Day Thirteen - Worship That Pleases God

Mr. Warren returns to the idea of the pleasure of God. On Day Eight he defined worship as, “Bringing pleasure to God,” (p.64) by which he meant imparting to God emotional experiences of enjoyment. On the following day he took up the question of how Man may accomplish this “worship.” He posed the question as, “What makes God smile?” (p.69) In this context he discussed Man’s love of God, trust of God, obedience to God, praise and thanksgiving to God, and use of abilities. The emphasis in the present chapter is on the quality of “worship.” Says he, “There is a right way and a wrong way to worship.” (p.100) With this we may wholeheartedly agree. However, the case that Mr. Warren makes for this assertion serves only to weaken his view of things.

In support of his view that we must worship in a manner that pleases God, Mr. Warren cites Hebrews 12:28 from Today’s English Version. However, he does not quote the entire verse. He put a period at the end of his citation, and close quotes. But this is incorrect, for the point at which Mr. Warren stopped is not really the end of the sentence. It may seem like overburdening the point to carry on about this matter, for it is not at all unusual for such a thing to be done. One may search through the present collection of commentaries and find examples of the same thing. However, this instance of Mr. Warren cutting off the end of a sentence out of the Bible is particularly noteworthy, for the part he left out runs completely counter to the system of things Mr. Warren is attempting to build. When done properly, citing only a phrase out of Scripture and leaving out the rest of the sentence can be done because it is not necessary to cite the entire verse in order to convey accurately what the Bible is saying. In this case Mr. Warren has left out the last part of the verse because his view of things makes it very necessary to leave it out. This is because his view of things is not fully biblical. A fully biblical quotation weakens rather than strengthens the point he wishes to make.

Mr. Warren cites Hebrews 12:28 from Today’s English Version as follows, “Let us be grateful and worship God in a way that will please him.” In TEV this statement reads in full, “Let us be grateful and worship God in a way that will please him, with reverence and fear.” And, indeed, this is not yet the end of the sentence. Verse 29 adds, “for our God is indeed a destroying fire.” Mr. Warren utilizes the portion of the text he quoted in order to make his idea of “Worship that pleases God” seem biblical. However, instead of quoting the entire sentence out of the Bible, he finishes the thought in his own words, “The kind of worship that pleases God has four characteristics.” (p.100) He proceeds then to discuss his own four ideas of what will make our worship pleasing to God. The unwary reader is lead to believe that Mr. Warren’s four ideas are a biblical prescription for how to worship in a way that pleases God. The Bible - even a modern, loose paraphrase of the Bible - was ready to tell us what manner of worship pleases God, but Mr. Warren chose to leave out that part and to present his own four ideas instead. Had Mr. Warren cited the entire thought of Hebrews 12:28-29, his readers would know that the sort of worship that is pleasing to God is worship that is in reverence and fear, for our God is a destroying fire. Then he might have gone on in this chapter to expound upon this truth and to bring a truly biblical message concerning worship. Instead he has chosen to cite just enough of a phrase out of Scripture to make his position seem biblical, and to proceed from there in his own way. Mr. Warren speaks of the need for worship to be accurate, authentic, thoughtful, and practical. Surely, these are good qualities for our worship. These are good qualities generally speaking that ought to characterize much of what we say and do. However, they are presented out of context of the text cited by Mr. Warren and in lieu of biblical teaching of worship.

