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Do Christians Worship an Egomaniac?

It might be egotistical for you to say you're the best in the world. But it's not egotistical for God.

Skeptics of Christianity sometimes say that God is an egotistical maniac who requires worship or otherwise sends people to an eternal fire. Here I will explain, from the perspective of divine simplicity, why this objection does not hold up to scrutiny, and give reasons as to why we should worship God.

First, let’s explore what we mean when we say someone is egotistical. Generally, we think this person has a higher view of himself than reality warrants. If I thought I was the best person in a room of 10,000 people, many would view that as an egotistical statement.

Now take another example. Say I had just won an Olympic gold medal in an individual sport, like ping-pong. Would it be egotistical to say I am the best known ping-pong player in the world? Although it might sound prideful, it really wouldn’t be egotistical. It would be accurate.

We can imagine this with God. Because God is the greatest conceivable being, it would not be egotistical for him to believe that he is the greatest conceivable being.

Once this has been established, we can ask why we should worship God. But before going into this, let’s establish what worship even is, because it seems to me that many misunderstand it. There are several ways in which one can worship. First would be offering sacrifices. If a deity gives you everything, you can worship by giving some of it back. Another way in which you can worship this being is by thanking him for performing miracles. Since all miracles originate with God, this would be worship.

Some will make the claim that apostolic churches worship saints by asking them to pray for us. This would be the case only if we believed that the saints can do things by themselves and do not need God—but we don’t. Apostolic Christians do not worship the saints when we ask for something on their behalf, since we are really asking them to ask God. However, when we ask God for something, it is worship, since we know that he is power itself and has the ability to do all by his own accord. Orthodox and Catholic Christians also believe that these saints cannot hear prayers unless God grants that they hear them. They can do nothing by themselves.

One objection to the above is that pursuing a relationship with God (love itself) is different from worshiping him. We can imagine a skeptic saying that through pursuing a relationship with God, we become closer to love itself. In doing so, we show God that we do not want to be away from him and go to hell, but we are also not technically worshiping him by pursuing said relationship.

This may sound promising, but these sorts of objections work only when we are discussing relationships with things that are not God. For instance, many Catholics have a relationship with Mary, the mother of God. Many have called Mary adjectives like “loving” and “holy.” However, when we call her these things, we are not worshipping her.

On the other hand, when we call God loving or holy, we are saying that God is love, because he is the first cause. Because of this, when we call God loving, it is worship, but when we call Mary or any other creature loving, it is not.

This means that by pursuing a relationship with God, which would involve conversations about his love, his power, his knowledge, or anything in between, we are actually worshiping him, even if we do not realize it!

This is why, as an example, it’s worship when we say “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of hosts” during Mass, but we are not worshiping Mary when we call her “holy” when praying the Hail Mary. When we say God is holy, we are worshiping him, because we are saying he is holiness itself. Alternatively, when we say Mary or any other creature is holy, we are saying that these creatures participate in holiness itself—in the life of God—to a finite degree.

Likewise, we would also say that nothing outside perfection should ever be worshiped. It wouldn’t make sense for me to offer sacrifices to someone who does not give me everything. It also wouldn’t make much sense for me to thank a friend for allowing me to exist.

For St. Thomas Aquinas, God must possess all perfections, because he is the source of all perfections. If God were not the source of all perfections, he would cease to be God. If he did not possess all perfections, he could not be the source of all perfections.

Divine simplicity also relates to eternity and our heavenly experience. For instance, it’s often asked whether the souls in heaven would be happy knowing a loved one is in hell. How happy could you possibly be, knowing that an immediate family member is burning for eternity? This is something I’ve struggled with a lot personally, but in my study of divine simplicity, I came to understand the answer. We would be happy, regardless of anything else going on, because of our relationship with God in Heaven. Because God literally is love itself, we would be happy with just him.

If you would not be happy with just God in heaven, even without a certain family member, you most likely are not understanding who God is. Furthermore, you’ll most likely be spending a longer time in Purgatory than you would like. Telling God he is not enough tells him that you are not ready to see him.

All in all, it seems as though many Christians do not understand worship or why we should worship God. Many also do not realize that even calling God holy or loving is a form of worship, because if these things are equal to God, then we are basically calling God “God.” Others may not realize that God is not egotistical for claiming that he is the greatest conceivable being, since he is. In realizing this, and that God is holiness and love itself, we realize what worship consists of for this being.

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