeus or even the fictional FSM, as the greatest good. If this were the case He would no longer be God, and He would be no longer affirming the truth about Himself, because something else would be the greatest good and not God.

So it is not wrong for God to treat Himself as the greatest good. He is not the One who benefits from our worship. Instead, our worship of God allows you and I to know and worship Him as He is, and so continues the extension of His love and goodness in creation.

Conclusion.

In closing, sometimes we have to look at the whole challenge coming from those who are asking curious questions. When we look at all that the objection contains and all the terms to help us gain understanding in order to give a credible answer with gentleness and respect.

Notes

[1] Zeus and Jupiter are finite deities that were created in the hearts and the minds of the Greeks and the Romans respectively.

[2]I like looking at the great documents in church history, and looking to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, we see the first question: "What is the chief end of man?" The answer to that first question is, "Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever."See http://www.reformed.org/documents/wsc/index.html?_top=http://www.reformed.org/documents/WSC.html

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