Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Guest Blog: The Purpose Driven Life – A Review

by Frank Marron (Lutheran)


Summary: Although the book The Purpose Driven Life (TPDL) begins well by insisting the purpose of life is not about man but rather God, author Rick Warren devotes the entire book on how to improve the spiritual life of people, similar to any self-help book. Rather than emphasizing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and what God has accomplished in His Son, Warren presents over 160 legalistic rules by which men can obtain and live a victorious “purpose-driven” Christian life. In reality, TPDL offers nothing more than the repetition of ancient heresies and false teachings which sparked the 16th century Reformation. St Paul addressed similar heresies when he wrote his letter to the Galatians and which have continued to plague the Christian faith throughout history. The book is written from an Arminian or semi-Pelagian theological viewpoint, rather than orthodox Christianity as found in the bible. The author illustrates the system of theology known as Theology of Glory(TG), which is the exact opposite of the Christocentric system referred to as Theology of the Cross(TC). The bible is centered in the works of God as shown in the perfect life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, not the works of man. However, author Rick Warren devotes his entire treatise on convincing readers that they need to perform good works in order to ensure their status in heaven. Warren maintains that all men have free will and our acceptance by God is based upon our choices and obedience to God’s will. This is a throwback to the heresies of Medieval Roman Catholicism confronted by Martin Luther. Readers of TPDL are not pointed to Christ as their Righteousness, but instead are directed to dedicating themselves to “40 days of purpose”.

One of the most popular books in Christian bookstores is The Purpose Driven Life (TPDL) by author Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, California. Even secular authorities, including President George Bush, have praised the insights of author Rick Warren. Many news reporters have seen fit to interview this highly successful writer. After all, TPDL has sold upwards of 25 million copies worldwide, an incredible accomplishment by any standard. I will attempt to provide insights as to why this book is so successful and whether it is in conflict or harmony with basic Christian doctrine as found in the Scriptures, as rediscovered during the 16th century Reformation in Germany.

Merely reading through TPDL shows it’s appeal to the masses. It is well written and appeals to the logic and common sense of the average person. All well written self-help books are always successful in the marketplace and Zondervan Publishing is certainly capitalizing on this fact in their sponsorship of TPDL. Basic Christian doctrine asserts that everyone is born in spiritual depravity having absolutely no inclination to love, trust, and obey the true God as revealed in Holy Scripture(Ps 51:5;Rom 3:23;5:12). St Paul refers to this basic degenerate nature within each of us as the “Old Man” or “Old Adam”, inherited from the original Adam(Col 3:9;Eph 4:22;Rom 6:6). This sinful, prideful, and arrogant nature remains within all men throughout their earthly lives. The reason for the overwhelming success of TPDL is that it appeals to the Old Adam within each of us. The Old Adam is delighted in hearing that there is a purpose to his life and that by focusing on finding and fulfilling that purpose he can have fellowship with God. This book is a repetition of the Galatian heresy, where St Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia and lamented:

Galatians 3:1-3
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. [2] Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? [3] Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

The basic human nature in Adam is to believe that man has to do something to please God. The fifth century heresy of Pelagius taught that man is not totally corrupt and can be saved by an act of his will. This theological error continued throughout history with notable adherents such as Jacob Arminius, Charles Finney, and modern Evangelicals such as Billy Graham and Rick Warren. Arminian theology rejects the total depravity of natural man and this is the underlying assumption throughout TPDL. This book is written to everyone, not just Christians.Christian theology derived from Holy Scripture teaches that by the Grace of God through the vehicle of Faith, natural degenerate man can become a temple of the Holy Spirit. The perfect life, suffering, and death of Jesus of Nazareth resulted in the New Covenant in His blood, enabling saving faith and the grafting of men into the body of Christ through Word and Sacrament. This regenerated man is referred to as a New Creation or “born again”(John 3:3ff;2Cor 5:7;Gal 6:15). The biblical message is that the Old Adam cannot be corrected and improved, as suggested in TPDL, but instead must be crucified and buried so that an entirely new life emerges in the waters of baptism.

The difficulty most readers of TPDL have is that everything Warren states seems logical and reasonable. This is what makes this book so insidious: there is a mixture of some truth interspersed with much heresy.

