The Adulation of Man in The Purpose Driven Life

It is most important therefore to analyze this widespread movement that is afflicting thousands upon thousands of souls across the world.  First degrading the nature of God to the level of a doting person who craves for a relationship with sinful mankind is part of what one finds in Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life movement.  Reading the Bible is displaced by the advice to “gather a small group of friends and form a Purpose-Driven Life Reading Group to review these chapters on a weekly basis.”[1]  “The last thing many believers need today is to go to another Bible study.”[2]  Most serious of all, in place of the Gospel, Warren merely formulates a whispered prayer and urges one to find one’s “true self.”  What is appearing before our eyes is that through this movement, Warren is opening up another access point to perdition—about which the Lord Jesus Christ clearly spoke.  He said, in distinction to Himself who is the strait gate, that “wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.[3]  As pastors and Christian workers, we must show empathy and concern for the countless thousands of people who have been taken up in this movement; and in the power, precision, and light of the true Gospel of the Lord Christ Jesus, we must expose a widespread, humanistic movement that is afflicting many souls.

The Australian 40 Days of Purpose national campaign is to take placein November 2009.  Church registration for this closed on July 31, 2009,[4] because each campaign is highly organized and meant to draw together under a plan of tightening control by the Warren group, churches that enlist in the campaign.  Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life “is more than a bestseller, it’s become a movement.”[5]  In the words of the author himself, his megachurch program is a:

“Revival awakening or miracle…Over 12,000 churches from all 50 states and 19 countries have now participated in 40 Days of Purpose.  Many of these churches have reported that it was the most transforming event in their congregation’s history.”[6]

Warren is also the founder of  This is a global, Internet community that serves to mentor pastors.  Thus, hundreds of thousands of pastors worldwide subscribe to “Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox.” For example, he states,

“As pastors, we’re good at ministering to those in need.  But there are also times when we need support.  In this issue, we’ll look at the importance of building friendships with other pastors who understand what you’re going through.  One way to start is by checking out the new – a place to hang out with ministry leaders, start your own blog, see other people’s postings, join groups, and more.”[7]

On this Webpage Warren stated,

“Our Purpose is to encourage pastors, ministers, and church leaders with tools and resources for growing healthy churches….  Every resource you purchase helps provide free resources to the over 1.5 million pastors and lay pastors in third world countries.  God has allowed us through your support to reach over 117 different countries on all 7 continents.”[8]

The movement is becoming a global empire.  Warren asserted,

“God is a global God…Much of [the] world already thinks globally.  The largest media and business conglomerates are all multi-national…Get a globe or map and pray for nations by name.  The Bible says, ‘If you ask me, I will give you the nations; all the people on earth will be yours.’”[9]

Yet Warren has overlooked the fact that this promise in Psalm 2 was made uniquely to Christ Jesus, and not to pastors and churches.  However, even the corporate world is commenting on Warren’s business prowess.  The well-known business magazine, Forbes, on its website carried the headline, “Christian Capitalism Megachurches, Megabusinesses.”  It stated,

“Maybe churches aren’t so different from corporations…Pastor Rick Warren, who founded Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., in 1980, has deftly used technology as well as marketing to spread his message….  No doubt, churches have learned some valuable lessons from corporations.  Now maybe they can teach businesses a thing or two.  Companies would certainly appreciate having the armies of nonpaid, loyal volunteers.”[10]

The “empire of influence” of which Warren boasts is attested to by thousands of pastors and Christian leaders around the world.  At least eighteen million copies of his book have been sold since its release in September 2002.  It is now selling in many translations.  Literally thousands of churches have used the book and the materials that accompany it during special campaigns called “40 Days of Purpose.”  The book is divided into forty chapters purporting to explain in 40 days the five purposes of one’s life.  The premise or principal idea of the book is found on p. 136,

“He [God] created the church to meet your five deepest needs:  a purpose to live for, people to live with, principles to live by, a profession to live out, and power to live on.  There is no other place on earth where you can find all five of these benefits in one place.”

This is a fabrication.  God created the church in the words of Scripture “that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”[11] It is Christ Jesus’ righteousness alone that God will accept as a propitiation for man’s sin and his sin nature.  This primary need of man is constantly shown in the Bible, but Warren does not even mention this foundational truth in his list of “deepest needs.”  Warren’s quick switch from God’s purpose to man’s methods falls under the first temptation ever recorded in the Bible.  Satan offered to Eve the forbidden fruit as the way of achieving a spiritual purpose, “in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.[12] Warren teaches that God “created the church to meet your five deepest needs” just as the Roman Catholic Church says, “The Church is the mother of all believers.”[13]  Warren, like Papal Rome, has switched from obedience to the Word and Person of the Living God to teaching and instituting submission to a church to achieve one’s needs.  It is the oldest and cleverest temptation known to man.

