The Purpose Driven Life

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First--Alleluia, He is Risen! Easter Greetings to all.

A number of people are responding to an upsurge in interest over the Rev Rick Warren's religious self-help book and this link will take you to my original response to it.

My tone may have mellowed as the book has slipped completely out of my thoughts, but time has not changed my mind. As with many books from the Evangelical Self-Help shelves the glow passes almost before you get it out of the shop. If you're really interested in improving any aspect of your religious life and you want something out of the Catholic fold, I would recommend almost anything by Dallas Willard (you can read some samples of his writing). In particular, I found The Divine Conspiracy insightful and helpful.

Richard J Foster, a modern Quaker writes some extremely helpful books. My favorite among them because it enters into its subject with such great depth and delicacy is The Freedom of Simplicity. In this work Foster rediscovers and refurbishes the truths of the faith known since Gospel times.

And on the Philosophical side the entire Plantinga Family: Cornelius (Neil) with the magnificent Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin , Alvin, and Harry, who runs the magnificent e-text site Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

It is wise, however, to remember that the Catholic Church has all of this ground covered and more. We do not need to stray outside the fold to learn about how to love and serve others--Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Katherine Drexel teach us in both short writings and their lives. And so with all the other aspects of The Purpose Driven Life--such purpose is easily found by those who steep themselves in the richness of Catholic tradition.

There are many places from which to take substantive nourishment, do not be lured by the heightened popularity of a single source. Like The Prayer of Jabez, you may experience a momentary heightened emotional sensation, but when it passes, you will find nothing memorable--at least, if you've been a Christian for more than a few years. Perhaps Warren's attraction is more for those new to the faith and learning. But think about Warren's book as a tent-rivival between hard covers. That will give you a sense of what goes on in the text. There is nothing evil here, simply shallow, vacuous, and ultimately unsatisfying.

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While I agree substantively with what you write, I do think that there are "baby" christians out there who need to be led along slowly and carefully into the new walk with Christ. Jesus didn't ask everyone to be at the same place along the path. Perhaps PDL is a starting point for some before they are ready for a more steady diet of meat and potatoes. If we can learn the lesson that Jesus/Father/HS loves us–has a plan for our lives–and never abandons us, we have a large part of the message of the gospel under our belts. If the PDL begins to unwrap that for people, it will have fulfilled a service by taking up shelf space. The hope then is that people will be led to pursue more substantial meals–Willard, Foster, Merton, Nouwen, Stinnisen (SP?), Bonehoffer, Tillich, Buber, the Desert Fathers, and so on.
Yours in Christ,

I agree with you, but to the extent that this book will expose the reader to some quotes of C.S. Lewis and perhaps give him an impetus to launch out in reckless abandon from his usual fill-in-the-blank or multiple choice workbooks, that stifle any kind of independent thinking or reflection, (that a certain Protestant denomination has such an affinity for), A Purpose Driven Life has its redeeming spiritual value.

Hi All,

You will note in the last paragraph, I agreed with both of you. For new Christians this would be fine. As to C.S. Lewis quotations, one would do far better to read Lewis himself.

But different strokes for different folks, and I don't see this work as a particular help spiritually, intellectually, or in any other way to people who have been living their Catholic relgious life for some time. There are other books and venues for that.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on March 28, 2005 8:15 AM.

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