Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: My biggest concern with The Purpose Driven Life

Monday, April 17, 2006

My biggest concern with The Purpose Driven Life

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer over at "The Burr in the Burgh" has stated rather clearly his stance on Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life." He is receiving some heat for his comments from PDL supporters, not particularly surprising. Pastor Scott certainly doesn't need me running to his defense, not to mention that the fact he is receiving feedback from a worship leader within the Saddleback church. Regardless of if the feedback is positive or negative, his blog is being noticed and making a difference. I have 3 family members and few friends reading mine. I can't wait for someone "high up" to smash my views at my blog. Well, not really. But anyway. . .

I have said before the The Beast's Lair is not a place to throw down judgment, and I want to remain true to that conviction for my blog. Nevertheless, the minister has a responsibility to keep working to find the space between being judgmental and protecting our sheep. I have students and adults under my care at my church, they look to me and frankly expect me to know what is good and what is not. Lot's of times I don't know, something that keeps me awake at night.

With that in mind, here are my concerns with "The Purpose Driven Life." First of all, I don't know anything about Rick Warren, save what I have read from his books and biography. His personal life, convictions, and character are all removed from my knowledge, and so my comments have nothing to do with Rick Warren the man. All I have to go on and process are the words he has written that are being digested and fed to literally millions of people. I also acknowledge that Warren's book is going to be much more scrutinized because of it's huge success, but that is exactly the point. When something is reaching so many people, any responsible minister is going to take a closer look.

My main issue with his book and study sessions that accompany his book are with the presentation of the Gospel, or I should say, the lack of presentation. Here is a quote from Saddleback's Study Guide and Teaching Video for the 40 Day's of Purpose:

"Do you have a relationship with Jesus Christ? If you aren't sure of this, I'd like the privilege of leading you in a prayer to settle the issue. Let's bow our heads. I'm going to pray a prayer and you can follow it silently in your mind:

'Dear God, I want to know Your purpose for my life. I don't want to waste the rest of my life on the wrong things. Today I want to take the first step in preparing for eternity by getting to know You. Jesus Christ, I don't understand it all, but as much as I know how, I want to open my life to You. I ask you to come into my life and make yourself real to me. Use this series to help me know what You made me for. Thank you. Amen.'

"If you just prayed that prayer for the very first time, I congratulate you. You've just become a part of the family of God."

Based on this confession, salvation means turning your life from purposeless to purposeful. There is no mention of sin, forgiveness of sin, belief in the resurrected Christ, etc. I by no means think that there is one word-for-word prayer that is the "correct" prayer and unless a non-believer says those exact words, God will not hear. However, the foundation of salvation rests on the blood of Christ and the recognition and forgiveness of sin, not the lack of purpose in a life. Plus, in this salvation prayer, the words "use this series to help me" is beyond belief. Surely in our prayer for salvation, we would ask God first to use the Bible to help us. I appreciate a good Bible study or commentary for help, but not as an addition to a prayer of salvation! Furthermore, in this first lesson of the study that offers this prayer, there is no mention of any scriptures relating to the Gospels. Biblically illiterate people who read this prayer would do so with no knowledge of the cross or God's understanding of sin.

Secondly, I have concerns with Warren's use of scripture, including the use of paraphrases to get across a point that falls more in line with his "purpose" theme. This is how he uses a paraphrase to later support the salvation prayer quoted above. He quotes John 3:36a from The Message. I don't have anything against The Message, but you have to be very careful when using a paraphrase to make these kinds of points. Notice the difference below between three translations and The Message paraphrase.

NASB - He who believes in the Sonhas eternal life
NKJV - He who believes in the Son has everlasting life
NIV - Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life
The Message - Whoever accepts and trust the Son gets in on everything

What does "gets in on everything" mean? In context with the other versions, we can understand where The Message is going, but to the first time reader, the implication is not so clear. This paraphrase very neatly follows with the "purpose filled" and "experience the best out of life" mentality of salvation. The truth is God promises us eternal life. Not for us to "get in on everything."

Those are just two brief examples. I think Warren has plenty of good things to say, plenty of good points. I am sure his book has been an inspiration to many people. But for me personally and for the flock I am looking out for, we will not be diving into this study anytime soon. That is not being ugly or judgmental, that is being a minister.


Blogger Frank said...

Rick Warren not only uses The Message, but he seems to use whatever translation fits with whatever he's trying to say. I now have family members who believe that, thanks to Warren, they no longer have sin but merely faults. They also are telling me that from their reading of Warren's book that our "purpose" on this earth is to make sure we do good things for the Lord.
All of their focus is on what they for God instead of what Christ has done for them already.
Thanks for another great post.

April 17, 2006 10:43 AM  
Blogger Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

The Beast,
Brother, let me say a hearty amen. You've written what I wish I had written originally in exactly the right way such a thing should be written.

