Day Three - What Drives Your Life?

This chapter builds squarely upon the idea of meaning and purpose introduced in the previous chapter. Heretofore we were told that God is “creator” and we are the creature. However we were not told how it is possible that thoughts in the mind of God are on a par with our thoughts, so that we may “discover” what is “revealed.” We were told that only as we are in “relationship” with Him may we “discover” our meaning and purpose. However, we were not told how it has come to be that by default we are without rather than within such relationship. We simply are assured that we may act in some way to bring about such relationship, and that having so acted we then may successfully “discover” meaning and purpose. However, we were not told how it is possible that the creature may determine anything for the Creator. Key to sorting out these difficulties is clear and biblical discussion of the Doctrine of Sin, sorely lacking thus far in this treatise.

The idea of Sin was completely absent in Day One, broached in passing in Day Two, and here we see it is touched upon again. “When Cain sinned, his guilt disconnected him from God’s presence.” (p.28) Mr. Warren evidently chose the case of Cain because the text then goes on to say of him, “you will be a restless wanderer on the earth” (Gen. 4:12). This leads nicely into his point, “That describes most people today - wandering through life without a purpose.” (p.28) However, this does not accurately characterize the nature or consequences of sin. Cain’s parents Adam and Eve sinned and they were not “disconnected from God’s presence,” for we see them bringing sacrifice to God, which was the pretext of Cain’s sin. If the consequence of sin is becoming “disconnected from God’s presence,” then what is meant in Genesis 4:15, that God “appointed a sign for” or “set His mark on” Cain? In context of his thesis, Mr. Warren seems to wish to say that being in relationship with - connected with - God allows us to “discover” our purpose, but that being out of relationship with - disconnected from - God inhibits such discovery. Here he declares that sin is what effects this disconnection. There is a form of truth in this. However, as recounted in above, Mr. Warren’s ideas of Creator, creation, man, existence and meaning are badly muddled and left in a state indistinguishable from Humanism. Crucial to recovering a truly Christian concept of these things is a truly biblical Doctrine of Sin. Mr. Warren has missed another opportunity to provide this.

“Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the Law of God.” So says the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q14. This is based upon the very clear statement of I John 3:4, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.” The sinner stands morally guilty before God. The sinner is not “disconnected from God’s presence,” rather he comes under the wrath of God, “for it is on account of these things [men’s sins] that the wrath of God will come.” (Col. 3:6) There is a true sense in which the sinner is estranged from God’s Grace, as is expressed in Isaiah 59:1-2, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; neither is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.” Verse one makes it abundantly plain that there is nothing wrong with God’s hearing or strength. Verse two explains that if we do not enjoy His strength or have His audience, we have only our own sins to blame. This is a form of judgment. The sinner is not banished; he is judged.

In the most general terms Mr. Warren has pegged our difficulties on some kind of alienation from God due in some way to sin. But his discussion of this is very patchy and given in the most nebulous terms. It does not surprise us, then, to see that the remedy also is spoken of in quite fuzzy terms. Says he, “God specializes is giving people a fresh start.” (p.28) Here the sinner is characterized as missing out on meaning and purpose that he might derive from God, and God’s grace to him is to give him another chance. Mr. Warren has not attempted to define sin, but has focused on the results or consequences of sin, which he suggests mainly consists of being “disconnected from God’s presence.” Like Cain, he says, the “sinner” today wanders aimlessly and purposelessly through life. Upon such a shaky foundation it is impossible to say of what, exactly, a “fresh start” consists. The clarity of a truly biblical message stands in sharp contrast to this pabulum. Biblically, the sinner has offended God by transgressing His Law, and stands condemned before Him. He has nothing good within himself by means of which he may atone for his sin. God’s grace to him consists of Redemption - His work in Christ, the imputation of the sinner’s guilt upon Christ, who in His death, burial and resurrection thus makes Atonement for sins. The problem of the “sinner” is not his aimless wandering through life. The sinner, biblically understood, has chosen aimlessness over facing up to his duty to his Creator and Judge. His “aimlessness” consists in a studied determination to flee God. The remedy provided in Jesus Christ is not a “relationship” that re-connects us to a cosmic resource in which we may “discover” meaning and purpose. The remedy, biblically understood, is Redemption - the Atonement for our sins - so that in God’s Grace we might flee to Him and not from Him. With each passing day we see Mr. Warren diverging further from orthodoxy.