Warren Exchanges the Gospel of Christ for a Lie

The Apostle Paul showed the need for the Gospel by the fact that the whole world is guilty before God; he declared, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”[14]All are “by nature children of wrath.”[15]Guilt before God shows the need for the Gospel and, as such, is the basis for the Gospel.  Conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit drives the sinner to truly trust on Christ Jesus alone, as demonstrated in the parable told by the Lord when the publican cried out, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”[16]  With Warren, this conviction of guilt by the Holy Spirit is replaced by a psychological condition of “unconsciously punishing of oneself.”  Thus he states,

“Many people are driven by guilt….  Guilt-driven people are manipulated by memories.  They allow their past to control their future.  They often unconsciously punish themselves by sabotaging their own success.  When Cain sinned, his guilt disconnected him from God’s presence, and God said, ‘You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.’  That describes most people today—wandering through life without a purpose” (pp. 27-28).

Cain never showed any conviction of guilt, only a regret of his punishment.[17]  Rather than sin being shown to be an evil of infinite significance because it is committed against the infinite Holy God, Warren’s pop psychology defines sin as acts of people “sabotaging their own success.”  He continues,

“God won’t ask about your religious background or doctrinal views.  The only thing that will matter is, did you accept what Jesus did for you and did you learn to love and trust him?” (p. 34)

“If you learn to love and trust God’s Son, Jesus, you will be invited to spend the rest of eternity with him.  On the other hand, if you reject his love, forgiveness, and salvation, you will spend eternity apart from God forever” (p. 37).

Biblically speaking, it is absolute folly to tell an un-convicted sinner merely to “learn to love and trust God’s Son, Jesus, in order to spend eternity with Him.”  The Bible does not base an invitation into heaven on the requirement that sinners first learn to love and trust Jesus.  Rather, the Bible teaches that no one can be saved without recognition of his own sin personally against Holy God, and without repenting from that sin.  So, while it is true that it is important to learn to love and trust Jesus, this love and trust is impossible unless the Holy Spirit has convicted a person that he is a depraved sinner without any hope of doing anything for his salvation.

The Fraudulent Message Persists

Warren’s deceitful message gets worse as he proceeds in the book.  He assures his readers,

“Real life begins by committing yourself completely to Jesus Christ.  If you are not sure you have done this, all you need to do is receive and believe.  The Bible promises, ‘To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.’  Will you accept God’s offer?” (p.58)

What Warren has neglected in his teaching of John 1:12 is in the following verse, verse thirteen.  Verse 13 explains how a person is born again: “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”  Warren has completely ignored the fact that to receive and believe is not of the will of man, but of God.  It is the grace of God alone that makes a person willing to believe, because the heart is changed by God’s power alone.  Leaving out this essential point alters the focus from God to man.  Such a change of focus from God to man is lethal to salvation because there is no power within man to change himself.  This grace must come from God alone.  If, however, Warren were to teach his readers to look to God for His grace alone, he would not have a worldwide, ready-made message that is marketable and profit making.  But Warren has deemed it profitable to leave out “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”[18]  By deleting this essential factor of the Gospel, he is in fact able to teach as doctrinal truth the very thing that this verse of Scripture absolutely rules out!  For Warren, “Real life begins by committing yourself… .”  In Scripture, real life begins by the will of God, which is shown in His love and grace.  The Lord proclaims in His Word, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”[19]Eternal life is bestowed on a person not because he begins by committing himself, or by attempting to learn to love and trust Jesus, but because God gives salvation out of His mercy and grace.  Such is the written purpose of God.  Warren’s written purpose is just the opposite.  Warren advances in his counterfeit message.  He writes,

“First, believe.  Believe God loves you and made you for his purposes.  Believe you’re not an accident.  Believe you were made to last forever.  Believe God has chosen you to have a relationship with Jesus, who died on the cross for you.  Believe that no matter what you’ve done, God wants to forgive you.

