Day One - It All Starts with God
However, in what follows the great promise of the foregoing is dashed. Mr. Warren parts company with Calvin and with all sound and biblical wisdom. In the Institutes Calvin proceeds to elaborate on the impediment of sin and on the true Doctrine of Revelation in the Bible. Mr. Warren glosses over the matter of sin entirely. Thus, a crucial question is left unasked and therefore unanswered: if we are the creation of God, then why is there difficulty with knowing this and with understanding ourselves and reality aright? Having bypassed this inquiry altogether, Mr. Warren therefore entertains no compunction to elaborate a Doctrine of Revelation. This departure from biblical wisdom leads to many problems, a number of which are exhibited during the course of this first Day.
Even though he has stressed “revelation” over speculation, he repeatedly speaks of true self-knowledge as that which we “discover” (p. 18, 19, 20). Our “discovery” is said to come, “…through a relationship with Jesus Christ” (p.20). But, with no clear idea of sin in view, this idea of “discovery” cannot meaningfully be portrayed as involved in Redemption. This problem suggests a refinement of the question posed above: if I am God’s creation, then why should I be without a relationship with Jesus Christ? Indeed, how is it possible for any creature to exist apart from being related to the Creator? However, there is no hint of consideration of these questions. Instead there is only the assurance that it is within our initiative and power to begin such a relationship; as he puts it, “If you don’t have such a relationship, I will later explain how to begin one” (p.20). This, in turn, suggests further questions, e.g: If God is the Creator of all reality, and so determines the meaning and purpose of all things, then how can we meaningfully speak of a relationship between God and His creature as depending upon the initiative and power of the creature? Mr. Warren affords us no explanation.
Indeed, if I “discover” my meaning and purpose through initiative I exercise to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ, then what really remains of a “Creator” or any “revelation” consisting of His Word? How is the Bible essentially different from the Koran, the Talmud, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Vedas, the I-Ching, the Ovid, et. al.? How is the Bible essentially different from thoughts of my own mind? Mr. Warren closes this first Day with what is supposed to be an inspiring story of an atheist Russian novelist, who was overcome with great despair. And then, “…suddenly, all by itself, a phrase appeared: Without God life makes no sense.” (p.21) How is the Bible essentially different from “all by itself, a phrase appeared”? One may suggest that the experience of the Russian atheist is an example of the “general revelation” of Nature. Indeed, biblical orthodoxy holds that whereas men are in fact the creatures of God, and made in His image, therefore it is their nature to know this and to know Him, even though in sin they seek to flee Him. But Mr. Warren undertakes no discussion comparing and contrasting the “general” revelation of Nature and the “special” revelation of the Bible. The Russian atheist is presented as arriving at true faith in God via thoughts that arise in his mind.
Biblical orthodoxy holds on the one hand that the general revelation of Nature is sufficient that all men know God and know their duty to God, and therefore are “without excuse” in their sin (Rom. 1:18-23), and on the other hand that only the special revelation of the Bible is sufficient for the regeneration of men unto truth (Rom. 10:6-17). “Revelation” means that God reveals to us that which we could not know apart from Him speaking to us. This is what makes the Bible different from other “sacred texts.” The Bible is the Word of the Creator of all reality. Other texts are the words of men. The truly Christian idea is to maintain a clear and deep distinction between the Creator and the creature - between the God who defines and determines all of reality and the man who inhabits, experiences, and is limited by reality. The authority of the Bible in the thought and lives of men is founded upon this distinction. Apart from this distinction the mind and the thoughts of “God” cannot ultimately be separated from the mind and the thoughts of man. In this case there could be no meaningful distinction between the Bible and any other words we may happen to encounter.
Mr. Warren’s message thus far seems to be: 1) Man is a creature of God, but 2) somehow the “creature” may exist without relation to the “Creator”; 3) although this is problematic for the creature, nevertheless he may exercise his power and initiative to enter into relationship to the Creator; 4) something that we have the habit of referring to as “revelation” somehow will be involved in his “discovering” the meaning and purpose of life. Mr. Warren’s concepts of “God,” “Man,” “Revelation,” and “Discovery” are rather nebulous. Therefore, under these terms a man’s transformation from meaninglessness and purposelessness into meaning and purpose is an ill-defined process of becoming; the creature somehow becomes what the Creator made him to be. As Mr. Warren puts it, “It is about becoming what God created you to be” (p.19).
In contrast to this, a biblically orthodox message holds that 1) it is the nature of the creature to be related to the Creator - that nothing can exist apart from this relation (Col. 1:17); 2) that Man’s problem consists not of a metaphysical difficulty whereby he somehow lacks this relation, but of a moral difficulty of being a sinner, who has broken God’s Law and therefore stands guilty before Him; i.e. he is not without relation to God, but bears the relation of a sinner before his Judge rather than a son before his Father; 3) that, therefore, man’s need is not to “begin a relationship with Jesus,” but to find a remedy for his sin; 4) and that the evidence of Nature is sufficient to condemn every man who refuses to bow before his Creator, but that only the authoritative Word of the Creator, Who alone determines and interprets all of reality, is sufficient to teach us the positive truths of who we are, the fact of our sin, and the remedy provided by God in Christ.
While Mr. Warren began his treatise with the promise of a “Creator / creature distinction,” this promise has not been fulfilled. Though he has mouthed the words dismissing “speculation,” in the end the view he has constructed can be nothing more than speculative. His characterization of God’s truth as a human “discovery” implies a correlativity, not a distinction, of the “Creator” and the “creature.” In this case, what can “Creator” and “creature” really mean? Either man is a sinner who must humble himself before his Creator to learn from His Word the truth of Creator and creature, or else he is a morally neutral “seeker” who must remain free to determine the meaning of “creator” and “creature” for himself. Mr. Warren has left sin out of the discussion altogether, whereas apart from a true “Creator / creature distinction” there can be no truly biblical idea of sin. Without a truly biblical idea of sin Mr. Warren is forced into a position of having to embrace the very speculation that he made a show of rejecting. Lacking a true idea of man’s basic problem, he is prevented from suggesting a true remedy. His solution has everything to do with “relationship” and nothing to do with “Redemption.” Still, his opening paragraphs present a spark of truth. We must press on in hope that this spark may yet be kindled and that his deficiencies might be made up in the days to come.
Day Two - You Are Not an Accident
Mr. Warren asserts that Man was uppermost in God’s creative motive. The earth was designed and made with us in mind, we are told. This is quite right in one sense. But already the reader begins to wonder whether this compromises the grandeur of that powerful foundational premise, “It’s not about you.” (p.17) The reader grows even more leery, and an unsettling pattern emerges of promise followed closely by disappointment, as we encounter Mr. Warren’s further supporting argument. He cites scientist Dr. Michael Denton, who said that, “…the cosmos is a specially designed whole with life and mankind as its fundamental goal and purpose, a whole in which all facets of reality have their meaning and explanation in this central fact.” (p.24) Mr. Warren then immediately adds his own declaration that, “The Bible said the same thing thousands of years earlier.” (p.24) He cites Isaiah 45:18 in support of his view: “God formed the earth…He did not create it to be empty but formed it to be inhabited.” However, declaring that God intended the earth to be inhabited with people hardly is the same thing as saying that “all facets of reality have their meaning and explanation” in the “central fact” of human life. Dr. Denton’s statement is clear enough, but it is far from clear whether his statement amounts to the same thing as what the Bible has been saying for thousands of years. We must give this matter a great deal more scrutiny than Mr. Warren has allowed.
It would appear that Mr. Warren frames the issue in such a way that ideas of meaning or significance arise only from Christians and that all unbelief is characterized by meaninglessness and despair. However, in reality this is not accurate. Many unbelievers are driven by a strong sense of meaning and purpose, and many Christians are plagued with despair. Non-Christian ideas of meaning and purpose are false, and many Christians wrongly indulge feelings of despair. It simply is not true that profession of Christian faith automatically results in a glowing sense of meaning and purpose, nor is it true that unbelief always results in a sense of meaningless and despair. Dr. Denton may be a fine Christian gentleman, but what he expressed, cited by Mr. Warren, is not a Christian idea of meaning and significance. His view has everything in common with Aristotle and nothing in common with Scripture. The ancient Greeks sought an ultimate principle that would explain and unify all things, and assumed that the human mind could determine this principle. They spoke much about “god,” but their conception was anything but the Christian and biblical idea of a Sovereign, Un-created, Creator above and outside all reality. However variously conceived, their gods always were correlative with men as, like us, subject to ultimately abstract concepts of truth and rationality. As such, “god” could not authoritatively determine truth or meaning for man. The Greek ideal was precisely as Dr. Denton expressed: human life was the fundamental goal and purpose of reality, which has its meaning and explanation in this central fact. Ancient Greek philosophy was the epitome of Humanism. Humanism at its root is simply the effort to find the explanation and meaning of life and existence without any acknowledgement of the Creator. This is precisely the “philosophy” Paul warned us about in Colossians 2:8.
