Context: Got this for my birthday and read it to the sound of demolition work over the road from our house in the UK.
In 2002, Rick Warren published a book called The Purpose-Driven Life and started a world-wide spree in which Purpose-Driven became one of the catchphrases of the modern evangelical church. For better or worse, being part of the modern church, you cannot help but come across this material.
One man, the aptly titled Warren Smith, doesn’t feel that Rich Warren is as genuine as he appears to be and his book tells us why.
Personally, I have a quite rational loathing of most Christian conspiracy theory literature. My main reason for this is that it is usually entirely groundless with reams of so-called facts and a list of references to back these up that is shorter than the bibliography of the average children’s book.
Such groundless claims do us all more harm than good but one thing that Smith cannot be faulted on is his research. This guy has done his homework and I was pleased to see that he could back up every claim he made. While this was praiseworthy, it was, however, the strongest feature of the book.
Smith has come from a new age background and that makes him especially sensitive when it comes to reading between the lines. This man has been, in the past, deceived very painfully and is, therefore quite rightly, wary of what he is told today.
This is both a good and bad thing. I agreed with one or two points he made about Warren’s book. To say that God is “in everything” is entirely confusing for any Christian because it implies a pantheist theology. Rick Warren would do well to correct this mistake and Smith is right to point it out.
But many of Smith’s connections between Rick Warren and new age writers are tenuous to say the least and he could do with a bit of a stronger insight into proper discourse analysis to lend weight to any claims here. The book spends a lot of time exposing Robert Schuller as someone to avoid but I felt that anyway. Smith justifies the amount of time on Schuller by then demonstrating how much of Schuller’s writing is incorporated into Rick Warren’s.
I couldn’t help feel that this was more guilty by association than a deliberate ploy by Rick Warren to lead the church into new age theology. However, the book did make me more conscious that I have to be more careful in my reading of whatever happens to be hip in the modern church.
Finally, The Message comes in for quite a battering. Sure, the translation has its weaknesses but I think Warren Smith needs to do more research on what the point of Bible translation is. Comparing it to the King James’ version as the golden standard is to shoot yourself in the foot. The King James’ can equally be demonstrated to be tainted with the twisted doctrines of the times.
terrible > poor > mediocre > okay > good > very good > excellent > superb