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God is Worthy of Worship

Divine Perfection


Although there are a number of divine attributes which receive a lot of attention, there is none quite so important for traditional believers as the general principle of absolute perfection and the narrower implication that, therefore, God is worthy of our worship. These are, in many respects, the very reason why the existence of God is the subject of so much debate — if it weren’t for them, there wouldn’t be any religions centered around God and perhaps people wouldn’t be divided.

The concepts of worship and perfection are deeply intertwined, each feeding off of the other and each influencing how the other is understood. The relevancy of worship is reasonably obvious, because gods have been the objects of worship for as far back as our record of gods goes. Indeed, gods have generally demanded worship and sometimes it was understood that humans were created for the purpose of worshipping the gods. But of course there is a question which people can ask: why should we bother worshipping gods?

Worship involves total and absolute devotion. If we truly worship God, then we have totally dedicated ourselves to God: we dedicate ourselves to God’s praise, to God’s values, and to God’s purpose. There are no compromises and there is no effort to get God to meet us “halfway,” to take our values or our desires into consideration. We worship, and that means we give up whatever of ourselves is required. But what sort of god merits such devotion?

The principle of perfection has been emphasized, at least in part, to answer that question. Over the course of time, people decided that it wasn’t quite enough that a god be really powerful, really jealous, or really knowledgeable. Such attributes sufficed in ancient polytheistic religions, but even when they were still popular there were a few who questioned whether that was sufficient. Philosophers and theologians gradually developed a principle of greater and greater perfection.

And it wasn’t just enough that God simply be the greatest being we could think of or just theoretically the greatest being. Instead, God, to be worthy of worship, has to be the greatest possible being on absolutely every possible level — nothing greater, in any fashion, can possibly exist. Thus, God is an absolutely perfect being; to use the language of Christian theologian Anselm, God is a being greater than which no being can be conceived (even by God). All of the other attributes of God ultimately tie into this one — God’s perfection is so absolute that there is nothing more powerful, more loving, more knowledgeable, etc.

Unfortunately, this understanding of God is not without its problems. For one thing, it’s a bit circular. The idea that God is absolutely perfect was partly derived from the premise that God is worthy of worship (no one really asked if perhaps God might exist but might not be worth worshipping), but now the idea that God is worthy of worship is based upon the premise that God is absolutely perfect. It’s a nice argument, but if either premise is questionable (and they are), then the position collapses.

Actually questioning the premises offers us further problems. Even if God is absolutely perfect, why does that necessarily entail that it merits worship — our absolute, unfettered and unadulterated devotion? What is it about “absolute perfection” that requires, morally or logically, that we completely give ourselves over to this being? Indeed, should we even assume that this being desires our worship? Should we assume that this being even cares what we do with our lives?

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