Tucker's Reviews > The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
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's review
Dec 30, 07

bookshelves: finished
Recommended for: Christians
Read in December, 2007

"God made you so he could love you" (p. 24), Warren tells us, and the purpose that drives our lives should be loving God in return. "Worship is as natural as eating or breathing. If we fail to worship God, we always find a substitute, even if it ends up being ourselves. The reason God made us with this desire is that he desires worshipers!" (p. 64)

This worldview quickly becomes incoherent. Consider these two statements, made side-by-side: "You are free to choose what you surrender to, but you are not free from the consequences of that choice. E. Stanley Jones said, 'If you don't surrender to Christ, you surrender to chaos.'" (p. 82) The first sentence is a scientific worldview. Actions have consequences that should, at least in principle, be predictable. The second sentence says that our actions have consequences that are chaotic, meaning unpredictable. Being bound to consequences and surrendering to chaos are two quite different things (unless one has some quantum physics approach that reconciles them).

In Warren's worldview, people are pawns who unknowingly carry out a plan that is beyond their comprehension. "Most amazing, God decided how you would be born...They [your parents] had the DNA God wanted to make you...Many children are unplanned by their parents, but they are not unplanned by God. God's purpose took into account human error, and even sin." (p. 23) Such an absolutist stance against free will is difficult to maintain. For example, if God creates everything about us, then God must have created heterosexual attraction, as he assumes here: "You can be attracted or even aroused without choosing to sin by lusting. Many people, especially Christian men, feel guilty that their God-given hormones are working. When they automatically notice an attractive woman, they assume it is lust and feel ashamed and condemned. But attraction is not lust until you begin to dwell on it." (p. 205) Warren does not comment on the question of whether God created homosexual attraction, which would also logically follow if God creates everything.

Warren says, "Of course, sincerity alone is not enough [in worship]; you can be sincerely wrong." (p. 102) However, he shows no recognition of his own fallibility, nor even that a single sentence he has written in this book might be wrong. Assuming Biblical inerrancy, he advises: "Determine to first ask, 'What does the Bible say?' when making decisions. Resolve that when God says to do something, you will trust God's Word and do it whether or not it makes sense or you feel like doing it." (p. 187) But this is unacceptable behavior for anyone--even a Jew, Christian, or Muslim--who does not believe that the Bible and human interpretation of it is infallible. If someone is willing to do things that do not make sense even to himself and he refuses to analyze them, it is unclear how he is supposed to avoid being "sincerely wrong."

He occasionally uses weird, violent metaphors for faith:
- "You must move against it [fear] with the weapons of faith and love." (p. 29)
- "If you don't have any Bible verses memorized, you've got no bullets in your gun!" (p. 215)
- "Lane Adams once compared the process of spiritual growth to the strategy the Allies used in World War II to liberate islands in the South Pacific....Our pre-conversion experience is Jesus saying, 'Behold I stand at the door and bomb!' (p. 218)
I guess this answers the popular rhetorical witticism "Who would Jesus bomb?"

To be fair, he did not intend this book as philosophy. The first half of the book assumes belief in God, in the immortality of the soul, and in the Christian version of the Bible. The second half of the book goads committed Christians to join churches to strengthen their faith. Readers who want this material will get what they paid for. But skeptics and outsiders will not be persuaded of anything.
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