A Critique of Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life (Part 1) | thebereancall.org

McMahon, T.A.

The critique is available in its entirety on our website by clicking on this link: Purpose-Driven Critique 

Generally speaking, The Purpose-Driven Life is a pastor’s dream. Rick Warren issues exhortations that most pastors rarely challenge their congregations with, but with which most pastors would very much like to have their members comply. Warren offers some teachings that are biblically sound when used in scriptural context. Throughout the book, the reader will find many things to challenge him in his walk with the Lord.

On the other hand, there are a number of teachings and other content found in the book that could easily lead the reader away from the truth of God’s Word. My chief concern is that the undiscerning reader will buy into much of what Rick Warren presents that is unbiblical. Given his worldwide influence, he is sowing much error among the sheep, in spite of (and possibly because of) the good content he presents.

Additionally, I had a sense of uneasiness that transcended the particular problems with the book. I felt that I was being ushered into a developing program that has an agenda beyond just helping the Christian to grow in his relationship with the Lord or teaching the local church to glorify God and to bear fruit as it functions as a body in obedience to the Scriptures….

Following are, in my opinion, some of the more troubling aspects of the book. Bear with me if some of the things pointed out seem inconsequential. Although I purposefully tried to avoid nit picking, nevertheless, some seeming “nits” are recorded because they reveal a tendency on Rick Warren’s [RW] part that indeed has critical consequences. For instance, if it were a rare exception that RW misrepresented a Bible verse as a proof text for a concept he was teaching, it would be unfair to him to make an issue out of it. However, he does that with great frequency throughout The Purpose-Driven Life. Sadly, there are many other such “nits.”

Page 15 begins with a verse from Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase Bible version, The Message (Msg): “A life devoted to things is a dead life, a stump; a God-shaped life is a flourishing tree” (Proverbs:11:28). Here (and throughout) Peterson seems more interested in poetic language than in accurately rendering God’s Word. Read what the KJV actually says: “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.”

Notice the serious distortion of God’s Word via The Message. Romans:8:6: “Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life”(p. 18), versus the KJV: “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Rick says, “Every other path leads to a dead end, using Peterson to reinforce his point. It’s this kind of “management language” that reinforces the view on the part of many that TPDL is simply a “how to be successful in life” book. “It’s about becoming what Godcreated you to be” (p. 19).

On page 20, we find another man-centered Message interpretation: 1 Corinthians:2:7: “God’s wisdom…goes deep into the interior of his purposes….It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us,” versus the KJV: “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: [and verse 8] which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” Where is “his best in us” to be found here?

The emphasis is on “you” and “your value” on page 24: “We are the focus of his love and the most valuable of all his creation.” The Bible says, God decided to give us life through the word of truth so we might be the most important of all things he made.” (James:1:18, New Century Version). However, the KJV says, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” Hardly a “valuable” or “most important” emphasis there. Nevertheless, RW adds, “You were created as a special object of God’s love!”

It’s puzzling to read on page 48, “God is very blunt about the danger of living for the here and nowand adopting the values, priorities, and lifestyles of the world around us.” It’s puzzling, because the church-growth methods he uses at Saddleback certainly seem to reflect “adopting the values, priorities, and lifestyles of the world around” the Saddleback community in order to attract the unchurched.

One never gets the essential truth necessary for salvation that humans are sinners under condemnation and face God’s wrath and separation from Him forever in the Lake of Fire. There is no explanation of why it was necessary for Jesus to go to the cross. RW explains nothing about the cross that is related to divine justice and divine love. Instead, he states that those who haven’t received the gospel and are not in line with God’s purposes for them are “just existing.”

RW tells us that there are “five acts of worship that make God smile” (p. 70). Here we have another set of “how to” principles to support an erroneous concept.

RW also seems to be encouraging the reader’s self-orientation and self-esteem: “You only bring [God] enjoyment by being you. Anytime you reject any part of yourself, you are rejecting God’s wisdom and sovereignty in creating you” (p. 75).

Throughout TPDL, RW continually feeds the reader doublespeak (persuasive contradictions) in appealing ways, [e.g.] as we’ve pointed out, this book is “not about you” yet the focus is more often than not on “you”: I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses inner strength into me, that is, I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency”(Philippians:4:13, The Amplified Bible), (p. 83).

(cont’d next month)