Day Ten - The Heart of Worship

Mr. Warren proceeds to expound upon what he regards as “the heart of worship.” He already has defined “worship” as “giving God pleasure” and “making God smile.” However, he has built his case for these notions upon paraphrases of Scripture rather than doing any real Bible study concerning the pleasure of God and the smile of God. We have seen in our previous discussions that a serious Bible study of these things brings us to much different conclusions than Mr. Warren proposes. Now, in proposing to discuss “the heart of worship,” Mr. Warren confronts yet another opportunity to be truly biblical about God, man, sin, redemption, and worship. Indeed, he flirts with truly biblical teaching, as he says at one point: “We aren’t God and never will be. We are humans. It is when we try to be God that we end up most like Satan, who desired the same thing.” (p. 79) In this he gets at a truly biblical idea of a “Creator / creature distinction.” If only he had grounded all he has had to say in this basic distinction, he would have brought us to a much different place than what we find on this Day Ten. However, as we have seen before in his treatise, nuggets of wisdom are scattered throughout and find no systematic place in the larger context of the book. This is no less the case here.

According to Mr. Warren, “The heart of worship is surrender.” (p. 77) However, he does not make a rigorously biblical case for this view. At the head of this chapter he cites a paraphrase of Romans 6:13 in which the term surrender occurs. Also, in the text of the chapter he cites a paraphrase of Psalm 37:7 in which the term surrender occurs. In neither case do the original terms signify the giving up or giving in that Mr. Warren suggests. In Romans 6:13 the original term is paristemi, which is a compound term that combines the prefix para and histemi - to stand. Essentially, it means “to stand beside, or to stand before.” A competent translation reads, “present yourselves to God.” This is a command. The same term is used in Romans 12:1, “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice.” In Psalm 37:7 the original term is damam, which means essentially, “to be still, or to be silent.” The New American Standard puts this as, “Rest in the Lord…” The term surrender does not occur in the King James Bible. It occurs but five times in the New American Standard, and never in the usage of Man surrendering to God. Indeed, in Hosea 11:8 God declares, “How can I surrender you (deliver you up), O Israel?”

Mr. Warren has no biblical basis for his notion that “The heart of worship is surrender.” Instead, his basis is the foregoing material in the first nine chapters of his book. In those chapters he propounds the view that Man is the “central fact” giving meaning to existence; that nevertheless he somehow needs to be in relation to God in order to “discover” his purpose; that an undefined thing called “sin” disconnects him from God; that he may exercise his wisdom, volition, and power at any time to begin a relationship with God, upon which he may then press on to “discover” his purpose, which then becomes the “foundation” of his life; that for His part God derives a great benefit from this relationship, because Man is able to impart to Him an emotional experience of pleasure, and so ought to learn all of the various things that make God smile. It is this basis - as opposed to a truly biblical basis - that is required to support Mr. Warren’s idea of “surrender.” A biblical and consistently held idea of a “Creator / creature distinction” does not provide a dynamic of God and Man struggling together as correlates, such that Man could be characterized as finally giving in to God. Abandonment of the biblical teaching is required in order for Mr. Warren’s idea of “surrender” to hold up.

For example, he tells us, “You won’t surrender to God unless you trust him, but you can’t trust him until you know him better.” Contrary to the biblical teaching that every man is “without excuse” (Romans 1:20) for their failure to honor God as God, Mr. Warren would have us to believe that it is possible for us to get to know God without trusting Him, because he suggests that we cannot trust Him until we get to know Him. Paul told the Romans that they were “without excuse” because as creatures of God it is their nature to know Him and to know their duty to Him. His indictment is, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God.” (Romans 1:21) As creatures of their Creator they are obliged to know and to honor God as God. They are afforded no neutral area in which they might get to know Him better before they could be expected to trust or to honor Him. Simply by virtue of being His creation they already know Him, and such knowledge is adequate to render them immediately obligated to honor Him fully and without reservation. They are “without excuse” in their failure to do so. Contrary to this Mr. Warren would afford all men an area of neutrality in which they might evaluate God. Mr. Warren conceives of Man as possessing a measure of autonomy in which he may determine his own destiny and therefore determine eternity for God, and conceives of God as possessing a correspondingly limited autonomy that makes room for Man’s determinations. Such a God and such a Man cannot but to coexist in a Universe that is controlled by principles that are above both God and Man and in which God and Man must struggle together to sort out the dynamics of their relationship. Only in these terms can Man’s surrender alternately be withheld from God or granted to God upon Man’s own determination.

