Saturday, July 09, 2011

The Purpose Driven Life Day 1

I became a Christian in 2002. That was the year Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose Driven Life” came out. It was all over the place. BJ’s seemed to have several pallets of them. I tend to shun things that are popular, so I didn’t bother with the book.

Over the next several years, I heard a lot of things about it, good and bad. I’ve heard it accused of being occult based, of being apostate, of leading Christians astray and causing them to not focus on what matters. I’ve also heard of it helping people.

I used to belong to a Christian web forum. I gave up on Christian web forums. A text interface is a very hard way to discuss and debate matters, and it’s hard to tell if people are serious or trolling. People also tend not to read or evaluate what you write and go on the attack based on perception. That forum I was on spent a lot of time debating Rick Warren and The Purpose Driven Life. It got very heated. At one point, having read a lot of web sites and blog posts against it, I was against the book. Then I had an earth shattering revelation about critiquing something based on third hand information. I also read a few articles about Rick Warren, and some interviews with him. I realized that when he speaks, everything he says is right. He’s a very orthodox Christian in many ways. I think he’s ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention, or at least was initially. I’ve actually come to enjoy listening to him. He’s very gracious, highly committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and very much about getting out into the world and ministering to people. I know, he runs in some “interesting” circles and I was a little concerned when he joined the Council on Foreign Relations. But I decided I could not discuss or debate his book until I had actually read it for myself.

I got a copy. I t was a birthday present. In 2005.

So now, in July of 2011, I realized I should probably get to it. Only a chapter a day. So I signed the covenant and started with Chapter 1. Rick Warren says he’s prayed for me, and signed the covenant as well. I might ask my wife or a good friend to sign in the other spot to hold me to this.

In the introduction, it says to go through the book with a friend or small group. I don’t have one committed to this book, and doubt I could get one on short notice, so I’m going for broke and I figure I’ll post on thoughts on this “journey” on my blog for accountability and growth.

A note on this journey: I’m aware of concerns over Rick Warren using dynamic Bible translations and paraphrases, and of using only one verse to make his points. Entire books have been written supposedly documenting how Rick Warren is taking verses out of context for his own purposes. Study guides are available giving each verse used in the Purpose Driven Life from the King James. Stand to Reason has a policy “Never Read a Bible verse”. At first, I was going to look up every verse used in context in a more literal translation of the Bible, such as the ESV, which is what I use primarily. But I decided unless alarm bells start going off in my head, I’m going to take this 40 day journey as intended, and take Rick Warren at face value. I committed 6 years ago to giving this book a fair read before I critique it. I will do so. I will read it as the author intended it to be read.

Day One starts with “It All Starts with God”. Rick Warren builds his case for how this is not a self-help book. This book does not encourage you to find the answers within your self. He says on page 18 of my edition
“If I handed you an invention you had never seen before, you wouldn’t know its purpose, and the invention itself wouldn’t be able to tell you either. Only the creator or the owner’s manual could reveal its purpose.”
Obviously, republishing the entire chapter on my blog would violate a bunch of IP laws and ethics, so I can only summarize and comment. Rick Warren goes into a section where he gives you a few ways to discover your life’s purpose. One is speculation. The other is revelation, where Rick points to the Bible as the Owner’s Manual. He goes into three insights into your purpose:
  1. Relationship with Jesus Christ. Rick promises to explain this later.
  2. God planned your purpose without your input. “You may choose your career, your spouse, your hobbies, and many other parts of your life, but you don’t get to choose your purpose.”
  3. Your life’s purpose fits into a larger cosmic purpose.
A note on point 2. At first I equated Rick Warren’s comments on purpose with a strawman caricature of predestination. I doubt I’m the first to do so. I don’t believe Pastor Rick is implying that God micromanages every last aspect of your life. Obviously, as he says you have freedom to choose career, spouse, etc. I don’t believe God having a purpose equates to micromanagement. I’m thinking more like spiritual gifts here than “You’ll get up 3 minutes late tomorrow, and hit 2 out of 7 traffic lights on red.” If the purpose of your life is to teach, you still have a lot of freedom in how you’ll do that teaching. I think I’m on the same page here with Rick Warren.
Day One ends with a Point to Ponder: “It’s not about me”. The Question to Consider is “In spite of all the advertising around me, how can I remind myself that life is really about living for God, not myself?”

If you'd like to go through this with me, you can get a copy through my affiliate link.

The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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