“Purpose Driven Fiction”

Love and Blunder recommends their pastor’s new blog, and after viewing it, I can’t disagree. Especially with this one! (Not to mention the quote of Walther, veritas odium parit–which is, by the way, actually a quote of Cicero quoting Terence. This from my learned cousin:

Reviewing Cicero’s dialogue on friendship, De Amicitia, I came upon the rest of that quote that Timothy brought to your attention:
obsequium amicos, veritas odium parit
“Flattery gets friends; the truth, hatred.”

Cicero is not the actual author; he quoted it from a
work by the playwright Terence.).



19 thoughts on ““Purpose Driven Fiction”

  1. There is a tendency among us to throw out the baby with the bath water when it comes to issues like this one. I’ve read the arguments pro and con. Some are legit, others, frankly, seem to have been taken out of context. Still others argue matters of style, not real theological substance. Tradition may be based upon theology, but tradition itself is not theology.

    Do we believe that all truth is from God? If so, then we must “swallow the meat and spit out the bones.” Granted, to do so requires a good deal more thinking and diligence than the wholesale dismissal of everything that contains some error. Can each of us confidently assert that the jot and tittle (sic?) of his theology could stand under such scrutiny?


  2. OK…what does (sic) mean? I’ve seen this too many times recently, and, I’m in the dark on it.

    As to the photo, I laughed long and hard when I saw it. I’m all for chewing up meat and spitting out bones, and I’m all for intelligent discerning readers, but there’s a point where the pile of bones on your table so outweighs the meat in your stomach that you gotta wonder if the butcher is ripping you off. The law of diminishing returns is part of being a discerning reader, not to mention a pastor who must feed his flock with the greenest pastures he can find.

    And, while we’re on it…what do people think about this:

    In the LCMS, most congregations have several very important clauses built into their constitutions. These usually are articles 1,2 and 3. If there is ever a debate which splits the church, the land goes to those who side with these articles. These arcticles are either irrevocable or can only be changed by a unanimous vote, etc. In many, if not most congregations, article 3 deals with confessional stance, and maintaints that the canon of Scripture and the Book of Concord are the only rule and norm. Then…they also say something like this “teaching or resources which do not meet this confessional standard are not to be tolerated.” Sometimes they’re even so bold as to say, “teaching materials not synodically approved are not to be tolerated.”

    So here’s my question. What kind of integrity does a congregation have if they have such a constitution and then do 40 days of purpose? Sure, there may be a few nuggest of truth in there, but, well…its not exactly confessional when it comes to Sacraments, justification, etc.

    I guess, here’s my beef. Why have the clause if you’re just going to ignore it? If its not important, why not just get together and vote unanimously to change it? Then, of course, you might have to leave the synod. But why not? If you don’t want to be a strictly confessional congregation, but would rather dabble in heterodox waters in search of bits of meat that might be there, then why align yourself with an organization that is designed promote and protect a strict Lutheran confession of faith? I just can’t understand why one would set up guidelines for oneself, and then ignore them. It seems, well, hypocritical.

    Maybe this isn’t really appropriate for the thread, but currently PPD is being taught in a lay-led weeknight study at the congregation I’m involved with, and their constitution is pretty specific. If I was a real jerk with a stick up my butt, I could make a controvesy over it and steal the church land by using the consitution! That’s the kind of stumbling block we just don’t need to set up for ourselves.

    My apologies if this is “thread-hijacking.” It is PPD related.

    Baptism saves!

  3. (sic) is an acknowledgment of misspelling.
    (sic?) means the author isn’t sure he spelled a word correctly.

    Hi Brother Jonathan,

    I don’t think you hijacked the thread at all. I appreciate your comments.

    I agree that sometimes the bones so outweigh the meat, that it’s not worth the trouble. But I haven’t seen enough to convince me that such is the case with PDL.

    On the issue of the constitution, I agree in part. Has the LCMS specifically banned PDL from being taught in its congregations? If so then there is no debate. However, the constitution exists to serve the body, not the other way around. Many congregations fall into the trap of canonizing the constitution and by-laws. That’s a slippery slope which, unchecked, leads to a perceived authority of something other than scripture as the ultimate arbiter of truth.

    Your stick-in-the-butt comment made me laugh. I’ve wanted to be that guy many times(lol). But what you said brings up an important point. If we follow the constitution (analagous to the law), yes we would be perfectly within our rights to stir a huge mess and take the property. But is that what Christ intended for His Church? Of course not.

    Since commendably, you do not seem to wield such a stick, you choose to minister grace. Well done.

    Just a quick aside:

    At our annual business meeting last month, after asking for any more new business, the pastor adjourned the meeting without asking for a motion, a second, and calling for a vote, which is the norm. Although the meeting was clearly at an end, there are still people who are at-arms about it, claiming that technically, the meeting has not ended. People make me laugh.

