IX Marks Ministries has decided to focus on Rick Warren and his Purpose Driven ministries in this month’s newsletter. As part of their focus they have posted in-depth reviews of The Purpose Driven Church, The Purpose Driven Life and 40 Days of Purpose. I have deep respect for IX Marks Ministries and have been looking forward to their take on the Purpose Driven phenomenon. They are a ministry with high visibility and, more important, high credibility. Where many critics of the programs have been from Reformed or various independent churches, IX Marks is an organization staffed by Southern Baptists – the same denomination as Warren. Some of the other reviews I have read, while they contained some good information, were tainted by the author’s obvious disregard for the Southern Baptist Convention. IX Marks, though, obviously has no agenda against the Southern Baptist Convention and is able to be unbiased in this regard.
I am not writing about this to (once again) give my take on Rick Warren’s teachings – that is well-documented on this site. Rather, I want to call attention to what I think is a very biblical and unbiased examination.
The IX Marks newsletter first provides all sorts of caveats and disclaimers. So many, in fact, it is almost irritating. We are told that that “several recognized leaders of the Reformed evangelical community have critically evaluated these reviews and given constructive feedback.” Furthermore, the reviews were sent to Warren himself, though he did not have time to read and evaluation them, he did encourage IX Marks to post them, though I presume all this was done through his deputies. The rest of the disclaimer reads as follows: “First of all, let us affirm that we love and respect Rick Warren as a Christian brother, and we consider him a genuine comrade in pastoral ministry. His heart for evangelism is second to none. His passion to see people reached for Christ is pulsating, contagious, and quite frankly, convicting. His sincerity is unquestioned, and his apparent success is unparalleled. And we agree with Warren on the fundamentals of the faith. In fact, one of our primary concerns in releasing these reviews has been that we’ll be misperceived as turning our guns on our own guys if we say anything corrective. We’re not shooting at our comrade in arms here. Our intent is constructive, not destructive.”
I suppose that is all fair enough, but I do believe there have to be some differences between the Reformed theology of IX Marks and the unrepentantly Arminian theology of Rick Warren. Unless the fundamentals of the faith do not include soteriology, IX Marks must be pandering a little bit here – probably a bit too much. In the review of 40 Days of Purpose, Greg Gilbert points out all sorts of very serious misunderstandings of the Gospel and the very basics of the faith, yet concludes that this must not have been written or even approved by Warren himself. As I said, they go overboard in their desire to be non-critical. I appreciate that they do not want to begin an internal battle, yet it seems the battle lines have already been drawn and they may be running from the fight.
The reviews of The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life, written by Paul Alexander, are probably the best I have read, and I have read just about all of them. The author, after providing a summary of each book and outlining a few helpful insights, dives right to the heart of the problems in each. For The Purpose Driven Church he outlines first Interpretive Difficulties and then Methodological Difficulties, while for The Purpose Driven Life he outlines Interpretive Difficulties, Evangelistic Difficulties and Discipling Dangers. Time and space do not allow me to summarize each of the sections, but suffice it to say he brings to the surface many very serious problems. He passes over some of the less-important critiques such as the use of multiple translations in favor of larger issues, such as Warren’s use of translations that provide a meaning completely foreign to the text.
If you are still not familiar with the arguments against the Purpose Driven phenomenon or are looking for introductory material to provide to others, you could not do much better than these articles. Read them, bookmark them and keep them handy. They are great resources. Kudos to IX Marks for taking on this contentious topic and for being willing to take a stand for truth.
Here are the links: