Day Nine - What Makes God Smile?

Mr. Warren has constructed his ideas of “Man” and of “God” in such a way that completely discounts the biblically and historically orthodox Christian Doctrine that through the Redemption He accomplished in Christ God imparts life to men who are dead in their sins. Instead he persists in his notion that man may impart an emotional experience of enjoyment to God. Though this makes a show of piety, for it pretends to be concerned about God’s well-being, in reality it is grievously dishonoring of God.

In order for one to honor the Creator properly, he must maintain in his thinking at all times a firm distinction between the Uncreated being of the Creator and the created being of the creature. This is the starting point of the Bible in Genesis 1:1. It is the essence of unbelief to deny this Creator / creature distinction and to contemplate instead an idea of “Being in general.” The ancient Greek philosophers assumed for themselves the task of contemplating all things in terms of this “Being in general.” This notion posits that whatever exists is united together in the fact of existence over against non-being. In this idea “God” and “Man” are united in the fact of their existence. The ancient Greeks and many types of unbelievers to this day are fond of speaking much of “God.” However, their outlook originates in the denial of Creation and thus the denial of the Creator. Once having denied God as the Uncreated Creator of all existence, and having posited instead an abstract idea of bare “existence,” one cannot proceed from this point to say anything true about “God.” Contemplating the bare existence of “Being in general” is an exercise of pure speculation. It never will produce the truth or the righteousness of God. “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans 1:21). Van Til has said, “A Christian will engage in no speculation.” [ A Survey of Christian Epistemology, p.20 ]

Mr. Warren’s Day Nine is devoted to the question: “What makes God smile?” There is a valid biblical study one could undertake into the nature and meaning of the “smile” of God, however, Mr. Warren has not done this. His pursuit of the question is an exercise of pure speculation and so never will bring us to any true confession of God. Since he is dedicated to the notion that worship consists of man imparting enjoyable emotional experiences to God, it is only natural that he should interpret the “smile” of God as expressing such enjoyment. If God is the correlate of man within the bare fact of “existence,” then whatever attributes God shares with man are identical in essence, though greater in degree. Within this realm of speculation God and man participate in “mind in general,” though God is smarter. There also is “will in general,” though God is stronger. Within the speculative realm of “emotion in general” man may impart an enjoyable emotional experience to God, and may contemplate what may serve to provide such enjoyment, for it will be of the same order as his own enjoyment, but to a greater degree. But this is so only within the realm of speculation. To pursue these things is only to go further down the wrong road. In order for one to please God, he shall need to reverse course and repent of such speculation. In order for the creature ruined by sin to confess truth concerning his Creator, it is necessary for him first to honor God as his Creator, his Judge, and his Redeemer. God’s mind is Uncreated mind in distinction to the created mind of man. God’s Word is eternal, infinite, exhaustive truth in distinction to the derivative, temporal - and now corrupted - word of man. It is the Word of God that determines the truth of our realm of created reality. God is not bound up within “reality.” There is no such thing as a bare “fact” of “existence.” Our surrounding universe of reality is what it is because the Creator determined it to be so. It is this sort of Word we consult in this sort of humility to inquire of this sort of God.

Mr. Warren cites two paraphrases at the head of his chapter that predicate smile of God: Numbers 6:25 and Psalm 119:135. In both cases a competent translation gives “make His face shine” instead of “smile.” For example, in Numbers chapter 6:24-26 we have the well-known benediction, “The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.” Mr. Warren cites only a short phrase from the middle of this from something called “The New Living Translation” that says, “May the Lord smile on you…” The phrase in the original language is a very rich expression composed of two terms: panim, which derives from panah and means “face” in the sense of turning toward so as to face oneself before another; and or, which means “shine” in the sense of enlighten or illumine [ see in Harris, et al, TWOT, op cit, as above ]. The biblical idea of the Lord making His face to shine upon us means that He turns toward us and in so doing enlightens us with His truth. The “new, relevant” paraphrases toss all of this aside and settle for a speculative concept of God “smiling” on us. Mr. Warren already has immersed himself deeply in the speculation that man may impart an enjoyable emotional experience to God. So he conceives of the “smile” of God in the sense of this Divine emotional experience and seizes upon the bankrupt paraphrase as “biblical” proof of his speculation.