The primary message of TPDL is that although faith in Christ may get a person into heaven, what a believer does with his earthly life determines his status in heaven. On page 34 Warren states this premise clearly by saying that one day each of us will stand before God for a final audit of our lives. The underlying premise of TPDL is that the bible is a guidebook as to how God expects us to live our lives and forms the basis for our final exam by God on Judgment Day. Warren states that there are two questions God will ask each person:

1. “What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?”
2. “What did you do with what I gave you?”

The majority of TPDL expounds how believers can obtain high marks on their final exam, thus securing prominence in the Kingdom of Heaven. This type of thinking is what is referred to as Theology of Glory(TG). A TG believes that God’s ways can be generally understood by human reason; that God’s favor is manifested in the circumstances of life-our successes and victories; and that God is pleased with sincere human effort. All men, including believers, to one extent or the other, are TG. This system of theology attempts to transfer human experiences in the world to the Kingdom of Heaven. In the world a man is rewarded for achievement and penalized for poor performance and the TG applies this concept to his theology. Rick Warren provides a good example of this philosophy in his explanation to the above questions on page 34 of TPDL:

The first question will determine where you spend eternity. The second question will determine what you do in eternity.”

Is this what the Scripture teaches? Hear the words of Jesus Christ:

Matthew 11:11
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Luke 9:48
... and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great."

Apparently the Kingdom of Heaven operates differently than the temporal world! The Scriptures are clear that the basis for the Kingdom of Heaven is the Grace of God as shown in the perfect life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the substitutionary atonement for the sins of the world, while the temporal realm operates on merit. Could it be that Rick Warren is confused regarding his theology?

The other system of theology is the Theology of the Cross(TC). Such a believer views everything through the lens of the cross of Christ. While the TG bases his theological understanding primarily on his experiences, the TC views everything based upon the revelation of God in His Word, the Holy Scriptures. The TC understands that God’s ways are paradoxical and hidden to human reason; that His favor is manifested in Jesus Christ, especially His suffering, death, and resurrection; and that God is only pleased with His Son. The Scriptures form the basis for correct theology in the life of a TC, not his reason or experiences. To a TC Jesus Christ is the center and purpose of God, not man. Everything in the universe was created by and for Christ, not man. St Paul contrasts these two theological systems when he wrote:

1 Cor. 1:18-25
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The TG and TC are mutually exclusive. They are two completely different ways of understanding God. The TG speculates that if all is going well with him, then God must be pleased. The TG believes God is pleased with him because he attempts to please God. However, in Isaiah 45:15 we read “Truly, Thou art a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, Savior!”. The reason for this is a paradox: God hides Himself in order to reveal Himself. St Paul writes that God reveals Himself in weakness, foolishness, and in death. As a TG, Rick Warren does not comprehend such truths and as Martin Luther stated in Thesis 19 of his Heidelberg Disputation he does not deserve to be called a true theologian. Warren’s book TPDL is pure TG, professing to understand God through his human reason and insisting that man can actually please God through his human efforts. The TC understands that the true disposition of God towards humanity can only be known through the cross of Christ. The TC understands that God is only pleased in His Son and that the cross of Christ continues to be foolishness and shame to the TG. All believers are tempted by the TG assertions as contained in TPDL, which present a god who is easily understood and pleased, where the cross is not the center of theology. There is always the tendency to exchange the shame, weakness, and foolishness of the cross for human glory, strength, and wisdom through a system of good works as presented in TPDL.

As a good Arminian theologian, Rick Warren naturally emphasizes the life and obedience of mankind as a measure of the Kingdom of God on earth. That is why all the chapters in TPDL are man oriented rather than Christ centered. Everything Warren sites is based upon the premise that man must cooperate with God in his salvation and that the success of his Sanctification, or Christian life, depends upon the extent of man’s obedience to the will of God. The problem with what Warren says throughout the book is that it merely assumes that people can begin to love, trust, and obey God based upon their human will. For example, on page 38 Warren says:

The most damaging aspect of contemporary living is short-term thinking. To make the most of your life, you must keep the vision of eternity continually in your mind and the value of it in your heart.

This Arminian thinking simply ignores the fact that all men are born dead spiritually and do not want to love, trust, and obey God, but rather live in the futility of their minds. Natural man is in bondage to sin. Sinners are unwilling to come to God, hostile to Him, and unable to receive the things of Christ. Jesus says in John 6:44 and 45 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day... no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." St Paul says in Romans 9:16 “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy”. Faith is a gift from God(Ephesians 2:8-9).