The Christian idea of meaning is exactly opposed to this. The Christian idea is that unless one begins his contemplation of life and existence with acknowledgement of the Creator, he cannot succeed in grasping the truth. Existence is explained by the fact of creation, and is explained only by this fact. Existence means what it does only because this is what the Creator has determined it to mean. To seek the explanation and meaning of existence without acknowledgement of the Creator not only is misguided - it is sinful. It is sinful because the failure to acknowledge God amounts to the denial of God (see, e.g. Romans 1:18-32). One cannot challenge the non-Christian quest for meaning without an unequivocal declaration of the sinfulness of this quest. In relegating the Doctrine of Sin to a mere mention so far in his treatise, Mr. Warren has prevented any true assessment of Christian vs. non-Christian ideas of meaning. It is not surprising, therefore, that he should see an equivalence between Dr. Denton’s declaration that human life is the “central fact” of existence and the message of the Bible. In reality the biblical message is that Creation is the central fact of existence, and man’s supposition that his own life is the central fact giving meaning and explanation to all existence is an error arising directly from his sinful denial of God.
Mr. Warren seemed to hint at the Christian idea of meaning in the opening of this chapter with his inspiring description of the omniscience and omnipotence of the Sovereign Creator. But words can mean so many varied things. It takes an elaboration of the larger system in which words are couched in order to know truly and as fully as possible what is meant. As we proceed through this Day Two it is difficult to maintain a presumption that Mr. Warren intends the God of the Bible, the God of historic and biblical Christianity, the God of our Fathers. Charitably, we might say that he has misunderstood Dr. Denton’s remarks. However, we then come to Mr. Warren’s own remarks concerning meaning and reality and we find that the more he elaborates his view, the more his view diverges from Christian orthodoxy. He states, “If there was no God, we would all be ‘accidents,’ the result of astronomical random chance in the universe.” (p.25) From this we see that Mr. Warren is willing to entertain a hypothesis that God does not exist. True Christian wisdom rejects this as a totally unworthy hypothesis. It is the hypothesis of the fool (Ps. 10:4; 14:1; 53:1, Rom. 1:22, I Cor. 1:20). We already saw yesterday that Mr. Warren was willing to speak of the existence of Man without relation to the Creator. If this were possible, then Man possibly may exist whether or not the “Creator” exists. Persisting in an attempt to consider what sort of reality we would have if there were no Creator, Mr. Warren is willing to hypothesize that in this case there somehow still would be a “universe,” and that random chance operating in this “universe” might somehow produce Man. Mr. Warren is willing to hypothesize that Man yet might exist if there were no God, but in this case he is certain that his existence would have no meaning. This willingness to consider the bare existence of a thing separately from the consideration of its meaning is the essence of the Humanistic approach to reality: “God” is brought in after the “fact” as a way of providing some meaning to something that hypothetically may exist independently of “god.” In sharp contrast to this the Christian idea of reality binds existence and meaning together in the Doctrine of Creation. Nothing can exist independently from God; existence means what it does because it is the creation of God.
The Humanist is quite happy to speak of “god” in connection with the question of the meaning of life, so long as the existence of life is established completely independently of whether or not “god” exists. Not surprisingly then we read Mr. Warren thus: “We discover … meaning and purpose only when we make God the reference point of our lives.” (p.25). It is well and good to speak of God as the “reference point” for a right interpretation of all reality. But the Christian idea of this is that God unalterably is this reference point because existence unalterably is His creation. The truth of this along with the meaning it provides is revealed to us. The Humanist spin is that “god” might perform this function or not depending on the tastes of autonomous man, and that if the autonomous man chooses to make “god” this reference point, then he might proceed from there to “discover” meaning. Due to the superior power, wisdom, and knowledge the Humanist ascribes to “god” he may appeal to such a “god” for expert testimony concerning the meaning of things that exist independently of “god.” But ultimately the Humanist reserves his own mind as the final arbiter of these things. If we “make God the reference point of our lives,” then it no longer is God whom we have made the reference point of our lives. Christian epistemology holds that the sinner must repent and confess that unless the Creator exists, nothing exists, and that unless the Creator exhaustively knows his creation, nothing means anything, and that a quest for meaning that does not begin by bowing before God is a sinful quest. But these things cannot be held apart from a firm and clear Doctrine of Sin, which to this point Mr. Warren has not provided.
Day Three - What Drives Your Life?
The idea of Sin was completely absent in Day One, broached in passing in Day Two, and here we see it is touched upon again. “When Cain sinned, his guilt disconnected him from God’s presence.” (p.28) Mr. Warren evidently chose the case of Cain because the text then goes on to say of him, “you will be a restless wanderer on the earth” (Gen. 4:12). This leads nicely into his point, “That describes most people today - wandering through life without a purpose.” (p.28) However, this does not accurately characterize the nature or consequences of sin. Cain’s parents Adam and Eve sinned and they were not “disconnected from God’s presence,” for we see them bringing sacrifice to God, which was the pretext of Cain’s sin. If the consequence of sin is becoming “disconnected from God’s presence,” then what is meant in Genesis 4:15, that God “appointed a sign for” or “set His mark on” Cain? In context of his thesis, Mr. Warren seems to wish to say that being in relationship with - connected with - God allows us to “discover” our purpose, but that being out of relationship with - disconnected from - God inhibits such discovery. Here he declares that sin is what effects this disconnection. There is a form of truth in this. However, as recounted in above, Mr. Warren’s ideas of Creator, creation, man, existence and meaning are badly muddled and left in a state indistinguishable from Humanism. Crucial to recovering a truly Christian concept of these things is a truly biblical Doctrine of Sin. Mr. Warren has missed another opportunity to provide this.
“Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the Law of God.” So says the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q14. This is based upon the very clear statement of I John 3:4, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.” The sinner stands morally guilty before God. The sinner is not “disconnected from God’s presence,” rather he comes under the wrath of God, “for it is on account of these things [men’s sins] that the wrath of God will come.” (Col. 3:6) There is a true sense in which the sinner is estranged from God’s Grace, as is expressed in Isaiah 59:1-2, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; neither is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.” Verse one makes it abundantly plain that there is nothing wrong with God’s hearing or strength. Verse two explains that if we do not enjoy His strength or have His audience, we have only our own sins to blame. This is a form of judgment. The sinner is not banished; he is judged.
In the most general terms Mr. Warren has pegged our difficulties on some kind of alienation from God due in some way to sin. But his discussion of this is very patchy and given in the most nebulous terms. It does not surprise us, then, to see that the remedy also is spoken of in quite fuzzy terms. Says he, “God specializes is giving people a fresh start.” (p.28) Here the sinner is characterized as missing out on meaning and purpose that he might derive from God, and God’s grace to him is to give him another chance. Mr. Warren has not attempted to define sin, but has focused on the results or consequences of sin, which he suggests mainly consists of being “disconnected from God’s presence.” Like Cain, he says, the “sinner” today wanders aimlessly and purposelessly through life. Upon such a shaky foundation it is impossible to say of what, exactly, a “fresh start” consists. The clarity of a truly biblical message stands in sharp contrast to this pabulum. Biblically, the sinner has offended God by transgressing His Law, and stands condemned before Him. He has nothing good within himself by means of which he may atone for his sin. God’s grace to him consists of Redemption - His work in Christ, the imputation of the sinner’s guilt upon Christ, who in His death, burial and resurrection thus makes Atonement for sins. The problem of the “sinner” is not his aimless wandering through life. The sinner, biblically understood, has chosen aimlessness over facing up to his duty to his Creator and Judge. His “aimlessness” consists in a studied determination to flee God. The remedy provided in Jesus Christ is not a “relationship” that re-connects us to a cosmic resource in which we may “discover” meaning and purpose. The remedy, biblically understood, is Redemption - the Atonement for our sins - so that in God’s Grace we might flee to Him and not from Him. With each passing day we see Mr. Warren diverging further from orthodoxy.
The bulk of this chapter is a survey of various things - guilt, anger, fear, materialism, and the need for approval - that drive people’s lives. Mr. Warren argues instead that God’s purposes ought to drive our lives. It is in this that we see the thesis underlying his trademarked title concept, the “Purpose-Driven® Life.” Given how he has presented the matter - sin alienates us from God and, like Cain, we wander through life purposelessly; God gives us a fresh start and now we can “discover” our purpose - the idea of purpose rises to supreme importance in his scheme. “Nothing matters more than knowing God’s purposes for your life, and nothing can compensate for not knowing them.” (p.30) Lest the reader wrongly suppose that Mr. Warren has exaggerated the importance of “purpose,” he elaborates in no uncertain terms. “Your purpose becomes the standard you use to evaluate which activities are essential and which aren’t…Without a clear purpose you have no foundation on which you base decisions, allocate time, and use your resources.” (p.31) With terms like “nothing matters more,” “standard,” and “foundation,” it is impossible for the reader to avoid the conclusion that Mr. Warren conceives of “purpose” as god-like in human life. “Purpose” even stands in for the power of God. “There is nothing quite as potent as a focused life, one lived on purpose… For instance, the apostle Paul almost single-handedly spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. His secret was a focused life.” (p.32) If Paul’s “secret” was focusing on “purpose,” then it was not Christianity that he spread throughout the Roman Empire. A “secret” of focusing on “purpose” is self-help ideology that Mr. Warren already rejected on Day One (see p. 19).
Mr. Warren closes this chapter with an introduction to the subject of eternity. In the end, when we stand before God, he imagines that God will ask us two crucial questions. He proposes that the first of these questions will be, “What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?” (p.34) Framing the matter in this way only serves to reiterate a question already posed, and still without any of Mr. Warren’s attention: How can we meaningfully speak of a relationship between God and His creature as depending upon the initiative and power of the creature? In terms of the present discussion, we might pose: How can any sinner, dead in his trespasses and sins, do anything with Jesus Christ apart from the Grace of God? Mr. Warren cites John 14:6, “…No one comes to the Father except through me.” Even the Arminian Remonstrance (1610) cites John 15:5, “…apart from Me, you can do nothing.” There is no doubt that, if asked directly about it, Mr. Warren would assent to the biblical teaching concerning God’s people that, “…even when we were dead in our sins, [God] made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:5) Yet here he speaks of these things in a manner that glorifies instead human initiative and power, robbing God of the glory due Him alone.