The first of Mr. Warren’s four qualities of worship is accuracy. Here is his discussion of accuracy in its entirety: “God is pleased when our worship is accurate. People often say, ‘I like to think of God as…,’ and then they share their idea of the kind of God they would like to worship. But we cannot just create our own comfortable or politically correct image of God and worship it. That is idolatry. Worship must be based on the truth of Scripture, not our opinions about God. Jesus told the Samaritan woman, ‘True worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.’ To ‘worship in truth’ means to worship God as he is truly revealed in the Bible.” (p.101) Mr. Warren’s appetite for accuracy is commendable. His commitment to the Bible as the standard of accuracy is laudable. However, the studious reader is struck by the strangeness of this brief paragraph of orthodoxy as it is couched within hundreds of pages of speculative Humanism. Indeed, this discussion seems especially odd given that it comes right on the heels of Mr. Warren having just inaccurately cited Hebrews 12:28. He reports that “people often say…” what sort of a God they wish there were. Mr. Warren himself presents us with a model of such a person, since often enough in the first 100 pages of his book he has rehearsed this very exercise. He says, in effect, that he would like to think of God as yearning for the emotional experiences of enjoyment that Man can provide him (p.85); that he would like to think of God as enjoying any and every kind of music that could possibly exist (p.66), indeed, that God invented all possible music (p.65); that he would like to think of God as so enjoying the benefit that Man is to him that he would rather die than to live without Man (p.79), and now he says, in effect, that he would like to think of God as not involving a destroying fire or demanding our reverence and fear. Mr. Warren utilizes some very strong language for the Human practice of inventing an unbiblical idea of God, calling it “idolatry.” He is completely correct in this assessment. However, one then wonders all the more how he came to the place where, within the pages of the same book in which he brings this challenge, he treats himself to the luxury of indulging in such idolatry with impunity. At bottom, the God Mr. Warren expounds is the correlate of Man, and so is sharply distinguished from the Un-created, Creator God of the Bible, and is indistinguishable from the Un-moved Mover of Aristotle. The Bible, indeed, is the revelation of truth to us from God. But appeal to the Bible as a standard of accuracy in our conception of God cannot really help us to discern between the Un-created Creator and the Un-moved Mover if we are going to lift fractions of the text that are according to our liking and pretend the rest does not exist. Nor will it help us if we accept as “Bible” every loose paraphrase that comes down the pike. This point finds its most dramatic emphasis in the next quality Mr. Warren takes up.

Secondly, Mr. Warren suggests that our worship must be authentic. By this he means that worship must be full of integrity and not hypocrisy. As he develops his point it becomes clear that he is not so much concerned that our practice of worship should conform to what we know to be the truth of God, the truth of Man, of sin, and of Redemption. Rather, his concern is that our worship should conform to a nebulous psychological experience of the self. Though he says, “Your biggest distraction in worship is yourself.” (p.102), he nevertheless proceeds in the very next paragraph to maintain that, “The best style of worship is the one that most authentically represents your love for God, based on the background and personality God gave you.” (p.102) In reality the self is indeed the biggest distraction in worship. This is consistent with Mr. Warren’s starting point, “It’s not about you.” (p.17) Mr. Warren’s occasional reversion to this sound and biblical concept merely adds to the strangeness of the bulk of his teachings. True worship is the adulation of God for His attributes and His works among us. But, Mr. Warren does not entertain an idea of God that can sustain orthodoxy, and so continually and quickly falls into one kind or another of Humanistic speculation. For Mr. Warren, worship is not redeemed sinners declaring the glory of God, but God’s correlates and pleasure-inducers representing their love based on their backgrounds and personalities. The Humanism and speculation inherent in the categories of such an outlook are not erased simply by adding to it the idea that “God” gave us our backgrounds and personalities. The summation of this for Mr. Warren is, “God wants you to be yourself.” (p.103). Or, to put it in terms of Mr. Warren’s own formula for idolatry, “I like to think of God as wanting me to be myself.” Mr. Warren pretends to vindicate such pabulum as “accurate” by citing a text of Scripture in support of it. He cites John 4:23. The alert reader will notice that he already cited John 4:23 as the basis for his challenge of accuracy. On page 101 he cited this text out of the New International Version, “True worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.” Now he cites this same text again, this time from something called “The Message.” It reads, “That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship.” (p.103) Spirit and truth changed into “simply and honestly themselves.” When Mr. Warren is concerned with “accuracy” he can cite John 4:23 from the NIV and then carry on about “spirit and truth” and the need for our idea of God to conform to what the Bible tells us. Then, when Mr. Warren is concerned about the authenticity of the psychological experience of the self, he can cite the very same text from “The Message” and assure us with the pretence of “accuracy” that “God wants you to be yourself.” This is accurately and authentically Humanistic.