Luther was well acquainted with the semi-Pelagian thinking expressed by Rick Warren, which is nothing less than Medieval Roman Catholicism. In his treatise against Erasmus, Luther maintained that the issue of the inability for natural man to come to God by his own free will was the primary theological issue in the entire Reformation. From God’s perspective, the only free will natural man has is to continue to sin. He is in bondage to it and can do no other.

Warren simply ignores this basic biblical fact and writes hundreds of pages explaining how all men can please God by discovering their purpose in life and living it out experientially. The Scriptures are clear that there is no one good except God and that the heart of man is evil, wicked, and beyond imagination. The above quote from Warren once again shows his failure to distinguish between believers enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and unbelievers. To Warren, Jesus Christ is an example of “purpose driven” living. Here is what Warren says about Christ:

Jesus came to earth so we could fully understand God’s glory” – page 54

Jesus stood at a fork in the road. Would he fulfill his purpose and bring glory to God, or would he shrink back and live a comfortable, self-centered life?” - page 57

On page 58 Warren states that real life is committing yourself completely to Christ and “all you need to do is receive and believe”. What Warren fails to understand is that no unbeliever can ever receive or believe in Christ and His atonement for his sins – it takes a miracle of God, not an act of the will of fallen man. The bible is clear on this point: faith comes from hearing the Word of God. The Law of God convicts a man of his sins and begins repentance. The Gospel is then given to provide assurance that God has already reconciled Himself to the entire world and the substitutionary atonement of Christ declares him Righteous. As the hymn Thy Strong Word maintains: “Thy strong Word bespeaks us righteous; Bright with thine own holiness…”. Warren maintains that any person can regenerate himself and cleave to the promises of Christ through an act of his will! Jesus did not stand at any “fork in the road”, but the Scriptures clearly state that He was the “lamb slain before the foundation of the world”. Jesus did not come to earth so that fallen man could understand God’s glory, but that through His perfect life of obedience and suffering and death for the sins of the world, believers would automatically receive His righteousness and their inheritance in heaven. Warren fails to understand that the bible clearly states that by Grace through Faith a man is declared Righteous by God, not through his human obedience. The Scriptures state that there are two ways a man can obtain eternal life: through absolute perfection and obedience to God throughout one’s entire life, or by Grace through Faith in the atonement of Christ for his sins. Option one is an impossibility, as expounded by Christ in His Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew chapter 5. Jesus explained that if a man desires righteousness under the Law, then he must keep all the commandments perfectly in thought, word, and deed. St James also adds that a man must never fail to do good, or else he sins by omission, and that if you break any commandment you have violated all of them. Upon closer inspection, no person can even keep the first commandment of loving God with your whole heart, mind, and soul. Consequently, it is impossible to keep any of the commandments perfectly. This leads a man to option two: righteousness is obtained by Grace through Faith in Christ. The perfect obedience and Righteousness of Christ is credited to a man through Faith alone. This fact is constantly denied by TPDL and the volumes of similar books produced by TG and sold in the popular bible bookstores across the nation.

Although Warren speaks about faith in Christ, he falls short of presenting the biblical position on how saving faith is attained. On page 118 Warren states “The only way to get into God’s family is by being born again into it. You become part of the human family by your first birth, but you become a member of God’s family by your second birth”.

Most Christians agree on what Warren says, but the question is: how does a man become born again? In Scripture, the new birth is described as coming through baptism:

John 3:3-5
Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." [4] Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" [5] Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

St Paul testifies in Titus 3:5 “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” . In baptism, we receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit(Acts 2:38; 22:16), union with Christ(Romans 6:1ff), salvation(1Peter 3:21), etc. In Luther’s Small Catechism the benefits of baptism are summarized as: It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

However, Warren specifically denies the Scriptural benefits of baptism! On page 120 Warren states: “ Baptism doesn’t make you a member of God’s family. Only faith in Christ does that. Baptism shows you are a part of God’s family”. As a Southern Baptist preacher and TG, Warren is continuing the tradition of denying the Word of God with respect to the benefits of baptism. He plainly states that baptism is merely a symbol or act of obedience to God. For orthodox Christians(TC), baptism is a Means of Grace, a Sacrament by which the Word of God is attached to a physical element(water) through which the benefits of the work of Christ are delivered to men.

