Wednesday, May 12, 2004

104 DaVinci Code and Purpose Driven Life

For every 10 copies of The DaVinci Code sold, Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life sells 8.9, according to The USAToday. Our church is doing both--we’re studying the Warren book as a congregation, and offering a Sunday School class on how to confront the untruths in the Brown book. As a book lover, I’m pleased that people are excited, animated and passionate about books.

All careless or Calvinist theology aside (some Christian groups and denominations dislike Warren’s book), The Purpose Drive Life is a masterpiece of clarity and readability. I particularly like the first sentence of each chapter--if you read nothing else, you’ll get something out of that. Another problem Warren avoids is loading the text with cobbled-together anecdotes. So often when I read a Christian life-style or how-to book, I want to shout, “Stop the inanity and get to the point.” The starting point of each chapter is briefly restated or paraphrased in a box at the end of the chapter with a verse to remember and a question to consider. His chapters are rarely longer than 3 or 4 pages, accommodating the short attention span of most Americans.

Also, Warren (or his editors) have a lively, poetic writing pace. Note this sentence in p. 186 which would work well entoned from a pulpit with an African-American pastor’s call and response style, or as poetry to be memorized and recited (I‘ve reformatted, but not changed the punctuation or phrasing):
God’s Word
generates life,
creates faith,
produces change,
frightens the Devil,
causes miracles,
heals hurts,
builds character,
transforms circumstances,
imparts joy,
overcomes adversity,
defeats temptation,
infuses hope,
releases power,
cleanses our minds,
brings things into being,
and guarantees our future forever!
Where Warren doesn’t succeed is also where many other Christian authors fail. Because he writes for the believer, he pretty much skips over a clear explanation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, giving a casual nod to justification and focusing all his efforts on sanctification. Some of those millions buying this book must be seekers or unbelievers.

Without a foundational knowledge of sin, repentance and Christ’s death and resurrection, this book could become just another “honey do” job jar for church goers. Chapter 24, from which I took the above quote, is devoted exclusively to the importance of God’s Word, and actually outlines a step-by-step list of “must do” for abiding in the Word. No single chapter is devoted to the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Living Word.

Also, it is extremely distracting for the Christian reader to have fifteen English translations and paraphrases of the Bible interwoven in the author’s comments, two of which, The Message and The Contemporary English Version, are quite unfamiliar. To determine what you are reading, it is necessary to flip to the notes at the end of the book, find the chapter and verse, then re-read in a familiar translation to check its accuracy. Frankly, if I can’t even recognize the verse, I’d at least like to know without flipping pages if I am reading Paul or David!

But in balance, the Warren book is a good read and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.

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