    Hey, blessings on you. Have a great day.

  4. Quick comment on something else you said:

    “…not to mention a pastor who must feed his flock with the greenest pastures he can find.”


    One of the problems I do have with the whole Purpose Driven movement is the perception that vision can be marketed. The predecessor to PDL was “The Purpose Driven Church,” also by Rick Warren. It’s a step-by-step on how the Lord led him to start Saddleback Church. It’s a great story and very inspirational.

    However, while the author plainly states that every pastor needs to seek God’s leading for himself, I fear there’s a tendency for some (too many, actually) pastors to skip that part and try to simply use PDC as a model. That’s lazy, and it’s poor stewardship. It’s just another path of least resistance for many pastors who don’t choose to discipline themselves to seek the Lord.

    my 2 cents.

  5. The problem, as I see it, with PDL/C (I’ve read about a third of PDL, but found no reason to continue) is that it is primarily based on the Law. I realize that Mr. Warren makes no Law-Gospel distinction, not being a Lutheran. However, that does not mean he is right in not doing so.
    It seems that the gist is this: if you want to do what God wants, do these things:… He affirms that we can do nothing on our own, and that everything is by grace, but he goes on to deny such lip-service to the Gospel by everything else he writes. Can something so fundamentally opposed to the way Lutherans view things be profitably used?
    A professor from the St. Louis sem who spoke at the pastors’ conference in the district where I am said that he believes PDL is so popular because Lutherans have forgotten what sanctification is really about. PDL essentially combines the two kinds of righteousness (righteousness before God and righteousness in the eyes of people) into one, which returns us to a Roman Catholic understanding of Justification and Sanctification that is incompatible with Justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.


  6. I’m not here to defend Rick Warren. I just want to understand what you said. I’ve heard PDL described as many things, but never legalistic.

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean when you say “He affirms that we can do nothing on our own, and that everything is by grace, but he goes on to deny such lip-service to the Gospel by everything else he writes.” Can you give me some examples from the book? Clearly, you see something here that I don’t.

    “…if you want to do what God wants, do these things:” Well isn’t the New Testament full of things we’re expected to do? It’s a model for how to conduct ourselves with God and each other. Doing those things are the evidence (to ourselves) of our regeneration.

    Flipping through PDL, I’m reading things like:
    –Worship with all your heart
    –serve one another
    –pattern your life after Christ
    –trust Him completely
    –obey Him wholeheartedly
    –surrender yourself to Christ
    –pray a lot
    –develop relationships
    –learn to cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit

    While he gives examples of how these things can be accomplished. I don’t see him saying, “Here is the formula. Do A-B-C, then you will be saved.”

    It seems to me that the bible is far more specific about what’s expected in the way of works (see aliens, fatherless and widows. See also hungry and you fed me, naked and you clothed me, etc.).

    Every church (not just the RC church) struggles with the practical application of the role of works. Even so, I don’t see works as the central figure in PDL.

    I come from a different background. I was raised in a Pentecostal fellowship. It’s interesting how two sets of eyes can perceive the same thing differently (No, I’m not a relativist, either. lol).

    Thanks for your comments, Tim. I enjoy this dialogue. I look forward to your thoughts. Blessings.

  7. I’ll try to find some specific examples, but it may end up as a separate post somewhere down the line. I’m not necessarily saying he’s _legalistic_ (although it could certainly end up that way), only that the book is _Law-based_ (as opposed to motivated by the Gospel). The difference is in motivation. Am I motivated to do something because
    God wants me to, and He’ll be mad if I don’t do it? Or am I motivated because I am already righteous in His eyes through Jesus and therefore free to do what love requires in a situation? Certainly, I do not deny that, because we are still sinners, the Law informs our behavior and tells us what God wants. But the Law does not and cannot give answers for every situation. What then?
    The thing about the Warren/Roman Catholic similarity is that they both combine works for God and works for my neighbor into one. Lutherans say that works before God are all sinful. Works before or on behalf of people are good and helpful for them. Once those two “modes” of righteousness are combined, works for my neighbor necessarily become measured by how well they please God and not whether my neighbor simply needs something from me.


  8. Try the first two pages:

    “It’s not about you.” (p1)


    “YOU MUST begin with God…. until YOU UNDERSTAND that, life will never make sense….life is about [YOU] LETTING GOD use YOU for his purposes.” (p2)

    He then defines self help books, and I think we might compare that easily to your list of his exhortations:

    Self help –Warren
    “clarify your values”
    –pattern your life after Christ

    “set some goals” — learn to cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit

    “Figure out what you are good at.” –try chapter 31

    “Aim high” — Worship with all your heart/obey Him wholeheartedly (and good luck!)