The rejection of the orthodox view of baptism by Arminian theologians such as Warren is consistent with their failure to believe that salvation is, and must be, by Grace alone. In baptism, Jesus comes to a helpless infant unable to even pronounce His name, much less live a “purpose-driven” life. The fact that baptism is Christ’s work, and not ours, makes it a powerful means of assurance. How does a man know he is saved? He is baptized! Since the benefits of baptism are grounded outside of the believer, in the words and promises of Christ, it is unshakable.

Of course, Warren removes this comfort and assurance from believers, replacing it with uncertainty and introspection, which will ultimately lead to despair. For believers, the Word of God pronounces them Righteous on account of Christ. Their baptism is a concrete physical declaration of this faith and salvation – their adoption papers. Baptism provides tangible physical proof of how God chose us. We didn’t choose Him(John 15:16). Baptism shows how believers have been grafted into the true vine, Christ Himself. Without Him we can do absolutely nothing(John 15). As a part of the Body of Christ, believers are nourished by Christ, and automatically produce fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal 6:22ff), the only works pleasing to God. All other works, even those performed by Christians, are always imperfect, being a mixture of pure and selfish motives. Although many works of men may benefit their neighbor in the temporal realm, pleasing God and resulting in praise from men, they have absolutely nothing to do with eternal salvation. Only the work of Christ is pleasing to God in the spiritual realm, through which the forgiveness of sins and heavenly rewards are produced(John 3:16). Consequently, the continuing fruits of the Holy Spirit through believers are pleasing to God and recognized on Judgment Day as recorded in Matthew 25:34-40. These fruits are done automatically and spontaneously through believers without their knowledge. Only believers can please God because without faith nothing is acceptable to Him(Hebrews 11:6). Only believers are free to do good works, while unbelievers feel compelled to perform them. While unbelievers must always placate the god of their imaginations, the TG similarly feels compelled to perform good works to please his god, as presented in TPDL. On the other hand, believers(TC) are free to love and serve their neighbor because they no longer worry about pleasing God – Jesus has already done this. While unbelievers can only produce more sins as they try to imitate the works of the Holy Spirit, the TG acts in a similar fashion through his failure to understand the hidden God revealed in Scripture by undertaking the 164 step program to please God laid out in TPDL(see Appendix). God looks at the hearts and motivations of men. Only believers have received a heart transplant where the Holy Spirit rules and through Whom perfect motivations are produced(Ps 51:10). Martin Luther summed it up nicely in his explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.


It should also be pointed out that Warren’s viewpoint on Christian worship is also off-center due to his Arminian theology. Chapter 13 begins by quoting Mark 12:30 "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Right away a TC would be alerted that Warren cannot properly distinguish between Law and Gospel in the bible. Warren would be advised to devour the treatise on this subject by C.F.W. Walther written in the 19th century. As a good Arminian, Warren obviously believes whenever he encounters a command, or Law, from God in the bible, that mankind has the ability and responsibility to do it. Appendix B provides a discussion of this critical topic, illustrating that how a person reads Scripture influences whether he focuses on Jesus Christ or turns inward upon himself.

Rick Warren asserts that we worship for God’s benefit, not our own. He maintains that God is pleased only when we have a proper attitude that is thoughtful, authentic, and practical. Warren sees worship as a sacrifice whereby we offer ourselves as living sacrifices back to God. This is pure TG and fails to acknowledge that our lives are acceptable to God not because of our attitude, but on account of the Finished Work of Jesus Christ. As we are united to Christ in baptism by Grace through Faith, God is pleased and has fellowship with us. Hence, orthodox Christians understand true worship exactly the opposite of Warren. True worship consists of our repentance over sin and in receiving the gifts that God lavishly bestows through Word and Sacrament. The orthodox believer attends the Divine Service in order to continue the cycle of repentance over sin and reception of the forgiveness of sins in the Lord’s Supper(1John 1; 1Cor 11; Matt 26:28). Then the believer is enabled to once again go back into the world and truly love his neighbor. We are able to love because He first loved us(1John 4:19).

Appendix A

It should also be noted that although Warren frequently quotes Scripture to make his case, a careful reading would reveal that he uses fifteen different translations and paraphrases to make a point(pages 325-326). The reason for this is because a good translation, such as the New American Standard Bible or English Standard Version(ESV), usually do not agree with Warren’s viewpoint. For example, on page 19 Warren quotes Matthew 16:25 using the The Message, a paraphrase:

Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.”

Consider a good translation of the same verse using the English Standard Version:

Matthew 16:25
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

The Message version presents an emphasis on self-emprovement, while the ESV places the emphasis squarely where it belongs: on Jesus Christ.

