Monday

Day Two - You Are Not an Accident

Mr. Warren once again holds out promise to us, as he begins Day Two with biblical wisdom concerning the origins of the human being. We are, he assures us, created by God, who acted in His infinite sovereignty to control all factors involved in the creation, birth, life and death of each person. He is bold in asserting the biblical, though not terribly popular, teaching that, “God’s purpose took into account human error, and even sin.” (p.23) Here we see the idea of sin has made an appearance, which was sorely missed in Day One. Mr. Warren waxes long in detailing the Doctrine of Creation, but seems content to assume that his readers need no further explanation of sin. However, we already have seen that elaboration of the Doctrine of Sin - indeed, even awareness of it - was desperately needed yesterday. Today, mention of it is present, but a great deal beyond mere mention is needed in order to make up for the deficiencies already noted. Let us see whether this renewed promise will bear fruit.

Mr. Warren asserts that Man was uppermost in God’s creative motive. The earth was designed and made with us in mind, we are told. This is quite right in one sense. But already the reader begins to wonder whether this compromises the grandeur of that powerful foundational premise, “It’s not about you.” (p.17) The reader grows even more leery, and an unsettling pattern emerges of promise followed closely by disappointment, as we encounter Mr. Warren’s further supporting argument. He cites scientist Dr. Michael Denton, who said that, “…the cosmos is a specially designed whole with life and mankind as its fundamental goal and purpose, a whole in which all facets of reality have their meaning and explanation in this central fact.” (p.24) Mr. Warren then immediately adds his own declaration that, “The Bible said the same thing thousands of years earlier.” (p.24) He cites Isaiah 45:18 in support of his view: “God formed the earth…He did not create it to be empty but formed it to be inhabited.” However, declaring that God intended the earth to be inhabited with people hardly is the same thing as saying that “all facets of reality have their meaning and explanation” in the “central fact” of human life. Dr. Denton’s statement is clear enough, but it is far from clear whether his statement amounts to the same thing as what the Bible has been saying for thousands of years. We must give this matter a great deal more scrutiny than Mr. Warren has allowed.

It would appear that Mr. Warren frames the issue in such a way that ideas of meaning or significance arise only from Christians and that all unbelief is characterized by meaninglessness and despair. However, in reality this is not accurate. Many unbelievers are driven by a strong sense of meaning and purpose, and many Christians are plagued with despair. Non-Christian ideas of meaning and purpose are false, and many Christians wrongly indulge feelings of despair. It simply is not true that profession of Christian faith automatically results in a glowing sense of meaning and purpose, nor is it true that unbelief always results in a sense of meaningless and despair. Dr. Denton may be a fine Christian gentleman, but what he expressed, cited by Mr. Warren, is not a Christian idea of meaning and significance. His view has everything in common with Aristotle and nothing in common with Scripture. The ancient Greeks sought an ultimate principle that would explain and unify all things, and assumed that the human mind could determine this principle. They spoke much about “god,” but their conception was anything but the Christian and biblical idea of a Sovereign, Un-created, Creator above and outside all reality. However variously conceived, their gods always were correlative with men as, like us, subject to ultimately abstract concepts of truth and rationality. As such, “god” could not authoritatively determine truth or meaning for man. The Greek ideal was precisely as Dr. Denton expressed: human life was the fundamental goal and purpose of reality, which has its meaning and explanation in this central fact. Ancient Greek philosophy was the epitome of Humanism. Humanism at its root is simply the effort to find the explanation and meaning of life and existence without any acknowledgement of the Creator. This is precisely the “philosophy” Paul warned us about in Colossians 2:8.

The Christian idea of meaning is exactly opposed to this. The Christian idea is that unless one begins his contemplation of life and existence with acknowledgement of the Creator, he cannot succeed in grasping the truth. Existence is explained by the fact of creation, and is explained only by this fact. Existence means what it does only because this is what the Creator has determined it to mean. To seek the explanation and meaning of existence without acknowledgement of the Creator not only is misguided - it is sinful. It is sinful because the failure to acknowledge God amounts to the denial of God (see, e.g. Romans 1:18-32). One cannot challenge the non-Christian quest for meaning without an unequivocal declaration of the sinfulness of this quest. In relegating the Doctrine of Sin to a mere mention so far in his treatise, Mr. Warren has prevented any true assessment of Christian vs. non-Christian ideas of meaning. It is not surprising, therefore, that he should see an equivalence between Dr. Denton’s declaration that human life is the “central fact” of existence and the message of the Bible. In reality the biblical message is that Creation is the central fact of existence, and man’s supposition that his own life is the central fact giving meaning and explanation to all existence is an error arising directly from his sinful denial of God.

