What do Rick Warren and Bart Ehrman have in common?
What could atheistic scholar Bart Ehrman and Mega Pastor Rick Warren's respective books have in common? (Besides the three and half stars they have on amazon) Here's a quote from the jacket of Erhman's new book-pay close attention:
Through close readings of every section of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, he discovers that the Bible offers numerous answers that are often contradictory. The prophets think God sends pain and suffering as a punishment for sin and also that human beings who oppress others create such misery; the writers who tell the Jesus story and the Joseph stories think God works through suffering to achieve redemptive purposes; the writers of Job view pain as God's test; and the writers of Job and Ecclesiastes conclude that we simply cannot know why we suffer. In the end, frustrated that the Bible offers such a range of opposing answers, Ehrman gives up on his Christian faith and fashions a peculiarly utilitarian solution to suffering and evil in the world: first, make this life as pleasing to ourselves as we can and then make it pleasing to others.
What is troubling to me is that these portions of scripture are all taken to mean that they are all talking to us right now. It comes doewn to the old "what does this mean to me" ploy. Never mind the context for which each story happens. Or that God has the right to do whatever he wants. Or that God owes us nothing. Instead, he makes man the measure (don't we all?) and puts God on the stand, when it's really the other way around. It's just bad use of the Bible in the end. And bad philosophy, for utilitarian answers to evil have the difficulty of trying to make everyone happy-but that is a very vague notion. After all, what would make a society filled with murderers, rapists and child molesters happy?
What does RW have to do with this? (BTW: I use the initials RW much like the people HERE ) I went to Borders to read through his book as my old church is on the eve of the 40 Days of Purpose (a critique of it is here) so I could get a feel for what this guy teaches. I looked at the back of the book to see what he was quoting. To his credit he does quote a lot of scripture (just as Mr. Erdhman's book will-hint hint). I was amazed at what I saw:
He quotes The Message, NIV, New Living Translation, Living Bible, New Century Version, Today's English version and The Amplified Bible to no end.
King James 4
In essence, he quotes the most loose and most paraphrased version of the Bible to teach millions of people who will buy his books. Much like Erhman, he's taking the bible out of context and forcing meanings on it that it does not have. In appendix three of his book he attempts to defend his use of many translations. In short he says, some translations miss the nuances of the Greek and Hebrew. So instead of going to the more literal translations, he goes to the broadest translations that may not adequately reflect the original intention! And then he goes on to defend his use of only parts of scripture (much like Erhman quoting scripture out of its context). He states that since Jesus and the Apostles sometimes only quoted parts of scriptures to make a point, we should too. He defends this from the fact that chapter and verse divisions were later inventions. To that I say irrelevant. A verse or sentence cannot be quoted without the immediate context of its book. Here's one for you Mr. Warren: "Jesus replied, 'Friend, do what you came for'" (Matt 26:50) and "So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself'" (Matt 27:5). Well, I guess we must go hang ourselves. I'll get the rope.
All this to say, Mr. Warren goes out of his way to proof text everything he says, by quoting a translation that fits with what he's saying. It almost felt like he looked through every translation that had the word "purpose" in the verse-even if the word had no business being there. Not to say that he's teaching terrible things, but I have to wonder at a man who is playing loose with scripture. Indeed I'll leave you with the words from amazon customers:
--I am a theologian and I read this book years ago. I actually bought into the load Warren served the church because it sounded good and he quoted the Bible. It has to be good if he quotes the Bible and the rest of the church likes it, right? Surely that many people *can't* be wrong, could they?
I was recently led to compare his book to the Bible...NOT the paraphrase, but what the Bible originally said. Look at what Warren is saying compared to the Greek and Hebrew (a good interlinear Greek and Hebrew Bible will help anyone who does not read Greek and Hebrew!) There are HUGE differences. You can't pull random verses out to support what you believe. You have to use verses in context and shoot....you should at least quote the verses in their entirety, not just crop off the part you don't like to make it seem like the entire verse was quoted! Sadly, unless you compare Warren's book to the Bible, you may not realize this is happening.
It is downright scary how many are following this blindly. It is downright scary how many churches are building and running their church based on what Warren says rather than what God gave us in His Word.
Those closest to me know that I often say "If the world is going one way, I better be going another." Sadly, I am having to change this to say, "If the church is going one way, I better be going another" because apparently most of the churches in America are on board with this crock.
--In citing 1000 scriptures throughout the book, Warren uses 15 different Bible translations interchangeably. He explains that all translations have limitations and that he uses various translations to present scriptures in a fresh way.
--As far as I can tell this book has no Christianity in it at all, by that I mean, there is nothing about the teachings of Jesus found in the gospel writings: Do to others as you would yourself, love your enemies, judge not, etc. The only thing Warren has heard Jesus saying is "go and make disciples". But without the content of Jesus' teaching, how can you do even that?
The most helpful one star reviewer says:
1. The 40 steps or whatever he calls them. There are not 40 steps that you take and magically become a good Christian. If you want to be a Christian who follows God's will, it is a whole lot more than a 40 step program. It is a life commitment.
2. The focus of the book is on fulfilling YOUR life, while the goal of Christianity should be doing God's will.
3. There are NO Old Testament quotations.
4. There are many, many verses taken completely out of context and misused to support his points.
5. It is widely used by Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah's Witness, etc. If you write a book about Christianity, and other religions feel comfortable using it to support their theology, there is probably something wrong with your book.
--It is a crying shame that this books is so popular. People fill their minds with this mush when they could be reading books with substance. If there were a 0 star option, this book would get it.
Tim Challie's (the guru of Christian book reviews and all around nice guy) Amazon review states:
Rick Warren quotes the Bible over 1,200 times in the text of The Purpose Driven Life. To do so, he uses fifteen different translations and paraphrases. Appendix 3 contains his rationale for this and he provides two reasons for the number of translations. The first is that in any single translation "nuances and shades of meaning can be missed, so it is always helpful to compare translations." The second is "the fact that we often miss the full impact of familiar Bible verses, not because of poor translating, but simply because they have become so familiar." He believes this will "help you see God's truth in new, fresh ways."
The author's logic is faulty as the two reasons he provides contradict each other. If a translation introduces something in a new and fresh way it will necessarily introduce new nuances and shades of meaning. The way to remove nuances and shades of meaning is to use as literal a translation as possible so that the words are God's alone and are not interpreted by the translator. The author can then ex posit the text, clarifying what might require clarification. This is nothing more than the traditional means of teaching what the Bible says.
We have already seen how the author has used multiple translations as well as his justification for doing so. Of even greater concern is his carelessness in his use of the Bible. He continually removes Scripture passages from their proper context in order to make them suit his purposes. He carelessly applies promises to the reader that clearly do not apply. He also distorts or changes the meanings of certain passages to make them say what he wants them to say. This is well-documented in other reviews on this site.
Having said that, I leave you with the words of Paul to Timothy:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 NASB