Warren, Rick. The Purpose-Driven Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002.
I am delighted to see a popular book that exhorts Christians to consider God first, and to remember that we are God’s and not our own. One of the overwhelming concerns of this book is countering self-centeredness and directing believers to God, and there are many helpful exhortations to this end. This is excellent.
However, there are some aspects of the book that I am concerned about:
- Scripture. The book seems to play fast and loose with Scripture. Most scripture quotations are given entirely out of context, and many are used to argue points they were not intended to make, or at least were not intended to make conclusively or universally.
- Holiness. God’s holiness is largely absent, while His love is heavily emphasized; this tends to give an inaccurate picture of God’s love. It’s not that the book doesn’t touch on sin and forgiveness; but it doesn’t convey the gravity of man’s sinful estate before a holy God. I would say that the true gospel seems almost absent.
- The gospel. Beyond that, the book declares hope to unbelievers before it has portrayed their helplessness and need for mercy. The hope that is thus declared is a very false and shallow hope. And when the book finally does answer “what must I do” (pp. 58-59), there is only very oblique mention of our need for forgiveness, mercy, redemption, etc. How sad that this crucial aspect of the cross should be so neglected! The salvation thus proclaimed cannot be genuine salvation.
- Sanctification. There is some imbalance between exhortation to obedience and faith, and a reminder that obedience and faith are empowered by the Spirit and grounded in the cross. Both are present, though the latter isn’t attested to nearly as much; this frequently lends the impression that obedience is to be in our own strength.
- Suffering. There is little mention of genuine suffering in this book. The apostle Peter goes so far as to say that “you were called for this purpose” — namely, to patiently and joyfully endure suffering for God’s glory. Without an acknowledgment that we are called to be united with Christ in suffering, receiving his strength and reflecting his glory, this book is missing a significant aspect of God’s purpose in our lives for displaying his glory and refining and proving our faith. This leaves Christians ill prepared to endure suffering in faith.
I fear that this book will serve to leave unbelievers empty-handed, looking to Jesus as a source of tranquility, happiness, satisfaction, and purpose — but not as a mediator, redeemer, or savior. I also fear that, by leaving the gospel and the cross behind the scenes, it may serve to subtly distract the church from that which is most important.
As an alternative to The Purpose-Driven Life, I highly recommend C. J. Mahaney’s The Cross-Centered Life.
Rick Warren also has his own website related to the book.