I just told my wife: "This guy nailed it." And you do. Not in a bad way.

In theory, Rick Warren is on to a good idea. Finding purpose in life. Such a great opportunity. And I said at the start that I think Warren gives plenty of common sense advice.

But it just seems to me that a book about the Christian life ought to be filled with content on sin, grace, confession, forgiveness, Jesus, cross, Holy Spirit, church, sacraments, etc. It just falls short and, as you point out, actually - in places - presents a false gospel offering false hope.

You see, this is dialogue. I'm a Lutheran and you are a Baptist (I think). I'm sure we have some differences. But I love your emphasis on Sin/Grace, Law/Gospel. Keep it up bro.

I hope you won't mind if I post about your post. Not trying to bring any heat on you. And with the very careful, reasonable way you write, I can't imagine how you could be criticized for this.

April 17, 2006 12:44 PM  
Blogger The Beast said...

Pastor Scott,

Please feel free to post about my post. I am always interested in other viewpoints and would welcome any additional comments.

By the way, I am indeed a Baptist.

April 17, 2006 1:27 PM  
Anonymous Logan Bennett said...

Dude I so wish I would have found your post before I ever found Pastor Scott's post.......

You preached this subject right brother nice job. You critisized the way that is pleasing to God. You picked apart the book itself, you didn't say anything about Rick Warren as a man.

I came here from Pastor Scotts blog, I do not read pastor scotts blog very much because it makes me sick to my stomach. I was one of the ones that was giving him heat, and I thought ohh great another person talking about rick warren. I was very pleased that this was not a post about rick warren at all but rather about his book.

The problem is that people a lot of time use the book in order to critisize the man rather then citisizing the book and nothing else.

I personaly do not like Rick Warrens book at all, we tried to use it in our home bible study and it just plain was not effective at all so we bagged it. Does that mean that nobody will be affected by it no!!!

so what the book sucks does that mean that Rick Warren is a Heritic no, he just for some of us missed it with this book. But you can't ignore all of the other awesome things that Rick Warren is doing. Like Celebrate Recovery or his war on AIDS in africa. Saving thousands and thousands of people bringing them to Christ........ sorry I am getting off topic.

oh I do agree with you using paraphrases are not always the best way to go, but you have to use the translations that people will understand. There are problems with all the translations and if anybody says that a certain one is the only one to use well I am sorry friend that is the wrong way to think. I am not saying that you think this way, because from what I have read it doesn't sound like that. But the message was probably the best one to use with the subject matter that rick warren was talking about.

Here is a little Lingo lesson. you being 30 no offense or anything, but you might not understand the message that much. the scripture that you quoted from the message "Get in on Everything" in my generation an younger I am 23 but I lead college students so I hear things like this all the time. This is the way that people talk. "Get in on everything" means exactly what those other translations mean when they say has eternal life and everlasting life. it means that you are getting part of the deal. Like when somebody is saying well we have this deal going on right now you say well "I want to get in on that" that means by "getting in on everything" means that you are grabbing a part of the deal that God is offering, so therefore you would be getting eternal life because that is the deal that God offers us.

Does that make any sense at all? Well dude Thank you so much first off for not using Ricks book to bash on him as a person. Because he is not a bad person he is simply trying to do what God has placed on his heart. So he wrote a crappy book, dude If i was to write a book I am sure it would suck too.

Logan Bennett

April 18, 2006 3:56 PM  
Blogger VirginiaLutherans said...


I drop by your post from time to time. Pastor Stiegmeyer's post directed me here in the first place. Your clarity in writing is definitely a gift- its hard to be clear when the words are disjointed from pitch and body movement.

You mention there isn't any word-for-word prayer that is the one a sinner should pray. I would posit to you for your consideration either of the following: the Lord's Prayer and/or the simple prayer of "Lord have mercy on me, a poor sinner." Just a thought.

April 18, 2006 8:58 PM  
Blogger sam said...

"I was very pleased that this was not a post about rick warren at all but rather about his book."

Remember, it is nearly impossible to seperate a person from their statements or writings. The book is his belief system. Thus, if we believe that his book contains theological problems then we believe that Warren has theological problems. You can't seperate the two.

Also, remember that Lutheran theology teaches (Pastor Stiegemeyer would surely agree) that we are both saint and sinner. Warren is as much a sinner as I am or any other person. Also, through the life giving water of Holy Baptism he has been declared a saint. Food for thought...

April 19, 2006 12:44 AM  
Anonymous Diver said...

Umm, Logan, The Beast deals with young people all the time. The fact that you think a lingo lesson is needed is laughable. It is not like he does not know what the phrase means in any case. Just because he is 30 does not mean he is out of touch with youth.

April 19, 2006 2:03 PM  
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