defining worship

22 07 2009

Many definitions have been developed about worship, but when I read them I would come up with objections. After spending years musing worship, a semester researching in independent study, and hours studying worship and associated ideas within the Bible I landed on key ideas.

intentional – I liked the idea of worship as a lifestyle, but worship seemed connected to purposed actions.
response – It is a reaction to something preexisting for what it is or has done.
admiration – The responses considered worship were not rooted in ill thoughts or feelings.
anything – Anything can be worshiped. It is not limited to living beings or physical objects, one can worship a concept.
perceived or real – False worship exists, therefore, truth does not have to move someone to worship.

A good definition must be restrictive yet not too rigid. This definition was developed to be applicable to biblical Christian worship as well as any other form. When I put these ideas together my definition is:

Worship is an intentional response in admiration toward anything for what it is or has done whether perceived or real.

This definition excludes the idea of worship as a lifestyle, but does not prevent worship from pervading a person’s life. It also limits what actions are worship as they must be done in admiration and not from other thoughts or emotions such as terror or melancholy. The definition also allows for worship to be a label given to actions toward false gods as well as the True God.

Each aspect plays a key roll in focusing what is labelled worship. An action cannot be put in a category of worship without discovering its underlying roots. The 4 of the 5 aspects focus are rooted in the worshiper and help define whether an action is worship or not. Another aspect that seems to limit worship is that it seems only  connected with humans, angels and other “spirit” beings. I didn’t know how to put that animals and inanimate objects can’t worship God according to what is shown in Scripture.

Though I studied worship a lot it still seems to have an elusive quality. Defining worship is a life long proposition.

Does this definition seem helpful? Did I miss an aspect about worship?

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3 responses

27 06 2009
is “made to worship” a worship song? « thoughts on worship

[…] we look at the lyrics through the definition of worship we will see that this song ironically is not worship. The verses talk about what God did; […]

22 07 2009
Andrea

I think one thing that might help your thinking on the definition of worship is to consider people who practice non-Christian religions. What motivates them? What do they do?

My impression is that there is a fair amount of fear-based worshiping going on when I consider animistic cultures which points back to “Christians” who are also basing their actions on fear; fear of some kind of retribution, fear of social ostracism, etc.

Instead of “admiration” maybe it is “awe” which can be admiration but also fear.

22 07 2009
Jonathan Louie

Excellent point and suggestion. Your point also adds more understanding to why God would command the Israelites to not worship or serve any other God.

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