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An Atheist Reads The Purpose-Driven Life: Purpose #3 
Thursday, January 31st, 2013 | 08:10 am [purpose-driven life, video, vlog]
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An Atheist Reads The Purpose-Driven Life

Purpose #3: You Were Created to Become Like Christ


  • From the very beginning, God’s plan has been to make us like his son, Jesus. He states his intention in Genesis, when he creates man and says “Let us make human beings in our image and likeness.”
    • So that’s why God uses plural pronouns in Genesis — he’s not referring only to himself, he’s talking things over with Jesus! And even though Jesus was never specifically mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament or the literature and culture of Judaism until Christianity was founded on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, he was totally there the whole time! So he’s like the Borg Queen.
  • Warren writes that humans, unique among all creatures, are made in the image of God. What does this mean?
  • “We don’t know all this phrase covers, but we do know some of the aspects it includes: Like God, we are spiritual beings — our spirits are immortal and will outlast our earthly bodies; we are intellectual — we can think, reason, and solve problems; like God, we are relational — we can give and receive real love and we have a moral consciousness — we can discern right from wrong, which makes us accountable to God.” (Rick Warren, THE PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE, pp. 171-172)
    • So we know that we are immortal spiritual beings, do we? We know that?
    • Also, if having a moral consciousness makes us like God, does that mean God’s moral consciousness works the same way ours does? Because according to Warren, God is who defines what is right and wrong, and we are only observing his standard. But if that’s the way it works, then God’s moral consciousness is not like ours at all, because God is not aware of a moral standard — he is the moral standard. And as such, by definition, nothing he does will ever be wrong, because in that system “right” is defined as “that which God does,” and “wrong” is defined as “that which God doesn’t do.” It also goes without saying that while our moral consciousness makes us accountable to God, God is not accountable to anyone. So I think Warren’s concept of our moral consciousness and its likeness to God is incoherent. We can’t have a moral consciousness like God if God is also the source of our moral standards.
  • “The Bible says that all people, not just believers, possess part of the image of God; that is why murder and abortion are wrong.” (p. 172)
    • Thanks for clearing up that pesky abortion issue, Rick! And I bet some of you thought murder was wrong because it violated the rights of another person, or, if tolerated, would ultimately destroy our civilization. Nope! Image of God! Jerks.
  • So we were created to be like God, and in Jesus we see the full image and likeness of God, so we’re supposed to be like Jesus. But Warren stresses that this doesn’t mean we are to become gods ourselves. He calls this idea a “prideful lie” and “Satan’s oldest temptation.”
    • In your face, Mormons!
  • Warren says our desire to be gods shows itself when we try to control our circumstances, futures, and each other.
    • Yes, wanting some control over your own life is truly the most heinous form of blasphemy.
  • God doesn’t want us to become gods; he wants us to become godly. To do this, he needs to develop our character. This is why life is difficult — God treats us like shit in order to develop our character.
    • Ah yes, the “How else ya gonna learn?” strategy. That always works.
  • Warren says that many Christians misinterpret Jesus promising them an “abundant life” as Jesus promising them a “good” life. Remember: life isn’t about serving our own selfish purposes (like personal happiness); it’s about serving God.
  • “Why would God provide heaven on earth when he’s planned the real thing for you in eternity? God gives us our time on earth to build and strengthen our character for heaven.” (p. 173)
    • Because that’s where we’ll really need strong character — in Heaven. Where everything is perfect.
  • God uses the Holy Spirit to train us up, get us into Jesus shape, but for that to work, there are three things we need to realize.
  • First, we have to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Because one-third of the all-powerful triune god that created space-time and everything in it can’t help us unless we help ourselves. This means trusting God and stepping out in faith, like Joshua did when he stepped into the floodwaters of the Jordan River. God won’t help us until we show that we trust him.
    • If there aren’t any flooding rivers to step into near you at the moment, I suggest crossing a busy street without watching for traffic. Just trust that God will see you safely to the other side. And hey, if you get hit by a car, take comfort in knowing that it was all part of God’s plan and that nothing we do means anything because it was all orchestrated in advance without our knowledge or consent.
  • Cooperating with the Holy Spirit also means letting go of our old, godless ways, changing the way we think by allowing God to direct our thoughts (I thought he does that anyway), and striving to act more like Christ, which I guess means treating your mother like shit and fucking up other people’s property.
  • Also, remember that God uses the Bible, other people, and circumstances to make you more Christ-y. The Bible is a source of truth, other people are a source of support, and circumstances provide an environment for you to hone your Christ-y-ness.
  • And finally, remember that becoming like Christ is a long, slow process.
  • “Your spiritual transformation in developing the character of Jesus will take the rest of your life, and even then it won’t be completed here on earth. It will only be finished when you get to heaven or when Jesus returns.” (pp. 176-177)
    • Because one of those two things is totally going to happen.
    • I detect another inconsistency in Warren’s thinking here. It takes our whole lives to mold us into the people God wants us to be. But the process is finished when we get to Heaven or when Jesus returns? What if Jesus returns the day after my conversion, when my spiritual growth has barely begun? Or what if I’m hit by a bus, or I don’t convert until I’m a very old man? Is Warren saying that my metamorphosis into a Christlike person is just magically completed whenever I get to Heaven, or Jesus comes back? And if that’s the way it works, why make everyone else do it the hard way? I mean, I know the reason is because Warren’s God is a fucked-in-the-head sadist, but that’s not how Warren sees it. I wonder if this makes any sense to him.