Mr. Warren thus forces discussion of worship into the framework of the “smile” of God. He chooses the story of Noah to illustrate his thesis. Citing a loose paraphrase of Genesis 6:8, “Noah was a pleasure to the Lord,” he then imagines God saying, “This guy brings me pleasure. He makes me smile.” (p. 69) On the previous day we examined in detail what constitutes God’s pleasure. The paraphrase and Mr. Warren suggest that Noah stimulated an enjoyable emotional experience in God. A competent translation of Scripture tells us instead that “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” Nevertheless, Mr. Warren presses on in his intent to show how Noah was a source of enjoyment for God. He catalogs in the life of Noah the virtues of love, trust, obedience, praise, and thanksgiving. There can be no doubt that these are virtues that attend every godly life. However, a true and biblical understanding of these virtues cannot derive from the speculation to which Mr. Warren is devoted. It is inevitable that various errors and inconsistencies should arise. It will be instructive for us to survey some of the problems encountered in his discussion.

After assuring us that God “longs” for our love and that He wants a “relationship” with us more than anything else (p. 70), he proceeds to declare, “This is why learning to love God and be loved by him should be the greatest objective of your life. Nothing else comes close in importance.” (p. 70) However, he already told us in most solemn tones on page 30, “Nothing matters more than knowing God’s purposes for your life, and nothing can compensate for not knowing them.” Evidently, reading this book is supposed to be a contentless, emotional experience. In a non-rational mindset we are to allow for a multiplicity of things, all of which are the most important thing, than which nothing matters more. Also, let the reader recall that on page 24 Mr. Warren asserted that the biblical teaching was that the “fundamental goal and purpose” that gives meaning and explanation to the world is the “central fact” of human life, and that he then went on later to tell us God “allows” us “difficulty, sorrow, and rejection…in order to keep us from becoming too attached to earth,” (p. 49, 50) because, “Life on earth is just the dress rehearsal…the staging area, the preschool, the tryout for your life in eternity.” (p.36) Now on page 74 Mr. Warren is back to his former position. He gives us his own paraphrase of God’s commandment to Noah in Genesis 9:1-3, “It’s time to get on with your life! Do the things I designed humans to do. Make love to your spouse. Have babies. Raise families. Plant crops and eat meals. Be humans! This is what I made you to be!” It is all very dizzying for one to attempt sorting out whether he ought to work hard at being the “central fact” giving meaning to the world, or to work hard at keeping this sorrowful, disappointing world at arm’s length.

We find also an assortment of inaccuracies. Mr. Warren addresses himself to the need for obedience to God. With this we have no quarrel. However, since he has approached the matter on a footing of speculation, he has made of it what seems good to his own mind rather than to bring a truly biblical teaching. He tells us that obedience cannot wait. He says, “Every parent knows that delayed obedience is really disobedience.” (p.72) This is false. In Matthew 21:28-31 Jesus told the Pharisees this parable: “ ‘But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, “Son, go work today in the vineyard.” And he answered and said, “I will, sir”; and he did not go. And he came to the second and said the same thing. But he answered and said, “I will not”; yet afterward he regretted it and went. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The latter.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I say to you that the tax-gatherers and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you.’ ” If delayed obedience is the equivalent of disobedience, then there never is any room or incentive for repentance. Surely, timely obedience is best. But delayed obedience is not the same as, but better than, disobedience.

