Day Fifteen - Formed for God's Family

Mr. Warren now proceeds to a discussion of his second purpose of human life, which he says is to be a part of “God’s family.” (p. 117) At several points in the prior chapters he touched upon the matter of Man’s “relationship” to God. He spoke to us of Man without relation to God (p. 20, 25), though he never has explained how the creature can exist without relation to the Creator. He spoke to us also of Man acting to begin a relationship with God (p. 20, 34, 58), though he never has explained how the creature can determine reality, and, indeed, all eternity, for the Creator. These ideas, combined with the lack of further explanation, leave us only to conclude that Mr. Warren does not see the God-Man relation in terms of a Creator-creature distinction. Up to this point his comments concerning the God-Man relation have come in various contexts. With the theme of the current chapter he has occasion to focus upon the matter of this relation more directly. We cannot impugn the starting point of his discussion in this chapter: “The Trinity is God’s relationship to himself. It’s the perfect pattern for relational harmony, and we should study its implications.” (p.117) However, as he proceeds in this discussion, Mr. Warren does not study the Trinity or its implications. The acknowledgement that the Trinity is the pattern for human relationships and the charge to study this matter is an encouraging particle of truth in Mr. Warren’s presentation. But, it affords nothing to state that we ought to study the Trinity and its implications if everything that follows omits such study. Had Mr. Warren actually done the study for which he calls, it would have nullified what Mr. Warren wishes to say about the “relationship” of God and Man and, indeed, necessitated the complete reworking of his concepts of God and of Man. What follows below is a basic introduction to the needed study of “relationships.”

The idea of relationship in the world of Creation involves mutuality. The Universe of created reality consists of a mutuality of myriad individual things. A dynamic of natural forces such as gravity, electromagnetism, and energies of various kinds permeates all that exists in temporal reality. Additionally, things bear more or less a functional relation or share various attributes. Knowledge of temporal reality is gained largely through discerning the relationship that one thing bears to another. A seed germinates in the earth, is fed by water and nutrients present in the earth, grows then to undergo photosynthesis via the energy of sunlight, sends roots deeper into the earth, and ultimately bears fruit yielding seed. Any one of these things taken by itself and contemplated quite apart from any relation to the other things cannot fully or truly be understood. Knowledge of a thing necessarily involves knowledge of its interrelations with other things. Of course, the mutuality of two particular things, such as the Moon orbiting Earth, may be of much greater moment than that of two other particular things, such as a particular leaf of a tree in Australia vis-à-vis a vein of coal far below a village in Italy. There is a great deal we can say about the leaf without reference to the coal, and vice versa. However, as we press to exhaust knowledge of the leaf, we cannot discount the fact that the leaf exists in the sort of world in which veins of coal run through the ground. All things in temporal reality exist in mutual relationship and cannot otherwise exist or be known. This mutuality is what is meant by the “correlativity” of things. The idea of “relationship” implies correlativity. Everything in Creation exists in correlativity to every other thing in Creation.

Beyond the elementary idea of relationship we may consider also the personal relationship. In temporal reality there not only are things, but there also are Persons. Personal relationship involves mutuality no less than the relationship of inanimate things, but the unique attributes of Persons brings additional dynamics to bear. The individual Person cannot exist in total isolation from other individual Persons, but must be considered in mutuality with a body of People in which he was born and lives. A great social and cultural problem throughout human history since our Fall into Sin has been to find a proper view of the reality of Person vis-à-vis the reality of People. This problem is but a particular - and eminently personal - case of the Ancient problem of the One-and-Many. What is the more basic, and therefore controlling, reality: the Unity of People, or the Diversity of individual Persons? A People is composed of Persons. Apart from the reality of Persons there can be no reality of People. On the other hand, Persons are correlative to one another, and it cannot be otherwise. The reality of People consists in the correlativity of Persons. Apart from the reality of People there can be no reality of Persons. So, what is the answer? Any answer that attempts to weigh Persons more heavily than People, or People more heavily than Persons, is in essence a non-Christian answer. The Christian answer is just as Mr. Warren suggested at first. The mutuality of the Trinity is a pattern for the mutuality of the things and Persons of Creation. We may not ascribe a priority of unity over diversity, or of diversity over unity in temporal reality because the ultimate principles of both Unity and Diversity exist outside of Creation and reside in the Creator. The Unity of God, the only uncreated, provides the pattern of the unity of the “Universe” of Creation. Likewise the Diversity of God in three Persons provides the pattern of the diversity of multiplicity in Creation. Creation is analogous of the Creator. There is one God and so there is one Universe; there are three Persons of the Trinity and so the Universe is comprised of a multiplicity of things.

