Purpose Driven Life Reviewed (1)

Since the author (Rick Warren) asks the reader to take his book one chapter per day for 40 days, I felt like the least I could do is consider it and write about it in chunks. I certainly won’t be spending 40 days seriously contemplating it, but breaking my impressions into several posts seems to at least honor the point he’s wanting his readers to get.

I thought I would hate the book. Rick Warren is a generally loose theologian with a murky gospel who excuses a lot of things the Bible calls “sin” under the umbrella of pop psychology. I’m sure he’s a nice man but he’s not  a good pastor in the biblical sense of the word. Yet my impression so far is a little different than I expected it to be.

I hate the book more than I thought I would not because he is so far off, but because at several times he gets the reader so close and then dumps the truth down the toilet. For example in chapter three he lists all kinds of things which are not God that can control people. He is totally right about them. The problem is he talks about them more like Dr. Phil than the Apostle Paul. He calls them “driving forces” but the Bible defines them as idolatry. They are not episodes of confusion but rebellion. Then he lists his “solution” to be considering the benefits of a purpose driven life rather than repenting from a self-centered life.

Chapter 7 is the epitome of this. The chapter starts so well. Warren correctly explains the glory of God and what it means in practical terms. He outlines five ways Christians should be living for the glory of God responsibly. Then, just as I’m about to commend him, he tells people who aren’t sure if they’re living for God to just “believe and receive,” no strings attached. There is a sense in which salvation is offered as the free gift of God which nobody could ever earn, but it absolutely 100% of the time requires repentance and Warren does not use that word once. He gives the reader the impression that if they just trust Jesus, God will forgive whatever hangups and screw ups they’ve done without any commitment to turning away from them. Maybe that will come later, but the fact that he’s not explained the basics of the gospel yet seven days into calling people to live a purpose driven life is preposterous in my view.

Throughout the first seven chapters he abuses the Bible quite freely. My assumption is that anyone who uses 18 different Bible translations is doing it because he or she wants to twist the Scriptures to include only what they want to include. Warren does exactly that. What’s worse is he frequently claims passages mean something that they don’t (such as 1 John 4:18 should comfort someone who chooses to fear earthly circumstances rather than the fear of eternal judgment which it is actually referencing). He’ll also leave off parts of a verse like he does in Ch. 7 with John 3:36 when he wants to promise a carefree life in Christ but intentionally omits the 2nd half of the verse that says Jesus demands obedience from those He saves.

Part of his carelessness also shows up in the quotes or analogies he uses. Of note, he quotes George Bernard Shaw, an atheist who hated all types of organized religion, to make the point that being made in God’s image means to seek purpose. The purpose Shaw is claiming is antithetical to any purpose an image bearer of God should manifest.

There is a reason the book has sold so well. It is a call to get the contentment of a life purpose without any kind of actual commitment or cost whatsoever. That is the spirit of this age. Perhaps this will come later in the book for for now I find it seriously lacking. At least I give him credit for finding the sweet spot of what passes for Christianity in the west and writing a book that audience would read.



2016 Reading List

Well this is long overdue but I wanted to share some of the books I’ll be reading based on a quick survey of friends, especially friends who are very different from me socially, politically, geographically or in their general personality and backgrounds. I felt like this year ought to be one where I read a little more broadly than I normally do so hopefully you readers will agree that this is not the normal stuff I’d be choosing.

Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving – suggested by two very different people so I am eagerly anticipating it although I know nothing about it.

Gaining By Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send by J.D. Greear – more like the kind of thing I would normally pick up but the author has a very different philosophy of ministry than I do so I’m hoping to get stretched and strengthened at the same time.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens – A classic I probably was supposed to read in high school or college but never did. I didn’t realize how large it was until Lydia got it for me from the library.

Fear and Trembling by Soren Kirkegaard – Something a friend picked for me precisely because he didn’t think I would like it. I am over half done and happy to report that he was right!

Side by Side by Ed Welch – Author was a seminary prof but his class was on the totally opposite end of the counseling spectrum and he always struck me more as a deep thinker than church body life master so I’m interested to see what he has to say.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand – I have wanted to read this since it was published. I don’t read a lot of biography so it will be a change of pace. Several people have told me I won’t be able to put it down, but knowing how much I dislike reading I’m sure that won’t be a problem.

The Smartest Kids in the World and How they Got that Way by Amanda Ripley – Ripley wrote a fascinating book on why some people survive disasters and others don’t that I bought a case of to give out at work and is an extremely talented writer. I vassume from her first book that she is far more secular than me in world view so a book on education will be interesting.

Trinity by Leon Uris – Another big thick book of unknown content and style highly recommended by someone I respect a lot who is coming off a major life adventure himself. I figure if someone who’s just had their horizons broadened recommends it, I ought to take that recommendation seriously.

Fools Talk by Os Guinness – I’ve never read anything by Guinness before but I am consistently reminding myself how much I need to focus on being more winsome in presenting Jesus Christ as the supremely beautiful savior and I’m hoping this helps me.

The Reformers and their Stepchild Verduin – A good friend told me years ago to read the book and he’s never gotten one wrong yet. I’m interested to see how much of the Reformation is really being embraced today.

A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren – Certainly not something I’d normally pick. One of the ironic things to me about watching Bernie Sanders is that he’s actually right about many of the problems but has some kind of disconnect in the solution (IMHO). I’m hoping this will both open my eyes to areas where maybe I am blind and also help me understand people on the left side of the political spectrum a little better.

Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado – Max is a popular Christian author who in my opinion is more popular than Christian many times. I hope this will help me understand the “churchianity” subculture a little better.

Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren – Basically the same as the Max Lucado book. I feel like I might be the only person in the western Christian church who hasn’t already read this book. From the snippets that I have read and what I already know about Warren, I’m assuming I’m not going to like it but I think it’s important to see what Christians (broadly defined) are reading.

Nothing Like It In The World by Stephen Ambrose – Who wouldn’t want to read a book about the men who built the transcontinental railroad from 1863 – 1869? I mean, everyone wants to hear stories about the Pony Express but why isn’t there more interest in the people  that ended its short life. Not me! Got this book for 25 cents at the Friends of the Library store here in Carrollton so I’m hoping I at least get my money’s worth from this Band of Brothers author.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo – This was the #1 adult book sold on Amazon.com in 2015  and so it may make some sense to see what it says and to see what it says about our culture that so many copies were sold on this topic.

Shameless book plugs

Okay so I just want to visit cyberspace to plug two books that have been helpful to me the past few weeks.

The first is my my pastor, John Crotts, called Craftsmen. The premise of the book is that in the arenas where men operate, we should strive to be skilled craftsmen. My whole review is available on Amazon (and hopefully one day DiscerningReader.com).  http://www.amazon.com/Craftsmen-Christ-Centered-Proverbs-John-Crotts/dp/0976758237/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1251721757&sr=8-2

The second is a book you should not read if you believe you are living the good Christian life. It is Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges. Jerry has written many well known books over the years but I really think this is the best thing I’ve read by him. He is so transparent about his own “respectable” sins like anxiety, frustration and doctrinal pride. It has basically torn me to shreds on a number of fronts and I am better for it. You can get this book just about anywhere.

If there’s a book that has been meaningful to you this year (secular or spiritual) feel free to leave a comment.