Wednesday, September 21, 2005

That girl's gotta mind of her own!

The Calvinist Gadfly has rendered a service to the church by reproducing part of an interview with Rick Warren in the wake of Katrina:

***QUOTE***

Warren: Right. Well, first thing we need to understand that not everything that happens in this world is God’s will. I have a will, you have a will, we have a free will… And so, we have a lot of things that go bad… But what God wants to do is he wants to comfort us. Somebody asked me when I was actually on the floor of the, the, the Houston Astrodome talking to people and praying with people, said, where is God in all of this? And I’ll tell you where God is, he’s in thousands of lives of people who love him and follow him, and they are the hands and feet of God…

http://www.calvinistgadfly.com/?p=35

***END-QUOTE***

So, as Warren would have it, not only do human beings have freewill, but hurricanes have freewill as well. Presumbly he’d also extend his logic to other natural disasters, such as floods, wildfires, earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, tidal waves and so on.

BTW, have you ever noticed that those who espouse freewill believe that everyone has freewill except for God? We can do whatever we want, but God can't to whatever he wants, even though, unlike us, whatever God wants is for the good.

Now, I don’t suppose that Pastor Warren really is a devout animist, so why would he make such a nonsensical comment?

i) Like a lot of Christians, his theology is a softheaded muddle—especially when it comes to the problem of evil. And this is not an easy issue to deal with.

Still, the existence of evil is a central plank in Christian theology. You have the fall. You have a personal devil. The crucifixion is at one and the same time the greatest good and the greatest evil in human history.

So this is really not an issue we can sidestep.

ii) A lot of folks, including ministers, somehow feel that in the face of tragedy, it’s okay to spout sentimental nonsense.

You saw this with the death of the Pope. You had Catholic spokesmen, some of them quite high-placed, assuring their international TV audience that John-Paul II was now with God.

But according to Catholic dogma, they have no right to say that. According to Catholic dogma, barring private revelation, no one knows if he’s heaven-bound this side of the grave, and even if he were, he would ordinarily have to go through Purgatory to reach heaven.

Yet you had Catholic spokesmen simply lying through their teeth. Why would they do this?

Because it sounded nicer than the truth. They didn’t wish to offend. They didn’t wish to hurt anyone’s feelings or make the faithful upset.

Again, this is understandable at a certain level. It isn’t easy to say the right thing the right way in the face of personal tragedy.

Another example is when a high-profile pastor goes on national TV, but can’t bring himself to attach the word “hell” to those who died outside of Christ.

Again, he does really imagine that this question might not come up? Shouldn’t he have his theology worked out by now? Shouldn’t he have a well-rehearsed answer to a question like that?

After all, this is not a side issue. If you don’t believe that faith in Christ is a life-and-death, make-or-break issue, what are you doing in the ministry, anyway?

Mind you, I’m not talking about liberals. I’m talking about self-styled evangelicals who get sweaty and tongue-tied when they have to answer this question in public, before a potentially hostile audience.

Again, I’m not saying that this is easy. It’s not supposed to be easy.

But, you know, that’s part of the job. If a pastor isn’t prepared to do that, he isn’t fit for the pastorate.

And why did Rick Warren go on national TV without having a better answer to offer? Why did he think he was asked to come on the show if not to answer a theological question like that?

I guess he felt that he could bluff his way through with pious nonsense as long as the facial expression and tone of voice was right.

iii) The proper answer is to say that God willed Katrina for some greater good known only to himself.

This principle isn’t hard to illustrate. Does a surgeon intend to amputate a limb? I certainly hope so. I wouldn’t vest very much confidence in a surgeon who went around hacking off arms and legs without intending to do so. “Oh, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to remove your foot. It just happened!”

But, of course, that’s no t the whole story. He amputates a limb, not because he likes to mutilate a patient, but to save the patient from a horrible death by gangrene.

Sometimes, too, the amputee is a better man for the experience. He doesn’t take life for granted.

15 comments:

  1. "And why did Rick Warren go on national TV without having a better answer to offer?"