“Second, receive.  Receive Jesus into your life as Lord and Saviour.  Receive his forgiveness for your sins.  Receive his Spirit, who will give you the power to fulfill your life purpose.  Wherever you are reading this, I invite you to bow your head and quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity:  ‘Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you.’  Go ahead.  If you sincerely meant that prayer congratulations!  Welcome to the family of God!” (p. 58-59)

According to Warren’s teaching, it is this prayer that one whispers that changes a person for eternity.  Instead of magnifying the enormity of sin and setting forth its eternal consequences, Warren says, “Believe that no matter what you’ve done, God wants to forgive you.”  With one broad sweeping, sweet lie he attempts to wipe out all the teaching of the prophets of the Old Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Apostles of the New Testament.  Consistently, the Bible teaches God’s abhorrence of sin and a person’s need of repentance.  Warren merely gives a whispered prayer in place of the Gospel.  It is difficult to envisage a greater insult to the Lord Jesus Christ, whose perfect life and perfect sacrifice are the basis of genuine salvation.  Before God granted mercy and forgiveness, sin had to be punished and true righteousness established.  God’s holiness demanded the perfect life and perfect sacrifice of Christ Jesus to satisfy His wrath against sin.  But for Warren, as we have seen, guilt over one’s sin is said to be “sabotaging [your own] success.”  The whole concept of sin having to be punished and true righteousness being established, is totally missing from Warren.  This omission makes it possible to delete the concept of grace as the means of obtaining that perfect righteousness.  According to Warren’s imaginary salvation, one need only, “Bow your head and quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity.”  In Scripture, salvation is God’s action based on Christ’s finished work on the cross that is credited to the true believer, “being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”[20]  God’s direct action shows His grace so that our eyes are fixed on Him in faith.

Understanding Warren’s counterfeit message, and outrageously presumptuous “welcome to the family of God,”fits as an example underthe words of the Lord Jesus,“woe unto you…for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men.”[21] Warren exchanges the Gospel for a lie.  He deletes repentance and inserts a whispered prayer, which insults the meaning and application of redemption.  This replacement of Warren’s purpose for God’s purpose has dreadful consequences.  As the Apostle Paul warned, “though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”[22]  Christ Jesus the Lord and His Gospel cannot be insulted with impunity.

Self-worth in the Adulation of Man

Basic to Warren’s program is the strong appeal of promised, instantaneous results in the enhancement of one’s self-worth.  What is completely ignored is the solemn fact that by nature man is a fallen creature, alienated from the life of God, “dead in trespasses and sins.[23]  Man’s only hope is outside of himself and in Christ Jesus alone.  Although Warren states that the book is “not about you” (p. 17), the main focus is persistently on building up one’s “self-worth.”  He continually appeals to the reader’s self-interests.  The following are some examples,

“The way you see your life shapes your life.  How you define life determines your destiny” (p. 41).

“You are a bundle of incredible abilities, an amazing creation of God.  Part of the church’s responsibility is to identify and release your abilities for serving God” (p. 242).

“The best use of your life is to serve God out of your shape.  To do this you must discover your shape, learn to accept and enjoy it, and then develop it to its fullest potential” (p. 249).

This equates exactly with Hinduism in its teaching, “By understanding your true Self, by coming to know one’s own undying soul, one then arrives at the knowledge of Brahman itself…”[24] While his teaching is comparable with Hinduism, Warren’s teaching is more aligned with the psychology of Carl Jung.  Discovering one’s “power of the inner voice” or one’s fullest potential is what Jung taught.  Jung wrote, “Only the man who can consciously assent to the power of the inner voice becomes a personality.”[25]  What is more serious is that Warren’s teaching has the same basic premise as Roman Catholicism.  The Vatican’s official foundational starting point is man himself.  Rome states,

“When he [man] is drawn to think about his real self he turns to those deep recesses of his being where God who probes the heart awaits him, and where he himself decides his own destiny in the sight of God.”[26]

Warren’s statement, “…you must discover your shape, learn to accept and enjoy it, and then develop it to its fullest potential” is the same basic theory, not only of the Church of Rome and of Hinduism as we have already seen, but also Islam and Buddhism.  All of these false religions have their foundational point the basic goodness of mankind.  Warren summarizes this basic foundation in the following words,

“If you are that important to God, and he considers you valuable enough to keep with him for eternity, what greater significance could you have?”  (p. 63)

The Scriptures, however, depict no such value (or goodness) within man.  Rather the Holy Spirit teaches that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?”[27] “Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.”[28]  The craze of finding your “true self” and one’s “true worth” were the hallmarks of the 1960 hippy culture.  Now in Rick Warren’ glorification of man, these hallmarks are popularized across the world in a debased form of Christianity.

Human Worth Given as the Purpose of Christ’s Sacrifice

Warren teaches this same glorification of man in many different ways.

“You only bring him [God] enjoyment by being you.  Anytime you reject any part of yourself, you are rejecting God’s wisdom and sovereignty in creating you” (p. 75).

