I have a confession to make. As a Christian, something that could deeply affect me, often more than the church sermon itself, was the praise and worship music. In fact, I can remember the first time I heard "Here I am to Worship." That song was so beautiful to me, the words utterly convicting.
I'll never know how much it cost / To see my sin upon that cross (Repeat 4 times)
Even now, I can be swept back in nostalgia. That is, until I think of how degrading those words are, and I'm quickly snapped back into reality. At the time, of course, I was completely oblivious. In chapter 6 of her book Keeping Your Kids on God's Side, Natasha Crain asks, "Why would God need people to worship Him?" She rightly acknowledges that skeptics "find it absurd and inexplicable that a supposedly perfect God would be needy of human adoration." While the atheist in me agrees with that statement, I'm not so far removed from my former Christian self to recognize that I never felt that God needed my worship. To the contrary, he deserved my worship. In fact, he deserved everything that I had to give to him. Thus, Natasha's definition of worship as "responding to all that God is with all that we are" is not at all foreign to me. Maybe that's why I find it so hurtful to be told that I must not have been a real Christian, since true Christians don't lose their faith. I didn't want to lose my faith, yet here I am. So, what happened?
In a moment of clarity and humility, I realized the discrepancy between my perception of God (the one residing in my head) and the God of the Bible. While there are a couple of avenues to explore here, let me first describe who God was to me. He was omni-everything (you know the list), perfect in every way, supernatural, unchangeable, transcendent, infinite, and the epitome of love and righteousness. God was all of these things; and yet, I had a personal relationship with him. I talked to God daily, and though I never heard an audible voice, I felt his guidance in my life.
Now, let's compare this with the God of the Bible, Yahweh to be exact. Just who was this god I worshiped? Do a little research on the history of Yahweh, and it becomes readily apparent that the Israelite god was just one of a pantheon of Canaanite gods available to worship, dependent on one's nation, during the Iron Age (1200-930 BCE). In fact, Deuteronomy 32:8-9 betrays the fact that Yahweh was not even the most high god, as he was one of some seventy sons of El, the true "Most High" of the Canaanite deities, and his wife Asherah. As the name implies, Israel would not have been named as such were it not for El.
"When the Most High [Elyon] gave to the nations their inheritance,
when he separated the sons of men,
he fixed the bounds of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God.
For the LORD's [Yahweh’s] portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage." (https://strangenotions.com/the-gods-of-israel-does-the-bible-promote-polytheism/)
But my God was beyond space and time, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
No, Yahweh didn't emerge until the Iron Age. What is just as striking is the fact that Homo sapiens have been on this planet for at least 200,000 years, possibly even longer than that; and yet, the infinite creator waited no less than 198,000 years before revealing himself to an ancient middle eastern tribe.
But my God gave me the Ten Commandments, a perfect moral standard by which I could base my life on.
Too bad he had no interest in following some of his own commandments. While the fifth commandment tells us to honor our father and mother, Jesus states in Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law." That is completely incompatible with God's commandment.
The sixth commandment tells us not to kill. Okay, that shouldn't be too hard, unless you're God. In the story of Noah's Ark, God actually regrets his creation (Does that mean he changed his mind? I thought he was omniscient and immutable.) and decides to wipe every human off the face of the earth by drowning them in a massive flood, which would have to include innocent babies and children, with the exception of 8 people.*
The eighth commandment tells us not to steal. What about the land God stole from the Canaanites?
The ninth commandment tells us not to bear false witness against a neighbor. Yet, scripture tells us that God is not above sending a lying spirit to deceive others. In fact, the New Testament tells us that God sent a strong delusion, so that they might believe false things. (As noted in my previous post "The Immoral Lawgiver") How is that righteous?
*Because slavery, rape, and child sacrifice are topics of later chapters, I'm going to refrain from discussing them in this post. These obviously caused a huge cognitive dissonance, as well.
To come full circle, I had read the Bible several times. How could I have ignored such glaring contradictions in God's nature? Like I said, it was a moment of clarity, a switch that turned on in my head, albeit reluctantly. I felt like the god in my head was a complete fabrication in contrast to the Biblical god. He was a complete fabrication! So, no, I don't mind to exalt and praise. I just need something worthy.