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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Hate It or Repent

Well, the post about Purpose Driven Meth certainly seemed to get some conversation starting. I've gotten heat from people before about posting controversial things, or about being too opinionated on this blog. I hope you understand that I fully acknowledge that I will stand before God and hear, "You got it wrong," on more than a couple things. I think we all will. That shouldn't make me complacent...I should study like mad, striving to be a workman who needs not be ashamed.

All that to say I'd like to throw another can of gas into the middle of the fire. Please hear me, this is not to be divisive or nitpicky. This blog can really be a test of my rationale at times. I have a thought. I throw it out. You get to engage with it and tell me if I'm missing the boat.

The title "Hate It or Repent" has to do with the "Purpose Driven Life." Now, at first, you may be thinking I'm asking you to hate the book or repent of your views that allow you to like the book. While that would be a tempting perspective for me, that's not my intent.

Instead, my question is, "If this book faithfully presents the gospel message of Christ, shouldn't the reaction of the non-believer be to either hate the book or to repent of their sins and call out to God?" Just follow my train of thought for a second. This book has been wildly popular. A New York Times Bestseller. That means a lot of people that are lost are reading this book. They are reading the book, and then telling someone else to read it as well. Are they repenting of their sins?

If the book is being read by the hoards, and people aren't hating it, shouldn't our society look different. Though a fictional book, Charles Sheldon had it right in "In His Steps." If people genuinely turn to Christ, and this has a viral effect in their community (so more and more people are getting saved) the entire community will begin to look different. How different does a person appear to be pre and post reading PDL? How different is our society?

"That's an unfair question!" you may pose. "How many people are different from reading Scripture? We have Bibles everywhere, but our world is still falling apart." True. We have Bibles everywhere, and the world is still falling apart. But I would argue that the only genuine change made in a person's life has come from the Word of God being applied to their hearts. Heck, not just me...but the Word actually says that.

Let's run a different litmist test: Who hates the book? I've yet to hear a secular man claim the book is too exclusive. I haven't heard any non-believer feel uncomfortable about the way Warren presents humanity. I've certainly never heard anyone claim that Warren is narrow minded or extreme. Why is this? Doesn't Scripture say that the gospel message will be an offense? If he is clearly mapping out that man is completely incapable of coming to God on his own...that man must realize his helpless state and repent of his sin...that I must come to God only by faith...that Christ alone is the only way to have a relationship with God...that any other attempt, whether apart from the gospel or blended into the gospel message is strictly idolatry...why isn't the world frustrated?

Now I'm not saying everyone has to be ticked. Hopefully, as the gospel is preached, some hearts do repent. But shouldn't the response of the world be to either hate the book (calling it narrowminded, exclusivist and repelled by a God who requires death for sin) or they should fall to their knees, confess their sin, and trust Christ alone as their means of redemption.

"What's the biggie?" you may ask. "So Warren's book is just kind of gospel neutral," you may be thinking. "It has to make people angry to be any good?" Well, Jesus said we're to expect to be hated. Isn't it just possible that Warren's book is vague enough that the believer can read it, and read into it all kinds of Biblical beliefs. At the same time, it's cloudy nature allows the unregenerate man to read the book and see his own life and views of God in it as well. That's not Warren's fault is it? Shoot, Warren may not have even intended the book to be read by non-believers.

And that's the big issue to me. I'll be honest, the way Warren handles the Word of God should embarrass anyone who is a student of the Word (has anyone heard of context?). Yes, I agree with David Nilsen, it was quite disjointed as well. But no messanger should ever assume the gospel message to their audience. I don't care if you are speaking at a pastor's convention. Scripture says the road to salvation is narrow and few find it. Therefore, I have to believe that any audience I have is filled with people who think they are headed to heaven but haven't truly understood the gospel message. (Read Matthew 7 some time. If that doesn't keep you up at night praying for the people attending your church, I don't know what will.) The gospel should be so clearly presented that a person hears it, believes it, and calls out to God, or the person rejects it (Romans 10). And this rejection does not usually appear in the form of recommending the book to someone else.

Nothing is gospel neutral. If it's vague, a person reads it and adapts their own views to what they've read. They close the book and believe they are saved (though they haven't come to God as He requires). The close their eyes that night with a false security about a relationship with God that does not exist. That's not neutral. That means we've helped confuse them.

