This review appeared in the Apr-Jun 2004 vol. 161 no. 2 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?Zondervan Publishers, Grand Rapids January 1, 2002
The Purpose-Driven Life is a sermonic work on how to live the Christian life. That this should be a New York Times “number-one bestseller” is most extraordinary. Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, is known for his influential book The Purpose-Driven Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), together with well-attended seminars for church leaders. Now in this book he presents forty bite-sized lessons on what genuine Christian living is all about. He asks the reader to covenant with a partner for the next forty days to read each chapter. The first chapter is entitled, “It All Starts with God,” and its first sentence is, “It’s not about you” (p. 17). The book is theocentric theology in a most persuasive form.
The work focuses on five purposes for life: (1) “You were planned for God’s pleasure”—worship and friendship with God. (2) “You were formed for God’s family”—community and belonging. (3) “You were created to become like Christ”—sanctification and defeating temptation. (4) “You were shaped for serving God”—servanthood, humility, and purposefulness. (5) “You were made for a mission”—evangelism, world missions, and concluding challenges. Group-discussion questions for each section, along with aids for further study, help readers integrate the book’s lessons with practical faith and behavior.
This reviewer found no flaws in this no-nonsense book about living a vital Christian life. Punchy and straightforward, the work is well crafted. To the book’s credit it is surprisingly full of Scripture, including over 750 references. Selections from fifteen different biblical translations, however, sometimes appear random, leaving the reader suspicious that more innovative readings often won the choice. At several places in the book a kind of promotionalism is evident, not so much of the author, but of the array of materials related to the “purpose-driven” organization. Theologically Warren does affirm divine judgment but just barely; while the invitation to follow Christ is persuasive, a full reading of Scripture suggests that God’s holiness and wrath are central themes of Christian faith that should not be set aside.
One Amazon.com reviewer gushed, “The book is absolutely the finest, most well-written book I have ever read, next to the Bible.” For a practical guide on the Christian life, this reviewer agrees that this book is one of the best.
—J. Scott Horrell