The full richness of this analogy resides in the Christian idea of the temporal unity and diversity of human Persons patterned after the ultimate Unity and Diversity of the three Persons of the Trinity in one God. God is not a thing among things in Creation; He is the Creator. God is correlative only to Himself. The things of creation relate to God as creature to Creator. This is not a “relationship” of mutuality, it is a relation of temporal being to One in whom “all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). Neither does the Human Person, as an aspect of Created reality, exist in a “relationship” of mutuality with the Creator. In His Word God tells us that He has created us in His image (Gen. 1:27) and so we bear a temporal analogy of His infinite and ultimate Personal Attributes. But this is in analogy, not in mutuality. In Isaiah 55:8-9 God charges us, “ ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” Paul admonishes, “Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Rom. 11:33-36) The Scriptures speak descriptively of Man as, for example, the “offspring” of God (Acts 17:28), the “friend” of God (Jn. 15:15), and the “bondservant” of God (Phil. 1:1). But we cannot take these descriptions to imply a mutual correlativity of God and Man, such as in the Human relationships of offspring, friend, and bondservant. For the Scriptures teach us more didactically that the essence of the Christian “relationship” of God to Man is Creator (Gen. 1:27), Judge (Ps. 9:8), and Redeemer (Col. 1:13-14); and the “relationship” of Man to God is creature (Gen. 1:27), sinner (Rom. 3:9-18), and redeemed (Eph. 2:8-9). There is a correlativity of mutuality of the Persons of the Trinity, and patterned after this there is a correlativity of mutuality of the Persons of Man. We do not share intellect, emotion, and will correlatively with God, but we have the temporal reality of intellect, emotion, and will because these are based firmly, though analogically, in the infinite and ultimate Intellect, Emotion, and Will of God.

However, Mr. Warren fails to study the implications of this. Having stated the germ of the concept, he fails to flesh it out to fruition. Mr. Warren rightly states that God is fully complete within Himself and has no need of anything outside Himself, but he then proceeds to characterize God as ardently desiring a family composed of Human Persons, and justifies his view by noting the difference between a need and a desire. According to Mr. Warren, “…[God] devised a plan to create us, bring us into his family, and share with us all he has.” (p.118) The core of Christian Orthodoxy is comprised of the Doctrines of Creation, Sin, and Redemption. The first part of the plan described by Mr. Warren clearly aligns with the Doctrine of Creation. The second part, “bring us into his family,” evidently was meant to align with the Doctrine of Redemption. We notice two important things. First, he wishes to speak of Redemption without having spoken of Sin. This cannot rightly be done, and the determination to do so guarantees a muddled idea of Redemption. Second, implied in Mr. Warren’s version of the “plan” is that upon creation Man resided outside God’s family so that it was necessary from the outset for him to be brought into it. If Man’s status as outside the family of God is not to be accounted the result of Sin, then the only alternative to this is a notion that this was his original status upon creation. Previously, Mr. Warren gave lip-service to the idea that Man’s original state was to be in relationship with God, but this was lost through sin. On page 28 he said, “When Cain sinned, his guilt disconnected him from God’s presence.” On page 85 he said, “We were made to live in God’s continual presence, but after the Fall, that ideal relationship was lost.” In this chapter he leapfrogs the idea of Sin altogether. His wavering on this point is indicative of his idea of God-Man mutuality.

