The point of the First Commandment is that the one true God, and only the one true God, is to be worshipped as God. To hold that this biblical injunction belongs equally to the natural law is to hold that although not everyone believes the Bible as the word of God, everyone does know that there is one true God and that he owes Him sole worship. If this is true, then those who say they don't know of any such God are fooling themselves, and biblical revelation merely "blows their cover." The Commandment presupposes more than just the knowledge that God is real. It presupposes that we also understand that benefit incurs obligation... This in turn presupposes that we know the principle, "Give to each what is due to him," what we owe God being loyalty, worship, and obedience. To deny Him is the deepest form of treason - much more serious than the ordinary sort. The Commandment does not presuppose that God needs our devotion - only that we owe it to Him. If it is asked why He requires what He does not need, the answer is found in the nature He has imparted to us. As rational and moral beings, we are endowed with the capacity to recognize what is intrinsically worthy of our gratitude. To pay this kind of debt ennobles us rather than demeaning us; to withhold it is a distortion of rational nature which puts us lower than the beasts. (emphasis in original)It is interesting to note how J. B. delineates the act of worship. In our 21st century Western mindset we typically find tha people consider worship to be validated not by the liturgy involved, nor by the mere fact that it is owed to God, but primarily by the level of emotion experienced by the individual or group. After particularly charged worship services people tend to relate to the experience of the event - thereby equating the integrity of the worship with the corresponding level of feeling. Now, any entrance into the presence of God will, to be sure, not be a boring event. The point I am making is that our rational understanding of who God is and why He is owed worship should guide how we structure our act of giving worship to Him.
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
On Obligation to God...
J. Budziszewksi, in What We Can't Not Know, reviews each of the commandments of the Decalogue in the context of how they summarize the natural law. Consider what he writes about the First Commandment: