Approaching Worship and Respect

In my response to the Christological Argument and the use of icons I made a statement that Phil James, a guest blogger in the past here at the Archive, took issue with. In my post, I suggested that based on the current activities of many people with icons that the terms worship and veneration are used with a distinction that amounts to no difference; the poster responded by asking a loaded question that illuminates the mind of "our materialistic age” versus the mind of "our ancient faith” (a serious charge, no doubt): "Can stuff be worthy of respect or is it simply nothing but atoms (quoting me), chance and time.” Elsewhere, Phil also made a comment about Evangelicals knowing the difference between the loving their wives and loving God and yet not being able to see the difference between venerating icons and worshipping God.

Now ignoring several serious things I could have responded to but felt it would be repeating my post, his comments did raise several questions in my mind about the natures of worship and veneration. What is worship? How was worship accomplished? Why is worship actually worship? Is worship ever defined in Scripture? What is veneration? How is veneration accomplished? Why is veneration actually veneration? Is veneration ever defined in Scripture? How is worship not veneration and vice versa?

I think it takes some examination, not as a continuation of my dealing with icons, but because the questions have merit on their own.

Since the topic is so potentially tremendously broad, I know there is a vast amount of ink and paper devoted to the spectrum it encompasses, so I ask you (small amount of readers) if there is any material you’ve come across that I should have in my must-read list. Please, if possible, give me a small overview of the thrust of the material’s position.

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  1. I copied this comment from Facebook because I want to be able to store the titles for posterity.(ReyReynoso)

    have three, what I consider really good books on worship. one is “Worship: The Christian’s Highest Occupation” by A.P. Gibbs (available via GWH bookstore) and a couple of others. One is “Real Worship” by Warren Weirsbe and there is a similarly titled book by Tony Beckett (used to be a teacher for a short time on Back to the Bible). All three … See Moregive a good overview and definition of worship. I can probably give you the exact title from Tony Beckett’s book after I get to work tomorrow if you want to pursue it. (Jeff W.)

  2. Here’s something I’d recommend and that is available online: Its brief, but I think it is thought provoking.

    We’re right in the middle of Christmas, and today puts me with my family in a few hours. There are gifts to buy, and I’m not ready. I wanted to write something … different than this, but I can’t at the moment. So here are a couple of brief thoughts:

    One of the most significant things that separate and distinguish Evangelicals- excluding Lutherans- from the catholic branches is a differing understanding of why we gather on the Lord’s Day.

    Evangelicals gather to ‘Worship’, and their meaning is congruent with the etymology of the English word ‘worship.’ They meet to express the worthiness of God. They meet to praise him.

    From this perspective veneration, worship, etc are different points along a continuum of honor.

    If idolatry is conceived of in terms of worship, the distinction between ‘giving honor where honor is due’ and’ idolatry’ is finally a matter of subjectively feeling or objectively expressing ‘too much’ affection/praise/honor for a person, place, thing or idea.

    I know there is truth in this concern. Expressing an inordinate degree of affection/praise/honor is certainly tied to idolatry and the false worship that attends it. The distinction between dulia and latria were meant to recognize this.

    I understand your concern about this being an intellectual distinction that hasn’t any real impact on the life we live. But, I think the disconnect is other than what you might think. Human faculties are limited. The potential emotions, sensations, and acts can be counted. Lewis talks about this in his essay on Transpostion.

    The emotions are far more complicated and numerous than the sensations that accompany them. Sensations have to double, triple or quadruple up in tier meaning. The wonderful sensation that we might experience on meeting ‘that girl’ might be objectively identical to the feeling one has upon learning that a loved one has died- only its not.

    Judging what is ‘really’ going on by measuring brain waves or the flutter of the diaphragm might be entirely misleading. Likewise, judging whether a soldier has confused his wife for God- sliding from lawful affection to illicit latria- might be a pointless exercise- especially if you were watching the reunion after a long deployment.

    It is this attempt to discern/judge the distinction (that might be very real) that takes us out of the real world- not the distinction itself.

    But here is my real point- the catholic branches (including Lutherans) don’t understand what we are doing on the Lord’s Day as being primarily about what Evangelicals mean by ‘worship.’ We aren’t meeting to simply honor or praise God. That can and ought to be done anywhere and can be done in solitude.

    We are doing something more. We are meeting for something that includes but goes beyond ‘worship.’

    The language we use to refer to why we gather reflects this. Lutherans have Divine Services. Orthodox, Catholics and Anglicans meet for the sacrifice of the Eucharist which is the culmination of the Liturgy (work).

    As you know better than I, this is in keeping with the Hebrew and Greek that is routinely translated ‘Worship.’ While occasionally meaning ‘praise’, the original languages more often than not refer to Service, Sacrifice or cultic ritual.

    Like Zaccheus, we assemble where we know our Lord will pass by. We have faith that Word and Sacrament are effectual because of his promise. The movement begins with God, but returns to him. God serves us (through Jesus) and we, as men and women, return service to him (in Jesus). This meeting of God and man is the intentional point of our assembly.

    Anyway, for us ‘worship’ isn’t a vague extreme on the emotional scale of honor. Or rather that is what ‘worship’ is about, but that’s not primarily why we gather on Sunday. For catholics, ‘Worship’ is the particular God ordained act (ritual) by which God gives himself to man and man offers up to God that which God had always hoped for in man- which is to say that ‘worship’ is about receiving Christ from God and offering Christ to God.

    It is about the communion and memorial of the Eucharist.

  3. Missouri Synod Lutherans approach the Divine Service as being that Heaven comes to earth. God does not need our worship and praise and service. We do need His service, presence, and His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Christ comes to us bodily in Absolution, the Word read, in the sermon preached by the pastor ( Viva vox Jesu ) and the Sacrament of Holy Communion where we eat His body and drink His blood for the forgiveness of sins when we receive the bread and wine.

    A good book on the Divine Service of Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is Heaven of Earth, The gifts of Christ in the Divine Service by Dr. Arthur A. Just Jr.

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