Thursday, March 23, 2006

Purpose Driven Life

I was talking to one of the sisters about this book, which has been selling millions of copies. It appeals to people because it gives a sense that there is a purpose to my life given by God.
The problem is that the book is based on Calvinistic theology. Calvin is famous for his ideas about predestination: God sends those people to heaven he wants, and the rest can go to hell--literally!
This isn't what the Catholic Church teaches. The problem with Warren's book is that it's basically predestination in a different kind of packaging.

It raises some problems, though. If I fall and bruise my knee, is it because from all eternity God planned that, or is it because I was not paying attention to where I was going?

St. Thomas has an interesting point in his discussion of Divine Providence. God's Providence governs all things. Yet, it doesn't exclude the action of secondary causes. Because God made us free, if we act freely, that's covered by Providence. But it doesn't mean that God is sitting in heaven like a puppeteer, pulling strings for each little thing that happens.

This is a fascinating topic, though. What are your thoughts about it?


Chris said...

Sr. L: I'm familiar with the book and also with Calvinistic theology. I'm just curious- what did you see in the book that is Calvinistic?


Peter Hunter OP said...

The Catholic Church does teach predestination, since Scripture teaches it. "And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified." (Romans 8:39) You will find the doctrine in Aquinas' thought, for example, in ST Ia q. 23.

What the Church rejects is not predestination but doublepredestination: the idea that God predestines some to Hell as well as predestining some to heaven.

Sr. Lorraine said...

Thanks Father (?) Peter for the clarification about predestination.

To Chris,

Hello Chris,

Thank you for your feedback and comments. You may know more about Calvinism than I do, so I would appreciate your comments on this. Actually, I found in searching for reviews of this book that a good number of evangelical Christians do not think it accurately expresses their beliefs either. I found this quote from a review by one of them:

"On page 18, we encounter strong reformed Calvinist theology. We see the emphasis and beginning with God, as Creator, and not God who redeems us and re-creates us in Christ. The statement “You were made by God and for God…” would indicate we are headed towards reformed Calvinist teaching that God made man for man to be obedient and to give glory to Him, rather than God made man for God to give to man out of His grace. We also see this in “…life is about letting God use you for his purposes….” A Christian’s life is a life coterminous with and always in the present reality of his baptism. I live in and only by the Person and Word of Christ Crucified.
"Warren’s description of the Bible on page 20 misses the central teaching of the Scriptures, justification. The Bible is God’s revelation of His gracious plan and work of our salvation, including forgiveness, reconciliation, and eternal life. Warren’s description is consistent with reformed Calvinism."
It struck me that Warren's strong emphasis on the idea that God has determined every little detail about our lives in advance seems so predetermined, in a way that Catholics would not view it because of our beliefs about free will. Certainly God's providence directs our lives, and the Church teaches predestination in some sense, as another commenter pointed out. But I t hink that Warren's approach might unintentionally lead to a fatalistic attitude. If God determined everything so minutely, then what choices do I really have?
This whole issue of predestination is very difficult to comprehend and I don't presume to have mastered it by any means. But I once read a good distinction by a Dominican writer between what he called the antecedent and the consequent will of God. For example, suppose God wills for a certain man to become a priest. That would be his antecedent will. But then for some reasons the man, using his free will, decides to follow another course in life and marries. God's will for him at that point would be to become a good husband and father and not go off to a monastery. That would be God's consequent will.
Anyway, here's a link to an interesting article about Warren's book:
God bless you!
Sr M Lorraine

Moneybags said...

Sr. Lorraine:

With tomorrow being the one-year anniversary of John Paul's death, I was hoping you would visit a recent post on Pope John Paul on my blog, Part IV in my series. I would really like for you to leave your memories of John Paul there so that I can have a collection of other peoples' memories of him.

God Bless and thank you

Anonymous said...

The purpose driven life. I read it with gusto and it gave me some purpose in life. However it is good to read your pointers, and be enlightened,
Thanks for your comments.