Mr. Warren seemed to hint at the Christian idea of meaning in the opening of this chapter with his inspiring description of the omniscience and omnipotence of the Sovereign Creator. But words can mean so many varied things. It takes an elaboration of the larger system in which words are couched in order to know truly and as fully as possible what is meant. As we proceed through this Day Two it is difficult to maintain a presumption that Mr. Warren intends the God of the Bible, the God of historic and biblical Christianity, the God of our Fathers. Charitably, we might say that he has misunderstood Dr. Denton’s remarks. However, we then come to Mr. Warren’s own remarks concerning meaning and reality and we find that the more he elaborates his view, the more his view diverges from Christian orthodoxy. He states, “If there was no God, we would all be ‘accidents,’ the result of astronomical random chance in the universe.” (p.25) From this we see that Mr. Warren is willing to entertain a hypothesis that God does not exist. True Christian wisdom rejects this as a totally unworthy hypothesis. It is the hypothesis of the fool (Ps. 10:4; 14:1; 53:1, Rom. 1:22, I Cor. 1:20). We already saw yesterday that Mr. Warren was willing to speak of the existence of Man without relation to the Creator. If this were possible, then Man possibly may exist whether or not the “Creator” exists. Persisting in an attempt to consider what sort of reality we would have if there were no Creator, Mr. Warren is willing to hypothesize that in this case there somehow still would be a “universe,” and that random chance operating in this “universe” might somehow produce Man. Mr. Warren is willing to hypothesize that Man yet might exist if there were no God, but in this case he is certain that his existence would have no meaning. This willingness to consider the bare existence of a thing separately from the consideration of its meaning is the essence of the Humanistic approach to reality: “God” is brought in after the “fact” as a way of providing some meaning to something that hypothetically may exist independently of “god.” In sharp contrast to this the Christian idea of reality binds existence and meaning together in the Doctrine of Creation. Nothing can exist independently from God; existence means what it does because it is the creation of God.

The Humanist is quite happy to speak of “god” in connection with the question of the meaning of life, so long as the existence of life is established completely independently of whether or not “god” exists. Not surprisingly then we read Mr. Warren thus: “We discover … meaning and purpose only when we make God the reference point of our lives.” (p.25). It is well and good to speak of God as the “reference point” for a right interpretation of all reality. But the Christian idea of this is that God unalterably is this reference point because existence unalterably is His creation. The truth of this along with the meaning it provides is revealed to us. The Humanist spin is that “god” might perform this function or not depending on the tastes of autonomous man, and that if the autonomous man chooses to make “god” this reference point, then he might proceed from there to “discover” meaning. Due to the superior power, wisdom, and knowledge the Humanist ascribes to “god” he may appeal to such a “god” for expert testimony concerning the meaning of things that exist independently of “god.” But ultimately the Humanist reserves his own mind as the final arbiter of these things. If we “make God the reference point of our lives,” then it no longer is God whom we have made the reference point of our lives. Christian epistemology holds that the sinner must repent and confess that unless the Creator exists, nothing exists, and that unless the Creator exhaustively knows his creation, nothing means anything, and that a quest for meaning that does not begin by bowing before God is a sinful quest. But these things cannot be held apart from a firm and clear Doctrine of Sin, which to this point Mr. Warren has not provided.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interestingly God (like Mr. Warren) did not feel it neccesary to mention "sin" on the first day. In fact the word never appears until the fourth chapter of Genesis and then he was speaking to and about Cain not about as we (man) has so interestingly put it "original sin" which seems to be what Mr. Mooney is referring to.
Personally I love to see instances where science finally catches up with the Word of God i.e. God created the Earth to be inhabited by His creatures.
It is very true that Christians do not own the corner on happiness and conversely the unsaved do not live in despair. But, it is the way in which we handle this human emotions and how we allow them to change us that determines our position in Christ.
The world often feels no despair because they are numb. Numbed by drugs, by the desensitization of a barrage of constant violence and by the shell they envelope themselves in to survive the hardships of life - without Christ.
The kingdom often feels despair because they do not handle correctly the hardships that come their way. They feel wronged by God and unable to overcome the situation - which is Biblically untrue - instead of drawing closer to God and exercising their faith to be the overcomer they were born-again to be.
Interesting concept, Mr. Mooney has...to seek an explanation and meaning of existance without acknowledgement of the Creator is sinful. Since the Biblical meaning of sin is simply "to miss the mark or the bullseye", then that is certainly a true concept, because to miss God as our creator is missing the bullseye.
I think that Mr. Mooney's critique of Mr. Warren's analogy of our existance being 'the result of astronomical random chance in the universe' was very harsh. I didn't view this as a hypothesis, but rather an analogy.
Paul also believed that man could exist without God...
"That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:" Ephesians 2:12.