    “Be disciplined” — pray a lot/serve

    Believe you can achieve — trust “Him” completely

    “Involve others” — develop relationships

    Now…I’m not saying that praying a lot or desiring to trust God is bad. I’m saying that teaching people they can accomplish these things

    [like experience temptation without sin (ch26-27) or giving God his Sunday “praise fix” (ch 9) ]

    …that is bad.

    They’re neither Biblical nor Lutheran. This is to say nothing of the abominable way that Warren abuses the Scriptures to make his points, running for any translation which gives him the “text for a pretext.” And this is just without getting deep. The books is sheer pietism, and it will destroy the consciences of people who trust it.

    It’s easy to skim through a book and say, “Hey, there’s true things in there.” Niche said “God is dead.” And hey, on the cross, He was! But I’m not going to give Niche to my confirmands. Warren takes a lot of really “good law” from the Bible(and I mean GOOD!) , and then he twists and distorts it so that your focus is always on you and never on Christ.

    Now, I can understand that if someone thinks the Lutheran Confessions are wrong, or not that important, or not what people really need, then they would probably think this book is great. It tells you that you can earn God’s favor by living right, (ch 9 to start,) and it says that problems in life are God’s plan to tell us that we’re not meant for earth but for heaven (p. 50)(which is not only bad eschatology, but denies original sin and everything that follows it.)

    but the problems of such teaching is long term damage. Pietism hurts people by giving them false hope by telling them half-Truths which are really blatant (well-intentioned) lies. The greatest commandment is certainly to love God with all your heart. But you will not catch me in the pulpit telling people that they’ve got the strength to pull it off! That’s soul-murder.

    Tim – I would disagree with you, however, on the issue of always needing “Gospel motivation.” According to FC VI (try SD 19/24,) we certainly should and must motivate ourselve through fear. But that is not what Warren does. Warren’s method of motivation for people to decide for Jesus is fear. His method for “living the law-based life” is REWARDS (try ch. 4 for starters.) And THAT is a direct attack on the merits of Christ. It makes life about YOU and what YOU can GET FROM GOD in heaven for what you’ve done on earth. Slippery, slimy, Glory-theology in all its filthiness.

    Now…debating Warren’s usefulness is probably not going to persuade either side. I will only say this…if (you’re a Lutheran) and you can’t understand why people make such a fuss over Warren, then my encouragement to you is to spend more time in the Lutheran Confessions. REad the AC and FC. Twice. REad the small and large catechism. Twice. REad them thoroughly. Then read Luther’s Heidelberg disputation. Endlessly. CAREFULLY. And apply those things to WArren. What you will find is that, more often than not, he is teaching the very opposite of what Lutherans confess that they believe about a Christian relationship with God. That is, he is not teaching salvation by grace through faith. He is teaching salvation by decision through works. It’s a dead end road.

    you could also read this:


    Issues etc journal also has a back issue on Warren which is very thorough. But I couldn’t find a link to it. You could email them and I’m sure they’d be happy to send you a copy. But it makes the same discernment I have:

    “The PPD is about YOU.”

    Peace Mr. Dorsey, in Christ.

  9. Othniel, I agree it is not always so neat a distinction, being, as we are until we die, both completely justified and completely sinner. So, for that reason, it may be better to speak, as the Formula does, of “driving” the old Adam with the Law, while the New Man in Christ has no need of such compulsion. Therefore, inasmuch as we are completely justified, we are “motivated” (although that word still implies that we _need_ motivation, which we don’t if we are righteous) by the Gospel alone.


  10. Y’know what? I decided that eating breakfast this morning was just about me, so I skipped it. Then I decided that brushing my teeth was about me, too. Bathing, dressing, sex, scratching my butt, living under a roof, taking out the trash, owning a car.

    Then I went to pray and I realized that even though I love Jesus and have some (albeit limited) understanding of who He is, there’s still some element of me there, too. Face it, I don’t want ME to go to hell. I want peace in MY life. I want His joy for ME. I want Him to guide ME. I want Him to be pleased with MY worship. I want ME to be more like Him. Clearly, the Lord is far better off without ME (oops! There I go again! ME! ME! ME! God forgive ME. [d’ooh!]).

    How can I allow Christ to change ME if I’m not even allowed to acknowledge that I exist without some kid coming along and telling me I’m making it about ME?! The Bible speaks of “rightly dividing the word of truth.” Some people divide it so much, they can’t seem to put it back together. Oh, I’m not Lutheran, by the way. So please don’t try to take my property.

  11. You’ve summed up the problme very well Mr. Dorsey. Our looking at life is utterly depraved and sinful. The realtiy of the Christian redemption is a release from that. I can actually eat breakfast for someone else (that is, eat so that I might work to provide food for my wife and child–ironically, I don’t like eating breakfast, but I know it is good for my health in the long run, and thus, better for my family.) And I can actually worship God without needing Him to be pleased with me because He is pleased with Christ. It is finished.

