Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Perfectly imperfect

In The Purpose-Driven Life, Rick Warren invokes the notion of "God's plan." In his notion of purpose, every person was made to fit into God's purpose, and therefore every individual person was uniquely, specifically designed with a particular end in mind. From this point of view, nothing is an accident, everything is the way it is for a reason, and that reason is ultimately God's plan. And, by extension, we can conclude that everything about ourselves is specifically, uniquely designed to fill an exact need.

The problem with this point of view is that (like a lot of things about God, including his existence) it is quite unfalsifiable. Absolutely anything can happen, and we can shrug our shoulders and say, "I guess God intended it to be that way." If we cannot discern any meaning or purpose in the events that happen, we can always conclude that God's purpose is hidden from us -- his designs are too vast or too suble to be discerned by mere mortals at a given point in time.

But that very position immediately undermines the whole premise of Warren's book -- namely, that we can discern our individual purpose by mere observation of our selves and the world. If we cannot discern God's purpose in the big picture, how can we discern his purpose for our individual lives?

Warren answers the question by making it bite its own tail. The purpose of the world is God's love for us. "I was made for God's purpose, and God's purpose is . . . ME!" So now the question of the meaning of the universe gets collapsed back down to human size again. We can answer the question of the meaning of the universe by discerning the meaning of the single individual life. I have meaning because I am part of a meaningful universe. The universe is meaningful because I am its purpose. Tautology, anyone?

None of this means that Warren is necessarily wrong. It is entirely possible, as Kierkegaard maintained, that the purpose of the universe is played out in the individual, not in the Hegelian grand sweep of history. But it seems to me that Warren has not succeeded in adding anything new to the picture.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home