A Life With Purpose - Book Review

On one of my bookshelves I have two stacks: books I have to read, and books I want to read. The first stack is books I have to read for school or work, and the second stack is usually full of random books I've received as gifts, or that I stumbled on at Half Price Books, my favorite used bookstore. The drill is this: after I finish one of the "have to reads," I grab one of the "want to reads" as a reward.

I have great in-laws, and last Christmas they loaded me up on "want to read" books. After ten months, I'm finally about to exhaust those books, and am in dire need of some more. Fortunately, Christmas is just around the corner.

Today, I finished a major exam for one of my classes and searched for a "want to read" book. I picked out "A Life With Purpose" by George Mair. The subtitle of the book is "Reverend Rick Warren, The Most Inspiring Pastor of Our Time." It was a freebie somewhere, and since I love biographies, I figured it might be interesting.

If you're one of those over-sensitive types who believes you really shouldn't say anything at all if you don't have something nice to say, it might be advisable to stop reading here and pretend I wrote no more. I have absolutely nothing nice to say about this book. Consider yourself warned.

For starters, I feel the need to say that I'm not opposed to Rick Warren. I personally enjoyed "The Purpose Driven Church" very much. "The Purpose Driven Life" was for me a lot like Jurassic Park - the hype oversold the actual experience, and I was left disappointed once I finally got around to reading the book. But I didn't hate it.

This book on the other hand... well, let's just say about halfway through the book I promised myself if I could get through it, I'd treat myself to my "have to read pile." (I always finish books... period. It's part of being a type-A, obsessive compulsive guy. What can I say?)

For starters, from the forward, and from the book itself, it's obvious Warren had nothing to do with this book. The guy writing the book is an admirer of his who talked with his family, and friends, but didn't spend time with Warren in the writing of this book. For that I'm thankful. Like him or not, Rick Warren is one of the most listened to spokespersons in America when it comes to Christianity. To think that one of the most powerful men in American Christianity today's sole mission in life is actually to be like Robert Schuller and Norman Vincent Peale is frightening. But that's what this book insinuates.

This book insinuates that Rick Warren is carrying the torch first lit by Bob Schuller (of Crystal Cathedral fame) and Norman Vincent Peale (writer of "The Power of Positive Thinking"). In fact, there's more biographical information about these two men in the book than there is about Rick Warren himself. Interestingly, if you do the math, Saddleback was several years old before Warren and Schuller met, although this book claims Schuller was the primary influence in the bedrock principles Warren used to start his ministry.

I got the distinct picture throughout the book that the author had an ulterior motive, and it wasn't to describe Rick Warren. Rather, the book seemed to be an attempt to give credibility to the Positive Thinking gospel on the coat tails of Rick Warren's success.

Although I haven't agreed with everything Warren has put out, I don't get the impression that the Purpose Driven Life is truly the revival of the Power of Positive Thinking gospel. If it was, the Purpose Driven Life would amount to no more than the Ego Driven Life. I find that philosophy hard to derive from a book that begins by saying "It's not about you."

The Purpose Driven Life is an utter contradiction if we take it in light of Norman Vincent Peale's philosophy. The Power of Positive Thinking is an exaltation of humanity, and the philosophy that you are what you think you are; it's the "Little Engine That Could" mentality. But the Little Engine was a train, and trains aren't fallen humans. Trains might be able to climb mountains they didn't think they could cross, but humans are unable to bridge the gap between themselves and God that was created by their sin.

True significance for humanity is not found in humanity, but in what God has said about the crowning jewel in His creation: we are created in His image. Beyond that, humanity who is in a right relationship with God (through faith in His Son) is seen as the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, who is loved and cherished by God. There is no power in positive thinking, other than positive thinking about who God is, and who humanity is in light of who God is. If the Purpose of the Purpose Driven Life is anything other than "to glorify God and enjoy Him forever," we fall tragically short of the purpose for which we were intended.


Rick said...

exactly my take on PDC and PDL. i'm not a huge warren fan either. appreciated your review here - thanks!