Part 1: The Purpose-Driven
“Groundbreaking Manifesto” and “Blueprint”
Which Light Are We Following?
Who Is Worthy of Praise and Glory?
“I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.” (Isaiah 42:8)
Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life has swept Christianity in global proportions. It is highly acclaimed with such lofty words of praise that used to be reserved for the Lord God and His Holy Scriptures. Only the Lord God and His Word have the power to set us free, to enable us to live godly lives that He intended, and to place our feet firmly on the right path. Nevertheless, these things have been now widely ascribed to Rick Warren, his book, and various aspects of his Purpose-Driven Paradigm.
Remember when the Lord Jesus Christ didn’t have to share His glory for changing lives and setting people free? How times have changed in the humanistic new Paradigm. The Purpose Driven Life has had the following on its back cover1:
“Make sure you’re not missing the point of your life—read this book! The Purpose-Driven Life will guide you to greatness— through living the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.” —Billy Graham and Franklin Graham
“Timeless, profound, compelling, and transforming … Rick Warren’s new, groundbreaking manifesto will set millions of people free to live the lives God intended. This is the book we’ve all been waiting for!” —Bruce Wilkinson
“If you only read one book on what life is all about—make it this one! This book is life-changing. Rick Warren is absolutely brilliant at explaining our real purpose on earth and stating profound truths in simple ways.… Believe me, you’ll never be the same after reading this! What a gift!” —Lee Strobel
“Rick Warren has written a masterpiece of wise counsel for you. Whether you are a seeker, a new believer, or a seasoned saint, let God use these pages to place your feet firmly on the right path!” —Max Lucado
In addition, above the previous quotes and across the top of the back cover in large capital letters, “A GROUNDBREAKING MANIFESTO ON THE MEANING OF LIFE” introduced the world to The Purpose Driven Life. According to these very words, Rick Warren’s book must differ from God’s Holy Scriptures because this claim itself is saying that this book is an original public declaration on the subject of the meaning of life.
Yet in the dedication, Rick Warren presumptuously asserts, “Before you were born, God planned this moment in your life. It is no accident that you are holding this book. God longs for you to discover the life he created you to live—here on earth, and forever in eternity.”
First, God does not plan for anyone to hold this book or any book that will lead them astray from His truth. Second, Rick Warren is usurping the position that belongs to God’s Word. God, in His great love, plans how to get His Word to everyone because it is God’s Word that is the source of faith and salvation (see Romans 1:16, 10:17; and 2 Timothy 3:15-17). It is also God’s Word that already very clearly sets forth the meaning of life—according to God’s error-free and unchanging truth—to those who have ears to hear.
The Holy Scriptures: God’s All-Sufficient Light unto Our Path
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
“The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” (Psalm 119:130)
Throughout His Word, God reiterates the absolute indispensability of being solidly and firmly grounded in our knowledge of God and His Holy Scriptures:
• God’s Word is the source of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ which are spirit and life (e.g., see John 6:63).
• God’s Word is the source of true knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (e.g., see Luke 24:27; John 5:39; Acts 18:28).
• God’s Word gives us faith (e.g., see Romans 10:17).
• God’s Word makes us wise unto salvation (e.g., see 2 Timothy 3:15; Romans 1:16; 1 Peter 1:25).
• God’s Word gives us understanding (e.g., see Psalm 119:104, 130).
• God’s Word shows us how to live by being a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (e.g., see Psalm 119:105).
• God’s Word gives us the knowledge of God by which He has granted to us all things pertaining to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him (e.g., see 2 Peter 1:2-4; Colossians 1:9-10; Ephesians 1:17-19; 1 Corinthians 15:34).
• God’s Word is the foundation of true worship because we must worship in spirit and in truth (e.g., see John 4:24, 6:63, 17:17).
• God’s Word is given to us by God for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness that we may be thoroughly furnished unto all good works (e.g., see 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
• God’s Word is the foundation of true scriptural discipleship, which is following the Lord Jesus Christ in the faith by knowing, believing, and obeying the true doctrine of Christ (e.g., see Matthew 28:19-20; 2 John 1:9; 1 Timothy 2:4, 4:16; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Ephesians 4:11-16; 2 Peter 1:2-8; and the rest of the New Testament).
• God’s Word is the foundation and definition of true service and ministry which can only begin with following the Lord Jesus Christ (e.g., see John 12:26; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
• God’s Word is the standard of true love because we are to love in deed and in truth (e.g., see 1 John 3:18; John 17:17).
