Day Eleven - Becoming Best Friends with God

It is passing strange that in context of a section that purports to discuss Man’s worship of God Mr. Warren should assert that, “Almighty God yearns to be your Friend!” (p.85) It would appear that Mr. Warren himself is mindful of this strangeness, as he calls this assertion, “the most shocking truth.” If this were a truth at all, shocking or not, one would expect it to come to us from the Bible. Of course, Mr. Warren supposes to couch his notion of the friendship of God and Man in the Bible, however, in reality his notion arises from speculation. Though on Day One he specifically claimed to follow revelation and to shun speculation, Mr. Warren has demonstrated consistently throughout the first ten Days of his treatise that his ideas of God and of Man come moreso from speculation rather than from revelation. Though at several places he speaks of God as our “Creator,” his major thesis of God does not honor God as such, but casts God into a correlativity to man, such as would be commensurate to his notion of friendship. Mr. Warren speaks of the original communion of God and Man in the Garden of Eden as fulfilling his ideal of friendship, and says that the problem Man encountered as a result of the Fall was loss of this original communion. He portrays the problem as a “broken relationship” rather than broken laws, and it is quite evident that in Mr. Warren’s view loss of this communion was a loss for God as well as for Man. The correlativity of God and Man in his view is attested by the yearning with which he characterizes God as pining this loss. Correlativity means that just as Man yearns for God, so also God yearns for Man. It is in this context that he expresses the Redemption God wrought in Christ as, “Jesus changed the situation.” (p.86) Elaborating on this theme, Mr. Warren then says the most biblical thing he has had to say since his opening paragraph on Day One, “…he paid for our sins on the cross…” (p.86) But, having already told us that the problem of “sin” is our being “disconnected from God’s presence” (p.28), “failing a test” (p.42), or “failing to give God glory” (p.54), he has not provided any basis on which to understand sin as anything that needs to be “paid for.” Thus, for Mr. Warren, the best that the cross of Christ can do is somehow to give us a “fresh start” (p.28) by making God “available” to us. (p.86) This attempt to make the idea of God yearning for the friendship of Man to seem biblical is especially sad because not only is it a misapplication of the texts he employs, but the very same texts properly understood forcefully state the truth that is so lacking in Mr. Warren’s presentation.

Mr. Warren appeals to Romans 5:11 from a paraphrase called the “New Living Translation,” and to II Corinthians 5:18 from a paraphrase called “Today’s English Version.” Evidently these texts were selected from those paraphrases because the term friend, or some derivative, occurs in them; after all, it manifestly is Mr. Warren’s purpose to demonstrate as biblical his notion of the “friendship” of God and Man. However, turning to any actual translation of Scripture we find that the term friend is absent. Not only is friend absent, but both texts speak instead of reconciliation. Now, surely, those who have been reconciled therefore have become friends. Are we not then merely quibbling about words? Indeed, the original Greek term is a composite - katallasso - formed by the preposition kata and allasso, meaning “to change,” and Today’s English Version actually puts the sense fairly well with the phrase, “…changed us from enemies into his friends.” So, why should we press for any sharper understanding than Mr. Warren has suggested? We must because a truly biblical understanding and Mr. Warren’s understanding are based upon dramatically different ideas of God and Man. A simple reading of these isolated texts yields varying ideas of the friendship of God and Man depending upon ideas of God and of Man that the reader brings with him to the text. Behind Mr. Warren’s idea of the friendship of God and Man is a Man who “discovers” his purpose for himself (p.21), whose temporal choices determine eternity and thus determine reality for God (p.37), and who is adequately full of innate value that he may impart to God emotional experiences of enjoyment (p.63). Behind his idea of friendship also is a God who depends upon Man for emotional enjoyment (p.66), who may speak motivationally to Man (p.20), but who does not and cannot determine all reality for Man (p.34), who has superior resources of wisdom and strength that Man may choose to utilize, but which operate in the same contingent reality as does the weaker wisdom and strength of Man (p.58), and who so benefits from the emotional enjoyment that Man is able to impart that he would rather die than to live without Man. (p.79) Behind the truly biblical idea of reconciliation is a much, much different God and Man. The true story of God and Man, and the Doctrines of Creation, Sin, and Redemption forcefully and authoritatively is told in the passages of Scripture from which Mr. Warren saw fit to extract two isolated verses simply because some paraphrases included the term friend. In order to correct the misunderstanding of God and of Man that Mr. Warren promotes, we need only cite from an actual translation (in this case, the New American Standard) the same texts that Mr. Warren cites, together with their larger contexts.