The bulk of this chapter is a survey of various things - guilt, anger, fear, materialism, and the need for approval - that drive people’s lives. Mr. Warren argues instead that God’s purposes ought to drive our lives. It is in this that we see the thesis underlying his trademarked title concept, the “Purpose-Driven® Life.” Given how he has presented the matter - sin alienates us from God and, like Cain, we wander through life purposelessly; God gives us a fresh start and now we can “discover” our purpose - the idea of purpose rises to supreme importance in his scheme. “Nothing matters more than knowing God’s purposes for your life, and nothing can compensate for not knowing them.” (p.30) Lest the reader wrongly suppose that Mr. Warren has exaggerated the importance of “purpose,” he elaborates in no uncertain terms. “Your purpose becomes the standard you use to evaluate which activities are essential and which aren’t…Without a clear purpose you have no foundation on which you base decisions, allocate time, and use your resources.” (p.31) With terms like “nothing matters more,” “standard,” and “foundation,” it is impossible for the reader to avoid the conclusion that Mr. Warren conceives of “purpose” as god-like in human life. “Purpose” even stands in for the power of God. “There is nothing quite as potent as a focused life, one lived on purpose… For instance, the apostle Paul almost single-handedly spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. His secret was a focused life.” (p.32) If Paul’s “secret” was focusing on “purpose,” then it was not Christianity that he spread throughout the Roman Empire. A “secret” of focusing on “purpose” is self-help ideology that Mr. Warren already rejected on Day One (see p. 19).

Mr. Warren closes this chapter with an introduction to the subject of eternity. In the end, when we stand before God, he imagines that God will ask us two crucial questions. He proposes that the first of these questions will be, “What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?” (p.34) Framing the matter in this way only serves to reiterate a question already posed, and still without any of Mr. Warren’s attention: How can we meaningfully speak of a relationship between God and His creature as depending upon the initiative and power of the creature? In terms of the present discussion, we might pose: How can any sinner, dead in his trespasses and sins, do anything with Jesus Christ apart from the Grace of God? Mr. Warren cites John 14:6, “…No one comes to the Father except through me.” Even the Arminian Remonstrance (1610) cites John 15:5, “…apart from Me, you can do nothing.” There is no doubt that, if asked directly about it, Mr. Warren would assent to the biblical teaching concerning God’s people that, “…even when we were dead in our sins, [God] made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:5) Yet here he speaks of these things in a manner that glorifies instead human initiative and power, robbing God of the glory due Him alone.

Mr. Warren imagines that the second question posed to us by God at the end will be, “What did you do with what I gave you?” (p.34) Here he is referring to our “gifts, talents, opportunities, energy, relationships, and resources,” and whether or not we “use them for the purposes God made you for.” Mr. Warren has structured “purpose” as that which we might somehow “discover” in God, and once having so grasped, becomes that which matters more than anything else, and becomes the standard and foundation of our actions. Finally, it becomes the criteria by which we are to be judged by God. Beyond Mr. Warren’s imagination, we read in the Bible, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (II Cor. 5:10) Surely God will hold us accountable for what we have done. But the criteria will be not be “purpose.” The criteria will be “good or bad.” How may good and bad be determined? God Himself embodies the standard of good and bad, and His Word reveals this to us. Mr. Warren has filled his book with references to the Bible (or, mostly, references to modern paraphrases of the Bible), but to this point in the book he has not explained how we should receive the Word of God in any way that we would not receive thoughts that, all by themselves, may appear in our own minds. Apart from a clear distinction of Creator and creature there can be no ultimate distinction between the words of the “Creator” and the words of the “creature.” In this case neither can there be a clear standard of righteousness in the words of the “Creator” to which the “creature” has a duty to submit. Apart from the sinner bowing in repentance before his Creator there can be only Humanism, in which each man is a law unto himself. Mr. Warren’s “purpose” idea of judgment does not challenge Humanist morality. Nevertheless, we shall press on in this treatise.


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