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Turning the House of God into a Den of Thieves?
on October 31, 2003
I try to keep abreast of things going on in the world. Sometimes things come along that are total fads: here one day, then gone and forgotten the next. It's sad to say, but as a Christian I have to admit that there are also fads in the contemporary American part of the Church. THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE is one of these.
I had never heard of THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE until a couple of local churches started doing the 40-Days of Purpose campaign. About the same time, a friend of mine mentioned this book as the next "big fad in the Church", and asked me if I got a chance, to read it. He believed I would agree with him and I do.
As a whole, there isn't really anything wrong with the book. Suspicious as his intentions might be, I'll give Rick Warren the credit and believe he primarily wrote this book to help Christians in their walk with Jesus. I believe that this book could be useful to a new Christian or someone who is possibly thinking about converting to Christianity. I also don't wish to discredit all those who have been helped in their life because of this book. The book is written in a very simple style that a third or fourth-grader shouldn't have a problem reading it. Warren supports much of what he says with Scripture and the book is filled with Biblical references.
However, the book is filled with severals flaws.
1. Warren says he purposely uses many different translations and paraphrases of the Bible to illustrate how relevant Scripture is to our day to day lives. However, Warren tends to rely on paraphrases more than actual translations of the Bible. This is a dangerous thing. Yes, the Bible was written in such a way that the "common man" could understand it's meaning. That's why paraphrases are so dangerous; they can change the entire meaning of a scriptural passage.
2. There is hardly any reference to the Holy Spirit. I am not a member of a charismatic church, but in many denominations across the country discussion of the Holy Spirit is totally ignored. Like it or not, the Holy Spirit is the seal that differentiates Christians from non-Christians. The Holy Spirit is an essential part of the Trinity and to deny it, by ignoring it, is dangerous.
3. Though Warren uses a lot of Biblical references, there are several times that he says "The Bible says" (or something similar) without actually quoting any passages from the Bible. I found this to be puzzling in a book that contains so much scriptural support.
4. Warren tends to overgeneralize things. He uses words such as "all", "every", "everyone", etc. quite often. This was one of the more disturbing elements of the book to me. When I first started reading the book, I had considered purchasing it and giving it to my mother for a gift. However, about halfway through the text, I began to seriously disagree with some of what Warren was writing. The impression that the text leaves one with is that if you don't do things the way the book tells you to, then you're not a good Christian and there is probably something wrong with you. Many of the book's suggestions aren't Biblical, just suggestions that Warren feels may help people out. But the impressions those suggestions leaves is not necessarily a positive one. Therefore, I am not giving this book to my mother.
5. The other major problem I had with the book is that it is largely a piece of advertising. In various chapters (especially at the beginning), Warren discusses a point and says something like, "if you want more help with that topic, see my other book" or "see the resources of mine listed at the back" which you can purchase. It seemed like every other chapter contained at least one plug for one of Warren's resources which can be purchased. I have nothing against writers plugging their wares. I have nothing against Christian writers writing for money. I do have a problem with people using a tool that is supposed to be for evangelism but also use it as a way to advertise so that they can sell more products and make more money. Though this may not be the original intent of the author, the self-promotion throughout the book leaves a reader pondering Warren's true intentions.
As I mentioned earlier, the book as a whole isn't all that bad despite the flaws. I can't rate this book lower than a three because I know that despite the flaws, there is a lot of material in the book that can be helpful to a lot of people.