Friday

Day Five - Seeing Life from God's View

In light of his contrast of temporal life and eternal life, Mr. Warren now moves to further elaboration of temporal life. “How you define life determines your destiny,” he says. (p.41) In this he reiterates his view that the creature somehow can determine reality for the Creator. This now is a well-established theme in Mr. Warren’s thought. In this mind-set, then, he takes up the question of how the creature ought to define the reality of human life. He suggests that this may best be understood in terms of a metaphor. After surveying a number of “faulty” metaphors, he then turns to consider “biblical” metaphors, which, he argues, are the better choice. This is presented in terms of “God’s view of life,” which “the Bible offers.” (p.42)

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.

2 Comments:

Blogger Meite U said...

This brings the following to mind: in our church ( a 'mega-church'..) we recently had pencils produced celebrating our so-many-years existence. On these pencils, the following slogan was written: 'We are writing God's history'. I think this says it all.

1:51 PM  
Anonymous Beatrice said...

keep on writing. God Bless.

8:23 AM  

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