• God’s Word is the power of God unto salvation and thus to be taken to the whole world as the basis of all missions (e.g., see Romans 1:16; Romans 10:17-18; 1 Corinthians 1:18-24; Ephesians 1:13; 2 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 1:23-25).
• God’s Word reveals true knowledge of self (e.g., see Romans 3:10-23 and the rest of Romans; Hebrews 4:12).
• God’s Word is the source of the meaning of life (e.g., see 2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:10, 4:13, 22-24; Philippians 1:21; Colossians 3; Revelation 4:11; and the rest of the Holy Scriptures).
The Word of God is so essential to every part of our lives that the Lord Jesus Christ equated it to the importance of food to our body and declared that we need to live “by every word of God” (see Luke 4:4 and Matthew 4:4). Yet people are filling up so much on man’s word that they don’t leave room to feast on God’s, and scriptural illiteracy continues to mushroom.
No one knows better than God Himself how we are to prepare for eternity, what the meaning and purpose of life are, and how we can live an obedient and godly life of faith and holiness that pleases and glorifies Him. To truly please God in all of the purposes He has for us, we need to study and rightly divide God’s Word of truth.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
In the following quote, Rick Warren gives sound advice that should definitely be followed, but, sadly, he does not heed his own advice:
“To discover your purpose in life you must turn to God’s Word, not the world’s wisdom. You must build your life on eternal truths, not pop psychology, success-motivation, or inspirational stories.” (The Purpose Driven Life – PDL; p. 20)
Yet Rick Warren does indeed synthesize the world’s “wisdom” into much of his Paradigm. A self-professing avid reader, he has admitted:
“‘I am a product of every book I’ve ever read …’”2
“[W]e’re trying to learn from anybody. What I am is a translator. I have an ability to simplify and synthesize. And so I learn from everybody.” —Rick Warren3
“We believe we can learn truth -- I’ve learned a lot of truth from different religions. Because they all have a portion of the truth.”4
“‘I was just wired by God to see how things relate to each other. I’m a synthesizer and systematizer,’ says Warren.” –USA TODAY, 7/21/035
“‘What I’m saying isn’t new,’ he [Rick Warren] says. ‘I just synthesize ideas and translate them into simple language.’” —TIME Magazine, 4/18/056
“I am grateful to the hundreds of writers and teachers, both classical and contemporary, who have shaped my life and helped me learn these truths.” (PDL; p. 5)
Would this latter quote from the dedication to The Purpose Driven Life include the “truth” he said he’s learned from different religions? Near the end of his book after he has clarified his meaning and purpose of life as taught by these hundreds of people, Rick Warren further declared:
“In this book I have passed on to you what others taught me about the purpose of life; now it’s your duty to pass that on to others.” (PDL; p. 309)
He has even said:
“I believe I have the key to meaning and purpose in life with God, and I’m trying to share it with as many people as possible.” —Rick Warren7
There is much that can be said about this quote, but suffice it to say that if Rick Warren himself has “the key” then we must go to him to get it, rather than to God and His Word.
As revealed in his material in The Purpose Driven Life as well as with the people and books he quotes and endorses, Rick Warren has indeed turned to the very things he says we should not. The door opened by Rick Warren’s “key” is an entryway to the broad way of the world.
It is not possible to learn God’s holy truth from ungodly and worldly sources because what these sources say about God must, by their very nature, be rooted in darkness. The Word of God makes it clear that the world and unbelievers cannot know the things of God. No man knows the things of God because they are spiritually discerned through the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 2:11-12, 14), and the unbelieving world cannot see, know, or receive the Holy Spirit (see John 14:17). Thus the wisdom of the world is foolishness (see 1 Corinthians 3:19).
No word of man, Christian or otherwise, should automatically be trusted as scriptural, especially since the Word of God makes it clear that false teachers will arise among us (e.g., see 2 Peter 2:1-3 and Acts 20:29-31). We need to make sure that every source of teaching we choose to listen to, whether verbal or written or otherwise, is in complete agreement with Scripture so that we are not drawn away from the truth.
