Pastor Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life has been both a commercially successful best seller and a widely influential book in the Christian community. As a rejoinder to the fundamentalist assumptions of Warren’s book, Robert M. Price, a biblical scholar, a member of the Jesus Seminar, and a former liberal Baptist pastor, offers this witty, thoughtful, and detailed critique.
Following the concise forty-chapter structure of Warren’s book, Price’s point-counterpoint approach emphasizes the importance of reason in understanding life’s realities as opposed to Warren’s devotional perspective.
Price, who was once a born-again Christian in his youth, is in a unique position to offer an appreciation of the wisdom that Warren shares while at the same time challenging many of his main points. In particular, Price takes issue with Warren’s use of numerous scriptural quotations, demonstrating how many of them have little to do with the points Warren is trying to make. An important section of the book shows that the popular evangelical notion of “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ” is utterly without any scriptural basis.
Besides criticism, Price also provides many persuasive arguments for the use of reason as a tool for developing moral maturity and an intelligent, realistic perspective on life’s highs and lows. Ultimately, the reason-driven life offers a healthier, alternative approach to wisdom and motivation, says Price, than the simplistic answers and feel-good emotionalism at the heart of Warren’s prescription for life.
Robert M. Price is Professor of Biblical Criticism at the Center for Inquiry Institute as well as the editor of The Journal of Higher Criticism. He received the Ph.D. degree in systematic theology from Drew University in 1981. After some years teaching in the religious studies department of Mount Olive College in North Carolina, Price returned to New Jersey to pastor First Baptist Church of Montclair, the first pastorate, many years before, of liberal preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick. Price soon enrolled in a second doctoral program at Drew, receiving the Ph.D. in New Testament in 1993. His other books include Beyond Born Again, The Widow Traditions in Luke-Acts: A Feminist-Critical Scrutiny, Deconstructing Jesus, and The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man. Forthcoming titles are The Crisis of Biblical Authority, Jesus Christ Superstar: A Redactional Study of a Modern Gospel and The Amazing Colossal Apostle.