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Friday, April 21, 2006

Experience with Rick Warren's Book

One or two of you may be getting tired of these recent posts about Rick Warren. I know that I am. I really wasn't planning to write these but a certain someone decided to slam me with a nasty-gram on Maundy Thursday. Interestingly, my blog readership has quadrupled.

Darrell over at SouthCon posted a very telling personal experience with The Purpose Driven Life. He's been kind enough to link to me a couple of times recently and I am very happy to return the favor. I read his and his wife Wendy's blog, Tales From the Dorkside, every day w/o exception.

Here is an excerpt, but go here to read the whole post. Warren fans really need to read this.

A few years ago, my wife and I were having a hard time of it, still getting used to our new marriage, trying to work things out, grow together as a couple, grow spiritually and individually, etc. It was a desperate time for me. I was searching for meaning, looking for anything that might be a clear indication of what God had in mind for me.

We were attending a nondenominational Fundamentalist church and the preacher there was, to his credit, doing everything in his ability to help us. Once, during a particularly tearful, confessional meeting on my part with him, I asked him to recommend a resource for me, and he suggested that I read Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life.

I'd never been a fan of the kinds of books that were popular with the members of our congregation, the kinds of things that they wanted to study. I didn't like Max Lucado, Bruce Wilkinson, etc. I thought of their books as silly, Halmark Card theology. Christianity-and-water, as C.S. Lewis might say. But I was willing to try Warren's book because the title seemed to speak to my problems. This might be the book, I hoped, that pointed me in the right direction.

I think I finished half of it.

Warren's book struck me as smug, superficial, self-congratulatory, and absolutely pointless. It seemed like the kind of thing that was designed to soothe rather than provoke. It seemed like the point was to avoid offending, to avoid challenging, to simply lull the reader into sleep. When I noticed that Warren also had books about the "Purpose Driven" church and "Purpose Driven" journals and devotionals, etc, it became clear to me. From what I could tell, Warren's "Purpose" was one thing and one thing alone: Marketing. Rick Warren had found his niche in the publishing world. Rick Warren was making an appeal to the pocket-books of the same "Wal-Mart Christians" who had bought so many of the "Left Behind" books and the silly, sappy greeting-cards of Lucado, Wilkinson, et al.

I was disgusted. Heart broken. Is this what Christianity was in the modern world, then? A marketing gimmick? A commercial cult? Drive-thru salvation? A large order of McDevotion and a side-order of fries?

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9 comments:

Paul, in South Park said...

I recently completed a Bible study at our church on the subject of "Suffering" and the necessary role it plays in the life of a Christian.

I have found that PDL, and books of that ilk, provide what I like to call "Christianity Lite" ... talking the talk without walking the walk.

Their popularity stems from emphasis on the "feel good" parts of the Gospel and ignoring the "feel bad".

I will pray for you Mr. Warren.

The Terrible Swede said...

Pr. Stiegemeyer,

Vicar or seminarian Parks, AKA "Wildboar" , has a nice summary on PDL that used to be on his blog:

http://crosstiesministries.org/Purpose/new1.asp

Darrell said...

Thanks for the link; I'm glad you thought my ideas were worth considering. Wendy will be tickled that you check her blog daily. If discussing this topic might get a few people to dig deeper than PDL, I think it's a good thing.

The Heresy Hunter said...

It's worth noting that Rick Warren is one of the speakers at the Azusa Street Centennial celebrations this week. http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/4/252006d.asp
"Rick Warren's Presence at 'Azusa Street' Questioned"

~Mark said...

"Warren's book struck me as smug, superficial, self-congratulatory, and absolutely pointless. It seemed like the kind of thing that was designed to soothe rather than provoke. It seemed like the point was to avoid offending, to avoid challenging, to simply lull the reader into sleep."

It strikes me as odd that this is exactly what I often come away with n checkign out "Emerging Church" theology.

Carl said...

Paul,
Could you share what material(s)
you used for the Bible study on
"suffering"?

Thanx!
Carl

Darrell said...

Mark: It strikes me as odd that this is exactly what I often come away with n checkign out "Emerging Church" theology.

I had to investigate "Emerging Church" theology so I'd know what you were talking about. I hadn't heard the term before. I found a pretty good website, and I've come to the conclusion that "Emerging Church" amounts to a term for the movement (to the extent that there is a movement) away from the modern state of fundamental evangelicalism and toward a more conservative and reverent kind of Christian worship and living. Someting less focused on trends and secularism and more focused on the essentials of Christian life.

All I can say, Mark, is that it also strikes me as odd that you believe that Emerging Church theology intends to avoid offending, avoid challenging, and to lull into sleep. I'd think you'd find Emerging Church provocative, or at least irritating, considering that your radio show, based on the sample I heard, is exactly the kind of thing that Emerging Church is a reaction to.

~Mark said...

Hi Darrell,

it would probably help you to research the "Emergent" movement a bit more, and you'll see what I mean.

In direct communication with folks who declare themselves part of the Emergent movement, I have never gotten a straight answer about any theological question I've asked. I have been back and forth with them for a year now, and I can't even get an answer to "Is Jesus the only way to be saved", even though He Himself has said so in Scripture.

I get answers like, "I don't want to scare people away who may just be investigating" and How can I look someone in the face who has lost a loved one who didn't believe in Christ and say that they are going to Hell", and a host of other answers.

It gets even more difficult when I ask questions of doctrine which pretty much no one argues about in Scripture. One of the biggest roadblocks to their effective communication of the Gospel is an unwillingness to say "Thus saith The Lord" even if The Lord clearly hath saith! (Ouch. I think I hurt my tongue.)

Here is a good post by Steven Camp that helps describe, at length, the difficulties with the approach of the Emergent follower.
http://stevenjcamp.blogspot.com/2006_03_01_stevenjcamp_archive.html#114251834388980291

Brian MaClaren is the most public figurehead of the movement, and here is his website. The scary first thing that greets you is the ad for his new book, "The Secret Message of Jesus".

http://www.brianmclaren.net/

A person as well educated in Scripture as he is should know that when you start talking about "secret messages" from God, you're treading on a fine line that leans toward blasphemy every time.

Take a little time to check out websites of Emergent followers, and engage them in conversation about doctrine. The problems should become immediately apparent.

I don't call them a cult. That is NOT what I think of them at this point. I do however believe that "watered-down Gospel" is a good description for the approach I've always seen from them, and again, I say this after a year of direct interaction with many of them.

jane said...

The trend with PDF and Emerging and many such faddish groups is the way they don't stand firm on the offensiveness of the Gospel, i.e. man's depravity and absolute need for repentance and salvation with a complete sacrificial submission to a Savior and Lord in Jesus. That is hard for materialists and intellectuals to accept.

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