Also, Mr. Warren assures us, “You only bring him enjoyment by being you. Anytime you reject any part of yourself, you are rejecting God’s wisdom and sovereignty in creating you…He loves you as if you were the only person on earth.” (p.75) In stark contrast with this the biblical teaching is that we are to abhor the corruption of ourselves as a result of sin. Jesus was direct and clear, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Mat. 16:24) And who can misconstrue the agony of Paul in Romans chapter 7 as he struggles with the corruption of the flesh over against the confession of the spirit? Our task in true spirituality is not a striving to “be ourselves.” As Jesus went on to say, “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.” (Mat 16:25) It is “Christ in you” that is “the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) It is not rejecting God’s wisdom or sovereignty to “condemn sin in the flesh.” (Rom. 8:3) It is true spirituality for the godly to reject the corruption of sin, “that no man should boast before God.” (I Cor. 1:29) Mr. Warren’s idea of “Man” is an abstraction that does not fit in with these truly biblical ideals. He posits the individual Man as a Divine pleasure-inducer in a sense that could be fulfilled in an abstract world in which only one individual existed. Thus, for Mr. Warren, God’s love is not for Man as a people, but for each individuation of the abstract Man. Such a man does not exist, but neither does such a “God” as Mr. Warren describes.

If we attempt to follow Mr. Warren in his pursuit of worship as giving “pleasure” to God, which in turn he construes as making God “smile,” we find immediately that such a course requires leaving the Bible behind. But let us now turn to the Bible for true instruction in nature of God’s “smile.” The term smile does not occur in the King James Bible. The term smile and its derivatives occurs three times in the New American Standard, but never is predicated of God. The Hebrew term translated as smile in the NASB is sachaq and means literally “to laugh.” It is translated mostly as laugh or laughs. We find that at several points God “laughs.” We might phrase Mr. Warren’s question in these terms and ask, “What makes God laugh?” It is indeed instructive for us to follow the form of Mr. Warren’s course and to discern in a truly biblical sense what makes God laugh, or smile. God laughs at the pathetic rage of the sinful men of worldly wisdom and power (Ps. 2:4). The Lord laughs at the impotent plots of the wicked (Ps. 37:13). God laughs at the haughty pretense of those who think no one can call them to account (Ps. 59:8). God’s wisdom laughs at the calamity of fools who refuse her reproof (Pr. 1:26). Indeed, let us be mindful of what makes God smile, and then beg God’s grace to be free of all such things!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was looking at the parable of the two sons in Matthew & your account did not match what I read. I think you mixed up the sons. Also, the people answered that the 1st had obeyed, not the 2nd. You seem pretty passionate about what you are saying, but it negates everything, if your facts aren't straight.

5:55 PM  
Blogger S. C. Mooney said...

Anonymous, I am glad that you are studying this matter carefully. First off, I would like to reiterate the point of my commenting at all on this parable. Warren said that “delayed obedience is really disobedience.” I cite the parable as an example of Jesus Himself praising “delayed obedience” as “doing the will of the Father.”

Now, as to the facts and whether my point is negated: I checked back over the text (I used the New American Standard) and it reads exactly as I related above. The people answered “the latter.” Let us review correct usage of “former” and “latter.” The term “latter” is reference to the thing last mentioned, and “former” refers to a thing mentioned prior to that. The people’s answer “the latter” (v. 31) is reference to the one last mentioned - the second son. It was the second son who actually did go and work in the vineyard (which was the will of the father) even though at first he said he would not.

What text do you read, and how does this parable read in that text? I would be happy to comment on how my point may be expounded using a different text.

7:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read your criticism on the above subject, I am must indicate that your arguments do not hold water. They are misplaced and I am convinced that you do not understand the parable our Lord Jesus Christ used when he was interacting with the pharisees. You assert that timely obedience is best, then you move on to say that Jesus Christ praised delayed obedience as the will of the Father. Please do not confuse readers.

5:22 PM  
Blogger S. C. Mooney said...

Hello, Anonymous. Are you the same Anonymous who posted above? Or, are you a different Anonymous? I can tell from your post that you do not agree with me, but I cannot tell exactly what point you find fault with. If you could clarify your concern, we may be able to sort this out. Are you saying that Jesus did NOT praise delayed obedience as doing the will of the Father?

6:17 PM  

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