Mr. Warren imagines that the second question posed to us by God at the end will be, “What did you do with what I gave you?” (p.34) Here he is referring to our “gifts, talents, opportunities, energy, relationships, and resources,” and whether or not we “use them for the purposes God made you for.” Mr. Warren has structured “purpose” as that which we might somehow “discover” in God, and once having so grasped, becomes that which matters more than anything else, and becomes the standard and foundation of our actions. Finally, it becomes the criteria by which we are to be judged by God. Beyond Mr. Warren’s imagination, we read in the Bible, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (II Cor. 5:10) Surely God will hold us accountable for what we have done. But the criteria will be not be “purpose.” The criteria will be “good or bad.” How may good and bad be determined? God Himself embodies the standard of good and bad, and His Word reveals this to us. Mr. Warren has filled his book with references to the Bible (or, mostly, references to modern paraphrases of the Bible), but to this point in the book he has not explained how we should receive the Word of God in any way that we would not receive thoughts that, all by themselves, may appear in our own minds. Apart from a clear distinction of Creator and creature there can be no ultimate distinction between the words of the “Creator” and the words of the “creature.” In this case neither can there be a clear standard of righteousness in the words of the “Creator” to which the “creature” has a duty to submit. Apart from the sinner bowing in repentance before his Creator there can be only Humanism, in which each man is a law unto himself. Mr. Warren’s “purpose” idea of judgment does not challenge Humanist morality. Nevertheless, we shall press on in this treatise.
Day Four - Made to Last Forever
For Mr. Warren death “seems unnatural and unfair,” however, he seems at a loss to explain why this should be so. The whole idea of death as judgment due to sin, and therefore entirely fair, seems to escape him. He also elaborates, “Just as the nine months you spent in your mother’s womb were not an end in themselves but preparation for life, so this life is preparation for the next.” (p.39) This comment very nearly says the same thing that the Humanist Spiritualist says: that death really is a “birth” into the next life. Mr. Warren plays directly into this Humanistic idea. His Doctrine of Creation is woefully deficient, as “god” cannot be the God of Christianity if the central fact of human life is the foundation of the meaning of all existence, if Man determines for himself whether or not he bears any relation to this “god,” if Man is equipped to “discover” whatever we choose to characterize as “god” having “revealed,” and if what he “discovers” then becomes the standard and foundation of his life. Also, his Doctrine of Sin is almost entirely unstated, as we already have seen. At best, his conception of sin gives God some credit for being bigger, stronger, and smarter than Man. Sin, in his view, removes us from God’s presence, so that we no longer have access to His superior resources. Lacking a truly biblical idea of Creation and Sin, it therefore is impossible to have a truly biblical idea of Redemption. We have seen Mr. Warren’s characterization of Redemption as a “fresh start” in this life. However, here his emphasis is on Eternity.
Mr. Warren asserts, “Your relationship to God on earth will determine your relationship to him in eternity. If you learn to love and trust God’s Son, Jesus, you will be invited to spend the rest of eternity with him.” (p.37) However, Mr. Warren has yet to explain how the creature can determine anything for the Creator. He asserted in Day One that on his own initiative one can begin a relationship with Jesus, but did not entertain the question of why one should be without such relationship in the first place. In Day Three he hinted that we may be without a relationship with God due in some way to sin, but characterized the remedy to this problem as a “fresh start.” Now he expands upon this - loose ends not withstanding - to declare that by so establishing such a relationship we as well determine our eternal destiny. Along these lines he also says, “The deeds of this life are the destiny of the next.” (p.40) According to Mr. Warren, a person may perform certain functions or accomplish certain tasks, and as a result - and as a reward - an invitation will be extended to him to join Christ in eternity. Here we see most dramatically a muddled idea of Redemption as required by a muddled idea of Creation and of Sin.
A true and biblical idea of these things is that God, the Creator, brought forth a reality separate and distinct from Himself, and sovereignly determines all facets and aspects of this created reality; Sin is the denial of this fact and the willful rebellion against God and His Law, bringing the wrath of God and the penalty of death upon the sinner; and Redemption is the initiative of God, who “…demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8), meaning that in His death Christ took the guilt of our sin and the judgment of death upon Himself on our behalf. Evangelicalism always reverses the biblical truth of these things. We constantly are told that if we will do something - say a prayer, accept a gift, open a door - then reciprocal to this God will do something - forgive our sins, solve our problems, invite us to heaven. Mr. Warren flows right into this mould when he says that our invitation to heaven depends upon our having first learned to love and trust Jesus. Biblically we are dead in sin and unable to love and trust Jesus unless and until the Holy Spirit quickens our hearts and ministers God’s Redemption unto us. Our invitation to heaven - if, indeed, we reasonably may so term Redemption - is not the result or reward of our having decided to begin a relationship with Jesus; it is the only possible basis and motive of our relationship with Jesus.
Given the terms in which Mr. Warren sees these things, it is little wonder how he sees the juxtaposition of temporal and eternal reality. “Life on earth is just the dress rehearsal before the real production…Earth is the staging area, the preschool, the tryout for your life in eternity.” (p.36) As Mr. Warren characterizes it, not only is the initiative ours to begin a relationship with Jesus, the burden is ours also to get through the dress rehearsal successfully so we may receive an invitation to the cast party. Biblically, eternity is the culmination of what God is doing in temporal reality, not of what we are doing. God is about “the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth.” (Eph 1:10) Our duty is to confess Him, to worship Him, and to give thanks for all things, to believe in His Word and seek His Grace to obey it and to live by it. Our lives in this world do not qualify us to enjoy eternity with God; God’s eternal Grace qualifies us to live godly in this world. With each day Mr. Warren diverges further from biblical wisdom.
Day Five - Seeing Life from God's View
It is most telling that Mr. Warren appeals to Romans 12:2 as a basis for his approach. He confidently declares, “The Bible says,” and then presents us with this: “Do not confirm yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God.” (p.42) This is not the Bible. This is a paraphrase called “Today’s English Version.” Though it claims to be a “translation” of the Bible, it in fact is a work produced on the theory of “dynamic equivalence” devised by Eugene Nida. The main concern of “dynamic equivalence” is to convey the thoughts of the original though not necessarily the words of the original. This modern, “dynamic” rendering of Romans 12:2 is contrary to all authentic English translations of Scripture that aim for the highest degree of accuracy vis-à-vis what actually is said in the original manuscripts. For example, in the New American Standard Bible this text reads: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” The reader will notice immediately the dramatic difference between “be transformed” and “let God transform you.” The latter sounds noble because it credits God with transforming power, but in reality the paraphrasers have taken the direct command of God, “be transformed,” and have turned it into advice that we should avail ourselves of God’s expertise.
It is ironic in the extreme that this particular text should have been altered in this way. In its original content this text commanded the believers at Rome to avoid doing precisely what the paraphrasers, and Mr. Warren after them, have done. “Do not be conformed to this world.” Do not be conformed to the Roman ideal of Man, who determines his own destiny, nor to the Pantheon of Roman idolatry. The Creator defines and determines all things; the creature cannot so much as draw a breath apart from the sustaining sovereignty of Him “with Whom we have to do” (Heb 4:13), “in whom all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). The command of the Creator to the creature is clear: “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Repent of the Roman ideal of Man and the Roman Pantheon of “gods.” “Let God transform you” does not transform anything. This is precisely the message that the Roman Humanists would have rejoiced to have heard. “Indeed,” they would have said, “let us go up to the Pantheon and grant permission to the ‘gods’ to impart to us some of their superior wisdom.” If man is accorded any measure of autonomy, and “god” is cast as dependent to any extent upon the will and permission of man, then it matters not in the slightest what other noble-sounding jargon may be appended thereto. “Let God transform you” affirms the pagan idea of both man and “god”. Mr. Warren’s approach fits this like a glove. In Appendix 3 Mr. Warren offers a lofty defense concerning why he incorporates texts from fifteen different versions of the Bible. But it is very difficult for the serious student of the Bible to avoid the sense that what really is at work here is an effort to mine the modern jargon of every loose paraphrase - the looser the better - in order to find just the phraseology that fits the point Mr. Warren wishes to make, so that the authoritative preface, “The Bible says,” may by some stretch be attached to it. Romans 12:2 from the TEV is a dramatic example of this.
Having cited the aforementioned paraphrase, he then asserts, “The Bible offers three metaphors that teach us God’s view of life.” (p.42) Did Paul take the Bible up to the Pantheon of “gods” and “offer” it as an alternative point of view? Certainly not! If Christianity is considered as an alternative point of view, then it no longer is Christianity that is considered. God does not have a “view of life”; God created and defines life. A point of view is generated by spatial / temporal vantage. Man, the creature, is limited by spatial / temporal vantage; God, the Creator, is not. Men have various points of view, however, it is dishonoring of God to reduce His Word to a point of view. God’s Word is not expert advice that we may wish to consider; it is the eternal and authoritative revelation that defines our being and our duty. An individual’s view of life either aligns with the truth of Christianity or else it does not.
