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Monday, October 03, 2005

Considering Audience

Ok, I hope this is my last post regarding anything to do with PDL for quite a while. I don't like the book, but I never intended this site to become the "Anti-Warren Fan Club."

However, I do worry about some misunderstandings of my comments and would like to elaborate.

I hate the phrase: "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." in evangelism.

Now, as you are choking on your keyboard, startled that you read that, allow me to say what I do agree with in that statement.

God love you. I agree. There is not a single person on the planet this statement does not deem true for. God demonstrated that love in a way that none of us comes close to doing. He sent His Son to die for our sins because He loves us so much. We can't be good enough before we come to Him, so obviously, this means He loves us even at our most godless, depraved state.

I also believe God has a wonderful plan in store for all who will come to Him. As a loving Father, why wouldn't He give us the best? As a all powerful God, who could keep Him from doing so? As the Omniscient One, what could surprise Him to keep Him from giving me His best. Certainly, if our own sinful fathers know how to give us good gifts, how much more the Heavenly Father?

Now you're confused. You're wondering what in the world I could have against the statement. Well, let's quit thinking like us, the evangelist, and start thinking like the lost person we are sharing with.

God loves you. What does this mean to them? Well, to most it comes as no real surprise. Why wouldn't God love them? They believe they are deserving of love. In our post-Christian society, people do not see themselves as alienated from God. If they do see themselves as alienated, they believe this was the action of God, not their own. In fact, the very statement "God loves you" that we intend to show them is expressed in the crucifixion gets distorted to, "Since God loves me, He won't let my little white lie keep me out of heaven." The crucifixion becomes unnecessary to them.

God has a wonderful plan for your life. Martyrdom. Death. Disease. Loss of job. Loss of a loved one. Alienation from your family. These are not the things a person thinks of when they hear a wonderful plan is in store for their life. Instead, they think new car, new job, better marriage (or better, new spouse!), and anything else some of the folks on TBN will promise. The wonderful plan is their wonderful plan...not God's.

You see, there's nothing wrong with the statement, provided it's understood in the way you intended it. But it rarely is. Then, when reality comes, the person feels like the victim of a "bait and switch." Fifty years ago, people knew about sin. They understood that there is absolute truth. They could acknowledge that God sets the rules. Today, we don't live in that society.

So what is one to do? I suggest we follow the evangelism pattern we find throughout Scripture. Consider the pattern in I Corinthians 15:3-4, when Paul establishes what the gospel message is:

Christ died--Paul begins with the most violent event in all of human history. That the Messiah, the Chosen One of God would be hung on a cross to suffer an excruciating death. Why? Couldn't God stop this from happening? What kind of God kills His own Son?
For our sin--After exposing the justice, wrath, and holiness of God (for those explain the harsh penalty) Paul explains the motive. My sin was the reason Christ died. I placed Him on the cross. My penalty was the one that had to be paid. I'm guilty, but I'm loved. And God has made a payment for me, if I will accept it.
And was buried--Literal death. Verified by a tomb He was placed in. Nothing figurative here. He truly died.
He rose again!--As Paul says in the chapter, had He not risen, our faith is worthless. Christ has authority over sin and death. He can offer us eternal life because He is life. Victory is His, and He invites us to enjoy it.
Three days later--This was prophesied about by Christ Himself. This plan should not surprise anyone, for it's just the way Jesus said it would be.
and appeared to many--Not a fable here. There were hundreds of eyewitnesses.

You see, there is nothing wrong with saying that God loves the sinner. That is a totally true statement. But when we come out of the gate saying that, or only establish that...we often miss what the person needs to hear. The average person hears that God can give them purpose, and they think, "Great, I can look to God to add real meaning to what I'm doing in life." That's not the perspective that saves.

As I said earlier, America is a different place now. We need to rethink the way we present the gospel. We are now a post-Christian nation and most people are unacquainted with the concepts of sin, judgment, repentance. But we aren't living in anything new. Our society just reflects the way the world looked at the time of the apostles. If you check, you'll see they most often started with the problem of sin, then moved to the solution of Christ.

I never want anyone to think they are beyond God's love. But I also don't want anyone to reason that because God loves them that they don't need Christ's atoning sacrifice.

Does Warren explain the gospel message? A couple of times (vaguely). But the majority of his time is not spent dealing with our sin, as enemies of God, being paid for ONLY through the redemptive work of Christ, efficient only for the person who repents of their sin and places their complete trust in Jesus Christ. To me, the book skims over the "negative stuff" we need as a a foundation before God's love is even comprehendable. It races on to His love and a better plan for your life, without ever establishing the exclusive nature of the complete love being received. That's why the world can read it, like it, feel like they learned from it, but never truly turn to Jesus from it.


  • At 2:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    danny, WHY didn't you say so!! Yes, this post does clear things up from what you said earlier! When I read the statement you had written that "God doesn't like us" , that got me going!!! I honestly couldn't imagine WHERE you were coming from on that one! The way I read it, from your own words, "was poorly stated"! I am soooo thankful that you have made yourself clearer! That has been swirling around in my mind since I read it! But one good thing, it got me digging in God's word!! As far as the book, I was just enjoying the "debate", but when I read that statement ,it really bothered me and I went digging!! What a better place to run to than God's word! love you! lg

  • At 2:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    and oh, yes, i CAN get emotional about things like this! :)lg

  • At 3:17 PM, Anonymous ~d said…

    ok, this is my last comment about the book and about your comments, danny...first, so what if the book was written for christians and not for non-believers? i still don't see the problem with that. lots of good books are written for christians who have already understood and believed the Gospel message. if warren's purpose was to promote growth in the body, what is wrong with that? i just don't understand why you are so upset about this.

    second, i'm not so sure i agree that people today don't really need to hear that God loves them. i still talk with lots of adults and students alike who think God is a very judgemental rule-giver - and that most of his followers are the same. they often aren't so sure that he is a good or a loving God. i think paul gave excellent examples of how to share our faith with others....he simply began right where they were....if they were praying to the "unknown god", he started telling them about who this God really is.

    well, my kids are making me hurry...got to get to another game. perhaps i'll finish later....

  • At 8:42 PM, Blogger danny2 said…


    i'm not upset. if you remember, someone asked me my opinion about the book, and i have responded.

    as i'd mentioned before, you can't assume the gospel message on anyone. an author has no control over who his audience is. and as we covered in the "grace anatomy" series...if you are going to accurately exegete any passage of Scripture, it must be done in light of the redemption story. even if you are writing "just to believers for the growth" you would need to be clearly sharing the gospel message to accurately cover any Biblical truth.

    as for God being judgemental...i totally agree. they think He is judgemental because they don't think they've done anything that bad. they consider God nitpicky because they don't see sin as eternally damning. they don't understand the holiness and righteousness of God, so they think He's just an evil, vindictive God.

    acts 17, the "unknown god" isn't just Paul starting where they were...notice he took it much farther than that.

    don't feel like you have to quit commenting ~d. i don't mind continuing the conversation...i just don't want to keep writing new articles on it right now.


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