    To sell his book, the Purpose Driven Life. That's all he could talk about outside of defaming God's sovereign character. I know that is overly simplistic, but every time this guy goes on national TV or radio, he is just pushing his book. Months ago he was on the Alan Colmes radio program. Colmes is a flaming liberal who was throwing softballs at Warren about the tsunami in Asia and why God “allowed” it. All Warren wanted to do was push his book, his answers were exactly like the ones he gave above. I have no problem with folks selling books, but c’mon, this guy is a self confessed minister of the Gospel, and every chance he gets, he wants to sell his book. Am I wrong here? Just seems like the same old sad story…

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  2. Not that I want to defend Rick Warren much, but just looking at this quote ALONE, couldn't one conclude that PDL-Man believes that maybe the Devil was in charge of this hurricane (thus making it the Devil's free-will) and not God or the hurricane itself?
    Of course, that brings up the question of how much God "wills" what the Devil does. But can't He *allow* it w/o *willing* it?

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  3. Warren does not use theological language really so one should not be surprised to see him make a statement that is misunderstood by those who are very focussed on such terminology.

    All I see Warren saying is that Katrina is a result of a fallen world. God did not,as a matter of directive will, cause Katrina. Katrina is a matter of God's permissive will.

    Quite frankly some calvanists ned to get off the
    Warren is too arminian thing. I know plenty of arminians who se Warren is too Calvanistic.

    So Warren's theology is not muddled. He does not commnicate for the theologian though, and that, to some, amkes him look mudled.

    Your proper amnswer is not correct, or not necessarily so, not even in Calvanist theology. Calvanism affirms that God has given man the ability to make real choices, and to suffer the consequences therefrom. Inasmuch as Katrina is aresult of Adam's decision to sin, Katrina is just that. Unless one wishes to claim, as some do, that Katrina is an act of God's judgment we can only say that God casued Katrina, ijn the direct and directive sense, as a possibility only.

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  4. I wonder how long it will be before Richard Abanes comes here to defend Warren...again.

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  5. All I see Warren saying is that Katrina is a result of a fallen world. God did not,as a matter of directive will, cause Katrina. Katrina is a matter of God's permissive will.

    Warren said, First thing we need to understand is that not everything that happens in this world is God's will."

    The question to which He was responding was:

    In my hometown of Pass Christian, [sic] I ran across a woman who came up to me and she said, Robin, it’s, it’s as if God tried to wipe us off the face of the earth. You know there are some people that look and see this destruction and, and say, where, where is whatever it is, or whomever they, they, they look to…

    1. Did Warren differentiate between God's permissive, preceptive, or decretive wills? No. The FIRST thing He says is "not everything that happens in this world is God's will," in response to a question asking essentially whether or Katrina was God's will.

    2. Thus, rather than making the proper distinctions, He says NOT EVERYTHING IS GOD'S WILL. How can anybody say that He was making any distinction whatsoever when He says "not everything is God's will?" What does he mean by "God's will?" It seems to me that you're filling in blanks and speaking for Warren where he did not speak.

    He could have quoted Scripture: To borrow from the original commentary @ the Gadfly:

    Amos 3:6 …When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?

    Psalm 148:8 Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word

    Psalm 135:6-7 The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.

    Lamentations 3:37-38 Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?

    Then, he simply says, "I have a will, you have a will, we have a free will… And so, we have a lot of things that go bad…"

    He said nothing about Katrina being the result of a fallen world. He somehow ties Katrina to "free will." Honestly, you seem to be reading more into his statement than what he said. This statement is ambigous at best. He could easily mean, "Nature seems to have a mind of its own, this is a result of that."

    Steve is correct, those who use the free will defense the most are often the same ones that say "not everything is God's will," and end up denying God Himself free will. For the record, Warren does teach libertarian free will. Libertarian free will denies God free will under it's definition, "freedom to do otherwise, e.g. indeterminate choice," God cannot sin, thus God has no free will by this definition. Warren could well be saying that God's will is trumped by man's will or the forces of nature that seem to have a mind of their own. Do I think he's an Open Theist? No. Do I think he inserted his foot in his mouth again, yes. I say, "again," because this kind of shallow presentation is a regular fixture. Jerry Falwell, with whom I have profound theological disagreements does a better job, even when he inserts his foot is his mouth.

