Church Education Trust

4.2.1 The Doctrine of the Sovereignty of God. .                          
The Sovereignty of God is one of the major doctrines of the Scriptures. Warren understood God as creator, having total authority over his creation; he suggests that “you exist because God wills that you exist”.[1]  He understands God as the one who upholds all things with his almighty power, determining the ends which they are destined to serve.  He rules as king in the most absolute sense of the word, and all things are dependent on him and subservient to him. 
Warren uses many Old and New Testament references concerning the validity of the belief in God as Sovereign[2] and these are clearly demonstrated in a number of chapters of his book “The Purpose Driven Life”,[3]while he would be the first to admit that there are qualities in God we will never fully understand and that as he speaks of God’s self existence, self sufficiency, eternity and triune nature, man is limited in his ability to fully comprehend, and yet through special revelation, enough can be known of God for man to trust Him completely.
Warren[4] understands God as the first and the final cause of all things. God’s will and purposes are absolute in nature and predetermined[5] to be outworked in his creation. Warren is totally committed to a belief in the Sovereignty of God. Montgomery Boyce writes: “in order for God to be Sovereign he has to have absolute authority over His creation, He must be all-knowing, all-powerful and absolutely free and not limited in anyone of these three”.[6]
In the early section of his book, “The Purpose Driven Church”, Warren signifies that without the Sovereign movement of God in the lives of individuals there is no church growth. He leaves his readers in no doubt that “growth cannot be produced by man! Only God makes the church. Only God can breathe new life into dry bones, only God can create waves - waves of revival, waves of growth and waves of spiritual receptivity”.[7]
Sovereignty is a key doctrine for the church in general and most certainly in the development of Warren’s ecclesiology. Peters[8] called for a distinct “Theocentricity” in any acceptable ecclesiology. Warren suggests that “you were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense”.[9] His understanding of “existence and being” is wrapped up in his definition of Sovereignty. Pursuing that ecclesiological position Warren displays his understanding in three distinct and powerful descriptions of Sovereignty.  
Warren’s interpretation of Sovereignty implies that every person is born and located as God decrees. “You are not an accident, your birth was no mistake or mishap and you life no fluke of nature….long before you were conceived you were in the mind of God.”[10] “God never does anything accidentally, and he never makes mistakes; He has a reason for everything he creates”.[11]
Warren suggests that “God prescribed every single detail of your body; He deliberately chose your race, colour of your skin, your hair and every other feature. He custom made your body just the way he wanted it”.[12] Warren’s own interpretation of sovereignty throws up an amazing number of challenges to which he has no answers. In his interpretation of sovereignty Warren makes no mention of foreknowledge and the power and influence of sin on creation and humanity, nor is there reference to the permissive will of God.
The logic behind his doctrine would suggest that his loving and Sovereign God, predetermines that millions of children will be born with HIV, countless millions of people will starve to death in various parts of the world, their pain and ultimate death had a specific purpose of value in the purposes of God.
The deaths of the tens of thousands of people who were drowned in the Tsunami in S.E.Asia, had brought distinct pleasure to Warren’s loving and sovereign God, for ultimately they serve God’s purposes. This theology could be classified as a fatalistic approach to life and death than to a Christian interpretation of Sovereignty that includes foreknowledge.
If Warren’s interpretation of Sovereignty was taken to its logical extreme, ultimately God has to be the author of evil. While Warren would never agree with that interpretation, his theological position seems ill thought out and extremely weak from a biblical position and therefore would gather many critics.
a. Ultimate Ownership.
Warren quotes Bertrand Russell, the atheist who suggests:  “Unless you assume a God, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless”. Warren[13] also records Paul’s words to the Colossians: “For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible….everything got started in him and finds it purpose in him. It is God who directs the lives of his creatures; everyone’s life is in his power”.[14]
He goes on to develop a very strong doctrine of Sovereignty by suggesting: “You must begin with God, your creator. You exist only because God wills you to exist; you were made by God for God”.[15] In modern parlance Warren seems to be linking predestination with the actions of the Sovereign God on our behalf.
He clearly indicates in his writings that God was thinking of you long before you ever thought about Him. His purpose for your life predates your conception. He planned it before your existence, without your input. You may choose your career, your spouse, your hobbies, and many other parts of your life, but you don’t choose your purpose.[16]  
The concept of “purpose driven” is found in the evolution of Warren’s personal spiritual beliefs. The key word used here is “purpose” and humankind has no input into the forming of that purpose. God alone predestined and decreed that purpose for each man and woman’s life from eternity.
Berkhof[17] reminds his readers of the biblical meaning of predestination; he suggests that the Hebrew word “Yada” and the Greek words “ginoskein, proginoskein and prognosis” aid our understanding in that Yada means “to know” or “to take cognizance” of someone or something, but may also be used in a more compassionate way by suggesting the meaning to be “taking knowledge of one with loving care”.[18]
It also has the idea of making one the object of loving action or “elective love”.[19] The three Greek words when translated in the New Testament give a strong meaning to the idea that God through design and selective knowledge makes humankind the special object of His love,[20] creating the concept of fore-ordination and predestination. Acts 2:23 reminds us: “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge”.
Paul speaking to the church in Rome comments: “For those God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son…….and those he predestined He also called, those He called, He also justified, those He justified He also glorified”.[21] The Bible record clearly teaches and Warren accepts unreservedly that humankind is the object for good of God’s predestinational decrees.[22] Warren defines Sovereignty as clearly meaning “ownership”.
The Old Testament word for “Lord” in the Hebrew language is “adon” which is then translated by two Greek words “kyrio and despote”. The meaning behind these words is “total ownership.” All things belong to God in heaven and earth and under the sea and that includes every believer. Ownership in Warren’s thinking means not only belonging to God but also becoming what God created you to be.[23] So God as “owner” is central to the interpretation of sovereignty.
Unfortunately Warren leaves out the concept of foreknowledge which is clearly Biblical giving a balanced definition of Sovereignty. To include foreknowledge Warren would have to re-write his book “The Purpose Driven Life”, for it totally depends on a theology of Sovereignty untainted by foreknowledge, sin or free will. Warren has nothing in any definitive way to say about the fall, evil and sin. The absence of serious interaction with these absolutely vital subjects in Christian theology leaves Warren vulnerable to being classified as lacking theological maturity.

[1] Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 91.

[2] Gen.14:19, Ex.18:11, Deut. 10:14, 17, Acts 17:24-26.

[3] Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, 9-25.

[4] Warren, TPDL, 17.

[5] Warren, TPDC, 22.

[6] Montgomery Boyce, Foundations of the Christian Faith, Downers Grove, Illinois, IVP, 1981, 117.

[7] Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 14.

[8] Peters, see foot note 60.

[9] Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, 19.

[10] Warren, TPDL, 22-26.
[11] Warren, TPDL, 23.
[12] Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, 23.

[13] Warren, TPDL, 17.

[14] Colossians 1:16.

[15] Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, 20.

[16] Warren, TPDL, 21.

[17] Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 112.

[18] Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 63.

[19] Berkhof, ST, 112.

[20] Warren, TPDL, 69.

[21] Romans 8:28.

[22] Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, 63f.

[23] Warren, TPDL, 19.

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