It is hard to identify worship. Jesus criticized the empty, self-aggrandizing activities of some of the professionally religious of His day, stating that these were clearly not worship. Yet that certainty was certainly not shared by the people. They would most likely have been quite impressed by how worshipful these clergy were. Perhaps these religious folk saw their activities as worshipful as well. (Cain may well have seen his sacrifice as a pure act of worship.) King David, dancing through the streets of Jerusalem, most likely saw his activity as worshipful. His wife saw him as acting as a clown. Only God really knows what is worship. (David’s wife was punished by God for despising him in her heart— despising a person certainly being sinful— and perhaps for judging what we are not cmpetent to judge. It seems doubtful that she was punished for inaccuracy. Again, only God knows.)
There are two struggles that we must address:
- When is are actions, words, and thoughts worshipful and when is it simply satisfying some lesser need or desire?
- If we find it so difficult to evaluate our own hearts in terms of worship, is it ever possible to evaluate others?
As an act of self-evaluation, I want ot look at myself from the perspective of the 9 spiritual temperaments. I will tentatively go from those temperaments that I feel are more part of myself to the ones that I see to be less part of me, to least.
Intellectualist. The Intellectualist Temperament is not “worship for smart people.” It is about loving God with the mind. It is about loving God by seeking to understand God. This may seem to be hubris, but it is such only if one thinks one arrives. It is the journey that count– a journey that never comes to an end in this world.
This one hits closest to home for me. I did not care for devotional books because they were often done to help the reader “know God” or “feel God’s presence.” But there was little in them to help one to understand God. This may seem subtle but it is significant. With the devotional, one may have a happy “Our Daily Bread”-type story, with a verse for thought such as “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11). It is certainly uplifting. But from the intellectualist perspective it is a source of controversial meditation. That is because the broader passage is about Jeremiah informing the exiles that God will be waiting 70 years to bring them home. Therefore, the message of hope is only really relevant to the hearers in the sense that it gives hope that a future generation will be blessed. The message of hope is actually mixed with a form of hopelessness. For the message from God to be identified as hopeful, one has to reject one’s own personal ambitions, and rest in the knowledge that one’s children or children’s children will experience the Lord’s favor. This sort of “hopeful hopelessness” is difficult for many Christians to appreciate, and it is exactly this sort of thing that spoils a short devotional thought of an FB ‘happy quote.’ But it is in this place of cognitive tention where the intellectualist worshiper thrives.
Naturalist. I do love to find God in nature— His Creation. I was raised in the country where I could see no neighbors from my house. The only building I could see outside of our homestead was a radio tower on Oak HIll, a couple of miles away “as the crow flies.” I like to get away from people sometimes (not easy here in the Philippines). When I am alone in the natural world, I tend to feel closer to God. In the Navy I was, in retrospect, so blessed that I was moved from the submarine fleet to the surface fleet. In the middle of the ocean, I would go up on top of the superstructure, lay down and look up at the stars undimmed by light polution. I would feel the undulation of the ocean pushing our frigate this way and that. Sometimes I would go out to the fantail and see the trail of bioluminescence brought by billions of microscopic organisms disturbed by the churning of our propellor.
Most often, whether back home or on the ocean, I would like to stare into space. I would imagine that I was part of space, with just a thin film of air protecting me from nearly complete vaccuum. This wasn’t hard to imagine, because that is reality. I would look at the stars and try to imagine them as they are… not bright spots on a canvas, but a three-dimensional panarama going off in all directions for (approximating) eternity. This was harder to imagine… the mind buckles under the scale of the cosmos. It occurs to me that the Naturalist and the Intellectual can be quite compatible. People like Kepler and Newton saw themselves in their appreciation of God’s handiwork on a quest to understand the very mind of God. Who is to say that Newton’s second law of motion is not a statement (ode) of deep reverential awe to the Creator?