Nevertheless, Mr. Warren presses on with his approach that the Bible “offers” us “God’s view of life,” consisting of three metaphors. According to this view, life is a test, a trust, and a temporary assignment. The first two of these are considered in the present chapter and the third is reserved for the next chapter. Testing and trust are valid biblical principles. But the true meaning of both of these is distorted by taking them out of the biblical framework of Creation, Sin, and Redemption and casting them as metaphors that characterize every moment of our existence. According to Mr. Warren’s idea of the test metaphor God is playing a cat-and-mouse game with us, deliberately throwing all kinds of obstacles in our way and then watching how we handle them. “You are always being tested. God constantly watches your responses to people, problems, success, conflict, illness, disappointment, and even the weather!” (p.43) Mr. Warren closes his discussion of testing by citing James 1:12, “Blessed are those who endure when they are tested. When they pass the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” However, Mr. Warren fails to take into consideration also the immediately following verse, James 1:13, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” Certainly, there are various occasions recorded in Scripture in which God put His people to the test. However, this gives us no warrant for characterizing the entirety of life as one continuous test. Much of what Mr. Warren regards as tests of God in reality are the consequences and temptations of evil. Mr. Warren never has come to terms with sin and evil in this treatise. Here once again there has been opportunity to do so, but his “all of life is a test” view leads directly to a distortion of the Fall of man into sin. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden fell from their original estate of Created goodness and perfection into the estate of Sin, an estate of evil and corruption. Yet Mr. Warren treats the account of Adam and Eve as just another example of a test along side all other tests. In his view, Adam and Eve simply failed a test. He provides us no hint that with their fall came the corruption of the human nature and indeed of all of created reality. In terms of his thesis our failings do not have their roots in the failing of our First Parents, but simply parallel their failing.
His discussion of the trust metaphor is based on the usual Evangelical platitude of God owns everything and therefore I own nothing. Ron Sider, in his book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, spun that into outright socialism, which actually is the most consistent outworking of such a view. However, this platitude completely discounts the “Creator / creature distinction” and therefore casts God’s ownership as Creator and our ownership as creature into correlativity to one another. Apart from a proper “Creator / creature distinction,” one must decide, in the case of any particular thing, whether man owns it or God owns it. Such an outlook completely paralyses all economic thought and activity. It is a most simple-minded platitude that avoids - and even prevents - all godly contemplation of the dispensation of property among men. An example of this appears in Mr. Warren’s discussion. He asks his reader, “Is the way you manage your money preventing God from doing more in your life?” (p.46) First, we wonder how Mr. Warren can refer to money as “your money” when he already has declared that God owns it all and we own nothing. It is amazing how Evangelicals glibly assert that we do not own anything and then immediately proceed to talk about what we ought to do with our property! Next, we notice that the concern is focused upon whether our financial actions may prevent God from doing more in our lives. A much more productive question for a Christian to consider would be, “Is the way you manage your money in conformity with or contrary to the Law of God?” However, Mr. Warren has not entertained a Doctrine of Sin that would fit him for framing the matter in such terms.
Neither has he consistently held God to be the Sovereign Creator and Man to be the finite creature. Therefore, he has no bearing for considering the matter in any other terms than those which cast would-be autonomous Man as potentially preventing a finite God from doing all that He might. In his view Man has the power and initiative to avail himself of the expertise and resources of God, and therefore Man also must have the power to prevent God from acting. The concern is whether we are getting all of the benefit we potentially might receive from God’s greater power and expertise, rather than a concern for whether the standard of God’s righteousness is upheld. In contrast to this, biblical financial counsel expounds upon God’s Law and charges all men with obedience to it. The main concern of biblical counsel is not whether the individual is experiencing all the potential of a resource we enjoy calling “God.” The main concern is whether men made in the image of their Creator are faithful to His Law in their pursuit of His Glory. Surely, such pursuit involves their love for one another. But even “love” cannot be known independently of God and His Law (Rom. 13:10). The issues between Christianity and Humanism can become very complex, but the crux of every issue is the very simple distinction between a God-centered and a man-centered outlook on reality and life.
Day Six - Life Is a Temporary Assignment
The Apostle John tells us two things concerning “the world.” In John 3:16 we read, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” In I John 2:15 we read, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” The term translated world in the original Greek is the same in both verses: kosmos, from which we get our word cosmos. Clearly, there are differing senses in which the Bible uses this term. John 3:16 is speaking about the created order, or the human population of this order, as God originally created it. His great love for His creation is evidenced in His design to accomplish Redemption of it in Christ. I John 2:15 is speaking about the world-system as corrupted in sin, an order of wickedness that has grown up around a nucleus of sin contrary to the original goodness of God’s created order. This is a distinction that seems entirely lost to Mr. Warren. In his eloquent plea for us to pursue true abundance of life, contrary to sinful worldliness, he generalizes an identity between the seen and worldliness, and the unseen and righteousness. This is a very similar line to what we have seen in Day Four: Life is just a dress rehearsal; this life is preparation for the next.
In this chapter Mr. Warren takes this outlook a step further. We are told not only that life is brief in comparison with eternity, but also that “…earth is only a temporary residence. You won’t be here long, so don’t get too attached” (p.47) He further elaborates, “The fact that earth is not our ultimate home explains why, as followers of Jesus, we experience difficulty, sorrow and rejection in this world.” (p.49), and again, “In order to keep us from becoming too attached to earth, God allows us to feel a significant amount of discontent and dissatisfaction in life…” (p.50) The ad. hoc. nature of the foregoing is attested by the fact that on page 24 Mr. Warren already told us a much different story. Let the reader recall that on Day Two we were told, “God was thinking of you even before he made the world. In fact, that’s why he created it!” (p.24) Mr. Warren then went on to quote Dr. Michael Denton, “…the cosmos is a specially designed whole with life and mankind as its fundamental goal and purpose, a whole in which all facets of reality have their meaning and explanation is this central fact,” and immediately added, “The Bible said the same thing thousands of years earlier.” (p.24) Since Mr. Warren’s thinking is not systematic, therefore, he is caught in a tension where on one hand human life is the “central fact” comprising the “fundamental goal and purpose” of the cosmos, and on the other hand we are not to become too attached to this world or this life, and God sees to that by filling our lives with discontent and dissatisfaction.
Mr. Warren’s two ways of looking at life in this world both are wide of their marks and thus require one another as mutually limiting concepts. There is no resolution to this tension because the elements of the tension are misconstrued. On Day Two we corrected Mr. Warren and expounded that Man really is not the “central fact” that gives meaning and explanation to the whole of existence. The “central fact” explaining all things in reality is Creation. Man has his meaning and his place in Creation in terms of the all-comprehensive plan of the Sovereign Creator. On page 24 Mr. Warren grossly over-stated Man’s meaning and place in the Universe. This requires adjustment, such as we now see on pages 47-50. However, what we read on these pages is not a correction, but a compensation. The idea that this life is meant by God to be characterized by sorrow and disappointment does not correct the notion that our lives comprise the central fact giving meaning to the Universe, but stands in a perpetual tension with it. It is not a correction because it, too, is a gross over-statement. These two over-statements compensate and limit one another, and thus require one another. The tension between them is perpetual and unavoidable for anyone whose thinking lacks systematic, biblical rigor. On Day Two we examined the Man as the “central fact” idea. Here let us examine more closely the “don’t get too attached” idea.
According to Mr. Warren, the Bible teaches that we are to relate to life on earth as a foreigner living in a foreign country. He cites Psalm 119:19, where the Psalmist says, “I am a stranger in the earth.” Of course, Mr. Warren chose a paraphrase where the term “foreigner” is used. Out of context, the reader may not appreciate that the Psalmist is driven into the status of a “sojourner” by the wicked who pursue him. He also cites a paraphrase of I Peter 1:17, “If you call God your Father, live out your time as temporary residents on earth,” which bears almost no resemblance to an actual translation, such as NASB, “And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth.” The view espoused here is perhaps summed up in his citation of James 4:4. The paraphrase he quotes reads, “You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way.” A proper translation reads, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Once again a proper understanding of these things requires a proper understanding of Sin, which Mr. Warren has not provided.
It was Sin that made “the world” an enemy of God. It was Sin that made life difficult, sorrowful, and disappointing. “The world,” in the sense of John 3:16, is beloved of God, and His Redemption in Christ saves not only the souls of men, but also their bodies and all of creation (Romans 8:18-23). Being a “friend of the world” in the James 4:4 and I John 2:15 sense is not defined as working for truth, peace, righteousness, justice, beauty, and so forth, in this life in this world; biblically it is understood as sinfully embracing the corruption of the world. As redeemed of God we are aliens vis-à-vis the world of corruption. However, over the world of God’s Redemption we are vice-regents under Christ. Mr. Warren’s view in this chapter arises from a focus upon the individual. If the satisfaction and fulfillment of the individual in his own individual experience is the focus of attention, then it is very difficult indeed to find a way to achieve this in this life in this world. The individual has little hope but to look forward to Eternity. However, the Christian life is not a focus upon the individual. Properly, the individual must see himself as standing in the stream of the People of God and of what He is doing among His people. Great satisfaction and fulfillment derive from materially contributing to this work in God’s Grace. This does not imply that corporate Man is the proper focus of Christianity. Corporate Man vs. the Individual is another way of expressing the same tension as described above. It was Corporate Man who was the “central fact” of Day Two. It is the Individual who is the stranger in a strange land today. This at bottom is a tension of Unity vs. Diversity, or the One and the Many. Outside a fully biblical idea of Creation and Sin, this tension is unavoidable. Man can be understood for who he really is, both in his corporate and individual traits, only as he is held to be the creature of God who is spoiled by sin. Mr. Warren thus far has not brought us this message. As a result we see the inevitable tensions emerging, and in the present example the pendulum has begun to sway between Man and Individual. Sound biblical wisdom does not resolve this tension: it totally dismisses it. If the tension is embraced, then this leads to distortions of biblical wisdom, such as the confusion of the John 3:16 sense of “world” and the I John 2:15 sense that we have seen in this chapter.