Warren intersperses Scripture throughout his book in the attempt to appeal to the Theologian of Glory in each of us. For example, on page 40 he quotes 1John 2:17 using The Living Translation:

This world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever.”

The ESV reads:
And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

As a Theologian of Glory and good Arminian, Warren obviously wishes his readers to interpret such a verse as a desire by God that you begin to do His will by making purpose-driven decisions as presented in his book. However, a Theologian of the Cross would understand the same verse based upon other Scripture, as follows:

John 6:40
For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."

Hence, the will of God is not to dedicate your life to good works and making purpose-driven decisions, but to believe in Jesus Christ.

On page 151 Warren attempts to emphasize the need for developing community within the church and he quotes the famous verse of Scripture John 3:16, using Gods’s Word Translation of which I have never heard of before:

We understand what love is when we realize that Christ gave his life for us. That means we must give our lives for other believers.”

However, consider the ESV rendition of this famous verse:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

The emphasis in the ESV and throughout the entire bible is that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world. However, Warren wishes to place the emphasis off of Christ and back on the believer!

Warren maintains that men are to take the initial step and God plays an advisory role. Consider the plethora of Law oriented principles presented in TPDL for leading a purpose-driven life:

· discovering 3 insights into your purpose - page 20
· ascertaining the 5 reasons to live a purpose-driven life - pages 30-34
· applying the 3 metaphors of God’s view of life - page 42
· learning God’s 5 purposes for your life - page 55
· living God’s 5 plans for your life - pages61,115,169,225,279
· enacting the 5 acts of worship that make God smile - page 70
· uncovering 6 secrets of friendship with God - page 87
· developing the 4 characteristics of God-pleasing worship - page 100
· performing the 3 truths for fruitful fellowship - pages 139-143
· learning the 4 steps to cultivating community - pages 146-151
· creating a covenant using the 9 characteristics of fellowship - page 151
· following the 7 steps to restoring broken fellowship - page 154
· promoting 6 ways to ensure unity - page 161-167
· following the 3 steps to conflict resolution - page 165
· uncovering the 3 responsibilities in becoming like Christ - page 175
· practicing the 3 activities to abide in God’s Word - page 186
· following the 3 steps to overcome temptation - page 204
· learning the 4 keys to defeating temptation - page 209
· understanding the 5 reasons for slow spiritual growth - pages 219-221
· enacting the 4 steps in cooperating with God - pages 221-223
· examining the 6 experiences God uses to mold us - page 246
· discerning the 3 steps in uncovering God’s will for us - page 250-252
· uncovering the 6 steps of true servanthood - pages 258-264
· developing the 5 attitudes of a true servant - page265
· taking the 4 steps in allowing God to deal with weakness - pages 273-278
· establishing the 6 steps to discover your mission -pages 282-286
· discerning the 4 parts of your Life Message - page 289
· uncovering your 7 life lessons - page 292
· implementing the 4 principles for world-class thinking - pages 299-304
· participating in the 4 activities for purposeful living -page 306
· learning the 5 vitalsigns of worship -page 308
· realizing the 5 steps in your purpose statement - page 313
· remembering life’s 5 greatest questions - page 308


Appendix B

Most Christians I meet believe that they do the best they can and that God doesn’t expect perfection, but instead looks at their hearts to know if their motives are good. This sounds reasonable to most people and that is even how I myself always thought of spiritual matters in general. Unfortunately, this thinking is absolutely incorrect. God does require absolute perfection, in thought, word, and deed – throughout the entire life of each person. Just read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5 where Jesus explains to the people the realities of the Law of God. Jesus says that a man must not even look at other women with lustful thoughts. Jesus also says that if you hate another person you have already begun murder. And James says that if you break one commandment, you have broken them all(James 2:10). James also says that a person sins by even omitting to do good - sins of omission(James 4:17). If Jesus requires absolute God-like perfection for salvation(Matt 5:48), how can anyone ever be saved? The answer is: no person can ever be saved by their own works. Most people don’t understand the purpose of the Law. Most people believe that God would never tell you to keep His commandments unless He expected you to keep them. After all, Jesus is quoted as saying “Do this and you will live”(Luke 10:28) when referring to the commandments. If it is impossible for men to keep the Law of God perfectly as demanded by God, why would Jesus say such a thing?