Rather than to proclaim an orthodox idea that the mutuality of God’s relationships is subsumed within the Trinity, Mr. Warren characterizes the “relationship” of God and Man in terms of the same dynamic of mutuality as a relationship of Man to Man. Two Human persons who wish to live in a mutually satisfying relationship must speak and work together in order to devise desired goals and to bring them about. To suggest, as does Mr. Warren, that the creature may exist without relation to the Creator, is to represent the being of the “creature” and the being of the “Creator” as correlative in the sense that they subsequently may achieve the mutuality of “relationship.” In prior chapters Mr. Warren spoke of the mutual benefits both God and Man may enjoy via their relationship together. He told us that Man stands to gain a great deal from his “relationship” to God, for in this way he can “discover” his purpose (p. 18, 20, 25, 59). He also told us that God stands to gain a great deal from his “relationship” to Man, for Man is able to induce in God great emotional experiences of enjoyment (p. 63, 64, 66, 79). The issue between God and Man, as Mr. Warren frames it, is How can God and Man work together to develop a “relationship” in which both mutually benefit? All through this book Mr. Warren speaks of God and Man in a way that presumes their correlativity. He does not honor God as God in a Creator-creature distinction, but would suppose to involve God in the correlativity of the things of temporal existence. Though he gives lip-service to the idea that Man is the creation of God, he nevertheless speaks of Man as in some measure controlling the God-Man relation. Says he, “When we place our faith in Christ, God becomes our Father…” (p.118) This is completely opposite the biblical truth. In his view Man resides in a temporal world of being and becoming, with his dynamic of relating to God in the Garden of Eden, losing this relationship and becoming “disconnected” from God’s presence, and subsequently becoming a member of God’s family. In mutuality to this we see God, in Mr. Warren’s view, subjected to this same temporality of being and becoming. In his view God is our “creator” in some sense, but then suffers the “disconnection” from Man and so “yearns” for Man. Mr. Warren’s idea of the correlativity of God and Man leads directly to the notions that as Man is “disconnected” from God, so God is “disconnected” from Man, and that as Man then is left to “yearn” for God, so God is left to “yearn” for Man. He represents God as devising a plan to resolve the problem, but then characterizes His Word as a “point of view” that the Bible “offers” to Man’s consideration. If Man decides to go along with the plan, he then initiates an action called “placing faith in Christ” and God thereby “becomes” his father. The biblical orthodoxy of these things already was recounted numerous times in the essays above, and the reader shall not be over-taxed with yet another recounting of it here.

We may proceed only briefly to point out further consequences of Mr. Warren’s failure to study adequately - or even at all - the implications of the mutuality of the Trinity for the mutuality of Human relations. He moves on in this chapter to state categorically, “Your spiritual family is even more important than you physical family because it will last forever.” (p. 118) He makes it clear that when he speaks of “spiritual family” he means the Church, as he describes it as “our relationship to other believers.” (p. 118) This amounts to the confident assertion that the Church is more important than Kin. He defends this position by pointing out a series of problems that attend Kin relations, such as divorce, mobility, generation gap, and death. He asserts that contrary to this the Church “will continue throughout eternity.” (p. 118) He elaborates, “It is a much stronger union, a more permanent bond, than blood relationships.” (p. 118) A number of observations are in order. First, while Jesus clearly stated that our final state will transcend familial relations (Mat. 22:30), it is far from clear in Scripture that ecclesiastical hierarchy survives eternity intact. Second, the visible Church, which must be in view in Mr. Warren’s remarks as implied by his phrase, “our relationship to other believers,” has its own dirty laundry that he neglected to mention: such as, heresy, denominational splits, scandal, infighting, and even war. Even a cursory look at Church history would dispel the notion that the Church offers Christians a “stronger union” and a “more permanent bond” than Kin. Third, the Church as “family” of God is only descriptive in Scripture, and there are other descriptions also that Mr. Warren does not consider, such as the Church as the Bride of Christ (Rev. 21:2,9; Eph. 5:25-27) and as a Holy Nation (Ex. 19:6; I Pet. 2:9). It is a distortion of the total biblical picture to ignore these metaphors and to focus upon “family.” Fourth, devotion to Kinship rests squarely upon the 5th Commandment, “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex. 20:12), while ecclesiastical faithfulness (Heb. 10:25) rests upon this Commandment only indirectly. Mr. Warren’s failure to study the implications of the Trinity properly has left him in the position of having to decide which of the many “relationships” of Man shall be ultimate in Human life. He wishes to choose Church over Kin. After all, membership in the Church is the second of his five purposes for Human life. There are many others who argue for Kin over Church. This debate is never-ending because the whole question is invalid. The truth of the Trinity and its implications in Human life is that there is a proper function of the individual Person, a proper function of Kin, of Nation, and of Church, and that the Word and Law of God is over all. None of the temporal realities of Human life may be pressed into ultimacy without thereby being corrupted. God alone is ultimate and all avenues and aspects of Human life rightly will work in proper concert for His Glory alone.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read your article and all I can say is - you made no sense at all. In fact, I feel dumber after wasting my time reading this gobbledygook. I can tell you put a lot of time in studying “The Purpose Driven Life” book. But let me encourage you to study the Word of God.
Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

4:03 PM  
Blogger S. C. Mooney said...

I am sorry you had difficulty following my discussion, and I thank you for your encouragement to study the Word of God. It is precisely my point that the message of Purpose-Driven Life cannot hold up under study of God’s Word. It is easy to label that which you do not understand, or that with which you do not agree, as “gobbledygook.” But there is quite a bit more involved if you wish to demonstrate particular points at which the gobbledygook fails. This is what I endeavor to do with my commentaries on PDL. If you would care to point to specific instances where my commentaries fail, I would be happy to discuss the matter.

7:18 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home