    Inasmuch as Katrina is aresult of Adam's decision to sin, Katrina is just that. Unless one wishes to claim, as some do, that Katrina is an act of God's judgment we can only say that God casued Katrina, ijn the direct and directive sense, as a possibility only.

    That's true, but rather than saying that in the very next breath., Warren says:

    You know Robin, we have nearly 4,000 Purpose Driven churches that have done the “40 Days of Purpose” program in the Gulf states. And we know at least four to 500 of them were, lost their buildings completely. And yesterday, I met with…

    He could have said, "We shouldn't conclude definitively that God used Katrina as a tool of judgment, however, we should certainly be asking that question, because Scripture teaches that He has done such things in history. However, the real question isn't "Why did this happen to the people on the Gulf Coast?" The real question is "Why didn't this happen to me?" Jesus, when confronted about a similar, yet smaller disaster in his own day faced the same question. Rather than proclaim what God had or had not done, He simply said, "Unless you all repent, you will all likewise perish." No matter how God might answer the question of judgment, we certainly need to see this as a wakeup call, because that was what Jesus said.

    This has nothing to do with Warren not being "too Arminian" or "too Calvinistic," it has everything to do with him being the pastor of a highly influential church with a public voice for Christ, failing to answer such an elementary question biblically and then using it as a platform to discuss PDC. He had a prime opportunity to call for repentance, just like Jesus did, and this comes on the heels of a statement just weeks ago in which he referred to The Fundamentals published in the early part of last century as "legalistic."

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  6. I honestly don't think Rick Warren thought about his remark. Nor do I believe that Warren has a coherent idea of the problem of evil. In the end, Warren is simply a product of our times: to make a complicated world uncomplicated by interpreting reality into bite-sized pieces. There always more going on than is comprehensible -- and humans are too prideful in general to admit this.

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  7. Did God differentiate between God's permissive and directive will? No. Again he is not trying to talk to theologues. Your "proper" distinctions" are just that: yours. Don't mistake sloppy theology for simple pastoral empathy. When asked the question, proper distinctions are nt to be a pastor's forst consideration. The person asking hte question was not asking for such distinctions.

    The fact is that while Warren did not make the distinction, we can see it implicit in his comments. Or not. It depends simply on how one is inclined.

    "He could have said, "We shouldn't conclude definitively that God used Katrina as a tool of judgment, however, we should certainly be asking that question, because Scripture teaches that He has done such things in history."

    I think he did just that as he said "not everything that happens is God's will." Clearly he allows that it could be. If he guilty of seeming to lean towards the option that katrina is not God's directive will, that is not a reason to conedmn him.

    Whatever Gene may think about Warren's appeal to PDC (one would be surprised if he spoke about churches he didn't know about), Steve's complaint is about Calvanism vs. Arminiaism.

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  8. (1) You pick on Rick Warren, you should expect Richard Abanes to come and rough you up. Maybe that's what you were trying to do.

    (2) Dude, I always feel so sorry for God when I hear guys like Warren and Osteen and Oprah and Campolo talk about how sorry He is that this happened. It's too bad He couldn't do anything about it. It's too bad. God is sorry He can't stand in the gap.

    I wonder: why can this be George Bush's responsibility and not God's responsibility? What's the philosophical calculus there that does not involve tacit atheism?

    (3) I'm tired. If I had any more good one-liners, I'd post them on my blog and see if it stirs up Armstrong any.

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  9. But isn't it that God *didn't* stand in the gap rather than that He *couldn't*?
    I hear a lot of appeals to the idea that since God didn't do something that means He couldn't do it. That does not follow.

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  10. Brent, the last time we talked about Warren in #pros you were making the same points about Warren as we discussed if PDL actually contains the Gospel. Warren doesn't have to write nor talk as for "theologians" to get his point across biblically. He can stay theologically consistent while talking to the layman and the lost. Warren muddies the water as we can see, especially, for those of us who read his interview in Modern Reformation where he claims to hold to the theology of the reformers.

