16 March 2022  |

In his essay entitled, “God and the Concept of Worship” James Rachels concludes:

We have, then, a conflict between the role of worshiper, which by its very nature commits one to total subservience to God, and the role of moral agent, which necessarily involves autonomous decision making. The role of worshiper takes precedence over every other role the worshiper has; when there is any conflict, the worshiper’s commitment to God has priority over everything. But the first commitment of a moral agent is to do what in his own heart he thinks is right.

Worship, says Rachels, is total subservience to God. Yet the worshiper leaves his church and goes into a secular world, where he or she has to make decisions—to be, as Rachels says, a moral agent. We will consider questions like these:

  • What makes worship, worship?
  • Is worship a surrender to God, or just following the bulletin, being entertained by good music, and learning some new ideas from the sermon?
  • Is worship honest and ethical if the leader/preacher asks us to make decisions under the influence of powerful emotions, or if they borrow God’s authority to influence people? That is, can we trust worship as led by humans?
  • Is there an inherent conflict between being a worshiper and, at the same time, a person with free choice and autonomy, before God and in our community?
  • Does worship carry over into the secular world? Does what you do in church on Sabbath affect your actions and responsibilities at work on Monday? And vice versa?
  • Can the structure of worship—the way it’s organized, and the attitudes and actions of the leaders—make worship more or less effective?


Maury D. Jackson chairs the Pastoral Studies Department of the H.M.S. Richards School of Religion at La Sierra University.


Loren Seibold is the Executive Editor of Adventist Today

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Passcode: The second of the Old Testament’s three major patriarchs. When he was a boy his father,  Abraham, attempted to make him a human sacrifice—and fortunately didn’t succeed.  FIVE CHARACTERS, ALL CAPS.


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The class is intended to last about 2 hours, though the conversation often continues to 4 PM on the east coast of the United States.

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Coming up:

  • Alicia Johnston
  • Mathilde Frey
  • Raj Attiken
  • Laurence Turner

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