“When you are sleeping, God gazes at you with love, because you were his idea.  He loves you as if you were the only person on earth” (p. 75).

But Warren does not stop here with his adulation of man.  The height of his glorification of man is found in the statement that makes the personal worth of the reader the purpose of Christ’s death on the cross.  In doing so, “self-worth” is pushed to the point not only of perverting the Gospel but also of insulting the Lord Himself.  Warren states,

“If you want to know how much you matter to God, look at Christ with his arms outstretched on the cross, saying, ‘I love you this much!  I’d rather die than live without you’” (p. 79).

These words “I’d rather die than live without you” are part of a lyric of The Backsteet Boys.[29]  These words, put into the mouth of the Lord Christ Jesus by Warren, are utter blasphemy.  Christ Jesus, the God-man, does not have a love that is dependant on man.  If he had such a dependancy, He would not be God.  To teach such a deficient love of the Lord Jesus Christ, as Warren has, is both an insult and irreverence.  It exalts sinful man to a position of controlling and fulfilling the imagined needs of the eternal Son of God Such an imagination is profanity, the same as that recorded in Scripture, “He opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name.”[30] In Scripture, Christ’s love and sacrifice were to demonstrate that God is, in the words of Scripture, “just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.[31]  Nevertheless, Warren’s teaching attempts to make the adulation of man the centerpiece of God’s purpose.

In Scripture, the focus of God’s purpose was the demonstration of His justice and holiness in the Person and sacrifice of Christ Jesus.  Sinful man was included in this great manifestation of the righteousness of God as a recipient by grace of the redemption paid.  Warren’s grandiose glorification of sinful man to the extent that Christ Jesus would rather die than to live without him totally reverses the biblical message that God does all for His own glory.  All is of Him and from Him and, therefore, all is to Him and for Him.  He made all creation according to His will and for His praise.  The Lord God Almighty’s purpose exposes the ridicule, vainglory, and even blasphemy of Rick Warren.

Fallen man is depraved in every part of his nature and being, and it is not within his power to undo his depravity, to save or rescue himself.  To try to aggrandize fallen man, as Warren does, is futile because there is no moral salvation in man’s worth.  A person’s only hope lies outsideof himself in Divine worth and power.  Human nature, as such, is dead in trespasses and sins.  Water, under its own power and without aid of any kind, cannot flow uphill, nor can the natural man under his own power, with or without aid of any kind, act contrary to his corrupt nature.  All human beings are destitute of the principles and powers of spiritual life.  They are cut off from God, the Fountain of life.  They are spiritually dead, even as a condemned criminal waiting execution is said to be a dead man.  If the principle of self-worth and the ability to choose Christ were true, the conclusion would inevitably follow that those who used their ability to choose Christ could lawfully boast of their active participation in their salvation.  But the truth is that faith itself is God’s gift, “for by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”[32]  Until one realizes his personal condition of being spiritually dead before the All Holy God, one will never properly appreciate God’s grace.  Salvation begins not in self-worth and self-movement but by divine power.  Scripture is utterly clear on this matter:  “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.”[33]  “For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”[34]  God gives life to the spiritually dead will of man, not by “offering” His grace, but by “giving” His grace.  When chosen by God unto salvation,[35] the power of the Holy Spirit overcomes the pride of the natural man, so that one is ready to come to Christ to receive life. [36]  In the Lord’s own words,“the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.”[37]As the Lord also explained,“It is written in the prophets, and they shall be all taught of God.  Every man therefore that has heard, and has learned of the Father, comes unto me.[38]

“Self-salvation” promoted on the basis of human worth and dignity is ingrained in human nature.  It is found in all man-made religions.  It is pivotal to the message of Warren’s book and movement.  Warren’s teachings denythe biblical truth that man is totally depraved.  Subsequently, whether he knows it or not, he denies the absolute necessity of God’s grace.  The relationship between spiritual death and grace is graphically given in Scripture, “that as sin has reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”[39]  Without emphasizing the total depravity of those to whom the Gospel is given, the Gospel will remain a dead letter.  In leaving out the biblical truth that “there is none righteous, no, not one[40] and substituting for it the self-worth of man, Warren’s arrogance has reached such a level that one must ask, “Is there no fear of God in his eyes?”