Pressing on, Mr. Warren exhorts us that our worship must be thoughtful. “You must engage your mind,” he tells us. (p.103) The formal truth of this statement is beyond dispute. However, it is difficult to avoid mentioning that the more the reader attempts to engage his mind, the less Mr. Warren’s treatise squares with accurate, authentic, thoughtful Christian worship. The present discussion is a case in point. Citing Matthew 6:7, Mr. Warren warns us against “vain repetitions.” He goes on to say that, “Even biblical terms can become tired clichés from overuse…” (p.103) It truly is amazing to think that in Mr. Warren’s mind the consistent reading and recitation of biblical texts can be classed as overusing clichés, but going about constantly muttering “breath prayers” (p.89) all day long is a method of becoming God’s best friend! In his view there is such a danger of the words of Scripture becoming clichés that this is one pretext given for his employment of such a bewildering variety of paraphrases, “This is why I encourage you to read Scripture in different translations and paraphrases.” (p.104) Constantly referring to different translations and paraphrases makes memorization of Scripture virtually impossible. But in Mr. Warren’s view of things memorization of Scripture would not be beneficial, for in this case the words of Scripture would become “tired clichés.” Mr. Warren previously assured us that God is “…bored with predictable, pious clichés,” (p.94) The studious reader also is quite bored with alliterative clichés, such as, “You need hope to cope” (p.31), “Purpose always produces passion” (p.33), “Your identity is in eternity, and your homeland is in heaven” (p.48), “Put Christ in the driver’s seat of your life and take your hands off the steering wheel” (p.83); and many other examples. One can only wonder concerning the state of Evangelicalism today. Here is a book that is full of predictable, pious clichés and nevertheless warns readers in all seriousness that the words of Scripture can become clichés, and as a result is rewarded with phenomenal popularity.

The fourth quality of worship Mr. Warren discusses is practicality. He begins this discussion by citing Romans 12:1 and the idea of Man offering his body a living sacrifice to God as a spiritual service of worship. He muses that it is demanded of Man to offer his body in contrast to his spirit. This leads nicely into a discussion of the duty upon Man to live in service to God. With this discussion Mr. Warren reverts once again back to his “It’s not about you” theme. Though he told us on page 103, “God wants you to be yourself,” he now tells us, “He wants you to live for Him” (p.105) Though he told us on page 102, “The best style of worship is the one that most authentically represents your love for God, based on the background and personality God gave you,” he now tells us, “You cannot exalt God and yourself at the same time. You don’t worship to be seen by others or to please yourself. You deliberately shift the focus off yourself.” (p.105) The hallmark of the speculative, Humanistic outlook is the dialectical tension in which emphasis constantly is shifting between two opposite poles. Humanism cannot say anything definitely, unchangeably, about God, Man, or anything of reality, but must swing and sway as a pendulum within paradox. This already has been noted on a number of occasions in Mr. Warren’s book, such as his view that the earth was created specifically to be Man’s habitation in tension with his view that God sends sorrow and disappointment our way so we will not become “too attached” to life here. In this chapter we see yet another example of the inescapable tension that lies at the root of Mr. Warren’s concept of God and of Man. “It’s not about you,” he says at one point, and “Your biggest distraction in worship is yourself.” But, how can the reality of the human personality be maintained? In Christian orthodoxy, the reality of human personality is grounded in the Image of God that Man bears as a unique creation. Difficulty in thought and life is the consequence of Sin, which is Man’s willful rebellion against the Law of God. Man is “dead” in his sins (Eph. 2:1), and is in need of another to act on his behalf to provide a remedy. God, in His own initiative and power accomplished the Redemption of His people in the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. In all of this the biblical truth that “It’s not about you” is maintained without compromise. In contrast to this Mr. Warren must backpeddle in order to satisfy the reality of human personality. Over many pages this book reads as though it really is about us after all. The best worship, he says, is a representation of our love according to our backgrounds and personalities. But this backpeddling only requires further backpeddling, and that is where he leaves us at the close of this chapter. At one point it seems to Mr. Warren that God want us to be ourselves. But since this notion cannot be fully integrated into a systematic theology, it is required at another time for him to urge instead that He wants us to live for Him.


