Challenge: Only Tyrants Demand Worship

Posted: September 18, 2012 by Amy Hall in God is Real, Weekly Challenge

I found this challenge in “Top 50 Questions Christians Can’t Answer.” Can you answer it?

God wants everyone to worship and follow him and, if they don’t, they burn in hell for all eternity. What does this type of attitude say about his character? By definition, he would be described as a tyrant.

Is God a tyrant? What do you think? How would you respond? Leave your ideas in the comments below, and we’ll hear from Brett on Thursday.

  1. Albert says:

    Let’s see…. God creates man….. God tells man to worship their creator…. Man decides they don’t need God…. God throws them in the furnace to remove the impurities. Yep, God can do that, He made us. Who are we to say He can’t?

    Man understands justice. If someone wrongs them, they want them prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and even sometimes more than that.

    What man doesn’t see is that the people that get sent to hell isn’t because they have chosen to not to worship God, but rather because they have committed sins that have to be atoned for. It’s not God’s fault that He gave them a free path to have them atoned for and they chose not to accept it.

    No, it’s called justice. Punishment that fits our crime.

    When we sin, we break the lawmakers laws. Doesn’t matter if we don’t agree with the laws or even acknowledge that the lawmaker exists. If He exists and He created us and He made the laws that we need to abide by, then we have an obligation to those laws. And it’s not like we are not aware of the laws as they are written on our hearts. But we try to reason our way out of it. We make excuses and we point the blame on someone else.

    But when we sin, there is a requirement for payment. If we have no one to atone for our sins, we must pay for them ourselves. And the wages of sin is death.

    God is not a tyrant. God loves us enough to over look the actual punishment we deserve by providing His son as the atonement. All we have to do is freely accept this gift and bow our knee to the one that made us. If we chose not to do that, it’s not God being a tyrant, it’s us being stubborn.

    I guess I’m not sure I would have answered it that way; that was more if a rant.

    Perhaps I would have just asked them why they believe God is a tyrant. I might have asked them if our sins have anything to do with it. Lead them down the path to where their argument fails and see where to go from there.

  2. greeklogic says:

    I would first ask what the person means by ‘tyrant’. A ‘tyrant’ by popular definition is a ruler who enforces their desires over the needs of others. If God were a tyrant, then he would be taking money from starving families to build armies. He would be taking labor from small towns and villages to support his own building projects such as nuclear weapons, rockets, etc. (kind of like communist Russia and China). Tyrants don’t demand worship, they demand stuff and people.

    Only gods demand worship. I can think of a number of humans who have done so in human history. But none of those actually deserved the worship they demanded. If there’s anyone who deserves worship, it’s the One who created the universe and makes it possible for us to even exist in the first place.

    If you can’t worship the One who created you, then everyone will be a tyrant to you…that is…except for…yourself……because you’re never a tyrant…

  3. Mark in Columbia, Missouri says:

    It’s a great starting point because — if the person is genuinely interested in a conversation — it opens up a discussion on so many foundational points of the Christian world view:

    Who is God?
    Who is Man?
    What is Sin? i.e. what is the appropriate response from a creature to a Creator, and do we meet it?
    What is Just? i.e. what does it really mean that God gives us what we want – if we want him, we get him; if we don’t want him, we don’t get him?

    Finally — I do think this objection points out the problems we carry when we embrace an unbiblical view of hell. But that’s a much longer discussion!

  4. Sam Harper says:

    I guess God would seem like a tyrant to somebody who doesn’t want to worship him, but for a person who is in awe of God’s glory, worship is only natural. If God is the greatest possible being, then there’s no being more worthy of worship, and it would be wrong for God not to demand it.

  5. DGFischer says:

    It is the nature of God to be worshipped, in much the same way that it is the nature of gravity to pull objects unsupported by anything tangible in the air to terra firma below. If by chance a fellow in taking some risk falls ten feet and breaks an arm, would it be an act of intelligence to declare gravity to be a tyrant and the fellow the victim of its injustice? It would be somewhat more an indication of irresponsibility, or a refusal to admit the folly that led up to the fall and the accident.

    It is the nature of God to be good, but not to be Santa Claus. In such displays of His goodness, He need not shower us with presents to prove goodness. In fact, in loving discipline, a father will use whatever unpleasantries necessary to correct, all in the spirit of love.

    Albert is correct. The refusal to understand the loving gestures of God in His quest of forgiveness and a needed life of repentance is much the same as one who will flirt with gravity and get terribly hurt in the consequnce. Meerly declaring something unpleasant as tyrannical is closing off any contemplation on why God may seem adverse – the worst of all strawman arguments.

  6. OK, so God is a tyrant, by your definition of “tyrant.”
    Now what?
    All the more reason to be worshiping Him, I should think.

    Unless you’d rather “burn in Hell for all eternity.”

    My guess is that, given the source, the question is meant to ridicule belief in God. But it’s a very incomplete argument.

