President Trump wants a military parade—a big one with tanks and a fighter jet flyover. Y’know, like those for dictators in the Soviet Union or North Korea.
President Trump likes cabinet meetings with public adulation, praise, and flattery.
President Trump and his sensitive ego have turned the dial up to 11: “In the past 18 months, what was once nuanced praise has metastasized into obsequious fawning. Too much is never enough. Superlatives are tossed out like Mardi Gras beads on Fat Tuesday” (Washington Post).
Here’s a prayer that might satisfy America’s Dear Leader:
Oh President Trump: Ooh, you are so big, so absolutely huge. Gosh, we’re all really impressed around here, I can tell you. Forgive us O Great Trump for this, our dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery, but you’re so strong and, well, just so super. Amen.
(That was a prayer in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, updated to switch the name of our celestial lord to our terrestrial lord.)
Is Trump’s thin-skinned demand for praise obnoxious? Offensive? Unbefitting a powerful leader? Why then does it make any more sense for the Christian god?
From Trump worship to God worship
I remember a church with a sign that said, “Come and praise God with us.” It got me thinking—why is it important to praise God? Surely God doesn’t care. Isn’t this like ants telling us how fantastic we are?
Obviously, God already understands his position relative to us. We’re telling him nothing he doesn’t already know when we say, “You’re so fantastic!” It sounds like sycophantic praise to an egocentric and insecure king. God is portrayed as having the ego needs of a spoiled child. Or Donald Trump. Does God really need to hear “Oh, what a good boy you’ve been!”? Wouldn’t he be above all that? Is this the personality of a perfect being? Even if the benefit is for us, wouldn’t worship be offensive to God?
I’ve searched Christian apologetics sites for their justification for worship and praise of God. Here are the arguments I’ve found.
1. Worship God because he deserves it
Why should we worship God?
We worship God first and foremost because He is the Creator of the Universe. . . . Respect, leading up to worship and praise, is all that much more to be expected, and the natural state of things. (Source)
You’re not explaining why. This is “You should worship God, just cuz.”
[Praise makes us] mindful of how much we owe to Him. (Source)
Praise is the joyful recounting of all God has done for us. . . . It is merely the truthful acknowledgment of the righteous acts of another. (Source)
You think God created you? Okay, be appreciative. Be thankful. But where does the worship come in? You can love and be thankful to your parents for bringing you into the world and expending much effort to raise you, but that’s not worship.
We are grateful to Him for dying for us on the cross, in order to make it possible that we can spend heaven in eternal bliss, with God. Just as we normally respect and admire and revere other human beings who do sacrificial and/or loving acts towards us, so we do the same with God, all the more so. (Source)
“All the more so”? Nope—with Jesus, it’s all the less so. Jesus can’t sacrifice because he’s immortal.
You allude to ordinary, fallible humans who sacrificed for other people, and I agree—their sacrifice can be remarkable and praiseworthy. But when they sacrificed their lives, they stayed dead. Jesus didn’t die; he was out of action for just a day and a half. (More on the illogic of the resurrection story here.)
And why praise God for his goodness when, as a perfectly good being, he could do nothing less? We don’t praise water for flowing downhill—that’s just what water does. We don’t praise planets or rocks for doing what gravity makes them do. We praise people for doing something good because they might not have done it.
Curiously, Christian apologist William Lane Craig agrees:
Since God does not, presumably, issue commands to Himself, it follows that God has no moral duties to fulfill. While human beings may be praised for doing their moral duty, God therefore cannot be praised for doing His moral duty.
But WLC still advocates worship in the form of adoration and awe.
The biggest obstacle I have is that God isn’t worthy of praise or worship, adoration or awe. You only need to read the Bible to see that he’s a Bronze Age bully. There’s no need to go into this for regular readers, but for anyone else, here are posts on God’s genocide, human sacrifice, lying, and support of slavery to get you going.
Continued in part 2.
I could no longer trust what they said about religion.
If they didn’t know what they were talking about
regarding things they could look up,
why think they know about things
they couldn’t possibly know?
— commenter Greg G.
Image via Wikimedia, CC license