uh oh... they're actually LISTENING
so there's a few dozen people at st mark's using warren's the purpose driven life as a structure for our lenten journey. i have to say that, so far, the book is much better than i expected. i thought chapter 3 was terrific.
on the other hand, i hated the way he handled chapter 2. i thought his intention, his main idea, was both good and helpful, but i thought his argument and illustrations were neither helpful, healthy, theologically sound nor reflective of scripture.
but on the other other hand, there doesn't seem to be anything of mine on the ny time's bestseller list, nor is anyone using anything of mine as a source for their lenten reflections! so what do i know?
however, one of our bright parishioners, it turns out, seems to be listening to my sermons. she noticed right away, when reading chapter 2 of warren's book, that it seemed in direct contradiction to the content of one of my recent sermons.
it's probably a lot easier to be a priest if nobody's listening.
so she sent me an email in which she asked, in essence, "how would we reconcile the statement in your sermon (that we can't justify our attitudes and behaviors on the grounds that God made us that way) with warren's claim that God has made us exactly the way God intended, and that every detail and event in our lives was intended by God?"
which i think is a very good question.
so here was my reply, taking a stab at it:
q. how do i reconcile the concept in the second chapter with your sermon from sunday (red flag phrases: "that's the way God made me")?
a. i think his big idea, "you are not an accident" is true. you're not a fluke. but i don't believe his argumentation for that idea is biblically sound. he tries to prove that idea from the point of view of determinism: that is, that every imaginable detail in time/space history is determined in advance by God.
admittedly, determinism is very popular among some christians, especially the modern decendents of calvinism. as a southern baptist, warren is right at home with determinism. however, i don't ever remember meeting a sane calvinist who is thoroughly consistent in their determinism. they themselves cannot live with their own views, consistently. they generally produce their deterministic worldview when it's convenient, but wiggle out when it's inconvenient. like me, they will not accept sinful attitudes or behavior as justifiable on the grounds that God planned it. but they will turn around and argue that God intended everything that happens to us... even if it is a direct result of our sinful attitude or behavior! they will argue that God plans intended everything that happens to us... unless it's something horrible like sudden infant death syndrome. the insane calvinist will say "that's God's will." the sane calvinist, like warren, will say, "of course God doesn't kill babies." but obviously, that's inconsistent with the argument he makes in chapter 2.
i would argue that there are places in scripture that show that God is behind some things, people are behind some things, and apparently some things "just happen." and that this reality is completely consistent with warren's main point in chapter 2, which is this: "you are not an accident. you're not a fluke. you were meant to be. you are wanted." but that doesn't imply that every single detail is intended.
here is a limited analogy that ultimately breaks down, but which might be helpful: my parents can't say "you are not an accident" to me, as far as they were concerned. (i happen to know specifically which technology failed that resulted in my birth!) on the other hand, it was a lot of fun, when one of my daughters asked about her origin, to be able to say this: "you were intended. as soon as your mother and i wanted another child -- poof -- you started your journey toward birth, almost immediately. you were intended, desired, wanted... we wanted you in our family."
none of that implies that we intended the specific details about our daughter's physiology, or engineered the specific events in her life, even though there is abundant evidence that we have been intimately, intentionally, and even interventionally involved in her life, and present with her through many of her adventures. and all our daughters know full well that wasting their lives, frittering them away on nothing of importance, is just not acceptable for children of ours.
i believe that God is far more, infinitely more, involved in our lives, intimately, intentionally, and even interventionally that we are in our daughters' lives. we are not accidents; we are intended. but that does not imply, in the least, that I can ever blame destructive, self-destructive, or merely stupid behavior on God.
if i were to act out my rage by getting drunk, driving aggressively, and killing a pedestrian -- there is no way that God would that God had planned or intended that. there are no excuses.
does that help?
grace and peace,