Reason: A Vehicle for God-Centered Worship

Correct worship is the calling card of all who call upon the name of the Lord and present themselves as a living sacrifice in the discipleship of Jesus Christ. This act of worship has many components that constitute fidelity to the biblical text which instructs the believer on how to properly worship. Reason is one such component of Christian worship that this essay will determine. Reason undergirds the true Christian faith by demarcating God-centered worship by sound hermeneutics and preventing offensive methods of man-centered veneration.

Thomas Aquinas famously maintained that reason and faith interweave. “Faith uses reason, and reason cannot succeed in finding truth without faith.”[1] It is on this concept that we base our premise. Reason, in and of itself, is not worship but it sets up the variables and parameters within how we worship, why we worship, where we worship, and who we worship with. The Christian uses reason to demarcate his/her worship practices. To that point, worship is the manifestation of our reasonable faith. We live out our faith (worship) by transforming our lives by renewing our minds into the mind of Christ (Romans 12:2).  The “renewal of your mind refers to mental conformity to the truth of God. This renewal results in a transformation in the life of the believer.”[2] The Christian uses reason to renew the mind with worship and scripture to transform the person into a new believer in Christ Jesus. This is what it means to be “born again” (1 Peter 1:23).

To the believing Christian, all of life is an act of worship to God. This is laid out in the Old Testament narrative that culminates in the Old Testament Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5).[3] This became the basic law of the faith and was echoed by Jesus Christ later in Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, and Luke 10:27. All the laws were boiled down to this method of worship. What is powerful about this passage is what it means in the original language: “The Hebrew terms levav (often translated “heart”) and nephesh (often translated “soul”) do not refer to separate components of the human person. Rather, the terms overlap in meaning, conveying the internal life, dispositions, emotions, and intellect.”[4] We are to live out our worship using three components of the soul: our intellect, our physical body, and our spiritual life in worship.

The development of our intellect and the use of reason is a reflection of God’s image in human beings. “Since the human is the highest of God’s earthly creatures, the study of humanity brings to completion our understanding of God’s work and, in a sense, of God himself, since we do learn something about the Creator by seeing what he has created.”[5] Because humans are created in His image (Gen 1:26-27) this gives us our purpose, to live our lives as he imaged us to live, to know and worship Him. This can only be done through a reasonable understanding of His divine revelation, culminating in the work and ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus fulfilled this and gave all humanity a template for God’s reason for man: “to love God with your whole heart, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) This doctrine of imago Dei gives all people a mandate. We are to live our lives out as best we can to transform ourselves into divine revelation, as Jesus Christ did in fulfillment. Our image is that of God, his divine title of perfection. As Dr. Heiser states, “he is what we ought to be.”[6] Although, through depravity and sin, we struggle with this mandate, never – the- less we strive to fulfill the image that which was given to us by God. Since God is the center and standard for all truth which is the culmination of wisdom, logic, and reason; it is incumbent on us, His kingly representatives in creation, to emulate the use of these intellectual tools to worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).

Unfortunately, the history of the church has been peppered with man-centered worship. Christ has indeed built His church and the hell has not prevailed (Matthew 16:18); however, without reason, the Church has been witnessed to false prophets, idolatry, evil partnerships, and all sorts of corrupt worship. Reason sets the parameters for God-centered worship which prevents sin and protects the Church from false hermeneutics. Believers use reason to create worship techniques and practices that prevent worship that offends the holiness of God and magnifies His glory and not our own. The use of reason in worship raises up God and His majesty while lowering mankind to obsequiousness.

This discouragement of developing a robust intellectual life has cost the historical church dearly and still pervades in the modern Christian age. The various councils, the great schism, the inquisition, the reformation, the first and second great awakening, and modern theological scholarship have all been rooted in a reasonable debate about the interpretation of scripture and its effect on the Church. Regrettably, all these instances have been tarnished with fundamentalism that spoils the mind with unreasonable dogma marred in man-centered veneration, pride, and fidelity to tradition over truth.

Intellectualism in the modern church age seems to be a war between the fundamentalists and the academic theologians. This can only have a catastrophic effect that will continue to splinter the faith-based communities on orthodox/liberal lines that lead to misconstrued doctrines such as race, sexuality, political ideology that we now see running rampant in the Churches. Reason has become so far divorced from our religious practices that many denominations refuse to acknowledge some of the most basic principles in Christ that have identified us as a universal brotherhood for centuries. 

This callous attitude toward reason and worship can only be overcome by biblical reformation to the inerrancy of God’s word. It is in the revelation of the word of God that we see the wisdom of God that mankind can mirror. “The Bible has a lot to say about wisdom, and reverence for God is where it begins (Proverbs 1:7). But such reverence alone will not bring wisdom. Wisdom results when a respectful heart is united with a disciplined mind. Knowledge is the fruit of study, and knowledge is necessary for wisdom.”[7] This is how the believer lives out the faith and uses the mind, with reason, to worship the one true God. We use reason to supplement the faith and rely on divine revelation (Bible) to point us to God and the Holy Spirit to guide us through the text. This is what it means by a leap of faith, it is not capricious. “To have faith in God means to firmly rely on Him…faith is relying on what you have reason to believe is true and trustworthy. Faith involves the readiness to act as if something were so.”[8] True faith is not blind but loaded with reasonable evidence ascertained by the historical man/woman who lives out his/her daily life in worship flowing from the mind to the heart of Christ in unison with the body. This is the epitome of Deuteronomy six-five.   

The concept of reason and worship is more interconnected than most Christians tend to acknowledge; however, the interrelationship between reason and worship could not be overstated, except to the detriment of the believer. God commands us to worship and He gives a blueprint of logic and reason in which to carry out that worship with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).  True worship is God-centered worship built on logical hermeneutics, reasonable exegesis, and expository preaching built by church history and fidelity to the biblical text.

 

Bibliography

Barry, John D., ed. NIV Faithlife Study Bible: Intriguing Insights to Inform Your Faith. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012.

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999.

Heiser, Michael. The Image of GodTheology Survey. South University, 2016. Accessed May 28, 2018. https://myclasses.southuniversity.edu/d2l/le/content/26881/viewContent/678603/View.

Moreland, James Porter. Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2012.

Footnotes:

[1] Norman L. Geisler, “Faith and Reason,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 239.

[2] John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Ro 12:2.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all scripture is taken from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version.

[4] John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Dt 6:5.

[5] Ibid, 425.

[6] The Image of God, dir. Dr. Michael S. Heiser, perf. Dr. Michael Heiser, Theology Survey, January 2016, accessed May 28, 2018, https://myclasses.southuniversity.edu/d2l/le/content/26881/viewContent/678603/View.

[7] James Porter Moreland, Love Your God with All Your Mind: the Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (Coloradp Springs, CO: NavPress, 2012), 62.

[8] James Porter, Love Your God, 70.

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