Anonymous Rod Wisdom said...

These are tremendously valuable comments Mr. Mooney. May God strengthen you as you continue to work through the 40 days. If you're just a regular guy, I'd sure like to meet your pastor! He must be awesome.

7:20 PM  
Blogger Douglas said...

Not as "AWESOME" (fearful & dreadful) as God though. :)

Awe, Awesome

Webster's dictionary defines awe as mingled dread, veneration, and wonder. English Bible translations employ the words "awe" or "awesome" almost exclusively to refer to the person or work of God. While the word "awe" appears only rarely in the KJV, modern English versions such as the NASB and NIV translate as many as six different Hebrew words and three different Greek words as "awe" or "awesome." The most common Hebrew word, yare [aer"y], occurs in various forms over 400 times in the Old Testament, and is commonly translated "fear." Both the NIV and NASB, however, often render "awe" (e.g., Exod 15:11; 1 Sam 12:18; Psalm 119:120; Hab 3:2).

In the Gospels and Acts, the Greek phobos [fovbo"], the common word for fear, is occasionally translated "awe, " or "filled with awe." It describes people's reaction to astonishing works of God such as Jesus' demonstration of authority to forgive sins (Luke 5:26), the raising of the widow's son (Luke 7:16), or the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the early church (Acts 2:43).

When confronted with God's awesome presence the inevitable human response is to quiver and cower. In fact, the Bible never records a direct personal encounter with God in which the individual was not visibly shaken by God's awesomeness. When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, Moses hid his face and trembled before God (Exod 3:6). When Isaiah saw the Lord in his glory and majesty, he cried, "Woe is me, I am ruined!" (6:5). When the risen Christ appeared to Saul the persecutor on the Damascus road, Saul prostrated himself in fear and trembling (Acts 9:3). The Bible emphasizes, however, that genuine awe is primarily a disposition rather than merely an emotional state. God's person and his works of creation, providence, redemption, and judgment are astounding and demand both sober contemplation and humble submission. God's people are commanded to show proper regard for his power and dominion—his absolute authority to rule (Job 25:2; Jer 33:9) and his power to perform what he will (Deut 4:34; 34:12; 1 Sam 12:18; Hab 3:2). On the other hand, the Bible makes it clear that there will come a day when persons who refuse to acknowledge God's awesomeness will tremble and wail before his vengeful presence and his righteous judgement (Jer 2:19; Zeph 2:11). ~ Ralph Enlow

Excellent Journal, brilliant in fact, best expos`e of the false teachings of The Purpose-Driven® Life on the Internet, imho

10:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Warren wrote a book, he did not write the Bible, his attempt in writing this book was to try to explain how we as christians have to connect with God's true purpose for our lives. It's not peddled as an "exegesis" of the bible. I see it as an attempt to explore in a very simple way God's purpose for our lives. Many others write books that attempt to explain themed principles from the bible, their work could be critiqued just as you are critiquing Mr. Warren's. In fact, pastors every Sunday take scriptures out of the Bible and attempt in their own way explain them. Sometimes they hit the mark and sometimes the don't. Reading what you have printed has not convinced me that Mr. Warren is some kind of false teacher anymore than hundreds of others who daily try to explain the mysteries of the Word of God. God bless you in your studies and search for the truth.

Brother Guy

6:14 AM  
Blogger S. C. Mooney said...

Brother Guy, are you seriously suggesting that since it was not Mr. Warren's intent to do exegesis, therefore his writing must not be critically examined?

6:34 AM  

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