God tells us in His Word that “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (1 Corinthians 5:6 and Galatians 5:9). In addition, synthesizing pure light with the impurities of the world’s darkness results in an impure shadowy light, which changes the message. Nevertheless, and again usurping what belongs to God and His Word of truth, Rick Warren makes a bold declaration about what hundreds of people have taught him, which he is passing on in his book:
“You may have felt in the dark about your purpose in life. Congratulations, you’re about to walk into the light.” (PDL; p. 21)
Included in “the light” of Rick Warren’s book is the following declaration, which further contradicts and negates his positive quotes regarding studying the Bible:
“The last thing many believers need today is to go to another Bible study. They already know far more than they are putting into practice. What they need are serving experiences in which they can exercise their spiritual muscles.” (PDL; p. 231; bold added)
This deceptive declaration provides insight into Rick Warren’s “light,” not to mention a lack of discernment. A lack of the true knowledge of God and His Holy Scriptures has become a full-force pandemic which is growing by leaps and bounds, and which precludes having “spiritual muscles.” The growing Purpose-Driven Paradigm is itself evidence of this tragic pandemic. Yes, we do need to also be doers of the Word, but scriptural illiteracy has led to the opposite end of the spectrum:
“… they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” (Romans 10:2)
True and accurate Bible study that rightly divides God’s Word is exactly the single most important thing critically needed today.
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” (Hosea 4:6)
Many aspects that belong to God’s Word continue to be attributed to Rick Warren and The Purpose Driven Life, both in the claims surrounding them as well as in the book’s content itself. Studying a book written by a man is neither the equivalent to nor a replacement for studying God’s Word, regardless of how many Scriptures it quotes. Yet, at the request of its writer, people and small groups are going through The Purpose Driven Life and other purpose-driven curricula over and over and over . . .
Rather than heedlessly rushing headlong (like lemmings to their destruction as the story goes) into “the light” of Rick Warren’s Paradigm, we need to seriously heed the warnings of the Lord Jesus Christ Who said:
“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23)
“… Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?” (Luke 6:39)
We need to conscientiously and warily make sure that the only light we are heeding is the true light of the Lord Jesus Christ and His uncorrupted, unchanging, absolute Word of truth. This is the only true and pure light unto our path.
“For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.” (Psalm 36:9)
God’s counsel includes the wisdom He gave King Solomon; wisdom which abounds in this proverb that needs to be heeded today:
“Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 19:27)
Man’s “Light” Says Doctrinal Views Aren’t an Issue in
God’s “Final Exam”
“The Purpose-Driven® Life is a blueprint for Christian living in the 21st century—a lifestyle based on God’s eternal purposes, not cultural values. Using over 1,200 scriptural quotes and references, it challenges the conventional definitions of worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism. In the tradition of Oswald Chambers, Rick Warren offers distilled wisdom on the essence of what life is all about.” (PDL; back flap)
The Word of God is our blueprint for godly living in any century, including the 21st century. The Word of God is also where we find the true definitions of worship, fellowship, and so forth. Yet Rick Warren’s book has challenged and usurped the position and purpose of God’s Word, clearly in favor of cultural values. His use of “over 1,200 scriptural quotes and references” does not refute this because his repeated twisting of scriptural quotes actually assists him in his challenge of the definitions of the rightly divided Word of God (examples will be addressed later).
Rick Warren’s “blueprint for Christian living” claims to be “based on God’s eternal purposes.” Yet it challenges the Word of God in regards to doctrinal beliefs determining where a person will spend eternity:
“One day you will stand before God, and he will do an audit of your life, a final exam, before you enter eternity.… Fortunately, God wants us to pass this test, so he has given us the questions in advance. From the Bible we can surmise that God will ask us two crucial questions:
“First, ‘What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?’ God won’t ask about your religious background or doctrinal views. The only thing that will matter is, did you accept what Jesus did for you and did you learn to love and trust him? Jesus said, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ [endnote: John 14:6 (NIV)]
“Second, ‘What did you do with what I gave you?’ What did you do with your life—all the gifts, talents, opportunities, energy, relationships, and resources God gave you? Did you spend them on yourself, or did you use them for the purposes God made you for?
“Preparing you for these two questions is the goal of this book. The first question will determine where you spend eternity. The second question will determine what you do in eternity. By the end of this book you will be ready to answer both questions.” (PDL; p. 34; bold added)
There are other problems with these claims but, most importantly, please notice that in complete contradiction to God’s Holy Scriptures, Rick Warren writes here that doctrine does not have a role in determining where a person spends eternity!
