Worshiping and Praising God

10 Sep
from Google Images

from Google Images

What would it mean to worship or praise God, or anyone else for that matter? The Bible concludes that mankind does worship idols, so, whether or not we think it is proper, worship is not exclusive to God. In fact, we often hear of the term idol used of movie stars and famous musicians, whose admirers flock to auditoriums, stadiums and places that advertise the appearance of their favorite celebrity, and fans (short for ‘fanatic’) look on adoringly hoping to touch or speak with the one they worship so much.

If one would take the time to understand the word used for worship in the Old Testament, he would find that worship means “bowing down” (see H7812) to whatever might be one’s object of honor. One could do this to honor God or an idol. The fact is that the same word is used for folks who appeared before kings in Biblical times (2Samuel 9:8). Even Abraham did it as a token of respect for the authorities of the land of Canaan (Genesis 23:12), and the same Hebrew word is used of Jacob who bowed himself seven times to his brother Esau (Genesis 33:3). Therefore, the term is not simply used for religious purposes, but also for what was done for anyone in authority who deserved (or demanded) our respect.

Even today people bow or even prostrate themselves on the ground when in the presence of royalty. So, the question is not whether worship (bowing) is appropriate or fanatical, but, rather, it is a matter of God’s existence. If God exists, then worshiping him is entirely appropriate, and rather than being deluded (Dawkins), could be understood as one merely keeping in touch with Reality. Therefore, Richard Dawkins’ statement that the God of the Bible is “a single fiercely unpleasant God, morbidly obsessed …with his own superiority over rival gods”[1] is purely a matter of opinion rather than an appropriate criticism.

On the other hand, would it be appropriate to worship or praise a tyrant? Dawkins does believe that the God of the Old Testament is a very unpleasant character. Notice:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.[2]

I hope to address this sort of thing in future posts when we come to addressing specific instances where God is accused of wrongdoing, but suffice to say at present that I believe Dr. Dawkins is not only mistaken, but has a poor grasp of Biblical understanding. Theology is certainly not the realm of his expertise.

When he was an atheist, Christian author C.S. Lewis had some misconceptions about the concept of praise. He writes:

But the most obvious fact about praise—whether of God or anything—strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise… The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their game… I think we delight to praise what we enjoy, because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is appointed consummation.[3]

Praise is an expression of delight in that which we value. For a Christian to praise God testifies of the joy he has in his Creator and Savior. While folks like Dawkins may criticize such things, saying it is superstitious nonsense, they are merely expressing a point of view of something in which they see no value. Nevertheless, value is often like the sense of beauty. It is in the eyes of the beholder, and while it is sometimes difficult for one person to see beauty in what another beholds, he cannot deny the reality of the beauty he cannot see.


[1] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (2006, Houghton Mifflin, Boston and New York), page 37

[2] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), page 31.

[3] C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1958), 94-95. Quoted in Is God a Moral Monster? (Grand Rapids: Baker Books; 2011) page 31.

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Posted by on September 10, 2015 in apologetics


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