I’m glad I’m reading The Purpose-Driven Life. It is teaching me to humble myself and put God first. It’s allowing me to get rid of my worries and let Jesus take the wheel. Most importantly, it’s teaching me simple ways to better my life, like being in constant conversation with God, memorizing Bible verses, and defeating temptation.
Okay, well, that was all a lie. I mean, in a way, I guess you could say I’m glad I’m reading it, though. For the past year, I have had an easy time pretending that no one really believes that the bible is the handbook for an ethical and healthy life. I haven’t spent a lot of time talking strictly about the errancy of the bible or the facts that blind obedience is mentally unhealthy and that when someone is tempted to do something, it’s not because Satan is whispering in their ear.
So this book is bringing me right back to where I started: questioning dangerous Christian principles. This week’s reading consisted of the following sections:
Chapter 22: Created to Become like Christ—Everyone should share the same personality. You should use your relationships with people as a means to become spiritually mature. You’re better than everyone else. Also, this chapter includes such gems as “The Bible says that all people, not just believers, possess part of the image of God; that is why murder and abortion are wrong,” and “Obedience unlocks God’s power.”
Chapter 23: How We Grow—You must “develop the mind of Christ.” Change the way you think. Rewire your brain to be “Christlike.” You should think the way that God thinks about everything. (This is a convenient way to justify any belief you have; just say that God agrees with you.) Some notable quotes are “Every choice has eternal consequences, so you had better choose wisely,” and the classic “Christianity is not a religion or a philosophy, but a relationship and a lifestyle.”
Chapter 24: Transformed by Truth—You cannot spiritually grow without the bible. As a matter of fact, you would die without it. Literally. This chapter had too many quotes for me to share all of my favorites, but here are some: “Without God’s Word you would not even be alive.” “What we need is a perfect standard that will never lead us in the wrong direction.” “When God says to do something, trust God’s Word and do it whether or not it makes sense.”
Chapter 25: Transformed by Trouble—Everything happens for a reason. Everything. Actually, God screws with you on purpose so that you know how much you need him, so you should thank him for your pain. This chapter includes my favorite quote from the whole week. In reference to Romans 8:28 about God causing everything to work together for good, Warren says, “This promise is only for God’s children. It is not for everyone. All things work for bad for those living in opposition to God and insisting on having their own way.”
Chapter 26: Growing Through Temptation—Temptation is Satan’s strategy to try to destroy you. He causes you to desire, doubt, be deceived, and disobey. This chapter wouldn’t be complete without a lovely comparison of sin to pregnancy: “A little sin is like being a little pregnant. It will eventually show itself.”
Chapter 27: Defeating Temptation—If God brings you to it, he’ll bring you through it. (Warren phrased this in as many ways as he could without saying the cliche itself. This also contradicts a lot of other points in this book, like in Chapter 25, that sometimes God gives you more than you can handle on purpose.) If you’re tempted to do something, just think about something else instead. Who needs a mental health professional when you have Rick Warren and his doctorate in ministry?
Chapter 28: It Takes Time—Spiritual maturity takes a lifetime. God’s process is a lot like that of the Allies in World War II when taking control of the South Pacific islands. Warren said it best: “Before Christ invades our lives at conversion, he sometimes has to “soften us up” by allowing problems we can’t handle. . . . Our pre-conversion experience is Jesus saying, ‘Behold I stand at the door and bomb!‘ . . . Once Christ is given a beachhead, he begins to take over more and more territory until all of your life is completely his.”
I can sometimes struggle to make response posts to extreme Christian ideas. It’s easy enough to respond to a creationist who says, “I’ve never seen a crocoduck!” They’re mistaken, and you can use evidence and science to show them why an evolutionist would never expect to see a crocoduck. But I find the problems with The Purpose-Driven Life to be self-explanatory. It’s just obvious to me that you don’t find freedom through unquestioning obedience to ridiculous rules found in an ancient text.
When Warren says that the bible “generates life, creates faith, produces change, . . . builds character, transforms circumstances, imparts joy, . . . cleanses our minds, brings things into being, and guarantees our future forever,” I wonder if we are reading the same thing. You can argue that the bible contains good things, of course, but let’s put it into perspective.
I read the entire bible in 2019. We went straight through from Genesis to Revelation, which ended up being 20-30 minutes of reading each day. We didn’t get to the the New Testament until October 2nd, and the gospels were over by November 12th. That’s half the amount of time spent on the books of Joshua through 2 Chronicles, which consisted of gruesome stories, repetitive war records, and lots and lots of cubits, genealogies, rules, and censuses. The only character trait being built by that is patience.
I shouldn’t have to remind people that inquisitiveness, critical thinking, and open-mindedness are indeed good traits, but The Purpose-Driven Life makes it so. Thanks to Rick Warren, I remember that some people still live in fear of their own minds and what could happen if they make their own way in life and leave behind an authoritarian mindset.