Involvement with the Catholic Church

Since Warren’s policy is to implement church growth without respect to biblical doctrine, it is no wonder that Catholic churches, Mormon churches, and women preachers are now enthusiastically joining in the Warren church growth program.[41]  Besides this, Warren endorses Catholic mystics.  He quotes from Catholic mystic Brother Lawrence, endorsing his Catholic contemplative prayer techniques, which he says are “helpful ideas.”  Brother Lawrence was not only traditionally Roman Catholic, but he also disseminated teachings that have similarities with Hinduism in the Bhagavad-Gita, and with many New Age writers.  Warren endorses him and goes on later to recommend “breath prayers.”  He teaches,

“Many Christians use ‘Breath Prayers’ throughout their day.  You choose a brief sentence, or a simple phrase that can be repeated to Jesus in one breath:  ‘You are with me.’  ‘I receive your grace.’  ‘I’m depending on you.’  ‘I want to know you.’  ‘I belong to you.’”[42]

For centuries, Catholic mystics have practiced “breath prayers” such as these.  They are simply the Catholic form of old Greek mysticism and are akin to the mantras of Hindus.  In his book, Warren approvingly cites the well known Catholic mystic Madame Guyon (p. 193).  He also approves of St. John of the Cross (p. 108), and the Catholic priest, mystic, psychologist, and ecumenist, Henri Nouwen (pp. 269- 270).  He warmly agrees with Mother Teresa (pp. 125, 231).  Warren thus propagates these Catholic mystics and their hazardous techniques.  Yet biblical truth remains:  there is no experiential consciousness of the Lord God possible apart from the Person, unique life, and sacrifice of Christ Jesus.[43]  Warren, however, presents a deceitful, mystical agenda, which the world loves and accepts, but which is an abomination before the Lord God.

Conclusion and Consequences

The “40 Days of Purpose” campaign, i.e., of purpose and community, is distinct from other movements that have arisen in recent times.  Warren asks pastors to devote their church and their people to an intensive forty days of reprogramming their understanding of God, Christ, and how one becomes a Christian.  He promises at the end of forty days that the church will be transformed.  Through his book and the agenda laid out, he teaches for forty days on nearly every aspect of church life.  This type of interference in the running of a local church opens the way for an insidious takeover of that church.  In Scripture, the function of local pastors is to teach and be watchmen and guardians of the flock the Lord has given to each of them.  “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.”[44]  For local pastors and elders to hand over their position before the Lord to another, who will for seven weeks teach his own doctrinal messages based on a multitude of flawed paraphrases of Scripture, is utterly unbiblical.  It is their duty to keep out all such debased ideas that would infiltrate every important area of the church life.

The true Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  That is where we solidly stand and what we solidly proclaim.  “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever.  Amen.[45]

Permission is given to copy this article.

Richard Bennett’s MP3s are easily downloaded, and some of his DVDs can be seen on Sermon Audio at:

[1] The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 2002) p. 307

[2] The Purpose Driven Life, p. 231

[3] Matthew 7:13

[4] 4/8/2009

[5] Bruce Ryskamp, president of Zondervan as posted on 10/22/04

[6]  This link was available in 2004 before a commitment had to be made

[7] 5/28/2009

[8] This link was in 2004 before a commitment had to be made

[9] This link was in 2004 before a commitment had to be made

[10] 10/22/04

[11] Philippians 2:11

[12] Genesis 3:5

[13] Catechism, Para. 181  (Emphasis not in original)

[14] Romans 3:19

[15] Ephesians 2:3

[16] Luke 18:8

[17] Genesis 4:12-14

[18] John 1:13

[19] Romans 9:15-16

[20] Romans 3:24

[21] Matthew 23:13

[22] Galatians 1:8

[23] Ephesians 2:1

[24] Atman and Brahman as explained on

[25] The Development of Personality Collected Works 17 as quoted on: 11/18/04  We recommend this webpage for a detailed explanation of how Warren’s teaching is like Carl Jung’s.

[26] Vatican 11 Documents Gaudium et Spes, 7 Dec. 1965, in Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, Austin Flannery, Editor (Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Co, 1975) Vol. I, Sec. 14, p. 915

[27] Jeremiah 17:9

[28] Jeremiah 17:5

[29] 11/16/04

[30] Revelation 13:6

[31] Romans 3:26

[32] Ephesians 2:8-9

[33] James 1:18

[34] Philippians 2:13

[35] Ephesians 1:4 “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world…”

[36] Ps. 110:3  “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power…”

[37] John 5:25

[38] John 6:45

[39] Romans 5:21

[40] Romans 3:10

[41]  11/13/04

[42]  This link was in 2004 before a commitment had to be made

[43] See our article on The Mystic Plague on our WebPage:

[44] Acts 20:28

[45] Hebrews 8:20-21