Seidensticker Folly #47: Does God Need Praise?

Seidensticker Folly #47: Does God Need Praise? August 31, 2020

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker, who was “raised Presbyterian”, runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He also made a general statement on 6-22-17“Christians’ arguments are easy to refute . . . I’ve heard the good stuff, and it’s not very good.” He added in the combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Such confusion would indeed be predictable, seeing that Bob himself admitted (2-13-16): “My study of the Bible has been haphazard, and I jump around based on whatever I’m researching at the moment.”

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But by 10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog (just prior to his banning me from it), his opinion was as follows: “Dave Armstrong . . . made it clear that a thoughtful intellectual conversation wasn’t his goal. . . . [I] have no interest in what he’s writing about.”

And on 10-25-18, utterly oblivious to the ludicrous irony of his making the statement, Bob wrote in a combox on his blog: “Someone who’s not a little bit driven to investigate cognitive dissonance will just stay a Christian, fat ‘n sassy and ignorant.” Again, Bob mocks some Christian in his combox on 10-27-18“You can’t explain it to us, you can’t defend it, you can’t even defend it to yourself. Defend your position or shut up about it. It’s clear you have nothing.” And again on the same day“If you can’t answer the question, man up and say so.” And on 10-26-18“you refuse to defend it, after being asked over and over again.” And againYou’re the one playing games, equivocating, and being unable to answer the challenges.”

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. Again, on 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like he himself: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 46 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, follow this link: “Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.

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Bob shows us yet again that he doesn’t have a clue what he is talking about when it comes to Christianity and the Bible: this time in his article, “25 Reasons We Don’t Live in a World with a God (Part 2)” (2-21-18):

There’s a progression of wisdom from sociopath, to average person, to wise person, to sage. As we move along this spectrum, base personality traits such as the desire for adulation fall away, but the opposite is true for the Christian god. Not only do we hear this from Christianity itself (“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever,” according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism), we read it in the Bible (“At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth”).

What’s the point of praise? Obviously, God already understands his position relative to us. We’re informing him of nothing new when we squeal, “Golly, you’re so fantastic!”

Imagine a human equivalent where you have an ant farm, and the ants are aware that you’re the Creator and Destroyer. It would be petty to revel in the ants’ worshipping you and telling you how great you are. Just how insecure would you need to be?

This sycophantic praise makes sense for a narcissistic and insecure king, but can God really want or need to hear this? We respect no human leader who demands this. Christianity would have us believe that the personality of a perfect being is that of a spoiled child. . . . 

God should be a magnification of good human qualities and an elimination of the bad ones. But the petty, praise-demanding, vindictive, and intolerant God of the Bible is simply a Bronze Age caricature, a magnification of all human inclinations, good and bad.

How melodramatic! And how very ignorant. Wouldn’t you think that if God was as Bob portrays Him, that we could and would find explicit indication of it in the Bible? Surely if his account is true, and God is a cosmic narcissist and egomaniac Who exists in order to receive human praise, which is to Him like blood to the mosquito and applause to the opera star, then the Bible would be filled with descriptions such as God desires praise, or needs it, or wants it or demands it, right?

In fact, when I went to do a search for such phrases with the online Bible that I use, I could find no such thing: zero, zip, zilch. It can search phrases and also “proximity” searches, where you put in two words and see if they are found within 80 characters of each other. I did both kinds of searches for the following words:

desire praise

want praise

demand praise

need praise

praise me

command praise

It produced absolutely nothing. Odd, ain’t it? God’s supposedly full of Himself and obsessive about receiving praise, yet we can’t find any explicit indication of such a thing. And we don’t because the fact of the matter is, that according to standard orthodox Christian theology regarding God (what we call “theology proper”), it’s not only true that God needs no praise, but also that He needs nothing whatsoever. If Bob had gotten to first base in his study of Christian theology, he would know this. The Bible does teach that:

Acts 17:24-25 (RSV) The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, [25] nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything.

Before I explain the Christian concepts that describe these attributes of God, I shall use a human analogy to illustrate how Christians view the praise of God. It’s like war heroes: say the soldier who risks his life in an extraordinary way and saves 20 of his fellow soldiers. Or men or women who come back from battle with missing arms or legs or permanent brain damage, having voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way, or, say, the firefighters in New York City on 9-11 who repeatedly went back into the twin towers to save people, thinking nothing of their own safety.

The heroes who did these things and managed to survive, invariably don’t think of themselves as heroes, and they seek no praise or adulation. No doubt (as they are human beings, and want to feel loved and appreciated like we all do) they feel grateful if someone compliments or thanks them, but they don’t seek it. Now, does it follow that we shouldn’t praise and honor them, because they feel that way? No. We do it because it is right and because it is good for us. It makes us better people to recognize heroism and noble behavior.

That’s how it is with God and our praise of Him, for all He has done for us. He doesn’t need it because He doesn’t need anything. God the Father doesn’t experience emotions as we do, at all. This is the doctrine of impassibility. For further information on that, see:

Does God Suffer?, Thomas G. Weinandy (Capuchin priest), First Things, November 2001.

Does God Have Emotions?, Patrick Lee.

Concepts of God (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: 2nd section)

God is entirely self-sufficient: what is called aseity. He needs nothing and besides being impassible, is also immutable, meaning that He doesn’t change (a thing that would be required for Him to have emotions and change from one state to another). Someone might say, “now, the Bible does refer often to God changing His mind and ‘repenting’ etc. How is that to be explained?” It’s explained by anthropomorphism and anthropopathism: which mean that God is often portrayed non-literally in the Bible in order for human beings to better understand him. Not one atheist in 50 understands this, but they should. It’s important to know.

In summary, we praise God because He is worthy of praise, as the Creator of the universe and a loving God Who will save us, and provide us with a blissful never-ending life in heaven when we die, because of Jesus’ sacrificial death on our behalf, if only we will let Him do so. He’s utterly worthy of it. We do it because we are grateful and because we are only fully ourselves if we acknowledge the God who made us and designed us to be most happy and joyful when in communion with Him. But He doesn’t need it (let alone demand it). He has need of nothing whatsoever.

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Photo credit: BarbaraJackson (12-18-14) [Pixabay / Pixabay license]

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