  • God wants us to grow up, Warren says. Spiritually, that is. Not intellectually, obviously, because if you grow up intellectually, then spirituality is something you’re more likely to grow out of, and we wouldn’t want that, now would we?
  • Growing spiritually requires a total commitment and real effort on your part. But you’re not in it alone. There’s your part, and there’s God’s part.
  • “Christlikeness is the result of making Christlike choices and depending on his Spirit to help you fulfill those choices.” (p. 180)
    • Inventing words like “Christlikeness,” arbitrarily capitalizing common nouns like “Spirit” — cult leaders do that, don’t they?
  • The way it works is, we have to change the way we think and act to be more like Christ, but the Holy Spirit will help us to do it. This help will be undetectable and indistinguishable from our own effort and will, but it will be there. And remember from an earlier chapter that if you ever feel like it isn’t there, don’t worry, that’s just God fucking with you to see what you’ll do, because he does that all the time.
  • Warren compares the process of changing our thinking with changing the autopilot on a speedboat.
    • Ooooh, Mr. Bigshot Megachurch Pastor, got a self-driving speedboat!
  • We change our autopilot by thinking like Jesus. And we get into the habit of thinking like Jesus by first, stopping immature thinking (which Warren defines as selfish, non-God-centered thoughts), and starting mature thinking, which means thinking of others first.
  • “Thinking of others is the heart of Christlikeness and the best evidence of spiritual growth. This kind of thinking is unnatural, counter-cultural, rare, and difficult.” (p. 183)
    • This quote strikes me as slightly misanthropic. You? Thinking of others can be difficult at times. It is rare in certain contexts. But I don’t think such a sweeping generalization as Warren makes in this quote can be justified. Whether as a result of evolution or, as Warren asserts, intentional design, we are social animals. Just because we don’t always think of others doesn’t mean thinking of others is unnatural or rare or difficult for most of us, most of the time. Thinking of others is just as much in our natures as is thinking of ourselves. The two things aren’t mutually exclusive. Human nature is complicated, which might be why a simpleton like Rick Warren has so much trouble understanding and explaining it.