Ascetic. This one I feel a connection to, but I also find myself pushing away from it. On one side, I appreciate the idea of living a life of quiet simplicity. Perhaps this jives quite well with the intellectualist and naturalist, who often find themselves closer to God when they are less entangled with people and people’s stuff. The solitary and simple, may appeal to me and I do feel closer to God removing myself from the frenetic world around. But perhaps my temperament comes closer to that of the writer of Ecclesiastes, whose perspective seems a bit more Epicurean than Ascetic— Fear the Lord, and enjoy the simple little joys you find in this otherwise rather meaningless existence. I have never fasted in my life and considering how ambivalent the Bible is on fasting, I have to be a bit skeptical of those who push it as a Christian must-do. Additionally, the ascetic lives a life of order and structure (according to the book). I have no order to my daily life at all. I generally sleep more often when it is dark than when it is light. I usually eat close to mid-day. Beyond these two points of reference, there is little consistent in my daily routine. I am not sure that I have a daily routine. So perhaps the ascetic does not really describe where I am…. but it someways, almost.
Traditionalist. I come from an Open-worship denomination. As such, we don’t have as much in terms of formal traditions. We may have quite a bit in informal traditions… but these do drift some over time. Still, the more I go to churches that embrace the musical “flavor of the hour,” the more I like to hear and participate in the great hymns of the faith, and sometimes even the ancient music traditions of the church. The more I go to churches that do the “Ummm… let’s see what’s next on the agenda” in worship service, the more I like a bit of reliable structure. The more I go to churches where members stand and sit, but do little more to participate in the corporate worship (maybe some clapping or waving hands around as well), the more I wonder if a bit of liturgical dialogue between clergy and laity is not such a bad thing.
I like to remember that the church exists in four dimension, not just three. It exists in three-space, but it also exists in time. We are part of a 2000 year old tradition, and there is something wonderful in sharing in the same words and actions as they… at least sometimes. Maybe for me I want a “rebellious traditionalism.” We rebel against falling into a spiritless traditionalism by appreciating eclectically the various traditions that our four-dimensional church has to offer.
Caregiver. I struggle with this one. I do like to serve in ministry. I like to teach, I like to help ministers become empowered to be more effective. I like to “fix problems.” I suppose that would make me a caregiver. On the other hand, there are some ways that I really am not. Does this mean that I am not a caegiver in terms of spiritual temperament, or does it mean that I am one, but the side of me that is a SELFISH JERK wars with that other side of me. Definitely an area for contemplation.
The other four temperaments are really not me at all. The tricky one of those is the Contemplative. I teach in an Evangelical seminary, and I give out spiritual temperaments test to a lot os students. Usually, Contemplative is one of the top two. I wonder about that. However, in the Evangelical worldview, adoration of God is taken quite strongly. So maybe this is a big thing for many of our students. On the other hand, there is also a lot of religious peer pressure in this area that may distort the results. Evangelical youth are really expected to groove to the worship songs no matter how poor the theology or sickly syrupy the words. On the other hand, maybe the questions are poorly worded. Thomas did admit that he struggled in separating the Contemplative type from some overlapping types like Ascetic and Naturalist (who are very much contemplative in their worship).
I am not not an Activist. I am not confrontational. I often respect (some) activists, but as Thomas noted, we tend to prefer dead prophets over living ones. We need them, but we often don’t want them as neighbors.
The Sensate and the Enthusiast do nothing for me. I have friends that fit into one of these… especially the Enthusiast. They don’t appear to be able to fathom any other type of worship. But then, most of us struggle with recognizing worship that is outside of our own area of comfortable connection with God. I am the type of person who, as a High Schooler, would bring a book with me to a party, so I would have something to read when I get bored.
I probably will never be able to appreciate the full range of worshipful expression directed to our God— and I doubt these 9 temperaments express the entire range. They at least give me something to think about as I stand awkwardly during a worship service while others sing enthusiastically and joyfully songs that are happy and musically contemporary, but with little else to commend them. They may help me to appreciate someone using an icon for reverential contemplation on the mystery of God without me automatically jumping to the conclusion that they are idolizing a “graven image.”
Maybe as I go through life I will rediscover Quiet Time and find that I gave it up too quickly and by combining it with a flexible routine, and my practice of contemplative journaling, it will have a vibrant place in my spiritual pilgrimmage. Maybe my practice of journaling and studying and reading really is my Quiet Time… just a slightly different Quiet Time. Anyway, it is something to think about.