My pastor made a statement last Sunday that was intended to be a little bit provocative, and it was. He was preaching from Malachi 4 where the people are complaining that God isn’t smiting the wicked, and conclude that it’s vain to worship him. The preacher pointed out that we should worship God for who He is, not for what He can do for us.
Then he said “We should worship God even if we knew that, at the end of our lives, we’d burn in Hell forever.”
One man later told him that this was “absurd” but I think it was profound.
We use the term “God” as though it were simply a proper name. But it’s far more than that. It’s a descriptive term. He is not only all powerful, all wise, all knowing, and all good. He is also _vastly more important_ than anything else. His pleasure and will are supremely important. Not only does He have the sovereign right and the omnipotent power to carry out His will; _it is entirely proper_ for His will to trump everything else. And it’s proper not simply because God is so good and nice that He deserves our allegiance – rather, _because He is God_.
We know that God has many characteristics that we appreciate. He is just, and holy, and good, and merciful, and loving, and generous, and patient. We like all those things. We love Him because He first loved us. But what if those things were not true of God? What if He were not particularly nice, and if He didn’t extend any grace and love aside from the common grace and benevolence that the entire creation gets? He would still be worthy of our worship and adoration. That’s what being God is all about.
This is why in my theology class I emphasize certain doctrines, giving particular attention to things like God’s sovereignty, man’s thorough depravity, and God’s sovereignty in election and reprobation. Copernicus made people aware of a heliocentric solar system. We need to be aware of a _theocentric_ moral and theological universe. We need to recognize that our universe orbits around God.
The ancients used to look at the skies and see very confusing things, from their earth-centered view. Planets changed course, even going backwards at time. Astronomers understood that planets moved in circles and spheres, so they put together very complex interactions of spheres in an attempt to explain what they saw and what they believed must be true.
Copernicus presented a much simpler understanding. Astronomers no longer viewed Mercury’s movement in relation to _Earth_, which led to such complex models. They viewed Mercury’s movements in relation to the _Sun_, viewed from the perspective of Earth. Suddenly the models were much easier to understand. The theoretical (that planets should move in – generally – circles) and what could be observed (that planets move in strange patterns) collapsed into a single, simple model.
I believe that a proper theocentric view of the world will also help resolve complex theological and moral issues. For instance, one of the most troubling questions in Christianity is, why doesn’t God work it so that everyone at least has a genuine opportunity to be saved? A human-centered theology has no answer. This situation is the ultimate in cosmic injustice. If “man” and “man’s salvation” are the most important things in the universe, the idea that a man might not even have a chance to be saved is antithetical to the very order and purpose of the universe. But a theocentric understanding realizes that God may have a divine purpose in the condemnation of men, and that it’s perfectly within His rights to order events that way.
If we understand that the universe is all about _God_, the idea that we ought to worship Him even if we knew we were going to hell is not absurd. It makes perfect sense.