Becoming What We Worship: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD
Becoming What We Worship
An old Anglican priest friend of mine used to speak of an “enlightened traditionalism”. By this he meant the faith of the Catholic Church as Anglicanism has received it, with reverence for Scripture and tradition, and a lively social conscience in its application. There was a time when such an enlightened traditionalism was valued on its own merits. Now, however, we would be mired in arguments as to whether such an approach was liberal or conservative as we have imported secular categories as doctrinal definitions.
Rather than being the salt of the earth or the light of the world, the process has been reversed as we have taken in the values of secular society, baptized them, and have given them a home in the house of God. This, of course, is idolatry. Moreover, it does not matter whether those imported secular values originated in the political Left or the political Right, or merely in the movement of society at large. The idol, whether fashioned out of gold or clay, remains an idol and is defined as such by those who give it pride of place in worship and devotion.
It has always struck me that when we read about Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers in the temple precincts we immediately make the moral of the story as one concerning the money itself. I think, however, we might be missing the point. “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” The anger was about the temple being used for a purpose that was alien to its singular and primary nature as a place of worship. Commerce could take place elsewhere… but not there.
As the Church there are priorities. I believe our top priority, preeminent above everything or anything else that we can do, preeminent even above works of mercy, is worship. By worship, however, I am not speaking just of the singing of hymns or being led in by a team of musicians in choruses. I am speaking of Biblical literacy and a life of prayer, both individual and in common with others. I would include in worship the hospitality and generosity of true Christian fellowship, as well as our life together at the altar. I am speaking of a worship that is Christo-centric. It is not, Christ plus politics. It is not Christ plus nationalism. It is not Christ plus societal sexual norms. It is not Christ plus the Second Amendment. It is not Christ plus theories – conspiratorial, racial or otherwise.
As a friend of mine said, in the end, we shall be what we shall be because we worship what we worship. Idolatry is the most grievous of sins not merely because it dishonors God, but because of what it does to us. We are affected at our very deepest being by what we pay homage to. In a very real sense, we become what we worship. To grow “to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” is to dispense with our imported idols and to worship him alone.