  • The truth transforms us, Warren says in the opening line. I’m sure he thought restating the title of each chapter in the first sentence was a great device. But, as with so, so many other things, he was wrong.
  • When we undergo spiritual growth, we replace lies with truth. That truth comes from God’s Word, which for us means the Bible. Warren says that without the word of God, we wouldn’t even be alive, so we should hold the Bible to be just as important as food.
  • “Job said, ‘I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.’” (p. 186)
    • Yes, but Job spoke with God personally. For Job, God was a friend, an actual person with whom he had real, physical interaction, not a character in a book written thousands of years ago.
  • “God’s Word is the spiritual nourishment you must have to fulfill your purpose. The Bible is called our milk, bread, solid food, and sweet dessert.” (p. 186)
    • Would you like to guess where the Bible is called these things? I’ll give you a hint: in the Bible.
  • Abiding in God’s Word is necessary to attain true spiritual nourishment. To abide in God’s Word, there are three things we need to do.
  • Thing One: Accept the Bibles authority. The Bible must be the ultimate standard by which we live our lives. Unlike the other, flawed authorities we turn to — culture, tradition, reason, and emotion — the Bible is perfect and will never lead us astray.
  • “Solomon reminds us, ‘Every word of God is flawless,’ and Paul explains, ‘Everything in the Scriptures is God’s Word. All of it is useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live.’” (p. 187)
    • Again, where can we find those declarations from Solomon and Paul about the perfection of the Bible? In the Bible. To convince me to trust the Bible ahead of reason, Rick Warren employs circular reasoning. There are times when critiquing this book feels like shooting fish in a barrel, and there are times when it feels like beating a quadriplegic with a baseball bat.
  • Warren advises us to follow Paul’s advice, and believe everything that was written in the Prophets.
    • In other words, start thinking like Jesus by not thinking anymore.
  • Thing Two: Assimilate the Bible’s truth. Don’t just believe in the Bible — study it. To properly study the Bible, use the 5 R’s: receive, read, research, remember, and reflect. These are pretty self-explanatory, I think, except for research. By research, Warren doesn’t mean “research.” He means reading the Bible and writing down your own insights about the text. You might think that by “research” he meant looking into the history of how the stories in the Bible originated, how the various books were copied and edited through the generations and eventually compiled into the modern canon, studying history to place the Bible in its proper context and to discern which events depicted in the Bible actually happened and which are legendary, and comparing the claims of the Bible with known history and scientific fact to get a sense of how our understanding of the world has expanded and deepened these last several millennia. That’s not what he means! Do not do that, any of that, under any circumstances!
  • Thing Three: Apply the Bible’s principles. (Jesus Christ — Accept, Assimilate, Apply? The three A’s, the five R’s — how about describing this book using the four F’s: foolish, feeble fucking fatuity.
  • Anyway, we apply the Bible’s principles when we implement what we’ve learned. Warren suggests writing down actions we intend to take as a result of reading the Bible, and give ourselves a deadline by which to do it.
  • “Before reading the next chapter, spend some time thinking about this question: What has God already told you to do in his Word that you haven’t started doing yet?” (p. 192)
    • I don’t even have to think about it, Rick. The answer is “nothing.” If God exists and he has something to say to me, he can speak to me directly and unambiguously just like he supposedly did to the people who wrote the Bible. I don’t infer personal messages from ancient texts. If you had more sense, you wouldn’t, either.