Day Seven - The Reason for Everything
Several times over the previous days we have had occasion to note that the deficiencies in Mr. Warren’s presentation result directly from his almost total disregard of sin. We find this no less the case in this Day Seven. In context of expounding upon the glory of God as the reason for everything, he states quite simply, “Jesus came to earth so we could fully understand God’s glory.” (p.54) Such a statement surely is effective in emphasizing the preeminence of God’s glory, however, upon examination we must find that this really is an instance of hyperbole - of going way out of bounds for the sake of emphasis. In the first place, it is not possible - and it never will be possible - for us to “fully understand God’s glory.” Only God fully understands anything, which He does by fully understanding everything. Exhaustive knowledge is the province of the infinite and uncreated mind of God alone. The finite and created mind of man cannot know anything exhaustively. Nor is exhaustive knowledge necessary for the creature. The Revelation of his Creator is the anchor of truth for the human mind. The believer may know truly without having to know fully. The sinner makes exhaustive knowledge seem necessary, for having denied Revelation he thereby paints himself into the intellectual corner of having to know everything fully in order to know anything truly. Such was the plight of Plato and the neo-Platonists. Such was the plight of the Gnostics after them. So, the mission of Jesus, in their eyes, was to impart such knowledge. Mr. Warren’s idea of Christ’s mission is couched in these same terms. In Biblical terms salvation for man consists not in “fully understanding God’s glory,” but in the Redemption secured for him by God in Christ.
It seems beyond dispute to invoke the glory of God as the mission of Christ. However, this is a very nebulous concept apart from particularities. It is most necessary to speak specifically about the glory of God. Of what does the glory of God consist? How did Christ glorify the Father? In citing John 1:14 Mr. Warren has centered upon a text that simply refers to this glory as residing in Christ. It will be necessary to look much further for a systematic understanding of this glory. In John 17:4 Christ addresses the Father more particularly: “I glorified Thee on earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do.” What was this work? He came to call sinners to repentance (Mt. 9:13, Mk. 2:17, Lk. 5:32). He came to seek and to save that which was lost (Lk. 19:10). He came to give His life as a ransom for many (Mt. 20:28, Mk. 10:45), He came to die on the Cross and rise again for the sins of His people (Jn. 12:27). He came to do his Father’s will by saving His people (Jn. 6:38-40, Heb. 10:9), He came to save sinners (I Tim. 1:15). It is impossible properly to construe the mission of Christ apart from a biblical understanding of sin, for Christ came to save His people from their sins. Mr. Warren’s treatise is gravely deficient in presenting a true and biblical understanding of sin. Thus, he characterizes Christ’s mission as to bring us comprehensive knowledge of God’s glory rather than to bring us redemption from our sins.
Just as we have come once again to question the place of sin in Mr. Warren’s view of things, we find that this subject now makes another of its rare appearances. He muses that of all of God’s creatures there are only two that fail to glorify Him: demons and people. He then offers: “All sin, at its root, is failing to give God glory.” (p.54) Here is the clearest statement of Mr. Warren thus far along the lines of defining sin. It certainly is true, as attested by Mr. Warren’s supporting text, Romans 3:23, that sin falls short of the glory of God. However, it is far from clear whether failure to glorify God is the root of sin. Indeed, it would be more biblical to reverse this, i.e., to say that sin is the root of failing to glorify God. The root of sin is disobedience against the Law of God, as we already have recounted from I John 3:4 in our discussion of Day Three. If sin is not rightly construed, then neither can the remedy of sin rightly be construed. If the root of sin is failure to glorify God, then the remedy of sin may be simply a greater knowledge of God’s glory, and the mission of Christ may be to bring us this knowledge, all of which Mr. Warren suggests. Thus, Mr. Warren turns to a summary of ways in which we might glorify God, which serves as an outline of the remainder of his book.
We glorify God, he says, by fulfilling “God’s five purposes for your life.” (p.55) In brief these are: 1) to worship God, 2) to love other believers, 3) to become like Christ, 4) to serve others, 5) to tell others about him. We will reserve discussion of these things for the subsequent five sections of this book in which he elaborates upon them. Here he makes no defense for his idea that God’s purposes for human life may be distilled down to these five. A reading of the Bible easily would yield any number of other purposes to add to this list. We might read Genesis 1:28 and conclude that God’s purposes are for us to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over [it].” We might read Exodus Chapter 20 and find 10 Commandments that we easily might construe as God’s ten purposes for our lives. By the time we finished a careful reading of Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians we might have filled several pages with enumerated purposes. The problem in reading the Bible is not to find something that we may construe as a purpose to drive our lives; the problem is how to distill it all into a simplified and systematic statement that may be held in view. We may commend Mr. Warren for attempting this, however, we rue his lack of defense or even explanation. This presents another case of a recurring theme of our journal: What can his five purposes mean in light of biblical orthodoxy, and what can they mean in light of the only possible system that may be gleaned from his overall presentation?
Citing a loose paraphrase of John 17:4, Mr. Warren states, “Jesus honored God by fulfilling his purpose on earth. We honor God the same way.” (p.55) Mr. Warren seems oblivious to the fact that Christ’s purpose on earth was to redeem His people from their sins via His death, burial, and resurrection, as is indicated by his suggestion that our course of remedying the problem of failing to glorify God is to learn how to glorify Him in the same way as did Christ. This is an expression of the view that Christ’s ministry to us was to “model” true spirituality. Mr. Warren’s thesis progresses thus: 1) Christ glorifies God; 2) we fail to glorify God, which we will call “sin”; 3) the remedy for this “sin” is full understanding of God’s glory; 4) “Jesus came to earth so we could fully understand God’s glory” (p.54); 5) He “modeled” glorifying God by fulfilling His purpose; 6) “Nothing matters more than knowing God’s purposes for your life” (p.30); “It defines what you do and…becomes the standard” (p.31). Mr. Warren speaks of Christ facing His crucifixion as a “struggle.” He comments not a word on why Christ went to the cross nor on what He accomplished in doing so. He portrays it as, “Jesus stood at a fork in the road,” and quickly adds, “You face the same choice.” (p.57) The Grace of God in such a scheme can only be the greater resources of a more powerful and more enlightened being, which may avail to us in case we choose to please him. As he says, “God will give you what you need if you will just make the choice to live for him.” (p.58)
At the close of this chapter, Mr. Warren addresses himself directly to those readers who may not share his idea of pursuing God’s purposes. In terms of orthodox and biblical Christianity, we would say that these are ones who are unregenerate and unrepentant. Mr. Warren has not constructed his scheme in these terms, and so neither does he characterize them as such, nor does he approach them in these terms. Their need, according to him, is to “believe and receive.” (p.58) What is the content of the requisite belief? The closest Mr. Warren comes to the truly biblical message is to say, “Believe God has chosen you to have a relationship with Jesus, who died on the cross for you.” (p.58) However, nowhere does he provide any insight into what quality of Jesus’ death makes it a death “for” anyone. In the first six “Days” of his treatise he never even so much as mentioned the death of Christ. Also, what is the content of what we are to receive? “Receive his forgiveness for your sins.” (p.58) However, Mr. Warren never has provided a satisfactorily biblical discussion of sin. Absent such discussion, what can “receive his forgiveness for you sins” possibly mean to the reader? In terms of the system Mr. Warren builds in this treatise this phrase is meaningless. If Christ’s mission was to bring us full understanding of God’s glory, if sin consists of failing to bring God glory, and if Christ’s death is not a substitutionary propitiation, then how can forgiveness be more contentful than “a fresh start”? (p.28) Though his ideas of “believe” and “receive” are devoid of content, Mr. Warren nevertheless presses on to direct his readers to utter this prayer: “Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you.” (p.58) What can this mean? He presents this to the reader as “…the prayer that will change your eternity.” (p.58) If the creature has the initiative and the power to determine eternity for himself, and therefore to determine eternity for God also, then how can any remotely biblical content attend his notions of “believe” and “receive”? Indeed, it cannot.