The answer lies in what is referred to as the Proper Distinction Between Law & Gospel, unheard of in Roman Catholicism and most of Christianity in general. The first covenant between God and mankind was instituted at Mt Sinai as described in Exodus chapter 24. When presented with the Law of God the people all agreed that they would do everything in the Law to keep their part of the covenant(Exodus 24:7). History has shown that the Old Testament nation of Israel lied and became a harlot to God. Just read the Old Testament, especially the prophets as they attempted to call the people back to repentance. Fortunately for mankind, God instituted a replacement covenant, the New Covenant. This was a covenant of Grace, not obedience to the Law. In this New Covenant, God accomplished absolutely everything in reconciling Himself to the entire world through the sacrifice of His Son(2Corinthians 5:18-21;Romans 5:10). The only question that remains is whether mankind will in turn be reconciled back to God. This happens not through obedience to the Law or any works, but through FAITH in Jesus Christ as the atonement for your sins(John 3:16). If this is true, what purpose is the Law of God? The answer is that the Law’s primary purpose is to show you your sin and need for the Savior(Romans 3:20; Romans 4:13-15). Once a man is convicted of his sins through the Law, repentance can be produced. Then the Gospel is given which instills saving Faith in a man(Romans 10:17). This Faith is the means by which the perfection and Righteousness of Christ is imputed to a person. In this way, believers are credited with the Righteousness and perfection of Christ just as Abraham was in the Old Testament(Romans 4:20-25). Believers are viewed by God as if they had kept all the commandments perfectly their entire lives and had never sinned. They are viewed by God as wearing Christ’s Robe of Righteousness, “clothed in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:9; John 1:29; Luke 15:22; 1John 1:7). The Justice of God has already been satisfied by the punishment Christ received for the sins of the world. Christ was the perfect sacrifice acceptable to God for the sins of the entire world(Hebrews 9 & 10). Believers are immediately declared Not Guilty! The Scriptures definitely speak of this forensic Justification. This is the Gospel, the Good News, which most Christians are never given. John 20:30-31 summarizes the entire purpose of all Scripture: so that men may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that by believing they may have life in His name.

Much confusion results from a misunderstanding of the Gospel. Many ask why anyone should do good works if they are already saved by Grace through Faith(Ephesians 2:8)? The answer is that believers are viewed as adopted children by God(Eph 1:5). We are loved regardless of our imperfections, similar to how an earthly father loves his children. As beloved children, the love of God which is poured out in our hearts motivates us to love our neighbor(Romans 5:5). Believers love their neighbors not out of fear of punishment or expectation of reward, but out of love. These works were prepared before the creation of the world(Eph 2:10). Good works by believers are referred to as “fruits of the Holy Spirit” (Galatians 5:22ff) and are spontaneous and automatic behavior in the believer. Believers are New Creations(2Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15), born again(John 3:3ff), having received a heart transplant where our evil hearts are replaced with a new heart(Psalm 51:10). True fruits of the Holy Spirit are done so automatically that believers are not even aware of them. The sheep on the Last Day were surprised when Christ praised their fruits(Matthew 25:37-39).

3 comments:

James Swan said...

Frank,

I have not read Warren's book, but i've seen it...a lot.

I like the way you evaluated it according to a glory/cross paradigm, which to me, is one of the treasures that non-Lutherans should steal, err, i mean learn to use in their own understanding of life. It has helped me tremendously in my own daily walk in understanding my own faith, as well as being able to spot error.

At some point we really need to deal with On Being a Theologian of The Cross. That book should have never gone out of print.

In your above entry, there probably is only one key area where you and I would disagree:

In Scripture, the new birth is described as coming through baptism...

In baptism, we receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit(Acts 2:38; 22:16), union with Christ(Romans 6:1ff), salvation(1Peter 3:21), etc. In Luther’s Small Catechism the benefits of baptism are summarized as: It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

This is one of those instances where we Reformed differ with the Lutherans. Of course, its somewhat tangential to the thrust of your entry.

Perhaps at some time we can do a co-blog entry comparing and contrasting a few key texts on baptism- I know such an endevour would benefit my own understanding of where the Lutherans are coming from, even if we disagree as to what the Scriptures are saying.

Your post was very insightful about Warren's book. Thanks-

James

James said...

Hi;

My question for you is;
*Do you believe Mr Warren, as well as Arminians... are saved?

Thanks;

James

Steve said...

Only God knows who the saved are. We know who the baptized are, and we have their confession of faith.

But only God knows the heart.

Great job, Frank M.!