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Disturbing observations about Purpose Driven Life

Posted by: David Carroll

Did you know that Purpose Driven Life was the second best selling book of all time? Here are some thoughts from someone whom I respect theologically:

  • This book is theologically naive, revealing little understanding of the law, divine grace, human depravity, redemption from sin, justification, sanctification (holiness), the nature of saving faith, or the lordship of Christ.
  • The Bible talks about how God fulfills His purpose through believers; it's not about Him helping us fulfill our purpose. (Romans 8:28, for example, describes Christians as those who are "called according to His purpose.")
  • In fact, Jesus called people to self-denial, not self-fulfillment. The notion of "self-fulfillment" caters to human pride and self-will, which Scripture says is sin.
  • But Rick Warren seems to think whatever you want to be is what God wants you to be ("God wants you to be yourself"—p. 103).
  • Scripture does not teach that God accepts people unconditionally in the sense Rick Warren seems to think.
  • True worship, service, sharing, and most of the other things described in The Purpose-Driven® Life are not possible at all apart from salvation. So why not give the gospel more clearly?
  • The true gospel is a message about redemption from sin, not "purpose in life." The most essential features of the gospel message are the cross of Christ and the truth of the resurrection. (Neither is given much emphasis—I don't recall that the resurrection is mentioned at all—in The Purpose-Driven® Life.) The cross is where sin was atoned for, and the resurrection is the proof Christ's atonement was accepted as payment in full for the sins of Christ's people. You haven't preached the gospel at all if you neglect those truths.
  • In short, this is basically feel-good stuff, carefully packaged to make a message that is appealing to unspiritual people. Other than that, the audience is ambiguous, and the gospel message is tamed, toned down, and obscured. The hard issues that were the most outstanding features of Jesus' message—sin, repentance, self-denial; not to mention the vital themes of righteousness, judgment, atonement, and the world to come—are all completely missing from Rick Warren's presentation.
  • The Purpose-Driven® Life epitomizes what is most wrong with the shallow, anti-theological, a-biblical message being proclaimed from most "evangelical" pulpits today.

From Phillip Johnson's blog

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