  • God uses the difficult circumstances in our lives to develop our character and make us more like Christ. God uses problems to make us draw closer to him.
  • “Because God is sovereignly in control, accidents are just incidents in God’s good plan for you. Because every day of your life was written on God’s calendar before you were born, everything that happens to you has spiritual significance. Everything!” (p. 195)
    • Including that time you were finally overcome by despair and committed suicide.
  • Warren quotes Romans 8:28-29: “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son.” (Romans 8:28-29 NLT)
  • Warren then parses this verse a few words at a time, taking another entire page to say what the verse itself says in a few lines.
  • “We are like jewels, shaped with the hammer and chisel of adversity. If a jeweler’s hammer isn’t strong enough to chip off our rough edges, God will use a sledgehammer. If we’re really stubborn, he uses a jackhammer.” (p. 196)
    • With methods like that, how the fuck did God ever get credentialed as a jeweler? He must have written it into the divine plan.
  • You need to learn to respond to problems as Jesus would. To do this, keep in mind the three R’s — which you should distinguish from the five R’s we discussed earlier, and from the other three R’s, which are actually useful. This version of the three R’s is: Remember (that God’s plan is good), Rejoice (and give thanks, no matter how horrible God is intentionally causing your life to be), and Refuse (to give up, no matter how much pain and suffering God puts you through in order to build your character).
  • “You know you are maturing when you begin to see the hand of God in the random, baffling, and seemingly pointless circumstances of life.” (p. 199)
    • That might be a sign of schizophrenia, actually.


  • Temptation is an opportunity to do good, because every time you deny temptation and do the right thing instead, you are becoming that much more like Christ.
    • For instance, you might be tempted to not kill someone else’s fig tree, or to not send demons into someone else’s pigs and watch them charge off a cliff, or to not wreck someone else’s currency exchange business. But if you want to become like Christ, you must resist these temptations.
  • If we strive to be like Christ, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide our lives, we will experience nine fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
  • “This next sentence is one of the most important spiritual truths you will ever learn: God develops the fruit of the Spirit in your life by allowing you to experience circumstances in which you’re tempted to express the exact opposite quality!” (p. 202)
    • So much for humility. “Listen up, because my next sentence will be one of the most important things you’ll ever hear.” And it’s the same thing we’ve been reading about for this entire book: God fucks with us to make us better people.
  • Warren explains how temptation works. The Bible teaches us that Satan (yes, Satan, who, like God, is 100% real) uses a four-step process to tempt us to sin.
  • Step One: Desire.
  • “Temptation starts when Satan suggests (with a thought) that you give in to an evil desire, or that you fulfill a legitimate desire in a wrong way or at the wrong time.” (p. 203)
    • So . . . Satan can control our thoughts, too? Okay, let me go over this to make sure I’ve got everything: God and Satan can both control our thoughts, and all of our actions were predetermined long before we were born, yet we will be held eternally responsible for those thoughts and actions, with most of us destined to spend eternity suffering unspeakable torment in a place created for that purpose by that same God — who, by the way, deserves my constant praise and thanks because, despite everything I just said, he is the quintessence of love and mercy. That about sum it up so far?
  • Step Two: Doubt. Satan causes us to question whether or not a potential sin is really wrong.
  • Step Three: Deception.
    • These are all going to start with D, aren’t they? . . . This technique of expressing everything as lists of alliterative terms is tiresome and insulting, not to mention precious and cloying. Or should I say dreary and degrading, not to mention dainty and dull? See? I can use a thesaurus, too.
  • Step Four: Disobedience. You act on the temptation, you naughty thing.
    • So is disobedience inevitable? Because Warren said Satan always uses this four-step process, and step for is giving in to temptation.
  • The next section of the chapter is titled “Overcoming Temptation,” so I guess step four is optional afterall. To overcome temptation, you need to follow three steps: Refuse, Recognize, and Request.
    • Seriously? It’s bad enough to keep using these juvenile alliterative lists, but this is the third one of these to use terms starting with R in this section alone! Pick a different letter, for Christ’s sake.
  • So anyway. Refuse to be intimidated by Satan, because he’s just an impotent loser and the only reason he tempts you so much is because you’re getting so tight with God and he’s, like, totally threatened by that? Also, he can plant evil thoughts into your head when you pray, but don’t sweat that.
  • Recognize the things that regularly tempt you and be ready for them.
  • “Wise planning reduces temptation.” (p. 206)
    • Unless you’re God, in which case constant temptation is a part of the plan.
  • Request God’s help to resist temptation. And don’t be embarrassed if you keep coming to God to ask for help with the same temptation over and over again. Warren says that God never gets impatient with us. And really, think about it: if he’s tired of you praying for the strength to resist setting daycare centers on fire and chaining all the exits shut from the outside, why did he predestine you to do that so many times?


