In the wake of Ashley Smith's encounter with Atlanta courthouse murderer Brian Nichols, Rick Warren's book The Purpose Driven Life has gotten a renewed round of publicity. As she was held hostage by Nichols, Smith read to him from the bible and The Purpose Driven Life. She acted heroically in this situation and has rightly received lots of praise. Because she read to Nichols from PDL the book is being credited with playing a part in the ending of this hostage drama and on March 16, Paula Zahn, sitting in for Aaron Brown, did a feature on the book.
CNN contacted Tim Challies in regard to this. Tim let it be known that he is a critic of the book and they chose not to interview him on air, apparently settling for John MacArthur instead. MacArthur voiced some criticisms of the book which were pooh-poohed by CNN as the ramblings of a jealous skeptic who believes in a "stern God."
It will probably come as a total shock to you when I say that CNN didn't represent MacArthur fairly, but yes, believe it or not, they didn't. So, Grace to You has clarified MacArthur's comments on their website, where they say, among other things:
John's critical comments about the book were brief but substantive. He highlighted some significant points where the thrust of the book is at odds with the message of Scripture. He pointed out, for example, that the true gospel is a call to self-denial, not self-fulfillment. The gospel is a message about redemption, not about life's purpose. The gospel according to Scripture deals with God's law, His grace, human depravity, redemption from sin, justification, sanctification, holiness, the nature of saving faith, and the lordship of Christ. And the true gospel's most essential features are the cross of Christ and the truth of the resurrection. None of those subjects is dealt with adequately or biblically in The Purpose-Driven Life.
Notice the rhetorical sleight of hand here on the part of CNN - instead of dealing with what MacArthur's criticisms, CNN shifted into an ad hominem attack on his character. I am reminded of the words of Elbert Hubbard who said:
"If you can't answer a man's argument, all is not lost; you can still call him vile names."
You will notice that MacArthur did not attack Warren's character, he attacked a few specific items that he was concerned about in the book. Rather than asking "is MacArthur jealous of Warren's success?" we need to ask whether or not PDL truly accurately reflects the bible's teaching on self-denial. We need to ask whether it accurately reflects the gospel's emphases on law, grace, depravity, sin, justification, sanctification, holiness, faith and Lordship? We need to know if PDL communicates the essential features of the gospel like the cross of Christ and the resurrection.
At the moment, PDL is being judged solely on the basis of it's popularity. As far as I have seen, criticisms of the book and the movement have been ruled out of order because of it's popularity. So many people have been so blessed by the book that it must be from God.
Yet, as Anatole French said ""If a million people believe a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing." The question to ask is not "is it popular?" but "is it biblically true?"
And I am not arguing that it is all bad. The book has many good features for which it can rightly be praised. But PDL has gone from being a book to being a movement. If it were just a book, we could all sit around and discuss it's pros and cons, we could take the good, throw out the bad and use the book wisely.
But since PDL has become a movement you are either for it or against it. You're in or you're out. If you are against it then you have missed the spiritual wave and are floundering in the ocean.
In and of itself the fact that CNN gives the book a positive spin doesn't damn the book. But it is obvious that the gospel of PDL is more palatable to CNN than say, MacArthur's Gospel According to Jesus. Of course that's because PDL is more newsworthy - I don't know of any situation where Gospel According to Jesus has played a role in the resolution of a hostage crisis.
At the same time, Ashley read from the bible during the hostage crisis and yet I haven't heard anyone crediting the bible with playing a role in resolving the crisis. It seems that the gospel according to PDL is more newsworthy than the gospel according to the Bible.
Hat Tip - Personal Trainer