Monday, March 07, 2005

The Purpose-Driven Life

Some notes on the Purpose-Driven Life:

1. I have nothing against Rick Warren. He writes authentically within and out of his church and theological tradition, which is Baptist. Any disagreements I have with Warren, I probably have with much of Baptist thought and theology.

2. Any pastor and theologian who can write a book that sells so widely and has such influence is bound to awaken the Old Adam in me- jealousy will ensue, I'll want to be like him, and wish failure upon him because he has had such "success."

3. Therefore, even though I say I have nothing against Rick Warren, actually I do, but that as a manifestation of my sinful self.

4. Much of the mainline ire against Warren arises out of this same thing, and is a breaking of the 8th, 9th, and 10th commandments.

5. That said, I will not ever use the Purpose-Driven anything in my church.

6. Why? Because there are too many faithful writers and thinkers from my own tradition. I do not even need to go out and use a "Lutheran" book that tries to piggy-back off the Warren phenomenon. God has blessed the Lutheran community with rich resources, and has located us a community closely connected to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith. Baptist theology wanders too far from that catholicity. So I will not use it in my ministry.

7. The most useful thing to do with PDL is look at it as a mirror. When you read it, you can see yourself and see how you are different than Warren and his tradition. But this is only true if you already know something about your own tradition. So a faithful Lutheran will go back to their catechism and confessions before they will move on to examining Warren's works.

8. If you'd like to read a non-Lutheran who adequately responds to the issues of evangelicalism (which is different from Baptist theology, but of a similar ilk) but also has mass appeal, try Eugene Peterson. His interview in the most recent issue of Christianity Today (like through Purpose-Driven Life above) is wonderful.

9. If you'd like to read what Lutherans traditionally say on these issues, link to the Book of Concord and the Augsburg Confession from the sidebar of this blog.


  1. At the Society of the Holy Trinity Susquehanna chapter retreat yesterday, there was an extended discussion on Rick Warren. Two pastors indicated that they were using Purpose-Driven Life, one saying she agreed to her congregation's requests "as long as we have the Bible in one hand and Luther's Small Catechism in the other while we do it." This brought an emotional response from a former Southern Baptist, who said, quote, "we need to be careful about who we jump in bed with. Evangelical Protestants do not have the means of grace." Further discussion followed about the best Lutherans being Anabaptist converts, the use of Warren's book being a "vehicle" into the Great Tradition (look - we have all of these things right here!). It was a spirited exchange.

    All of which means I guess I'd better read the book before everyone has moved on to the next new thing. :(

  2. Believe it or not, Eugene Peterson and his wife, Jan, actually ARE members of an ELCA church - in Lakeside, Montana. Of course he's still plenty Presbyterian when it comes to some of his writing, but denominationalism never has been his thing...

  3. I sensed a kind of Lutheran sensibility in his writing, so I'm not surprised. Thanks for sharing the info, though.