  • God never permits temptations stronger than you can handle. No matter how impossible it seems, there’s always a way out. Warren describes four Biblical practices to help defeat temptation: Refocus, Reveal, Resist, and Realize.
    • Another R list? Another R list? Here’s an R-word you should have worked a little harder to avoid, Rick: redundancy. Here, dig this: “refocus your attention on something else, reveal your struggle to a friend, resist the Devil, and realize your vulnerability to temptation” could also have been expressed as “divert your attention to something else, disclose your struggle to a friend, defy the Devil, and discern your vulnerability to temptation.” Divert, disclose, defy and discern. So a second D list rather than a fourth fucking R list. It took me ten minutes with a thesaurus to come up with that. If Rick Warren put as much effort into writing this book as I did in demonstrating how fucking terrible it is, we’d both be better off.


  • Warren tells us that Christlike character takes time to develop. It can’t be rushed.
    • Unless you die prematurely and go to Heaven, or Jesus comes back — then your spiritual growth is fast-tracked.
  • Warren uses a metaphor originated by Lane Adams, a sidekick of Billy Graham, to explain how spiritual growth works. It’s a lot like the Pacific theater of World War II:
  • “Before Christ invades our lives at conversion, he sometimes has to ‘soften us up’ by allowing problems we can’t handle. While some open their lives to Christ the first time he knocks on the door, most of us are resistant and defensive. Our pre-conversion experience is Jesus saying ‘Behold I stand at the door and bomb!’” (p. 218)
    • Disturbing war analogy aside, notice what Warren says here. Previously, he’s assured us that God never gives believers more problems than they can handle. Here he says that Jesus intentionally gives nonbelievers more problems than they can handle, hoping that they will turn to him for help. This strikes me as rather like killing a woman’s husband and then hitting on her at the funeral. How is this even remotely acceptable behavior?
  • Anyway, the war metaphor continues:
  • “The moment you open yourself up to Christ, God gets a ‘beachhead’ in your life. . . . Once Christ is given a beachhead, he begins the campaign to take over more and more territory until all of your life is completely his. There will be struggles and battles, but the outcome will never be in doubt.” (p. 218)
    • And this is a good thing! Christ will bomb our cities, invade our shores and conquer our lands — metaphorically speaking, of course — and we should look forward to this! More than that — elsewhere in this book, Warren describes this process as the greatest privilege we can ever receive. Being bombed, invaded, and conquered by Jesus.
  • So why does it take so long? Is it because Jesus is a shit general? No, turns out it’s mostly our fault. We’re stubborn, we’re slow to break bad habits, we resist facing the truth about ourselves and what miserable pieces of garbage we are, we’re cowards and we’re slow learners.
  • But we can help things along by cooperating with God, by trusting that God is working in our lives even when we don’t feel it (which will be all the time), by making notes of the lessons we learn along the way, by being patient both with God and with ourselves, and by not getting discouraged.
  • “Remember how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be. Years ago people wore a popular button with the letters PBPGINFWMY. It stood for ‘Please Be Patient, God Is Not Finished With Me Yet.’” (p. 223)
    • That button sounds mawkish and obnoxious — no wonder Rick Warren is so taken with it.
  • God might not be finished with me yet, but I am finished with this book, at least for now. That concludes this section. (Next section includes Day 32, the chapter Ashley Smith famously read to her captor in 2005.)

Next: Purpose #4: You Were Shaped For Serving God

Friday, February 1st, 2013 | 08:06 am (UTC) - an atheist reads the purpose driven life purpose #3
oh man i think i almost threw up in my mouth listening to this latest video. rick warren comes across to me as very self important arrogant person which shows me why religion is not helpful in my opinion and i don't envy you for having to read this stomach churning drivel.corey donaldson
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