Author: Patrick Krentz Th.M., Managing Editor for Foundations by ICM
There is a common objection to the existence of God that has become popular on the internet and across social media. It goes something like this: A perfect, all-powerful, self-sufficient God would not need to create worshippers and demand that people worship him. The kind of God who does this is an egomaniac, and not actually worthy of worship at all. This may seem like a powerful argument when you first hear it, but let’s take a moment to analyze the question. We will quickly find that it makes assumptions that are not justified. Most importantly, it critiques a God that the Bible does not describe.
So, let’s answer not by reacting to the question, but by cutting away the very foundations of the objection.
Before the beginning, there was Father, Son, and Spirit. Three persons sharing one essence. This relationship of three persons is God – or put another, God is a relationship of three equal but distinct persons. When we say God in a general sense, this is what we mean. From eternity past, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit exists in a relationship of mutual, self-giving love. Each person loves and exalts the others.
In Scripture, we see that it is the Father’s role to send the Son and the Son’s role to reveal the Father. Similarly, the Son sends the Spirit and the Spirit exalts the Son. Each person points to the others. You don’t see Jesus exalting himself in the New Testament. In fact, you see the opposite – Jesus humbled himself to the greatest possible degree, and fully submitted himself to the Father.
Consider Philippians 2:5-9:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.
Jesus began in the highest position of total equality with the Father but lowered himself to the lowest position humanity has to offer. He could have exalted himself at any time, restoring his equality, but he chose humility and submission instead. As a result, verse 9 says, “God has highly exalted him.”
Why does this matter for answering the objection? Because a relationship of three other-exalting persons is quite different from a single self-exalting deity. To illustrate, let’s move from talking about pre-creation to creation itself.
Why did God create anything?
If God is self-sufficient, why did he create people to worship him? What is creation in the first place? A key clue to answering this question lies in the sort of creational power God gave to his creatures – procreation. In both a physical and a philosophical sense, procreation (having babies) happens as a result of self-giving love. Each person involved gives of themself in a unifying act that results in the creation of something new.
If we relate this idea to the God who is three-in-one, we can also say that creation itself is the outpouring or overflow of trinitarian, self-giving love. God’s love is unlimited and unbound. Creation was meant to grow the family of God; to create a vast multitude of persons who could experience the joyful union of the Trinity. These creatures were made like their creator in that they could willingly give of themselves in love for others, though they did not share in the perfection or equality with God.
God of Relationship
In our present condition, humanity experiences only a minute fraction of the relationship for which we were made. In Eternity, we will enter into that relationship in an ever-expanding, always increasing capacity. Even though this relationship will be enjoyed in eternity with God, distinction remains between God and humanity, God is the Creator and we the creature. This distinction is essential to answering the initial objection of egoism.
A simple answer to the question, “why did God create anything,” would be: To enter into relationship with more people. But did God create us so that we would worship him? No.
God does not need our worship in any sense. He doesn’t need us to say nice things about him so that he can feel better about himself. This is not why he demands that we worship him. Instead, he demands that we worship him because he wants us to enter into the perfect, joyful relationship that he created us to experience.
What is Worship?
Let’s pause here and ask, what is worship anyway? If someone objects to a deity who demands worship, it might be good to know the meaning of the word before answering. Worship, by its non-theological, simple dictionary definition, means to express respect and reverence for a deity. So, God demands that we express respect and reverence for him.
Now, let’s think about this in reverse. The objection states that a deity should not require that creatures show respect or reverence for it. If you think about it, that’s absurd. If a perfect, holy, and loving God exists, the only correct response to him would be respect and reverence.
We even understand this from a human perspective. Imagine your boss, or even the leader of your country (assume for a moment that he is a great leader) shows up at your house for dinner. How should you react? Will you casually go about your business, perhaps go out of your way to microwave some leftovers for his dinner? Of course not, you will show respect according to what he deserves.
So, worshipping God is merely the natural reaction we should have toward him. If we are not acting respectfully and reverently toward him then there is something terribly wrong. God, for his part, does not desire worship for worship’ sake, but because he desires that we be in right-relation to him.
The God who demands worship gave everything to reunite us to himself. He no more needs our worship than he needs our company, but he desires (and requires) our worship because it is a prerequisite for entering into true relationship with an Almighty God. If we are to be with him for all eternity, then we will worship him for all eternity. That is merely the natural and right response to being in his presence. It is something that anyone who experiences his love will do without question.
Is God an egomaniac? Quite the opposite. He simply wants us to respond appropriately when he pours out his love on us.