8:40 AM  
Blogger S. C. Mooney said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for your concern to interact on these important issues. I would like to offer the following for further consideration.

Revelation vs. Discovery - You rightly point out that God reveals and Man discovers. However, in order to understand these things correctly it first is necessary that we already know who God is and who Man is. It is Humanistic unbelief for Man to pretend that he does not know himself to be the creature of God, to claim that he is justified in adopting a posture of neutrality with respect to the matter, and then to set out on a noble journey to discover who Man is and who God is. If, in this pretense, Man allows “God” to speak as an expert witness of these things, he may therefore begin to speak of God’s wisdom and of the “revelation” that God has to offer for his evaluation. Contrary to this, a truly Christian idea is that Man inherently knows himself to be the creature of God, for it is the nature of the creature to acknowledge his createdness and to acknowledge his Creator. The very nature of Man consists, along with the rest of created reality, of “General Revelation” of the Creator, and as such constitutes a constant and eloquent witness of the Creator (Psalm 19:1-6) and also a witness against the unbelief of Man (Romans 1:18-23). It is in these terms that Man truly can be a discoverer. It is only because of Revelation that Man can discover. But he cannot discover anything of God. All that can be known of God by Man, Man knows only by way of Revelation. The proper object of Man’s true activity of discovery is the created reality surrounding him. It is theological and philosophical nonsense to speak of Man “discovering” what God “reveals.”

Existence without relation to God - You appeal to Ephesians 2:12, “…having no hope and without God in the world,” as indication it must be possible for the creature to exist without relation to the Creator. In context Paul is reviewing the former status of the Christians in Ephesus, as they were alienated pagans. It will be instructive to appeal to other texts of Scripture that speak more directly to the subject of the relation of the creature to the Creator. For example, Psalm 139:7-12 explains very clearly that the creature always is accessible and disposable to the Creator. It will not do to say that David is reporting his own personal situation, or the situation of Israel, that may not be imputed to men generally, for verse 8 declares that not even in Sheol may one escape God. See also the parallel text Jeremiah 23:24, “ ‘Can a man hide himself in hiding places, so I do not see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’ declares the Lord.” In Colossians chapter one Paul teaches on the nature of Christ, and in verse 17 declares, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” God not only is the Creator, but also the Providential Sustainer, of all reality. There is nothing that bears no relation to the Creator. Bearing no relation to the Creator is the same thing as non-being. It has been the task of Humanistic philosophy for thousands of years to try to find a way of explaining being without having to repent and acknowledge the Creator. The answer of modern Man is pessimistic despair, which expresses the same state of the pagan Ephesians as “having no hope and without God in the world.” In so saying Paul was not teaching metaphysics, but was expounding on the state of those who refuse to acknowledge their Creator. The term in the original Greek is atheos, meaning literally “godless.” Paul gives account of them from their own point of view. They are “godless” from the point of view of their unbelief, but from the point of view of the reality of the created order, there is nowhere they can go to hide themselves from their Creator.

4:08 PM  
Blogger T. M. Batterson said...

Knowing who God is and knowing who man is – is the crux of what is lacking in Christianity today. We not only do not know the God we profess to love and serve, but we also do not who we are in Him.

This can only come through revelation. All things spiritual must come through revelation whether they are of the godhead, things in heaven or our own spiritual existence.

No man knows The Father except The Son and whomsoever The Son reveals Him to. As Paul pointed out in Romans 1 God’s invisible qualities can be clearly seen and understood by observing nature (which sounds very new-age, actually) – that is discovery, but discovering the qualities of God and KNOWING Him are still very different. Only by revelation can we know who God is and consequently who man is. It is the discovery of the created reality surrounding man that often reveals God as well.

As for the means of discovery and/or revelation it is not mine to judge the journey so long as the person reaches his or her (pre) destination.

I am not certain that I agree with your conclusion that Romans 1:18 is a witness against the unbelief of man so much as it is a witness against the weakness and lack of the believing man. It has been my experience that it is the believer that represses and hinders the truth and makes it inoperative. It is the believer’s lack of revelation of the God they serve, that then represses the truth of who they are in Christ and makes the word of God inoperative.

Obviously, nothing that exists does so outside of the will of God, for in Him we live, and move, and have our being. But, I believe the real issue is not the obvious fact of creation and creator so much as it is man’s awareness (or lack thereof) of this fact – which, can only come by revelation.