People tend to think that as long as someone quotes John 14:6 then that makes everything else okay. But the Lord Jesus Christ is ours as the way and the truth and the life through faith, and it is the doctrine of Christ that tells us what we are to believe about Who He is and what He has done for us. Without the doctrine of Christ none of the following can take place: We cannot believe in Christ, we cannot have faith in Christ, we cannot accept Christ or what He did for us, we cannot love and trust Christ, we cannot serve Christ, and we cannot spend eternity with Christ.
The doctrine of Christ is the doctrine of the Father (see John 7:16), and He knows His own plan of salvation. According to His Word, the doctrine of Christ is absolutely indispensable to having both the Father and the Son, and having the Son is absolutely indispensable to having eternal life:
“Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 1:9)
“He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” (1 John 5:12)
“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18)
“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Timothy 4:16)
It simply cannot be overemphasized that without the doctrine of Christ we do not have the Person of Christ, which means that we do not have either God or eternal life. Thus Jesus Christ Himself warned that a person can call Him Lord and even do many wonderful works in His name but still not be saved (see Matthew 7:21-23). Lip service and works—“What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?” and, “Now what you do with your life on earth will determine where you spend eternity” (Rick Warren8)—will never save anyone.
Apart from the right beliefs, all “good works” are in vain. This is why it is so crucially important to first examine our beliefs in the light of Scripture to make sure that what we believe is the true doctrine of Christ.
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:6-10)
Preparing people for eternity is an act of love. But it is not loving to lead people to believe they will be prepared for eternity by reading a book that, among other things, does the following:
• It skirts the true and full Gospel of Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation (see Romans 1:16).
• It tends to delete key phrases of essential truth from the verses that are quoted.
• It goes against 2 John 1:9 and leads its readers toward a false gospel of works—what we “do,” not our doctrinal beliefs (“views”), determines our eternal destination.
Who you are and what you do is more important in the Purpose-Driven Paradigm than the doctrine of Christ that tells us Who He is and what He did and does. This is not about either preparing for eternity or serving God’s purpose in this generation, which is another goal for his book. God has been reduced to merely the means to a self-centered end, which is self-significance.
“There is no greater epitaph than that statement! Imagine it chiseled on your tombstone: That you served God’s purpose in your generation. My prayer is that people will be able to say that about me when I die. It is also my prayer that people will say it about you, too. That is why I wrote this book for you. This phrase is the ultimate definition of a life well lived. You do the eternal and timeless (God’s purpose) in a contemporary and timely way (in your generation). That is what the purpose-driven life is all about.” (PDL; p. 318)
“That’s why spreading the Good News is so important; you only have a short time to share your life message and fulfill your mission.” (PDL; p. 295; emphasis added)
It’s not about the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s about you. Thus what you do is more important than what you believe in the purpose-driven journey.
Choosing to go on this “spiritual journey” with Rick Warren who would prepare his followers for eternity apart from doctrine is unwise, to say the least! Yet right on the front flap of The Purpose Driven Life its readers are warned that this journey will transform their answer on life:
“Rick Warren will guide you through a personal 40-day spiritual journey that will transform your answer to life’s most important question: What on earth am I here for?”
Which light are we following?
Return to Introduction Proceed to Chapter 2
1. Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For? (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2002).
2. As quoted in “Purpose-Driven® Life Named Book of the Year” by Jon Walker, Pastors.com, http://www.pastors.com/article.asp?ArtID=4382.
3. As quoted in Discussion “Myths of the Modern Mega-Church,” May 23, 2005, the Pew Forum’s biannual Faith Angle conference on religion, politics and public life, Event Transcript, http://pewforum.org/events/index.php?EventID=80.
4. Interview with Rick Warren, CNN Larry King Live, Aired November 22, 2004, Transcript, http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0411/22/lkl.01.html.
5. “This evangelist has a ‘Purpose’” by Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY, July 21, 2003, http://www.usatoday.com/life/2003-07-21-rick-warren_x.htm.
6. “A Pastor With a Purpose” by Sonja Steptoe, TIME Magazine, April 18, 2005, Special Issue, “The TIME 100: The 2005 list of the world’s most influential people…,” http://www.time.com/time/subscriber/2005/time100/scientists/100warren.html.
7. As quoted in “The Man With The Purpose” by Sonja Steptoe, TIME Magazine, March 29, 2004, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101040329-603246,00.html.
8. Rick Warren, transcribed from the 40 DAYS OF PURPOSE Small Group & Sunday School Video Curriculum, Session One.
Copyright © 2006 Tamara Hartzell. All rights reserved.