Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Problem with Man Worship

Man-worship is a real problem in modern Christianity. And no, I don’t mean the explicit and obvious kind where people are actually bowing down and serving men, though I’m sure someone, somewhere in America actually does this. Rather, I’m talking about theological and philosophical heroes of the faith that we have propped up on a pedestal. This surely needs to stop, as there is only one God, and that is the God of Christianity.

Let me give you an example of something I need to be careful of. I’ve already written, in the past, about making sure we don’t get ourselves too attached to any one scholar. This is a very closely related topic. I want to put myself in the shoes of someone who might be accused of man worship. Specifically, I had to ask myself two questions. First, is there anything on which I disagree with William Lane Craig? If the answer is “no,” then I’m almost assuredly suffering from at least one of two maladies: I’ve either not thought hard enough about some issues, or else I’m engaging in man worship. Second, if someone were to disagree with William Lane Craig, what would be my first reaction?

To the first question, I can point to a few places where I either disagree with Craig or else haven’t firmly committed myself to his position. However, I tend to think he’s right far more often than he’s wrong!  To the second question, I have to admit that my initial reaction to hearing someone say Craig is wrong would be to attempt a defense of his view, whatever that might be. “Aha!” you might think. “Randy worships a man!” You never know: perhaps some of the time I may in fact be guilty of this. However, I believe the key is not having this natural reaction, but what we do with this natural reaction. Do we temper it, being willing to evaluate the claims and evidence and come to what we think is the right conclusion after all? Let’s be honest: we aren’t always interested in what’s true as much as what we would like to be true.

And here’s the kicker: at bottom, we worship men because we worship ourselves. It is we who are right; it is we who discovered the truth, on our own, thank you very much, and anyone who disagrees is either ignorant or insufficiently honest. This kind of pride can lead to a bizarre kind of pseudo-intellectualism, where we uncritically accept whatever a leading figure says about, say, inerrancy, and applaud away while he makes the case for a specific interpretation of a passage, then says that to deny that interpretation is to deny what God has said!

The point is not that we cannot trust things that people say, nor is it that we should trust everything that those same people say. Both extremes must be avoided. Rather, we must ask ourselves if a particular viewpoint is allowed by Scripture, and what philosophy and theology have to say about it if it might be. No man worship should ever enter the equation—not even worship of ourselves. We must love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

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