The Adulation of Man in
The Purpose Driven Life (part 1 of 2)

By Richard Bennett

 

Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life “is more than a bestseller, it’s become a movement.[1]  In the words of the author himself his megachurch program is “Revival awakening or miracle…Over 12,000 churches from all 50 states and 19 countries have now participated in 40 Days of Purpose.  Many of these churches have reported that it was the most transforming event in their congregation’s history.”[2]  “Rick is also the founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community that serves and mentors those in ministry worldwide.  Over 60,000 pastors subscribe to Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox.”[3]  On this Webpage he states, “Our Purpose is to encourage pastors, ministers, and church leaders with tools and resources for growing healthy churches…Every resource you purchase helps provide free resources to the over 1.5 million pastors and lay pastors in third world countries.  God has allowed us through your support to reach over 117 different countries on all 7 continents.”[4]  The movement is becoming a global empire.  Warren asserts, “God is a global God…Much of world already thinks globally.  The largest media and business conglomerates are all multi-national…Get a globe or map and pray for nations by name.  The Bible says, ‘If you ask me, I will give you the nations; all the people on earth will be yours.’”[5]  (Warren, however, has overlooked the fact that this promise was made uniquely to Christ Jesus, and not to megachurches seeking expansion).  Even the business world is looking on with awe.  Forbes.com in an article called “Christian Capitalism Megachurches, Megabusinesses” acknowledged that,

“Maybe churches aren’t so different from corporations…Pastor Rick Warren, who founded Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., in 1980, has deftly used technology as well as marketing to spread his message… No doubt, churches have learned some valuable lessons from corporations.  Now maybe they can teach businesses a thing or two. Companies would certainly appreciate having the armies of nonpaid, loyal volunteers.[6]

 

The empire of influence of which Warren boasts is echoed by thousands of pastors and Christian leaders around the world.  At least eighteen million copies of his book have been sold since its release in September 2002.  It is now selling in many translations.  Literally thousands of churches have used the book and the materials that accompany it during special campaigns called 40 Days of Purpose.  The book is divided into forty chapters purporting to explain in 40 days the five purposes of one’s life.  Indeed, the thesis of the book is found on p. 136,

“He [God] created the church to meet your five deepest needs:  a purpose to live for, people to live with, principles to live by, a profession to live out, and power to live on.  There is no other place on earth where you can find all five of these benefits in one place.” [7]

Warren is dead wrong in his list of “deepest needs”.  On the authority of the Bible, the first and foremost need of any man is perfect righteousness before the All Holy God.  It is Christ Jesus’ righteousness alone that God will accept as a propitiation for any man’s sin and sin nature.  This primary need of man is constantly shown in the Bible but Warren does not even mention this foundational truth in his list of “deepest needs”.  Warren’s quick switch from God’s purpose to man’s methods falls under the first temptation ever recorded in the Bible.  Satan offered to Eve the fruit as the way of achieving a spiritual purpose, “in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.[8]  Warren teaches that God “created the church to meet your five deepest needs” just as the Roman Catholic Church says, “The Church is the mother of all believers.”[9]  Warren, like Rome, has switched from obedience to the Word and Person of the Living God to submission to a church to achieve one’s needs.  It is the oldest and cleverest temptation known to man.

 

Warren’s gospel, the root flaw

The Apostle Paul showed the need for the Gospel by the fact that whole the world is guilty before God.  He declared, “now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.[10]  All are “by nature children of wrath[11], guilty before the all Holy God.  To appear before Him, therefore, each needs a perfect righteousness.  James summarizes the whole condition of man when he says, “for whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”[12] Guilt before God shows the need for the Gospel and as such is the basis for the Gospel.  Conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit drives the sinner to trust truly on Christ Jesus alone, as the publican in the parable of the Lord cried out, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”[13]  With Warren, this conviction of guilt is reduced by psychological terminology to the condition of “unconsciously punishing of oneself”.  He states,

