A Critique of Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life (Part 3) | thebereancall.org

McMahon, T.A.

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

Rick Warren writes, “At Saddleback Church we have seen the awesome power…break the grip of seeminglyhopelessaddictions and persistent temptations through a program we developed called Celebrate Recovery...used in thousands of churches”(p. 213). While these pages contain some sound advice, the program Celebrate Recovery (as becomes clear by going to their website) is heavily influenced by psychotherapy and is a variation of the largely ineffective and anti-biblical but popular 12-Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous that comes out of the occult (See TBC, Aug. ’97). 

Pop psychology often spills onto the pages at the expense of Scripture.  In the midst of some good advice, Warren says: “Jacob was insecure…Joseph was abused…Samson was codependent…David had an affair and all kinds of [dysfunctional] family problems, Elijah was suicidal, Jeremiah was depressed…Peter was impulsive…” (p. 233).This is humanistic psychological terminology that undermines the example of biblical victory demonstrated in these men’s lives.

Again we meet deterministic and humanistic concepts supported by perverted versions of the Bible: “You are the way you are because you were made for a specific ministry….God deliberately shaped and formed you…. He carefully mixed the DNA cocktail that created you….” Tell that to the person born with debilitating defects. God allowed what we are, but He didn’t design the genetic aberrations developed over generations of sinful living.  The book is fatalistic, beginning with the unbiblical statements: “God…planned the days of your life in advance…” (pp. 22-23).  To support this fatalistic concept, Warren quotes Psalm:139:16 from the Living Bible: “You…scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe….”  Then why must I read RW’s book, spend 40 days trying to discover my purpose, and try to change my way of living if every detail of every day has already been planned?!  In fact, Psalm 139 does not say that God predetermined the physical parts of the body or our days, but that He foreknew them—a huge difference!

On page 239, RW is still promoting fatalism: “The second characteristic of serving God from your heart is effectiveness.  Whenever you do what God wired you to love to do, you get good at it.”  Do I assume that if I “love” to do something more than anything else, therefore God has wired me that way?  Can I excuse myself for not loving to share Christ at every opportunity but instead loving to watch TV because God “wired” me that way?  If I love sin, is that because God wired me that way?

RW offers a solution to a spiritual problem with no biblical support: “To discover God’s will for your life, you should seriously examine what you are good at doing and what you’re not good at (p. 243). However, in Chapter 35 he seems to contradict himself: “God has never been impressed with strength or self-sufficiency. In fact, he is drawn to people who are weak and admit it” (p. 273).

Psychology’s humanistic delusion of “self-image” is even applied to Jesus.  We’re told that He served “from a secure self-image” and His task of washing His disciples’ feet “didn’t threaten his self-image” (p. 269).The very concept of “self-image” is not once found in the Bible!  It is an insult to Christ and undermines the teaching of Scripture to attribute His perfect life to having a “good self-image” and to suggest that a “good self-image” will enable others to serve God.  Some of what RW says is good, but, sadly, it is laced with the arsenic of Schullerisms and psychobabble.

Next, Gideon is psychologically diagnosed: “Gideon’s weakness was low self-esteem and deep insecurities…” (p. 275). Again RW is promoting unbiblical humanistic psychology!  Gideon said, “my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (Jgs 6:15).  He sounds like other heroes of the faith such as Paul, who considered himself to be “less than the least of all saints” (Eph:3:8), and confessed, “in me…dwelleth no good thing” (Rom:7:18), yet he was the chief apostle.  When Saul was “little in [his] own sight,” God made him king of Israel (1 Sm 15:17).  Many other examples could be given, such as Moses saying he couldn’t even speak.  Never were any of these men told that they had low self-esteem and that to be successful servants of God they needed to develop a positive self-image.  Never! Then why does RW pass along such unbiblical, self-centered ideas to his readers?

RW declares throughout Chapter 37 that one’s personal testimony is the most important element in witnessing: “This is the essence of witnessing—simply sharing your personal experiences regarding the Lord….Actually, your personal testimony is more effective than a sermon…” (p. 290). Not only does this do harm to the importance of preaching God’s Word and the necessity of teaching sound doctrine, but RW contradicts his own foundational premise that we should “turn to God’s Word” and not to “inspirational stories” (p. 20).