We find that as he closes this section of his book he brings us back to the point at which he began it: he urges those who have recited his prayer, and thus have determined for themselves the nature of all eternity, that, “You are now ready to discover and start living God’s purpose for your life.” (p.59) He has told us that we cannot find the purpose of life through speculation, and that we must turn to the “revelation” of God. He does not tell us how the Bible constitutes this revelation exclusively, nor does he compare and contrast general and special revelation, yet continues to speak of man “discovering” what in some sense is “revealed.” Indeed, he presents the story that “all by itself a phrase appeared” in the mind of an atheist as an example of this “discovering.” (p.21) We may, he tells us, discover life’s purpose only as we are in relationship with Christ, but has not told us how the creature may exist without relation to his “creator,” and if this were possible, how the creature may possess the initiative and the power to begin such relationship. He has told us, not that sin brings the sinner under the wrath of God, but that it “disconnects” us from God’s presence (p.28). He has told us that Christ came that we might “fully understand God’s glory” (p.54), that this somehow allows us to have a “fresh start” (p.28) with God, so we might “discover” our purpose. He has told us that “nothing matters more” than our “purpose”, and so “purpose” becomes the “standard” and “foundation” of our lives (p. 30-31). He has told us that our lives constitute the “central fact” giving meaning to the universe (p.24). But, he says, we nevertheless ought not to become too attached to our lives in this world, since life is only an incubation period, after which we die, death actually being a birth into a new life in eternity (p.39). All of the foregoing rides squarely upon speculation and indeed cannot ride elsewhere. It all is involved in the speculation that Mr. Warren claims to reject and has nothing to do with any orthodox idea of revelation. Mr. Warren has left biblically orthodox Christianity so far behind at the close of this section of his book that the studious reader can entertain no anticipation, but only apprehension, for what is to follow.
Day Eight - Planned for God's Pleasure
With this, the eighth day of his regimen, Mr. Warren takes up an extended discussion of that which he has identified as the first of five purposes for human life. In his summary at the conclusion of Day Seven, he expressed this first purpose as “worship.” (p.55). Forcing expression of this purpose into the jingoism of alliteration, he now puts it as, “You were planned for God’s pleasure.” There certainly is no dispute that Man has a supreme duty and purpose to worship God. However, as a result of the groundwork laid in his first seven chapters, we have grave dispute with Mr. Warren concerning the identity of “Man” and “God.” He has not faithfully confessed God as the infinite, eternal, un-created Creator and sovereign determiner of all reality. Nor has he faithfully confessed Man as the creature of God, made in His image and corrupted in sin. Instead he has portrayed Man as somehow a correlate of God, whereas he asserts that Man, and not God alone, can determine reality and indeed all eternity for himself. This pretends to make Man out to be more than he really is, and also - and therefore - to make God out to be less than He really is. Paul had some very strong language for those who “did not honor Him as God” (Romans 1:21). Given Mr. Warren’s understanding of “Man” and of “God,” what can it mean for him to assert that it is “Man’s” purpose to “worship” “God”?
The difficulty of holding to an orthodox Christian idea of worship on these terms is attested by the fact that Mr. Warren now characterizes worship as giving God pleasure. There is a legitimate biblical word-study one could undertake concerning “pleasure.” However, Mr. Warren has not done this. He seems content to leave his readers with their natural tendency to understand “pleasure” in the modern cultural sense of “enjoyment.” He states as much directly, “Bringing enjoyment to God, living for his pleasure, is the first purpose of your life.” (p.63) He further states that God wishes us to enjoy life through emotional and sensory experiences, and that this is due to the fact that God Himself derives pleasure through emotional experiences. (p.64) He also states that Man is important to God because Man can provide God with pleasurable emotional experiences, and that this constitutes the “worth,” “value,” and “significance” of human life. (p.63) God likes to have us around, he says, because “…you bring pleasure to God like nothing else he ever created.” (p.63) All of this is to lead us to his main point: “Bringing pleasure to God is called ‘worship’” and “Anything you do that brings pleasure to God is an act of worship.” (p.64) By thus equating pleasure and worship Mr. Warren misrepresents the biblical ideas of both. It is necessary, then, for us to survey the biblical concepts of pleasure and of worship in turn.
As we consider whether or not we please God, our first problem derives from the fact that the English term pleasure is ambiguous. Already noted is the modern cultural tendency to understand pleasure in the sense of enjoyment. However, this hardly exhausts the essential meaning of the term as we may discern in its etymology. The term derives from please, which in turn derives from complementary Latin terms placare - to appease, and placere - to please. In this we see immediately our term to placate. Medieval English adopted the derivative plactium for the Decree of the Court. From this origin also we have the legal sense of to plead and to please his Majesty or to please the Court. This usage is with us to this day. Those in our day who are dedicated to their pleasure often as a direct result of this dedication find themselves in Court entering their pleas and listening to their attorneys plead their cases and petition that it might please the Court for their clients to go free. [ see e.g. Eric Partridge, Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English (1966; New York: Greenwich House, 1983), p. 502-503; and also, Bouvier, Law Dictionary (1867; Sacramento: Lexicon Publishing, 1984), Vol. II, p. 333 ] From this we see that pleasure may be contemplated in both a subjective and an objective sense. That which pleases one dining is a matter largely confined to the subjectivity of his own tastes. That which pleases the Court is (or ought to be) a matter resting squarely upon objective consideration of the particulars of a case vis-à-vis the provisions of the Law. Biblically, is God’s pleasure a matter of His enjoyment, or a matter of the satisfaction of the requirements stipulated in His Law?
Once we have borne in mind the subjective and objective sense of pleasure, it is necessary for us to press on in consideration of the biblical terms that are translated as please or pleasure. In both Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek we find a plurality of terms. While in English we have various senses indicated in the ambiguous usage of a single term, in the biblical languages the same variety of senses is indicated in a variety of discrete terms. In Ancient Hebrew the term chephets indicates delight or pleasure attaching to an object, while the term simchah indicates the subjective experience of joy, gladness, mirth. Also there is the term ratsah, which means to accept favorably. All of these terms are translated as pleasure. Also in Ancient Greek there are the terms eudokeo (literally, good opinion), spatalao, meaning lewdness, and hedone, from which we get our word hedonism. All these are translated as pleasure. [ see, e.g. Harris, Archer, Waltke, eds., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980) Vol. I, p. 310, Vol. II, p. 859, 879, and G. W. Bromiley, ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), p. 273, 303 ] The biblical teaching concerning pleasure may not be discerned merely by searching through fifteen different “today’s new century modern dynamic millennium relevant” paraphrases for passages containing the English term pleasure. True scholarship requires an honesty concerning the ambiguity of the English term coupled with an awareness of the essential meaning of the respective Hebrew and Greek terms occurring in the various texts.
Proverbs 21:17 says that, “He who loves pleasure will become a poor man.” In Isaiah 46:10 God says, “I will accomplish My good pleasure.” Does the Bible teach us that it is righteous and powerful for God to be devoted to His pleasure, but that it is weakening and impoverishing if Man is devoted to his pleasure? No, indeed. The wise man must be aware that Proverbs 21:17 employs the Hebrew simchah and the translation gives the term pleasure in the sense of subjective enjoyment, and that Isaiah 46:10 employs the term chephets and the translation gives the term pleasure in the sense of that which satisfies an objective decree. II Timothy 3:4 describes the unrighteous in terms of stark contrast as “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” Philippians 2:13 assures us that, “…it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Does the Bible teach us that God’s devotion to pleasure is what accomplishes His work in us, but that if we are devoted to pleasure this puts us at enmity with God? No, indeed. The serious student of the Bible will learn that II Timothy 3:4 uses the term philedonos and the translation gives “lovers of pleasure” in the sense of hedonism, and that Philippians 2:13 uses the term eudokeo and the translation gives “good pleasure” in the legal sense of that which pleases the ultimate Lawgiver.
A biblical summation of the matter is as follows: In the original goodness of creation Man was quite pleasing to God, as were all of His works. (Gen. 1:31) However, Man fell into sin from his state of original goodness. His sin is an offense to God and by it he comes under the wrath of God. (Rom. 1:18) The sinner cannot please God by anything that he is in himself, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh…and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 7:18; 8:8) In the death and resurrection of Christ God has made propitiation for sin, and now by His Atonement the Redeemed are reckoned as righteous in His sight, and are blessed with His Grace to achieve in practice a measure of goodness so that one again may please the righteousness of His holiness. “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:3-4). Concerning God’s pleasure, the Bible is not silent. It pleases God to make us His people - I Sam 12:22. It pleases the Lord for us to seek wisdom and discernment - I Kings 3:10. God is pleased by our songs of praise and thanksgiving - Ps. 69:30-31. God is pleased with His people - Ps. 149:4. “The Lord was pleased for His righteousness sake to make the law great and glorious” - Is. 42:21. God was pleased to send Christ to the cross for our sins - Is. 53:10. It pleases God to reveal His Son in the Redeemed - Gal 1:15-16. God is pleased when we embrace knowledge of His will and so walk worthy of Him - Col. 1:9-10. It pleases God when we receive instruction in His commandments and walk in them - I Thes 4:1. God is pleased with thanksgiving, doing good, and sharing - Heb 13:15-16. It pleases God when He works His will in us - Heb. 13:21. It pleases God when we keep His commandments - I Jn. 3:22.
