Sunday 2 March 2014

Heavenly Father, love and worship


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.


1 comment:

Bruce Charlton said...

FROM ARAKAWA - "There may be a point here -- if you look, for instance, at how God treats his servant Job, as compared to Job's comforters with their glib theodicy. "

BGC - I'm not sure what you mean.