Romans 5:8-11 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”

II Corinthians 5:14-19 “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet we know Him thus no longer. Therefore if any man is in Christ he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”

In Mr. Warren’s view God and Man shared mutual experiences of enjoyment in Eden; but this mutually satisfying relationship was broken, as something we have the habit of calling “sin” somehow disconnected Man from God; now Man must wander aimlessly through life and God must yearn for the former enjoyment provided by the innately valuable Man; and in the end God determines that he would rather die than to live without Man, and so the death of Christ deals in some unknown and therefore unspecified way with the disconnect between God and Man - not so as automatically to reconnect them, but to make them now “available” to one another; and so in his view Romans 5:11 and II Corinthians 5:18 mean that God and Man have the opportunity to become friends again. In the truly biblical view God is the Creator and therefore the determiner of Man and of all reality (Gen. 1:1); as Creator, God is complete within Himself and is not in need of anything outside Himself (Acts 17:24-25); Man sinned against God by denying the authority of His Word (Gen. 3:6), and so became an enemy of God (Rom. 5:10). As enemy of God, Man came under the wrath of God (Eph. 2:3) and God drove him out of the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:24); it pleased God for His own glory and His own purposes to redeem His people from their sins by paying on their behalf the penalty due their sins through the substitutionary death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Col. 1:13-22); and so in the orthodox view Romans 5:11 and II Corinthians 5:18 mean that in His own power and sovereignty God affected the reconciliation to Himself of we who once were His enemies. Mr. Warren seems oblivious to the full significance of the Today’s English Version paraphrase he selected, where it says that God “…changed us from enemies into his friends.” He has built his whole scheme in such a way that Christ would rather die than to live without Man. He seems totally unconcerned to explain how Man might be portrayed an enemy of Christ.

Mr. Warren draws further upon the classic friendship text, John 15:15, where Jesus says to His disciples, “I have called you friends.” In this case the term in the original Greek is philos, which the reader may recognize as one of the three Greek words for love. Our term friend is a good and proper rendering for philos. Also, Abraham properly is called the “friend of God” in several places (II Chr. 20:7, Is. 41:8) and this is recounted also in the New Testament (Jas. 2:23). In several places, then, we see Man characterized as the friend of God. Man may be so characterized only as he who once was the enemy of God now has been reconciled to God. It is God’s design, initiative, and power to reconcile. However, we do not see God characterized as the friend of Man. Biblically, God always is held forth as our Creator, Master, Judge, Redeemer, Father. It is important always that we honor Him as God and do not go “beyond what is written” in our thoughts and expressions of His nature and glory. There are texts, such as Job 29:4, where we might discuss the propriety of referring to God as our friend, but in all such discussion we must hold in view the plainly didactic texts and appreciate the inevitably anthropomorphic quality of the more obscure texts. Didactic texts speak plainly and straightforwardly to teach us who God is and what He is like. Anthropomorphic texts speak of God in human terms to express God’s actions in a way that is possible for humans to understand, but which do not relate doctrinally to who He really is in Himself. For example, Numbers 23:19 teaches us didactically that “God is not a man ... that He should repent,” while Exodus 32:14 speaks anthropomorphically that God “changed His mind (KJV “repented”) about the harm which He said He would do to His people.” There is little doubt that Mr. Warren has at least a basic understanding of the distinction between didactic texts compared to anthropomorphic texts, but he has not lifted a finger to assess the idea of God-Man friendship according to such distinction.

In one soul-searching paragraph he approaches the threshold of such analysis, but then backs away. He says, “It’s difficult to imagine how an intimate friendship is possible between an omnipotent, invisible, perfect God and a finite, sinful human being. It’s easier to understand a Master-servant relationship or a Creator-creation relationship or even Father-child. But what does it mean when God wants me as a friend?” (p.87) The reason Creator-creature, Master-servant and Father-child are easy to understand is because they are biblical. One may dig into the Word of God on all of these themes and never reach the end of the magnificent riches he will find. Yet Mr. Warren seems determined to pursue the notion of God-Man friendship independently of these themes. It is as though he spoke these themes by way of contrasting his approach to them. It is sadly and tragically ironic that he gave lip-service to the path of truth only by way of contrasting the direction he wishes to go instead. Nothing in his treatise thus far provides his reader with a sufficient understanding of Man as creature and sinner. And so nothing in his treatise thus far equips his reader to grasp the concept of Man as friend of God in the biblical sense of God having reconciled to Himself a former enemy. Mr. Warren nevertheless pushes ahead with an entirely speculative idea of God-Man friendship as that for which God and Man yearn correlatively. His method is to expound upon six “secrets of friendship with God” that he proposes are to be learned from the lives of biblical figures. The first two of these “secrets” he pursues in the present chapter, and the remaining four are deferred to the next chapter. It would enlarge the present discussion beyond proper bounds to continue with commentary of Mr. Warren’s “secrets.” All six of these “secrets” shall be treated in context of the following Day.


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