“Many people are driven by guilt…. Guilt-driven people are manipulated by memories.  They allow their past to control their future.  They often unconsciously punish themselves by sabotaging their own success.  When Cain sinned, his guilt disconnected him from God’s presence, and God said, ‘You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.’  That describes most people today—wandering through life without a purpose.  (pp. 27-28)

Rather than sin being shown to be an evil of infinite significance because it is committed against an infinite Person, Warren’s pop psychology defines sin as acts of people “sabotaging their own success”.  He continues,

“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?”  (p. 34)

“If you learn to love and trust God’s Son, Jesus, you will be invited to spend the rest of eternity with him.  On the other hand, if you reject his love, forgiveness, and salvation, you will spend eternity apart from God forever.”  (p. 37)

Biblically speaking, it is absolute folly to tell an unconvicted sinner merely to “learn to love and trust God’s Son, Jesus”.  No one can be saved without recognition of his own sin personally against Holy God, and without turning away from that sin.  So while it is true that the only thing that matters “is to learn to love and trust Him”, this love and trust is impossible unless the Holy Spirit has convicted a person that he is a depraved sinner without any hope in himself.  Warren does endeavor to define sin when he states,

All sin, at its root, is failing to give God glory.  It is loving anything else more than God.  Refusing to bring glory to God is prideful rebellion, and it is the sin that caused Satan’s fall—and ours, too.  In different ways we all lived for our own glory, not God’s.  The Bible says, ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’” (p.55)

While this is true, Warren still has not acknowledged personal guilt and personal need for Christ’s perfect righteousness and perfect sacrifice.  Warren’s persistent declarations one’s “self worth” and “true self”, as we will shortly document, totally negates what he says about “prideful rebellion”.  The book and movement, on the contrary, major in upholding “self worth” and “true self” thus endorsing the very “prideful rebellion” it states is cause of our fall, even as it was Satan’s.  This type of a contradictory statement made by Warren makes it difficult to analyze the book.  While this is so, it is all the more necessary to do such an analysis.  Without the Apostle Paul’s conviction, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing,”[14] there can be no true faith in Christ Jesus, nor even a growth in sanctification before God.  The first key flaw in the Warren’s gospel message is the negation of the very basis needed for salvation.  As the Lord Himself proclaimed, “they that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick:  I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” [15]

 

The heart of Warren’s gospel

Warren’s gospel message gets worse as he proceeds in the book.  He assures his readers,

“Real life begins by committing yourself completely to Jesus Christ.  If you are not sure you have done this, all you need to do is receive and believe.  The Bible promises, ‘To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.’  Will you accept God’s offer?”  (p.58)

What Warren has neglected in his teaching of John 1:12 is that the following verse, v. 13, explains how a person is born again, “which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.  Warren has completely ignored the fact that to receive and believe is not of the will of man, but of God.  It is the grace of God that makes a person willing to believe, for the heart is changed by God’s power alone.  To leave out this essential point changes the focus from God to man.  Such a change of focus from God to man is lethal to salvation because there is no power within man to change himself.  This grace must come from God.  If, however, Warren had taught his readers to look to God for His grace, he would not have a ready-made message that is marketable.  For Warren it is advantageous to leave out “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God”.  In leaving out this essential factor of the Gospel he can in fact propose that which this verse of Scripture rules out!  The Lord is consistent in His Word, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”[16]  Eternal life is bestowed on a person not because man begins the work, but it is because God gives salvation out of His mercy and grace.  Such is the written purpose of God.  Warren’s written purpose is the opposite.  It begins, he says, with man, “Real life begins by committing yourself…”  But this is a deception for which Warren will have to pay before the All Holy God.  Be not deceived; God is not mocked…It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”[17]  The power and dread of God’s vindictive wrath is great.  There will be eternal misery for those who teach a false gospel, their punishment shall come from God’s own hand.

 

Warren progresses in his bogus gospel message,

“First, believe.  Believe God loves you and made you for his purposes.  Believe you’re not an accident.  Believe you were made to last forever.  Believe God has chosen you to have a relationship with Jesus, who died on the cross for you.  Believe that no matter what you’ve done, God wants to forgive you.