An interesting trend... "The Purpose Driven Life" is the top selling book among Baby Boomer pastors (according to Barna). If everything I'm reading about Velvet Elvis is true in the publishing world, it is the top selling book among next gen leaders. I wonder what the contrast of values is that each generation is digesting.
As an educated, born-again Christian, I find the line of thinking behind "The Purpose Driven Life" to be lazy and thoughtless. These are small questions for small minds, and the book has vague goals, to assert self-esteem without actually understanding anything. Quite frankly, reading these reviews of Bell's work, it's obvious (as if I didn't know) that most Christians don't understand church history. I like that Bell takes it back to the actual context of the stories- whether he's right or not, he's making a case. And you can't find this in a Bible Concordance. Most people are missing it, because they're in one of many safe, suburban, rich churches like Warren's. Nowadays, Christianity is about safe actions and safe messages - but Christ wasn't.
What really struck me this year in my Bible studies is that Christ was breaking the rules. That's hard to reconcile with most Evangelical teachings, but not with Bell's. From what I read of Bell, Christ was a rabbi and a savior. He doesn't spend much time discussing Christ's divinity, but neither did Jesus. That's a paradox, not a corruption of the Word. Paradoxes ARE the center of our faith. If you're more doubtful of Bell than Warren, then you have problems. Understand, I'm sure Warren is a fine person and a good teacher for many. But he's not impressively knowledgeable, and he's just one more in a long line of popular Christian teachers slicing and dicing the scriptures to find vague answers to non-problems. Bell is not right, but he's more right. Everyone who's challenged by his view of scripture need to consider that normal Christians chose what would go into the Bible. And that's where rigid doctrine arguments fall apart. Because the only rigid doctrine that affirms that historical fact (that the church defined the scriptures, not vice versa) is that of the Catholic/Orthodox churches. If we can't challenge orthodox views of the scriptures even a little, we can't very well belong to a church other than the Catholic one. The scripture DOESN'T interpret itself, it was written in at least two other languages on other continents, 20 centuries or more ago. It's important to know a little history. I think we can all be Christians, even if we can't read. But I don't pretend that 'growth' is measured in the number of souls saved or the amount of time spent reading the bible.
Finally, when Bell refers to Eastern religions, he's obviously using the terminology of Ancient history, i.e. Jewish religion was an Eastern mystery religion at the time of Jesus. He's not speaking of Buddhism, even if he finds the philosophy useful, he's far from selling it here.