Thoughts on Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life

(What on Earth am I here for?)

Parts 31 through 40

Day 31

Chapter 31: Understanding Your Shape

"Only you can be you."


Warren says, "Even abilities used to sin are God-given; they are just being misused or abused."

So true! Use/Abuse is the nature of every tool worthy of the name tool.

But is sinning really a tool abuse? Or... is it part of making a good story? Watch any entertaining story, and in Chapter One someone or many people are abusing their tools. In real life, are the people who sin helping God make a good story of the earthly experience?

Curiously, Warren goes into a lot more detail about the tool of money making than he does any other. He lavishes five or six extra paragraphs on that tool, which no other tool gets. This reads like it is a market-oriented slant being slipped into this lesson.

A small quibble in the Using your Personality Section: Warren quotes the DNA in a person as having an astronomical number of possibilities. What he forgets to point out is more than 99.9% of those possibilities won't live, as in, they are total failures as genomes. This means they are not variations on the human form, which is Warren's contention. This astronomically high failure rate makes meaningless the astronomical size of the number Warren quotes.

It's a small point, but another indicator that Warren's support for his arguments can't be trusted. One of the major purposes of peer-review in science articles is to weed out this kind of hasty support for a premise, and this is one reason I trust science arguments more than Christian arguments.

Under Employing Your Experiences, we have more weak logic: Warren says, "Who could better minister to the parents of a Down syndrome child than another couple who have a child afflicted in the same way?"

Well... a lot of people could. Suppose the ministering couple lives in San Diego and speaks only English, and the ministered couple lives in the upper Amazon basin in Peru and speaks only Spanish... there could be many better choices.

I bring this up because it is another example of Warren using logic that is weak and incomplete, but on an emotional level, it feels good. Sorry, I can't respect this kind of thinking.

Day 32

Chapter 32: Using What God Gave You

"God deserves your best."


OK... I won't say again that Warren is putting words in God's mouth.

The rest of the chapter is good advice. It follows contemporary truisms about how to get the most from your life.

Day 33

Chapter 33: How Real Servants Act

"We serve God by serving others."


This chapter has the start of some interesting thinking: it may address the question of "Does a great leader act more like a storybook king, or a real-life butler?" By this I mean, does a real-life leader spend more time issuing arbitrary commands, or more time facilitating the work of those around him or her? My experience has been the latter.

I will watch to see how Warren pursues this line of thought...

Followup: he doesn't.

Day 34

Chapter 34: Thinking Like a Servant

"Service starts in your mind."


Whoa... Warren is taking us on a slippery slope here. He says, "Attitudes count more than achievements."

The slippery slope here is delusion: the thinking that, "If I'm doing something because I have the right mindset, it's OK... even if the real world result isn't OK." This kind of delusional thinking is how Bush lead America into the Iraq War and, even worse, justified trampling all over the civil liberties of those living in the US, and even those dealing with the US. The response of the US to the 9-11 Disaster has been very much in tune with this "Attitudes count more than achievements" - thinking, and the result has been a huge blunder for America.

No... this thinking may be Christian, but it is not always good for humanity.

In the second part of the chapter, he comes back specifically to relating God and Money. Interesting... that he keeps picking money as his one specific in this diverse world we live in.

Day 35

Chapter 35: God's Power in Your Weakness

"God loves to use weak people."


I read this, and I don't have much to say about it. My only thought on it is, it's cheerleading. Yeah, we all can help.

The biggest value of this concept is combating elitism and cliqueism... letting the organization get dominated by a few people who consider themselves better than the rest, and who then alienate the rest by their choices for activities. This combating elitism comes back to another concept I've been working on: enfranchisement. The more the members of a community feel enfranchised by the community, the stronger the community is. Keeping people enfranchised is, in my humble opinion, is the biggest challenge every organization and community faces.

Day 36

Chapter 36: Made for a Mission

"You were made for a mission."


Here we get definitions of ministry and mission: nice help with church jargon. Ministry is in-community stuff, mission is out-of-community stuff.

In this chapter, we get into one of those interesting exercises in thinking about 4D/2T - 3D/1T relations. This comes up when Warren talks about the Next Coming.

Warren says, "Speculating on the exact timing of Christ's return is futile, because Jesus said, 'No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.' Since Jesus said he didn't know the day or the hour, why should you try to figure it out?"

... Jesus doesn't know? This is the 4T/2D Jesus that knew he was going to be crucified even as God was planting the Tree of Knowledge! How can he not know!