  7. patricksenn says:

    This is exactly what I was talking about with someone during evangelism last week! Anyway, God is worthy of worship, like Sam Harper wrote already “If God is the greatest possible being, then there’s no being more worthy of worship, and it would be wrong for God not to demand it”. Also we’re not blindly bowing down like slaves, but we’re in a true relationship with God which was only possible through His own sacrificial death for our sin. How can that make Him a tyrant? That draws true and voluntary worship out of me, worship that’s a joy to give.
    And about the hell part: we’re not thrown to hell for not worshipping God, we end up there because we reject the only way out of it, namely Jesus.

  8. Erik says:

    First, to correct the question, we don’t “burn in hell for all eternity” for not worshipping God. We are punished eternally for our sin against God. What does this say about God’s character? Not what the question implies. If God condemned us all to hell for our sins and left no way out, you may then rightly judge that God is some kind of cosmic brute. But He hasn’t done that. He made a way out. The only one that suffered for the cost of that free gift was God. He sent his Son, Jesus to pay the price for our sins, and then freely offered that solution to anyone who would receive it. Cosmic tyrant? I don’t think so. Show me one earthly tyrant that ever gave his life out of compassion for the lives of his subjects. That person doesn’t exist.

    The problem comes from the fact that if we accept His gift, it comes with a condition: He becomes Lord of our lives, our authority. Is this a big problem? For some, yes it is.

    People tend to have a problem with authority. Whether it is our parents, our bosses, the government or God Himself, authority represents something bad, it represents a restriction on our personal desires and freedoms. Many who seek religion are looking for something that makes them ‘feel good’, so long as it doesn’t impose any restrictions or requirements on their lives. But does God’s demand for worship really harm us in some way?

    Consider this: God’s reason for demanding worship actually serves a very important purpose in our lives. Early on, God warned man of the dangerous consequences of worshipping the creation rather than the Creator. Why? Because without a focus on the one who created us, we find ourselves adrift in a world where there is no clear direction for morality since we simply do what pleases us. Self-centeredness is the natural result of a rejection of God, for what else is there to focus on but the self? Listen to atheists speak and you hear the same thing over and over “I do what’s right for me, I do what feels good to me, I help others because it benefits me”. In truth, rejection of the worship of God results from the desire to worship self. God knows this and offers an alternative that keeps us focused on the right things.

    If God were a tyrannical egomaniac as the question implies, He would never have sacrificed the life of His own Son as a free gift of atonement for our sins. Unlike a tyrant, God does not force us to accept this gift. He makes it clear what the consequences will be if we reject Him, then leaves it to us to make the final decision. He respects our choice and allows us to bear the consequences of that choice. Unlike a tyrant that forces us to make a decision from the barrel of a gun, God gives us an option. It’s His world, His creation, His rules. When we violate those rules (we all do, it’s called sin), He gives us a way out, but He has to provide an alternative for those who reject Him, and that is eternal judgment. God’s mercy is available to anyone who would receive it. Those who choose to reject it, they cannot rightly place the blame on God simply because they don’t like the way it’s done.

  9. To be clear, God does not send individuals to hell because they refuse to worship Him. He sends them to hell because they are guilty. They have broken His moral law and should justly be punished for it.

    But wait, God loved us so much that He sent His son Jesus to suffer our punishment for us. All we have to do is acknowledge that we are sinners and accept the free gift of salvation that comes through Christ. As such, wouldn’t you think we ought to honor and respect God for what He has done for us?

    The bottom line is that worship is appropriate for God. Just it would be appropriate to express gratitude to a physician who saves your life after suffering a major injury, it is appropriate to express gratitude to God considering what He did to save us from our sins.

    Furthermore, I believe that we are the ones who benefit from worshiping God, not the other way around. God does not need our worship, but He knows that He is the only thing that will ever satisfy us and make us happy. Thus He wants us to worship him for our own benefit.

  10. Ben Fair says:

    I have encountered this question, or ones phrased similarly, in discussion with Atheists. I have explained it like this and it usually diffuses their argument. It seems to me the person asking the question has some fundamental misunderstandings.

    First, they do not understand God’s character and/or objective vs. subjective morality. In order to say that someone or something is a tyrant seems to embrace objective moral values and duties (or how else could you call one thing evil and another good?) So, they can grant objective morality (which they usually don’t want to do) or they can go with subjective morality. Either way we find it isn’t a problem at all. If they go with objective morality and since objective morality is grounded in God’s character, it cannot be that He contradicts His own character. Or, if they go with subjective morality then the issue evaporates because then they have no basis to call anything evil. So, this line of thinking actually leads the person asking the question to a dilemma about the grounding of moral values and duties.

    Second, they have a misunderstanding of sin. This is evident because they have the proposition between man and God wrong. The proposition is not that God says, “Worship me or else!”. Rather, man already has the “Or Else” and God tries to provide a way out; it is up to us whether we choose to take it. Going further, the reason we (mankind) is already in the “Or Else” state is not because of God’s actions but because of our own. So, an accurate description is not that God will put someone in Hell, but that they have put themselves there.