Purpose Drivel Quotes

My daughter came home today telling me that in their Bible class, they’ll be reading and discussing Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. I thought that PDL has just about disappeared from the scene, but I was mistaken. Although evangel­­icals are as faddish as a 30-second sound byte, they also have a way of clinging to their cherished trinkets (can anyone dig up Promise Keepers, WWJD, Prayer of Jabez, and Passion from the Museum of Evangelical Relics?).

pdlcommutersSo I thought that I should reiterate what countless others have pointed out (in addition to Scripture misuse and bad theology): that Warren quotes favorably many famous atheists, agnostics, mystics, New Agers, and anti-Christians in his book to support his ideas. Does this tell us anything about the kind of literature Warren likes reading?

For example, right on Day 1, he quotes Bertrand Russell, an atheist, to prove that life is purpose-less without belief in God! And on Day 31, he quotes Aldous Huxley to bolster his idea that we are to share our bad experiences to help others. Huxley sure did that, as he promoted the use of LSD all the way to his deathbed!

Here are a few others in the PDL:

Name Page PDL Quote Other Quote
Bertrand Russell, atheist 17 “Unless you assume a God, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless.”
Albert Einstein, scientist 22 “God doesn’t play dice.” “My position concerning God is that of an agnostic… the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a lawgiver, especially a lawgiver who works on the basis of reward and punishment.”
Thomas Carlyle, Scottish philospher, transcendentalist2, fell out of Christianity 27 “The man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder – a waif, a nothing, a no man.”
Bernie Siegel,
New Age physician
31 Warren quotes him in connection with people who survive cancer because they have “purpose” in life.
Henry David Thoreau, transcendentalist2 philospher 32 “Thoreau observed that people live lives of ‘quiet desperation.’”
George Bernard Shaw, anti-religious Irish playwright 33 “This is the true joy of life: the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one…”
Anais Nin, writer of erotic literature 41 Warren quotes Nin, a non-Christian, to persuade the reader to have a Biblical worldview, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
Brother Lawrence and Benedictine monks, contemplative mystics1 88-89 “The classic book on learning how to develop a constant conversation with God is Practicing the Presence of God.“
Gary Thomas, New Age writer, promoter of contemplative1 mantric prayer 102-
He says of worship: “If God intentionally made us all different, why should everyone be expected to love God in the same way?” (i.e., smorgasbord worship)
St. John of the Cross, 16th century counter-Reformation mystic 108 “the dark night of the soul”
Henri Nouwen, Dutch Catholic priest, writer, contemplative1 mystic 108, 269 “I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not.”
Mother Teresa, Catholic nun 125, 231 “It’s not what you do, but how much love you put into it that matters.” “Holy living consists in doing God’s work with a smile.” “I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.”
Madame Guyon, mystic, taught quietism1, a doctrine condemned as heresy even by Catholics 193 “It is the fire of suffering that brings forth the gold of godliness.” “Here [the contemplative state] everything is God. God is everywhere and in all things” (pantheism and panentheism).
Aldous Huxley, philosophical mysticist, promoter of LSD, which he used in his deathbed. 248 “Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you.” “You never see animals going through the absurd and often horrible fooleries of magic and religion… Only man behaves with such gratuitous folly.”
William James, mystical philosopher and psychologist 285 “The best use for life is to spend it for something that outlasts it.” “I personally gave up the Absolute… I fully believe in taking moral holidays.”

Other good reads on the PDL are Geneva OPC’s “A Review of the Purpose Driven Life,” “The Purpose Drive Life – Guidance or Misguided?” by Dr. Marshall C. St. John, and the funny “Purpose Driven Church Snubs Contemplative Spirituality” by sacredsandwich.com.

1According to Lighthouse Trails Research, contemplative spirituality is “a belief system that uses ancient mystical practices to induce altered states of consciousness (the silence) and is rooted in mysticism and the occult but often wrapped in Christian terminology. The premise of contemplative spirituality is pantheistic (God is all) and panentheistic (God is in all). It is “a form of meditation that endeavors to free the Christian’s mind in order to achieve a mystical experience with God. Common names for this meditation discipline are: Lectio Divina (divine reading), Centering Prayer, Entering the Silence… and Spiritual Formation” (from Sacred Sandwich).

Quietism and “breath prayers” therefore are also forms of contemplative spirituality. Warren says of breath prayers, “[U]se ‘breath prayers’ throughout the day, as many Christians have done for centuries. You choose a brief sentence or a simple phrase that can be repeated to Jesus in one breath (PDL, 89).

2Transcendentalism is an American literary, political, and philosophical movement of the early 19th century, centered around Ralph Waldo Emerson. Transcendentalists were critics of their contemporary society for its unthinking conformity, and urged that each individual find, in Emerson’s words, “an original relation to the universe.” Emerson and Thoreau sought this relation in solitude amidst nature, and in their writing (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

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