Day Eight - Planned for God's Pleasure

Mr. Warren presses on, not in lieu of, but in light of his foregoing material. But the “light” provided in his foregoing material comprises no basis on which he may proceed to say anything truly Christian concerning Man and his spirituality. To be sure, Mr. Warren comes forth now and then with phrases that do indeed have a form of truth, as we already have seen. However, such phrases find no true home in his general message and so are uttered in lieu of, not in light of, that message. They are anomalies. The unwary reader may surmise that he may receive the entirety of this book in terms of the anomalous phrases found to be in the form of truth. But it must be shown instead that the general message is not grounded in, but contrary to, Christian truth. And so we must press on with Mr. Warren in our critique of his book.

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.


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