This a very brief review of The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren.
There is much good in the book. There is a lot of practical advice for living a Christian life growing in Christ. The book is easy to read. The chapters are small, suited for daily reading. There is a lot of scripture quoted in it.
But -- I have severe problems with this book. I would not recommend it for a Bible study or for helping people growing in their faith in Christ. The book has several problems:
(1) Rick Warren does not present how pervasive sin is present in the Christian's life. In each area, Rick Warren presents things for us to do with an implication that we can do it and do it well enough to get God's pleasure in it. He does not display in the book a sense that all our works, even as a Christian who has followed Christ for years, is tainted with sin. In other words, Rick Warren does not state nearly enough how deep our sin is an how much we fail to measure up.
(2) Rick Warren presents God as waiting for us to respond to him. God will be more pleased with us as we do better works for him, and God will bless us more as a result. This runs counter to the theme in Scripture that God is pleased with us because of Christ's work on the cross and Christ's righteousness applied to us. Rick Warren does raise that, but where he does, he also takes away the impact of the in the next paragraph, or even the next sentence.
(3) Rick Warren consistently calls on the Christian to "do" things, and spends little time contemplating what Christ has actually done for us. As a result, the "Purpose Driven Life" becomes a book of rules to keep, laws to follow, with the gospel watered down.
(4) Rick Warren force fits the Christian life's most important aim is to find your purpose and to live it.
I looked through the book to see if these themes are consistently displayed. For instance, Rick Warren writes on page 83, that surrender, with actions for you to carry if how God will do his deepest work in you. There is no expression that God's deepest work in you was done in Christ's life and death. Warren writes about why God used Bill Bright in Campus Crusade -- that Bill Bright wrote a contract on paper that he was going to be a slave for Christ and that God blessed him as a result.
Warren writes: "God wants all of your life -- all of it. Ninety five percent if not enough. ... Surrendered people are the ones God uses. God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus, not because she was talented or wealthy or beautiful, but because she was totally surrendered to him." (p. 82) Warren does not understand that no one is totally surrendered to God -- or does not indicate it in his book.
Warren does at times express that we obey God out of gratitude of what God has done for us -- but Warren does not express our incomplete gratitude. For instance: "We obey God, not out of duty or fear or compulsion, but because we love him and trust that he knows what is best for our lives." (p. 95)
That is great, but then Warren writes: "Notice that Jesus expects us to do only what he did with the Father. his relationship with the Father is the model for our friendship with him. Jesus did whatever the Father asked him to do -- out of love. ... Thirty years of peasing God were summed up in two words: 'lived obediently'!" (p. 96).
Rick Warren does not present God who demands perfection that we cannot live up to. His presentation of the Christian life would fit well within Roman Catholicism, even Mormonism.
My concern is that this book can actually do more harm than other clearly heretical works, such as The Da Vinci Code. At least in The Da Vinci Code, Jesus and the early Christian religion is presented in such clearly heretical ways that no Christian would be lured into believing it or taking it seriously. Rick Warren’s book, on the other hand, sounds so Biblical, while its major premises are so anti-Biblical, so opposed to the gospel, that a Christian could be driven into a purpose driven unending treadmill that keeps speeding up, that they could never keep up on, and that drains their life from the release and sweetness of the gospel of Christ.
I'm not saying that Christians shouldn't read this book. It should be read with discernment. It can be useful to provide insight into popular forms of Christianity today, and with the proper instruction for the less discerning, it can be used for the practical wisdom it does have along with how to detect aberrant teaching.