I think too many people assume that if you don't like PDL you think Warren is the Antichrist. I'm not saying that at all. I believe Warren may be a believer. I don't believe Warren intentionally wrote a book that would allow people to make poor assumptions about the gospel message. I just don't believe he was clear enough. I believe his book may have helped steer some to the gospel found in Scripture. But I don't believe this book is nearly specific enough on the issues of salvation to be a banner flown over the Christian church.

I'm not saying we need to be abbrasive...the cross will offend on its own. But consider the following history lesson: Abel was despised for his righteous offering to God. Noah was ridiculed for his devotion to God. The prophets were killed for their proclamation of the Word of God. Jesus was crucified. Apostles were persecuted. Church fathers were tried and killed. Martyrs are still being made. But I'm to believe that in 21st century America this message will be wildly popular?

So now, tell me what you think. Hate this post? See the point? Somewhere in between?


  • At 12:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm not sure your "hate it or repent" model is adequate. Did Nicodemus "hate it or repent?" How about the rich young ruler? Or King Agrippa? (Acts 26:28) Jesus frequently drew a crowd and had to send them away. Granted, they were more interested in the food and healing than in salvation, but for awhile Jesus was a pop-culture phenom in Jerusalem. Just because its popular doesn't necessarily make it bad.

  • At 7:07 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    well, there are occassional exceptions. but look at the masses and you see that's what happened...

    while we aren't sure what happened with nicodemus (though there is evidence that suggests he did repent), or with King Agrippa (though I would argue that his statement to Paul, 'Do you seek to convert me too?' evidenced annoyance to Paul's message) the rich young ruler obviously hated what Jesus said...He stood face to face with Jesus and decided to walk away because his possessions were worth rejecting the Messiah.

    Jesus had a huge following after feeding the 5000. Then He gives a speech that sends almost the entire crowd away. He was quite offensive. That passage even says they weren't following Him for His teaching, but for the food...so He sent them away with truth they didn't want.

    Hate doesn't have to mean totally despise...but I don't see how it can mean becoming a best selling book either.

  • At 8:02 AM, Anonymous Monica said…

    I don't agree. Let's consider the parable of the sower. Of the four responses to the gospel that Jesus lists, "hate it" is not one of them. A true rejection would be grouped in with the first response (the Word snatched away) but that could also include apathy or dismissal. A true repentence would be response number four, but there are a lot of people in response 2 & 3, who receive the Word with joy but do not have roots to make it grow, or the growth is choked out by worries of the world. These would be the people who are responsible for the best-seller list standing and would explain the lack of radical change that you note. I agree that the gospel can and will cause divisiveness and hate, but it does not always cause that strong of a response. I don't think you can use the "hate it or repent" test to validate any message in and of itself.

  • At 1:06 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    first, parables are tricky. they are merely illustrations. statements like: "if you are not for Me, you are against Me" are much clearer.

    second, i'm not using the word "hate" in the emotive american fashion (like i desire to burn all copies of pdl), but rather in a bibically consistent fashion (like, "if anyone does not hate his mother or father, sister or brother, yes even his own life...he is not worthy to be my disciple).

    my point is just that i have had too many conversations with unregenerate people who say they liked the book...not that it really made them think and they are trying to sort things out...not that it shared a message of Jesus that makes them reconsider everything they've ever thought.

    but instead, that they continue in their Christless life, liking the book, and feeling it had many great things for their life.

    i'm not saying that this won't happen when you write something. of course, you can't control your audience. some people are going to misunderstand what you've meant. but when a large audience of people who are lost read your book, love it, refer it to others and even buy them copies...but do not come to know Jesus...i think you may have been a little too vague.

    my heart breaks for the people i've had conversations with where the gospel has been presented. they state that they agree with everything we've talked about...yet they won't repent and trust Christ. that happens from time to time. Scripture says their is a veil over their eyes preventing them from seeing. but if i am asked to give a presentation on creation at a darwinian evolutionist summit and i leave the seminar with everyone telling me it was a great message, buying copies of the lesson and telling me they want me back...saying they agreed totally with what i said...yet they continue to be darwinian evolutionist....somehow, i have to consider whether i've messed up.

    with some individuals, i can understand. with millions and millions of people...i just have to ask whether i was specific enough.


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