I am actually not a huge fan of Rick Warren. The Purpose Driven Life wasn’t that impressing, so I came to this book with some hesitancy and skepticism, which both turned out to be justified. However, before I tell you the wrongs, there are some rights of Warren’s book The Purpose of Christmas. (I know I am late for Christmas, but other books got ahead of it).
What we celebrate
Warren is right in pointing out that we celebrate Christmas because of Christ’s incarnation. And it should actually be a celebration. I enjoyed that he pointed out the need for us to recognize the birth of Christ being necessary for his death to occur, and his death and resurrection were necessary for our salvation. Having said this, we need to remember who not what we are celebrating. Our purpose and hope are found solely in Him. Thus we should not be angry when unbelievers do not hold the same view of Christmas as we do. It’s important to us because we love Jesus. Warren actually supports this to some extent by drawing attention to the fact that Christmas isn’t about the busy shopping season.
For all the good…
Warren does not center on the Gospel. True, he tells us the true reason for celebration, and writes about how to be saved and find peace, but his message is not focused on the Gospel. He is incredibly self-promoting (i.e: “In my book, the Purpose Driven Life…” is repeated often) and thus detracts from the message of Jesus. He tells us that Christmas is a time for celebration, salvation, and reconciliation. This is true, but his section on reconciliation is dangerous. After believing what Warren says about making peace, one could easily fall into believing that every area of life will be at peace with you. Not true. If it was, Jesus would be a liar. This is simply a different shaped prosperity gospel.
A souped up “sinner’s prayer”…
…is still an ineffective evangelism tool. The Church has a habit of dumbing down the Gospel, removing the Lordship of Christ from salvation, and giving false assurance of salvation because of a simple prayer that, when said sincerely (as Warren states on page 122) gains you access into the kingdom. The prayer will not save you (no matter how cool sounding Warren makes it), Jesus saves you.
Rick Warren is not totally at fault for this, his closing invitation prayer is a product of our environment. Where the Gospel is lacking in our text as a whole, we try to make up for it with a single, rushed prayer at the end.