Revelation comes in many ways. For some it is the word of the Lord. A perfect example was Samuel who although he ministered unto the Lord “did not yet know the Lord” and it was not until some time later that the Lord appeared again in Shiloh and revealed Himself to Samuel by the word of the Lord. For some it is a pillar of fire, a still small voice, or a burning bush – for others not even the parting of the Red Sea reveals God. Why? because God did not allow it. Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit that will reveal or not and it is up to us. Why be angry with someone, why rail against unbelievers? Doesn’t the potter have power over the clay, to make one vessel of honor and another of dishonor out of the same clay? Some are NOT the children of God, but the children of flesh. That the purpose of God might stand. So it is not the one that journeys or the one that discovers but, the one that God has mercy on that has revelation granted him.

It is up to those of us that have had revelation to express the one TRUE living God, full of mercy and love toward His creation. It is up to the believer to live his life in such a way as to reveal the goodness, and the power of the one that lives within us. In that way, will the unbeliever be wooed to his creator if it his destiny. It is not the responsibility of the believer to stand in judgment as to whom, how, when or where. But, to live life and life more abundantly before the unbelieving world.

10:40 PM  
Blogger ajlin said...

Overall, I agree with your critique of Day Two. However, I disagree with the part of the critique in which you object to RW's use of a hypothetical situation in which there is no Creator. It is true that this is not a situation that could ever occur, but I think that is exactly the point RW is trying to make. We cannot find fault with a preacher for using an outrageous hypothetical scenario to make a biblical point, otherwise we would find fault with the Holy Bible, which discusses the hypothetical, "what if there is no resurrection?" in I Cor. 15:16ff. If we criticize a teacher for using the very same kind of presentation that the Bible uses, then we cheapen our critique.

11:10 AM  
Blogger S. C. Mooney said...

Ajlin, you raise an interesting question that deserves further consideration. In I Cor. 15 Paul was not raising the hypothetical question of what if there were no resurrection; he was addressing the real views of some who confidently declared that there is no resurrection. His approach was to declare to them the truth about the implications of their view: if there is no resurrection, then Christ is not raised and we still are in our sins. Mr. Warren’s procedure diverges from this. Unbelievers wish to declare, “There is no God,” and then just go about their lives. An approach to their unbelief that would parallel Paul’s approach to the resurrection would declare to them the truth about the implications of their view: if there is no Creator, then there is no creation. Instead, Mr. Warren says virtually the same thing as the atheist, “If there was no God, we would all be ‘accidents,’ the result of astronomical random chance in the universe.” (p.25) This is not true. This does not challenge unbelief at all. He simply is willing to entertain the hypothesis of the fool in the hope that the unbeliever will not be satisfied with randomness and chance, and will opt for theism instead. In biblical truth, the implication of atheism is not randomness and chance, but nothingness. It is not a faithfully Christian witness to allow the unbeliever the possibility of his very being independent of the being of God, and represent to him that what “God” really has to offer is meaning instead of meaninglessness. As I said, a truly Christian witness will not allow the unbeliever to separate the questions of being and of meaning.

7:09 PM  
Blogger ajlin said...

I see now that I didn't really understand what you were trying to say in the Day Two blog- You make a good point about how Christians should use hypotheticals (when we choose to use them) to challenge sinners in their rebellious unbelief, rather than to affirm their pride.
Thanks again for this blog!
Your brother in Christ,
-Andrew

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a very fine record of wrongs you have here.

5:40 AM  
Blogger S. C. Mooney said...

Anon, absent facial expression and tone of voice it is difficult to tell whether you intend your remark sarcastically. I have heard from more than one reader that I am being a bit too hard on Mr. Warren. In case that is what you intend, I would venture to emphasize that the matters at hand are not trivial matters. Ultimately, what is at stake is whether we are true witnesses of God or false witnesses. This is not a matter of opinion. In fact, if you take a look at Day 13 you will see that Mr. Warren himself labels as "idolatry" whenever one harbors his own opinion of God independent of Scripture. In this he enunciates a true standard. He is not exempt from this standard, and those engaged in critique of his work pursue no trivial task.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

S.C.,

I am with you on most everything except the critique that he cannot/should not use a hypothetical argument that he clearly doesn't agree with.

10:48 AM  
Blogger S. C. Mooney said...

Matt,

Thanks for your input. This sort of interaction is a great help in honing the critique. I think the part you are referring to may have been explained more clearly. It is not really that I object to Mr. Warren utilizing a hypothetical argument. My main issue is that Mr. Warren does not pursue the hypothesis correctly. The hypothesis “There is no Creator” does not really imply that Man has no meaning; the hypothesis “There is no Creator” implies “There is no Man.” Mr. Warren is willing to grant what the atheists have been saying all along: if there is no God, then human life is the result of randomness and chance operating in the universe. This does not challenge the unbelief of the atheists at all. Correct pursuit of the hypothesis would be: if there is no Creator, then there is no creation. Please see also my brief conversation along these same lines with a commenter going by “ajlin”, above.

10:51 PM  

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