If this statement has meaning, it means that in 4T/2D time, Judgment Day has not been picked out when Jesus visits Earth and talks directly to Earth people. It means that sometime after Jesus' visit (after in 4D/2T time), God will decide, "OK, time to wrap this up." and will then change the history of the universe. He will cut into the salami-that-is-our-universe (my image of how our universe looks when viewed from 4D/2T perspective), and change it to add a Judgment Day.

That day could be in our future, or, just as easily, in our past. It could, in fact, come before Jesus came to Earth, there are no restrictions on when it happens in 3D/1T time. It could still be waiting to happen, or it could have happened by now. We won't feel any difference when God makes his choice and Judgment Day happens in 4D/2T time. Only those of us who live through the changed universe, the added Judgment Day, will experience the difference. For the rest of the universe, there will be no change.

This is the implication of, "God knows, and Jesus doesn't." It's a ramification of the difference between the 4D/2T and 3D/1T universes of creator and creation.

... I hadn't thought about that before now... fascinating.

Day 37

Chapter 37: Sharing Your Life Message

"God has given you a Life Message to share."


The last part of this book presumes you've made the leap. It presumes you are now Christian, and wondering what to do next.

What is next, in Warren's thinking, is spreading the word to others. This chapter is basically outlining a personal marketing plan to sell your faith to others who might be a little interested.

It's a good example of Intellectual Darwinism. There are many things you could think about, but, in Warren's thinking, getting the message out to others is the next important one. It's important because this is the thinking that makes the church grow.

Day 38

Chapter 38: Becoming a World-class Christian

"The Great Commission is your commission."


It is interesting how important the afterlife concept is to the Christian message. If there's no afterlife, the whole house of cards falls down.

This chapter reflects that. It also reflects the very human problem of enlarging an organization by recruiting. And this is an example of idea-surviving in a Darwinist format... those versions of Protestantism which have not emphasized recruiting, such as the Shakers, have tended to wither. Those which put a lot of emphasis on recruiting, such as Warren's Saddleback Church, have grown.

But, as in biological evolution, the must be balance between competing needs -- good recruiting is a good short-term religion booster, but it isn't everything.

This is interesting.

Day 39

Chapter 39: Sharing Your Life Message

"Blessed are the balanced; they shall outlast everyone."


Balance in life is something most religions suggest is a good idea. I think it's a good idea, too. And, the older you get, the more useful I have found balance and diverse experiences to be. I find, they lead me to wisdom.

When you are young, you can be highly successful by being highly focused. If you're going to be a rock star or a famous athlete, you must be focused... which means being imbalanced. It can work spectacularly well, and high focus is much worshipped in today's culture.

But if you are too focused when you are young, then when your time passes, you become like Brittany Spears or Micheal Jackson... pretty lost and confused. It is when you are older that balance becomes useful and sustaining.

So... interestingly... the benefit of balance is an age thing.

Day 40

Chapter 40: Living with Purpose

"Living on purpose is the only way to really live. Everything else is just existing."


What strikes me as I read this chapter is how much a "city religion" early Christianity was. The travels of Paul are to various cities in the Roman Empire, and the various letters of the latter part of the New Testament are written from city to city.

This is meaningful. Remember that up until modern times, most people live in the country. Most people are farmers, and most of those people who aren't farmers, are directly supporting farmers, and still living in the countryside. But early Christianity is a city activity... interesting... I'm not sure what this means, but I'm sure it's meaningful. It will go in my Rolodex of Life's Mysteries.

As for what Warren wrote: nice summary, the advice to focus on a purpose is good advice. I just don't see the Christian part of the advice as being anything special.


Here are my final thoughts:

o The Christian message is still a silly one. It is riddled with contradictions, poor logic and poorer proof of what logic there is.

o I can still see no difference between people just talking and Christian ideas of how the universe was created and how God works. I see nothing that comes close to proving the existence of an interventionist God, much less a loving one. Instead I see a universe that is way, way too big for humans to be the center of it's meaning. If humans are the center of meaning for the universe we live in, then God is a wastrel.

o In spite of the silliness of the Christian message, the message is clearly useful to people. The ideas of Christianity have spread far and wide, and are popular with people. So, Christian thinking may not be right, but it may be valuable.

o In this study, Warren taught me how much of the New Testament is involved with the very human problem of organization building -- getting people into an organization, and getting that organization to be effective at its goals. Most of the Bible writing about what happens after Christ dies and rises, is about organization building. I hadn't thought about that before doing this study.

So... once again, I have learned from studying religion. But... I have not learned to believe in religion.

-- The End --