What, then, of worship? Mr. Warren suggests that worship consists of giving God pleasure. This thesis suffers the same defect that has been in evidence since Day One: that is, the total disregard of sin. What does Man have in himself that he could provide to God? In what sense could Man give God anything? He could only in the sense that Aristotle and Humanism generally conceives of “Man” and “God.” Mr. Warren is most urgent in asserting that worship is not for our benefit, but, “We worship for God’s benefit.” (p.66) Mr. Warren’s summation of worship follows naturally from his equation of pleasure and worship: “This is what real worship is all about - falling in love with Jesus.” (p. 67, his italics) Mr. Warren seems to stand in need of the same instruction that Paul delivered to the Pagans at Athens, “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things.” (Acts 17:24-25)
Again, we must look briefly at the terms involved. The English term worship is derived from the term worth with a suffix appended indicating the worshipper’s acknowledgement and honoring of the worthiness of the object. The term worship is given in translation of the Hebrew shachah and the Greek proskuneo, both of which mean to bow down, or prostrate oneself, reverently. It is impossible for worship, rightly and biblically understood, to be characterized as “falling in love with Jesus.” Mr. Warren suggests that Man has an inherent worth that consists in his ability to impart to God a pleasurable emotional experience. Contrary to this the Bible teaches us that all worth and ability resides in God, who imparts life to those who are dead in their sins. Those thus made alive in Christ worship their Creator and Redeemer in Spirit and in truth as they humbly bow before Him and acknowledge and proclaim His infinite and exclusive worthiness. Mr. Warren continues to build upon the foundation he laid in the first seven chapters. But it is a foundation of sand. In this chapter he builds sand upon sand. He has introduced an idea of worship and the pleasure of God that is completely speculative rather truly biblical. Though in the first chapter Mr. Warren stated that revelation is to be chosen over speculation, yet all that follows thus far in his treatise rises purely from speculation and finds expression only as the revelation of the Bible is set aside.
Day Nine - What Makes God Smile?
In order for one to honor the Creator properly, he must maintain in his thinking at all times a firm distinction between the Uncreated being of the Creator and the created being of the creature. This is the starting point of the Bible in Genesis 1:1. It is the essence of unbelief to deny this Creator / creature distinction and to contemplate instead an idea of “Being in general.” The ancient Greek philosophers assumed for themselves the task of contemplating all things in terms of this “Being in general.” This notion posits that whatever exists is united together in the fact of existence over against non-being. In this idea “God” and “Man” are united in the fact of their existence. The ancient Greeks and many types of unbelievers to this day are fond of speaking much of “God.” However, their outlook originates in the denial of Creation and thus the denial of the Creator. Once having denied God as the Uncreated Creator of all existence, and having posited instead an abstract idea of bare “existence,” one cannot proceed from this point to say anything true about “God.” Contemplating the bare existence of “Being in general” is an exercise of pure speculation. It never will produce the truth or the righteousness of God. “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans 1:21). Van Til has said, “A Christian will engage in no speculation.” [ A Survey of Christian Epistemology, p.20 ]
Mr. Warren’s Day Nine is devoted to the question: “What makes God smile?” There is a valid biblical study one could undertake into the nature and meaning of the “smile” of God, however, Mr. Warren has not done this. His pursuit of the question is an exercise of pure speculation and so never will bring us to any true confession of God. Since he is dedicated to the notion that worship consists of man imparting enjoyable emotional experiences to God, it is only natural that he should interpret the “smile” of God as expressing such enjoyment. If God is the correlate of man within the bare fact of “existence,” then whatever attributes God shares with man are identical in essence, though greater in degree. Within this realm of speculation God and man participate in “mind in general,” though God is smarter. There also is “will in general,” though God is stronger. Within the speculative realm of “emotion in general” man may impart an enjoyable emotional experience to God, and may contemplate what may serve to provide such enjoyment, for it will be of the same order as his own enjoyment, but to a greater degree. But this is so only within the realm of speculation. To pursue these things is only to go further down the wrong road. In order for one to please God, he shall need to reverse course and repent of such speculation. In order for the creature ruined by sin to confess truth concerning his Creator, it is necessary for him first to honor God as his Creator, his Judge, and his Redeemer. God’s mind is Uncreated mind in distinction to the created mind of man. God’s Word is eternal, infinite, exhaustive truth in distinction to the derivative, temporal - and now corrupted - word of man. It is the Word of God that determines the truth of our realm of created reality. God is not bound up within “reality.” There is no such thing as a bare “fact” of “existence.” Our surrounding universe of reality is what it is because the Creator determined it to be so. It is this sort of Word we consult in this sort of humility to inquire of this sort of God.
Mr. Warren cites two paraphrases at the head of his chapter that predicate smile of God: Numbers 6:25 and Psalm 119:135. In both cases a competent translation gives “make His face shine” instead of “smile.” For example, in Numbers chapter 6:24-26 we have the well-known benediction, “The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.” Mr. Warren cites only a short phrase from the middle of this from something called “The New Living Translation” that says, “May the Lord smile on you…” The phrase in the original language is a very rich expression composed of two terms: panim, which derives from panah and means “face” in the sense of turning toward so as to face oneself before another; and or, which means “shine” in the sense of enlighten or illumine [ see in Harris, et al, TWOT, op cit, as above ]. The biblical idea of the Lord making His face to shine upon us means that He turns toward us and in so doing enlightens us with His truth. The “new, relevant” paraphrases toss all of this aside and settle for a speculative concept of God “smiling” on us. Mr. Warren already has immersed himself deeply in the speculation that man may impart an enjoyable emotional experience to God. So he conceives of the “smile” of God in the sense of this Divine emotional experience and seizes upon the bankrupt paraphrase as “biblical” proof of his speculation.
Mr. Warren thus forces discussion of worship into the framework of the “smile” of God. He chooses the story of Noah to illustrate his thesis. Citing a loose paraphrase of Genesis 6:8, “Noah was a pleasure to the Lord,” he then imagines God saying, “This guy brings me pleasure. He makes me smile.” (p. 69) On the previous day we examined in detail what constitutes God’s pleasure. The paraphrase and Mr. Warren suggest that Noah stimulated an enjoyable emotional experience in God. A competent translation of Scripture tells us instead that “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” Nevertheless, Mr. Warren presses on in his intent to show how Noah was a source of enjoyment for God. He catalogs in the life of Noah the virtues of love, trust, obedience, praise, and thanksgiving. There can be no doubt that these are virtues that attend every godly life. However, a true and biblical understanding of these virtues cannot derive from the speculation to which Mr. Warren is devoted. It is inevitable that various errors and inconsistencies should arise. It will be instructive for us to survey some of the problems encountered in his discussion.
After assuring us that God “longs” for our love and that He wants a “relationship” with us more than anything else (p. 70), he proceeds to declare, “This is why learning to love God and be loved by him should be the greatest objective of your life. Nothing else comes close in importance.” (p. 70) However, he already told us in most solemn tones on page 30, “Nothing matters more than knowing God’s purposes for your life, and nothing can compensate for not knowing them.” Evidently, reading this book is supposed to be a contentless, emotional experience. In a non-rational mindset we are to allow for a multiplicity of things, all of which are the most important thing, than which nothing matters more. Also, let the reader recall that on page 24 Mr. Warren asserted that the biblical teaching was that the “fundamental goal and purpose” that gives meaning and explanation to the world is the “central fact” of human life, and that he then went on later to tell us God “allows” us “difficulty, sorrow, and rejection…in order to keep us from becoming too attached to earth,” (p. 49, 50) because, “Life on earth is just the dress rehearsal…the staging area, the preschool, the tryout for your life in eternity.” (p.36) Now on page 74 Mr. Warren is back to his former position. He gives us his own paraphrase of God’s commandment to Noah in Genesis 9:1-3, “It’s time to get on with your life! Do the things I designed humans to do. Make love to your spouse. Have babies. Raise families. Plant crops and eat meals. Be humans! This is what I made you to be!” It is all very dizzying for one to attempt sorting out whether he ought to work hard at being the “central fact” giving meaning to the world, or to work hard at keeping this sorrowful, disappointing world at arm’s length.
We find also an assortment of inaccuracies. Mr. Warren addresses himself to the need for obedience to God. With this we have no quarrel. However, since he has approached the matter on a footing of speculation, he has made of it what seems good to his own mind rather than to bring a truly biblical teaching. He tells us that obedience cannot wait. He says, “Every parent knows that delayed obedience is really disobedience.” (p.72) This is false. In Matthew 21:28-31 Jesus told the Pharisees this parable: “ ‘But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, “Son, go work today in the vineyard.” And he answered and said, “I will, sir”; and he did not go. And he came to the second and said the same thing. But he answered and said, “I will not”; yet afterward he regretted it and went. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The latter.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I say to you that the tax-gatherers and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you.’ ” If delayed obedience is the equivalent of disobedience, then there never is any room or incentive for repentance. Surely, timely obedience is best. But delayed obedience is not the same as, but better than, disobedience.
Also, Mr. Warren assures us, “You only bring him enjoyment by being you. Anytime you reject any part of yourself, you are rejecting God’s wisdom and sovereignty in creating you…He loves you as if you were the only person on earth.” (p.75) In stark contrast with this the biblical teaching is that we are to abhor the corruption of ourselves as a result of sin. Jesus was direct and clear, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Mat. 16:24) And who can misconstrue the agony of Paul in Romans chapter 7 as he struggles with the corruption of the flesh over against the confession of the spirit? Our task in true spirituality is not a striving to “be ourselves.” As Jesus went on to say, “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.” (Mat 16:25) It is “Christ in you” that is “the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) It is not rejecting God’s wisdom or sovereignty to “condemn sin in the flesh.” (Rom. 8:3) It is true spirituality for the godly to reject the corruption of sin, “that no man should boast before God.” (I Cor. 1:29) Mr. Warren’s idea of “Man” is an abstraction that does not fit in with these truly biblical ideals. He posits the individual Man as a Divine pleasure-inducer in a sense that could be fulfilled in an abstract world in which only one individual existed. Thus, for Mr. Warren, God’s love is not for Man as a people, but for each individuation of the abstract Man. Such a man does not exist, but neither does such a “God” as Mr. Warren describes.
If we attempt to follow Mr. Warren in his pursuit of worship as giving “pleasure” to God, which in turn he construes as making God “smile,” we find immediately that such a course requires leaving the Bible behind. But let us now turn to the Bible for true instruction in nature of God’s “smile.” The term smile does not occur in the King James Bible. The term smile and its derivatives occurs three times in the New American Standard, but never is predicated of God. The Hebrew term translated as smile in the NASB is sachaq and means literally “to laugh.” It is translated mostly as laugh or laughs. We find that at several points God “laughs.” We might phrase Mr. Warren’s question in these terms and ask, “What makes God laugh?” It is indeed instructive for us to follow the form of Mr. Warren’s course and to discern in a truly biblical sense what makes God laugh, or smile. God laughs at the pathetic rage of the sinful men of worldly wisdom and power (Ps. 2:4). The Lord laughs at the impotent plots of the wicked (Ps. 37:13). God laughs at the haughty pretense of those who think no one can call them to account (Ps. 59:8). God’s wisdom laughs at the calamity of fools who refuse her reproof (Pr. 1:26). Indeed, let us be mindful of what makes God smile, and then beg God’s grace to be free of all such things!
Day Ten - The Heart of Worship
According to Mr. Warren, “The heart of worship is surrender.” (p. 77) However, he does not make a rigorously biblical case for this view. At the head of this chapter he cites a paraphrase of Romans 6:13 in which the term surrender occurs. Also, in the text of the chapter he cites a paraphrase of Psalm 37:7 in which the term surrender occurs. In neither case do the original terms signify the giving up or giving in that Mr. Warren suggests. In Romans 6:13 the original term is paristemi, which is a compound term that combines the prefix para and histemi - to stand. Essentially, it means “to stand beside, or to stand before.” A competent translation reads, “present yourselves to God.” This is a command. The same term is used in Romans 12:1, “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice.” In Psalm 37:7 the original term is damam, which means essentially, “to be still, or to be silent.” The New American Standard puts this as, “Rest in the Lord…” The term surrender does not occur in the King James Bible. It occurs but five times in the New American Standard, and never in the usage of Man surrendering to God. Indeed, in Hosea 11:8 God declares, “How can I surrender you (deliver you up), O Israel?”
Mr. Warren has no biblical basis for his notion that “The heart of worship is surrender.” Instead, his basis is the foregoing material in the first nine chapters of his book. In those chapters he propounds the view that Man is the “central fact” giving meaning to existence; that nevertheless he somehow needs to be in relation to God in order to “discover” his purpose; that an undefined thing called “sin” disconnects him from God; that he may exercise his wisdom, volition, and power at any time to begin a relationship with God, upon which he may then press on to “discover” his purpose, which then becomes the “foundation” of his life; that for His part God derives a great benefit from this relationship, because Man is able to impart to Him an emotional experience of pleasure, and so ought to learn all of the various things that make God smile. It is this basis - as opposed to a truly biblical basis - that is required to support Mr. Warren’s idea of “surrender.” A biblical and consistently held idea of a “Creator / creature distinction” does not provide a dynamic of God and Man struggling together as correlates, such that Man could be characterized as finally giving in to God. Abandonment of the biblical teaching is required in order for Mr. Warren’s idea of “surrender” to hold up.
For example, he tells us, “You won’t surrender to God unless you trust him, but you can’t trust him until you know him better.” Contrary to the biblical teaching that every man is “without excuse” (Romans 1:20) for their failure to honor God as God, Mr. Warren would have us to believe that it is possible for us to get to know God without trusting Him, because he suggests that we cannot trust Him until we get to know Him. Paul told the Romans that they were “without excuse” because as creatures of God it is their nature to know Him and to know their duty to Him. His indictment is, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God.” (Romans 1:21) As creatures of their Creator they are obliged to know and to honor God as God. They are afforded no neutral area in which they might get to know Him better before they could be expected to trust or to honor Him. Simply by virtue of being His creation they already know Him, and such knowledge is adequate to render them immediately obligated to honor Him fully and without reservation. They are “without excuse” in their failure to do so. Contrary to this Mr. Warren would afford all men an area of neutrality in which they might evaluate God. Mr. Warren conceives of Man as possessing a measure of autonomy in which he may determine his own destiny and therefore determine eternity for God, and conceives of God as possessing a correspondingly limited autonomy that makes room for Man’s determinations. Such a God and such a Man cannot but to coexist in a Universe that is controlled by principles that are above both God and Man and in which God and Man must struggle together to sort out the dynamics of their relationship. Only in these terms can Man’s surrender alternately be withheld from God or granted to God upon Man’s own determination.
Only in these terms also can the death of Christ be portrayed as a statement of mutual admiration. Mr. Warren asserts, “If you want to know how much you matter to God, look at Christ with his arms outstretched on the cross, saying, ‘I love you this much! I’d rather die than live without you.’” (p. 79) Rather than the death of Christ being for our benefit, as the propitiation for our sins (Rom. 3:25; Heb 2:17; I Jn 2:2; 4:10), Mr. Warren suggests that Christ went to the cross for God’s benefit, so that He may not lose the great prize that we are supposed to be for Him. This is in keeping with his assertion in the previous chapter that we worship not for our benefit, but for God’s benefit. However, the Bible is clear in stating, for example in Deuteronomy 7:7-8, that God chose His people not for any quality they bear in themselves, but according to His own sovereign purposes. Mr. Warren began his book with the confident assertion, “It’s not about you.” At first Mr. Warren had much to say about the preeminence of God. Now we find that he is telling a much different story. Now he is telling us that we are so desirable to God as a source or a means of pleasure that He would rather die than to live without us.
This is indicative of a tension that necessarily underlies the view of things that Mr. Warren has adopted. In such a Universe as Mr. Warren conceives, God does not control whatsoever comes to pass, for Man must never be reduced to a “robot.” (p. 80) But, neither does Mr. Warren pretend that Man controls whatsoever comes to pass. After all, neither must God be a “robot.” Hence, Mr. Warren’s conception of the Universe is not substantially different than Plato’s or Aristotle’s conception of the Universe as controlled by a tension of determinism and indeterminism. An element of determinism is necessary so that the Universe has some sort of structure and order commensurate with our experience. Conversely, an element of indeterminism is necessary also in order that God and Man are afforded a measure of freedom and so are rescued from being “robots.” In fact, in such a world determinism and indeterminism require one another. As Van Til put it, “You have to be both in order to be either.” (Van Til, The Intellectual Challenge of the Gospel, p. 17) One cannot hold to a principle of indeterminism unless he already has dedicated himself to the deterministic view that God cannot control whatsoever comes to pass. But neither can he hold to his own form of determinism in the natural order of the Universe unless he already has dedicated himself to the indeterminism of his own freedom as somehow standing outside of this order. This is a rudimentary tension that spawns endless particular examples in one’s attempts to integrate thought and experience apart from truly honoring God as God.
We had occasion to note earlier the tension in Mr. Warren’s thought expressed as on the one hand that Man is the “central fact” of existence and on the other hand that Man must not become “too attached” to existence, in which he finds considerable sorrow and dissatisfaction. In the present chapter we find yet another expression of the tension. On page 32 he told us, “There is nothing quite as potent as a focused life, one lived on purpose.” Now, on page 82, he tells us, “Nothing is more powerful than a surrendered life in the hands of God.” He elaborates on the following page, “Put Jesus Christ in the driver’s seat of your life and take your hands off the steering wheel.” In the indeterminism of Man’s freedom he focuses his life and asserts his will. In this frame of mind nothing is quite as potent. But, what can man’s freedom mean in a world of pure indeterminism? It seems noble for man to give in to the determinism of God’s superior wisdom and power and take his hands off the steering wheel. In this frame of mind nothing is more powerful. But then the tension drives him back the other direction, because we must not be “robots.” In the course of this short chapter Mr. Warren could not even maintain a consistent idea of surrender. On page 81 he characterizes surrender in this way, “Instead of trying harder, you trust more.” But on the very same page he ends up saying, “Surrender is hard work.”
Only a truly biblical and historically Christian idea of God, man, sin, redemption, and worship can banish such tensions and provide a firm footing for human life and thought. God is the Creator and therefore the determiner of all reality. Man has sinned against Him and so comes under His wrath and judgment. According to His own purposes and criteria, and not conditioned upon anything Man has in himself, God determined in the death and resurrection of Christ to redeem His people from their sins. The essence, or heart, of worship is the fear of God and the bowing down of oneself before Him. We do not give into God as though making a concession. We present ourselves before Him in obedience to His Lordship over all things. As wonderful as it may seem to call all men to surrender to God, it simply is not a biblical call. God is the Creator and Man is the creature. As Creator God already has all possible authority and power in the lives of every man. “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” (Rom. 9:18) He gains no additional access or authority via any human decision to give in or to surrender. In his discussion of surrender Mr. Warren brings in concepts of trust and obedience, because these are the teachings found in biblical texts where he proposes to find examples of surrender. For example, Mr. Warren gives Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus as a case of “surrender.” A cursory perusal of the text (Acts 9:1-22) finds the sovereign power of God in human life and humility and obedience to God inspired by the Holy Spirit. Conversely, in this text we find nothing remotely similar to the tension-riddled Humanism expounded by Mr. Warren. His seemingly pious talk of surrendering to God in reality fails to honor God as God.