Rick Warren regularly scribbles up these cloying little messages he calls the Daily Hope — and rather than hope, they offer nothing but trite platitudes and unfounded certainty about a godly purpose that I find extremely discouraging. How can people find this lying tripe uplifting?
God deliberately shaped and formed you to serve him in a way that makes your ministry unique. He carefully mixed the DNA recipe that created you. David praised God for this incredible personal attention to detail God gave in designing each of us: “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous” (Psalm 139:13-14, NLT).
Not only did God shape you before your birth, he planned every day of your life to support his shaping process. David continues, “Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed” (Psalm 139:16, NLT).
This means nothing that happens in your life is insignificant. God uses all of it to mold you for your ministry to others, and shape you for your service to him.
This man needs to spend some time doing recombination experiments with fruit flies. They’re simple and revealing. For instance, genes for body and eye color (called yellow and white, respectively) are located close together on the X chromosome of Drosophila. If you cross a female carrier for the yellow body and white eye alleles to a wild type male, you will discover that the male progeny (which inherited a nearly empty Y chromosome from their fathers) reveal the rearrangement of alleles that occurred during the production of the female egg. Most will have inherited one of the non-recombinant X chromosomes from their mother, for example, either a chromosome with two wild-type alleles, so they look wild-type with grayish bodies and red eyes, and others will have inherited an X chromosome with the two mutant alleles, so they’ll have yellow bodies and white eyes. And some will have inherited a chromosome rearranged by recombination events, so they’ll have gray bodies and white eyes, or yellow bodies and red eyes. And of course, if you do lots of crosses, you will get occasional mutations in those genes that produce completely unexpected results.
The important point, though, is that you learn quickly that the distribution of progeny is dictated by chance, not purpose. There is no benign allele sorter who recognizes that white eyes, for instance, are deleterious, and therefore carefully arranges each meiotic division of the egg so that the white allele gets discarded in a polar body. No, it’s random — chance alone “mixes the DNA recipe” for each individual. I am the product of a random assortment of half my father’s genes and half my mother’s genes, as are my brothers and sisters, and we’ve each acquired some deleterious and some advantageous alleles, all by chance. We are all a throw of the dice, or a chance hand dealt from the deck.
What Darwin revealed, and has since been explained in greater detail with our understanding of genetics, is that there is a historical bias: individuals who had the most lucky throws of the dice are more likely to produce offspring with their fortunate distribution of alleles. Again, it’s not because a god shines down upon the lucky, it’s because the lucky acquired an advantage, and that advantage can be propagated into successive generations. Nothing more. No purpose, no intent, no plan required. We look at the distribution of traits in a population, and it fits a chance distribution, sometimes modified by natural selection.
And that’s the way I like it.
I have been dealt a hand by chance, and some of my cards are real stinkers — one side of my family, for instance, has a history of early heart disease. I don’t like the bad luck there, but that it is by chance alone is far more reassuring than the idea that a meddling deity chose to give my father a battery of risk factors that led to his early death, and that he also chose to stick me with some of those, too. If a loving god were actually paying “incredible personal attention to detail”, you’d think there would have been some quality control in spermatogenesis that might have weeded out some of the defective alleles, or more precise matching of sperm and egg to make sure all weaknesses in one were compensated by strengths in the other. This doesn’t happen.
While we have all the flaws concomitant with being children of chance, we also have an advantage: we’re free. There is no cosmic fiddler. There is no domineering father in the sky who has a mission for us, who decreed at our birth that there is something we must do with our lives, who has slotted you into one specific role without your consent. You are not driven by an arbitrary external purpose, and you should find the idea of such a daily dictator of every detail of your existence abhorrent to an extreme.
It’s a real mystery to me why anyone would find the deterministic slave-philosophy of Rick Warren at all appealing or consoling, especially since the evidence all says that it is wrong, as well. There must be something some people find pleasant in surrendering responsibility to an imaginary scapegoat.
Personally, I appreciate the fact that I’m a combination of traits, some lucky and some unlucky, that are mine and not the product of the whims of some puppetmaster. I’ll make of them what I can and what I will, and who I am is my responsibility and to my credit or blame.