Only in these terms also can the death of Christ be portrayed as a statement of mutual admiration. Mr. Warren asserts, “If you want to know how much you matter to God, look at Christ with his arms outstretched on the cross, saying, ‘I love you this much! I’d rather die than live without you.’” (p. 79) Rather than the death of Christ being for our benefit, as the propitiation for our sins (Rom. 3:25; Heb 2:17; I Jn 2:2; 4:10), Mr. Warren suggests that Christ went to the cross for God’s benefit, so that He may not lose the great prize that we are supposed to be for Him. This is in keeping with his assertion in the previous chapter that we worship not for our benefit, but for God’s benefit. However, the Bible is clear in stating, for example in Deuteronomy 7:7-8, that God chose His people not for any quality they bear in themselves, but according to His own sovereign purposes. Mr. Warren began his book with the confident assertion, “It’s not about you.” At first Mr. Warren had much to say about the preeminence of God. Now we find that he is telling a much different story. Now he is telling us that we are so desirable to God as a source or a means of pleasure that He would rather die than to live without us.

This is indicative of a tension that necessarily underlies the view of things that Mr. Warren has adopted. In such a Universe as Mr. Warren conceives, God does not control whatsoever comes to pass, for Man must never be reduced to a “robot.” (p. 80) But, neither does Mr. Warren pretend that Man controls whatsoever comes to pass. After all, neither must God be a “robot.” Hence, Mr. Warren’s conception of the Universe is not substantially different than Plato’s or Aristotle’s conception of the Universe as controlled by a tension of determinism and indeterminism. An element of determinism is necessary so that the Universe has some sort of structure and order commensurate with our experience. Conversely, an element of indeterminism is necessary also in order that God and Man are afforded a measure of freedom and so are rescued from being “robots.” In fact, in such a world determinism and indeterminism require one another. As Van Til put it, “You have to be both in order to be either.” (Van Til, The Intellectual Challenge of the Gospel, p. 17) One cannot hold to a principle of indeterminism unless he already has dedicated himself to the deterministic view that God cannot control whatsoever comes to pass. But neither can he hold to his own form of determinism in the natural order of the Universe unless he already has dedicated himself to the indeterminism of his own freedom as somehow standing outside of this order. This is a rudimentary tension that spawns endless particular examples in one’s attempts to integrate thought and experience apart from truly honoring God as God.

We had occasion to note earlier the tension in Mr. Warren’s thought expressed as on the one hand that Man is the “central fact” of existence and on the other hand that Man must not become “too attached” to existence, in which he finds considerable sorrow and dissatisfaction. In the present chapter we find yet another expression of the tension. On page 32 he told us, “There is nothing quite as potent as a focused life, one lived on purpose.” Now, on page 82, he tells us, “Nothing is more powerful than a surrendered life in the hands of God.” He elaborates on the following page, “Put Jesus Christ in the driver’s seat of your life and take your hands off the steering wheel.” In the indeterminism of Man’s freedom he focuses his life and asserts his will. In this frame of mind nothing is quite as potent. But, what can man’s freedom mean in a world of pure indeterminism? It seems noble for man to give in to the determinism of God’s superior wisdom and power and take his hands off the steering wheel. In this frame of mind nothing is more powerful. But then the tension drives him back the other direction, because we must not be “robots.” In the course of this short chapter Mr. Warren could not even maintain a consistent idea of surrender. On page 81 he characterizes surrender in this way, “Instead of trying harder, you trust more.” But on the very same page he ends up saying, “Surrender is hard work.”

Only a truly biblical and historically Christian idea of God, man, sin, redemption, and worship can banish such tensions and provide a firm footing for human life and thought. God is the Creator and therefore the determiner of all reality. Man has sinned against Him and so comes under His wrath and judgment. According to His own purposes and criteria, and not conditioned upon anything Man has in himself, God determined in the death and resurrection of Christ to redeem His people from their sins. The essence, or heart, of worship is the fear of God and the bowing down of oneself before Him. We do not give into God as though making a concession. We present ourselves before Him in obedience to His Lordship over all things. As wonderful as it may seem to call all men to surrender to God, it simply is not a biblical call. God is the Creator and Man is the creature. As Creator God already has all possible authority and power in the lives of every man. “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” (Rom. 9:18) He gains no additional access or authority via any human decision to give in or to surrender. In his discussion of surrender Mr. Warren brings in concepts of trust and obedience, because these are the teachings found in biblical texts where he proposes to find examples of surrender. For example, Mr. Warren gives Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus as a case of “surrender.” A cursory perusal of the text (Acts 9:1-22) finds the sovereign power of God in human life and humility and obedience to God inspired by the Holy Spirit. Conversely, in this text we find nothing remotely similar to the tension-riddled Humanism expounded by Mr. Warren. His seemingly pious talk of surrendering to God in reality fails to honor God as God.


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