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Worm theology

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Worm Theology is a term used for a system of belief in Christian culture that a feeling and expression of low self worth means God is more likely to show mercy and compassion. The name comes from a line in the Isaac Watts hymn Alas! and Did My Saviour Bleed (Pub 1707) [1], which says "Would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?" This thinking was prevalent in the days when this hymn was originally written, as it was believed that we were all as 'worms' it the dirt and despair of our sin.

Watts in his hymn illustrates the thinking that still exists, believing that this is the way of getting God to intervene. Often such people have inner wounds that they are not necessarily aware of, and such a belief just matches what they feel about themselves and sometimes others.

On the other hand God detests sin so much because it separates us from Himself; it could then be argued that in our sin we are as worms in God's sight.

Its Origins

John Calvin (1509-1564) a 16th century theologian and Protestant reformer much of his theological thinking was similar to Augustine of Hippo (354-430) [2] [3] Calvin saw mankind as being totally unable to do anything for ourselves to free us from the stranglehold of sin, hence the reason why Jesus came to reveal what God the Father was really like (John 14:6) and that it is only through faith in Jesus and a continual yielding of ourselves to the Holy Spirit that we are able to have an intimate relationship with a holy and righteous God [4].

John Wesley (1703-1791) from whom the Methodist Church commenced seems to hold to this view as his notes on Psalm 22:6 seem to suggest [5]. (Further comment follows). Although Wesley was a firm believer in the 'Grace of God' [6] which emphasises the goodness of God towards humankind even though we have done nothing to deserve it.

Worm Theology was more acceptable by Christians of previous generations. St. Paul writes "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24, NIV). This was understood as being a way in which one was able to humble themselves before God and man. However, the context of this verse suggests otherwise [7].

Paul [8]was an extremely influential Christian who took the Gospel all over the then known world, suffering greatly for the cause of Christ; eventually losing his life in defense of the Gospel. He also wrote a number of powerful letter now an important part of the Bible. One of these is the book of Romans [9], where he develops the argument where a person is changed from a sinner to a saint though faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus, the sinless Son of God lived a perfect life before God and man, and Paul sought to imitate his Lord and Saviour. However no matter how hard he tries, he finds it impossible to achieve. This leads him to write the phrase, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" [10] But in the very next verse he points out that Jesus has made this impossible task possible [11] through the help and enabling of the Holy Spirit [12], who is able to change us from slaves of sin to sons of God [13], without condemning us in any way [14]. The only way one feels condemned is when we chose to go our way instead of keeping in step with God's Holy Spirit [15].

The term 'worm theology' is generally used by those who do not accept this, and so is used as a way of expressing the belief that this theology is wrong. But 'worm theology' is not as prevalent today.

Worm Theology And The Bible

The bible refers to human beings as worms in a number of places and is used to show us as being totally unlike God in every aspect. Before a person has surrendered his or her life to Christ, the Bible shows that we are in our sin and in such a condition God sees us as worms - even though His love for us is tremendous and just cannot be grasped fully.

a) Job 25:4-6 -

"4 How then can a man be righteous before God? How can one born of woman be pure? 5 If even the moon is not bright and the stars are not pure in his eyes, 6 how much less man, who is but a maggot— a son of man, who is only a worm!" (NIV) [16]

Job who was going through a tremendous amount of suffering, had three friends who tried in their own sort of way to help him in his despair. These words quoted above are partially true, because no one can be considered righteous before God, but one of Job's friends then takes on satan's view of Job and not God's, which turns out to be a great error as far as God was concerned (Job 42:7) as so much of their speech was not right.

b) Psalm 22:6 -

"6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people." (NIV) [17] </blockquote>

In this verse the psalmist is describing his personal feelings and the depths of his despair at the time and has nothing to do with the way God sees him. Clarke comments on this verse by saying, "I can see no sense in which our Lord could use these terms. David might well use them to express his vileness and worthlessness." [18]

c) Isaiah 41:14 -

"14 Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you," declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel." (NIV) [19] </blockquote>

Once again this is not how God sees His people, but the way they saw themselves at the time because they were an oppressed people by the Babylonians, and the majority of the Jews were living as captives in a foreign land. In fact God is promising to intervene in their situation and to deliver them.

God and Worm Theology

Genesis 1:27 states that man was made in God's image and likeness [20]. In spite of man's sin we still have some aspcts of God's nature. In addition God looks upon the human race in a different way from animal and plant life ie. In the way He gave His Son Jesus as a sacrifice for our sin problem.

The Bible says "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8 NIV) [21]. This means that when we are at our worst and lowest as far as God was concerned, He gave us Jesus to die in our place and for us. We might consider ourselves as worthless and rubbish, but would God have given the very best He had - His Son for something that was rubbish and worthless. As far as God is concerned we matter to Him a lot, otherwise He would never have given His son for something that was no good.

When a person surrenders His life to Jesus, their sins are done away with and God sees us as Justified or just as if we had never committed any sins whatsoever in our entire lives, and Jesus stands between us and God, so when God looks at us - what He sees is the perfect and complete sacrifice of His Son Jesus.

God's complete and total foriveness flies in the face of 'Worm Theology'. This clearly illustrates that God wants to have an intimate relationship with you. The question is how much do you want God to have an intimate relationship with you and to what level? Seeing ourselves as 'worms' is to mock the grace, mercy and forgiveness of God, who's love for you is so immense that He wants you to allow Him to impact and change your life in such a way that you are able to radiate the life and love of Jesus in your daily lives.

Further Thoughts God does not detest sin because it separates us from Him. That is a man-centered, man worshipping theology. God detests sin because it violates his Holiness and rebells against His authority.

Man is indeed a worthless creature, and the vast majority are on the broadway to destruction, an eternity in the Lake of Fire because of their rebellion against God's authority. But there is a difference for those who are Christians. In Christ we (the saved, born again believers in Jesus) are new creatures. It is solely attributable to God's will and grace that we who are saved from the wrath of God that abideth on all those who hate Him. The reason for God saving some is not found within man, but within the will of God alone.

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