Excerpt - Letter from a Father by William Arkle [emphasis added]
I know, and you know,
that the world has produced some strange and unpleasant ways of picturing
me and doing me service.
There are religions in the world of all sorts
and the confusion in your minds about your own reality, the reality of
the universe and about the nature of my being is a terrible tangle of
fear, doubt and human shortcomings.
I would like you to try and raise
your eyes above all this towards the one simple and salient fact that
my nature is made of a degree of love which will go far beyond any longing
you have ever carried in your heart as yet,
and, if such was my nature
from the beginning, then such will always be the starting point for any
understanding that you have of me.
If your understanding tries to start
from a lesser position, then it will produce for you a lesser vision and
one which may well hinder and hurt you if you try to live by it or serve
it in ways which would be foreign to my ways.
You often picture
me in your hearts as something less than a kind and strong human being,
but, if you look at all the fine qualities that the world has witnessed,
and then think of me as having them even more abundantly, then you will
come closer to my bigness of heart and bigness of mind.
To love something
is one thing, but to worship it is another.
Worship creates a gap in our
understanding and valuation and into this gap creeps fear and self-deprecation.
Neither of these qualities are good in my sight, and I do not desire that
you should worship me for it produces servility and fear where I should
prefer friendship and affection.
What I found striking and shocking about this passage was that the primary and best understanding of God - that He is our Father and the idea, that Fatherhood should 'always be the starting point for any
understanding' - does indeed imply that God would not want our worship, and may indeed regard an attitude of worship as inappropriate, worrying, missing the point, evidence of a profound (although not-necessarily fatal) misunderstanding of His nature.
As Fathers ourselves, the primary emotion and attitude that we most deeply hope-for from our children is certainly not worship; but, I think, much closer to 'friendship and affection' (plus a lot of other things, of course).
To picture God as wanting our worship may indeed be to picture him as being something less than a kind and strong human being.
I regard this as an example of the great hazard of abstract conceptualizations of God (e.g. abstractions such as God being infinite in power, knowledge, presence - the 'omnis').
In striving to make something as-Great-as-possible out of our understanding of God, perhaps motivated by fear rather than love; we reach for abstractions - and in doing so we forget His primary nature and end-up making our 'picture' of God into something less than a Man; indeed we end-up by understanding God as worse than ourselves - somebody whose behaviour we must apologize-for, excuse and explain.
But the mistake was made in abstraction - in abandoning the simple, 'anthropomorphic', primary reality of God as our Heavenly Father whose nature is made of a degree of love which will go far beyond any longing we have ever carried in our hearts; and such should always be the starting-point, and also the final check-point, for our
understanding of God.