Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Primacy of Worship

More and more, the deeper I get into theology (and, therefore, into the intricacies of philosophy) the more I need to worship. It is too easy to lose sight of the Object of my study. I have been caught up in plenty of theological debates, both edifying and destructive -- it is what, years ago, led to my desire to give up the whole enterprise, but which led further to the "fire within my bones" that this calling of teaching and disciplining engenders. Theology should start in worship and lead to worship.

Further into that, though, worship de-abstractizes theology. It is easy, even if ultimately disconcerting, to debate the relationship between God's creational sovereignty and the 'problem of evil.' We abstract evil and we abstract God and ultimately make them into a dualistic dancing pair of irresolvable and eternal scope. In worship, though, we "proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes," and bring this problem squarely into the realm of human existence: we do not know how or why evil came into the world, but we do see Jesus, hanged on the Cross to bear the weight of sin and evil and so exhaust it and provide a way out for us humans. We hear the call to proclaim this death and even to join in his sufferings for the sake of the world. Worship of the transcendent God grounds us in the reality of created, embodied existence. The God that we serve is no construct of the Platonic Deists, but the God who has deigned to dwell among us, even though the greatest heavens could not contain or limit Him. The God who wipes away tears. The God who, even though it is often hard to see, is bringing the world out of its long and hard night into His daytime. In the midst of this, the Cross and the eschaton, the 'problem of evil' is not resolved in any intellectually satisfying way, but the problem seems to pale in comparison with the rich, and real, love of God in Jesus Christ.

The same goes, in many ways, with Trinitarian theology. Many who are close to me know of my struggles to comprehend and, at times, to believe in orthodox theology. It is inherently mysterious -- we do not have all the appropriate information. It arises out of worship, though: how do we worship the one God through Jesus the Messiah and by the Spirit? How can that be reconciled with biblical monotheism? From here, of course, it is easy to get ethereal and esoteric and philosophical...and confusing. Many of the defenses of Trinitarian doctrine (and much of the brunt of anti-Trinitarian doctrine) comes from exactly this point: the abstraction of God. However, all these problems and quandaries and quagmires pale in the light of Jesus himself: the one who acts out God's restoration of the world through his suffering and death and is raised to the very right hand of God the Father. This grounding in history, while it doesn't answer every question we might bring about the exact relationship between the Father and the Son, does send us back to worship in grateful thankfulness for the work of God the Father in the Son of God through the Spirit of God. We cannot, in worship or in life, speak of God without in the same breath speaking of Jesus and the Spirit: the history of God revealing Himself to His creation will not allow it.

And is this not salvation? "To know you, the true God, and Jesus the Messiah whom You have sent," that is, to worship God amongst His community by living the truly human life of Jesus Christ amidst the world.

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