    How comforting is it to tell an individual that basically God isn't in control of all that is happening (whether He can or not)?

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  11. Well, I'm sure this won't cause a great stir in the ranks of worthy theologians, but, here is a quote from my wife:

    "Either He is the Elohim of everything, or, He is the Elohim of nothing."

    Pick one. There is nothing in between.

    The tree in Gan Eden was not the tree of the knowledge of "kinda good and kinda evil".

    And man do I love this quote:

    "Still, the existence of evil is a central plank in Christian theology. You have the fall. You have a personal devil. The crucifixion is at one and the same time the greatest good and the greatest evil in human history."

    Exactly! There isn't any real estate in between. Those who attempt to position themselves in that non-existent middle ground come across as being quite confused.

    The phrase "beginning of sorrows" means "the beginning of judgement". It would be hard to read through the book of revelation, with at least some level of seriousness and integrity, and not come to that conclusion. It is a litany of natural disasters that are caused by supernatural means.

    To dance around that is to not dance at all.

    Shalom

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  12. JM:

    Warren does not say that God is not in control. That's a misrepresentation.

    "Warren doesn't have to write nor talk as for "theologians" to get his point across biblically."

    He does just that. He does not use our terms, and does not make certain affirmations that you or others might feel are essential. But that isn't relevant.

    Those who think Warren muddies the waters are being unreasonable, not because they want to see truth given, but because they insist that thier way to say it is the only way.

    The argument si essentially the same that a KJVO adocate might make wrt translations: moder translations might get somethigns right, but ehy muddy the waters on other things, so we should all only use the KJV. The argument is wrong in either application.

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  13. The fact is that while Warren did not make the distinction, we can see it implicit in his comments. Or not. It depends simply on how one is inclined.


    If speculation is illicit for me, then it is equally illicit for you. If my view is a product of my inclination, then yours is also a product of your inclination.

    Warren did not make a distinction. How then can you say he did when he clearly did not?

    How can you dismiss what we say on the basis of our alleged inclination while giving yourself a free pass?

    I think he did just that as he said "not everything that happens is God's will." Clearly he allows that it could be. If he guilty of seeming to lean towards the option that katrina is not God's directive will, that is not a reason to conedmn him.

    His response was to the question "Was it God's will? (paraphrased)"

    If it was part of His permissive will, the answer is "Yes." If it was part of His directive will it is still "Yes" and, as a Calvinist, you must also agree that there is nothing that happens apart from His directive, sovereign will anyway, since even teven that which happens via God's inaction/permission is still a decree. I've seen some call this the difference between an active and a passive decree. What is done by God's inaction is, nevertheless, still a decree and still God's will.

    Warren actually said, "Not everything is God's will," yet, to be consistent, the answer is "Everything is God's will." Warren should say what he means if he meant something else.

    He employed the FWD, not distinctions in God's will in his answer. The FWD works, to a degree, for moral evil, not natural evil, but it still makes no sense with a commitment to libertarianism or w/o a robust doctrine of original sin. You can say that hurricanes are a result global warming (a point of contention in the scientific community as it is) which is a result of the clearing of rainforests that is ultimately a result of the Fall, but that isn't what Warren argued. That would be your argument. This is about what Warren said.

    And, please, at the risk of sounding insulting, Calvinist is not spelled "Calvanist." I hate to sound pedantic, and this is not me trying to be snide, but there is something rather ironic about a person talking about whether or not others are muddled in their expressions or not while at the same time posting misspelled words repetitively.

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  14. I'd add that in traditional Reformed nomenclature, divine "permission" is applied to moral evils, not natural evils. It is concerned with God's will in relation to the human will. It is not applied to inanimate forces which have no will.

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  15. Gene,

    I am with you on your post. The conclusion we draw from Warren's comments based on the words he used and what he said and didn't say. I guess I thought this was obvious.

    Also, don't be bothered too much about Oddball Pastor's misspelling words. That's sorta like his trademark after all these years. He's on "our side" though we disagree about Warren.

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