    I believe that the reason you have gotten so upset with me (and insulted me several times,) is because you have seen the problem which the PPD refuses to face, that is, original sin, and you don’t like its implications. You don’t like that YOU (and ME) are utterly wretched. It’s a rather despairing reality, that is, until you understand the merits of Jesus Christ and His complete oblitheration of the problem of YOU, replacing YOU with Himself, and yet, in a way which makes you the unselfish you that God created you to be. That’s the Gospel.

    Again, you sum up the problem well in this statement:

    “How can I allow Christ to change ME if…”

    You can’t. You do not allow God Almighty to do anything. He simply does it. It is impossible by your own reason or strength to come to Christ Jesus or believe in Him. Salvation is by grace through faith, and not by works of “allowance,” lest any of us should boast in ourselves.

    Or, look at it another way. Trying to stop doing things about you because you recognize that its evil to do things about you is actually to simply do one more thing about you. You are trying to stop being evil by yourself…and that just isn’t ever going to happen. You need Jesus Christ to save you. Praise God He has!

    Peace in Christ,

  12. Dude,

    You said, “Salvation is by grace through faith,” Whose faith? Mine, right? Didn’t Jesus say “You of little faith. Why didn’t you believe?” Doesn’t that imply that believing is something I can DO (or not do)?

    By your logic, there’s no point in evangelizing. No point in sending missionaries. No point in inviting my neighbor to bible study, because God’s gonna do what God’s gonna do.

    What about the two-sided nature of a covenant? Didn’t Abraham have to obey? That’s DOING.

    Why did you go into the ministry? There’s nothing YOU can DO that’s going to help God. Why bother?

    This is why the Lutheran church has experienced such growth, I suppose.

  13. Mr. Dorsey,
    You have a strange way of arguing. When someone gives you a gift, do you thank yourself and congratulate yourself for what you did to earn it? Of course not. Why do you want to do it when God gives you a gift?
    The “two-sided nature of a covenant” does not apply to God’s covenants. Clearly, you don’t believe in the total depravity of human beings without God, so this discussion is at a stalemate. That is what it all comes down to, the “bondage of the will” outside of God’s grace. Unless we can agree on that, we cannot agree on the nature of salvation.
    Us doing something to “help” God is kind of a silly notion in the first place. As if God needed us to “help” Him. However, He has, for His own mysterious purposes, chosen to use fallen human beings for His instruments. I suppose you think the hammer “helps” the carpenter, too.
    That last dig is irrelevant. Numbers are not the only important thing. Perhaps you remember Gideon? By the way, which church do you attend, and how’s the growth? Are the members you’ve gained primarily unchurched, or did they come from other churches because of the Starbucks you have in the lobby or the “awesome” worship?


  14. Tim,

    I’m going to ask you to forgive me. I set out to use sarcasm to illustrate my point, but ended up insulting you guys. And while it made ME (lol) feel better for a moment, it wasn’t helpful to our discussion, and you didn’t deserve it. I do apologize and appreciate the grace with which you responded.

    Let me assure you. I do believe that mankind is depraved and utterly hopeless apart from God. At least, I know that I am. I believe that God will, indeed, accomplish His will and does not need my help. I believe and endlessly quote 1 Cor. 4:7 – “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

    Please help me understand this, though. Yes I think the hammer helps the carpenter insomuch as the hammer possesses physical properties without which the carpenter cannot drive the nail. Of course, God has no such limitations, and I assume you meant “help” in the sense of a deliberate action of the will. I think that’s where I’m struggling here. The hammer has no choice in its participation. I do. Isn’t belief is a choice? Do I not have to accept salvation? I understand that I do not materially participate in the act of my own regeneration, but don’t I have to say “Yes” at some point? If not, then what’s the point? Why not just cut to the end and put the elect into Paradise, and the rest into hell?

    I hope you get a sense of the sincerity of my question. I didn’t go to seminary. I don’t have a reformed background. I grew up in a Pentecostal church (which, I admit, is full of all manner of unsound teaching offered under the guise of special revelation). And yes, I did grow up thinking I had to earn God’s favor (but I’m feeling much better now).

    So where does free will fit in on a practical level? And where is the line drawn? I mean, it’s great to say, “Make me an instrument…” but isn’t surrendering my will still an act of the will?

    We don’t have a Starbucks, but it wouldn’t be wrong if we did. lol

  15. Apology accepted, and forgiveness given. My sinful nature is fond of sarcasm as well, and I am certainly not innocent there.
    I suppose the question is this: if we are, as you agree, totally depraved, that is the same as dead, is it not? Can dead people raise themselves? That is essentially the angle at which Lutherans come at salvation and justification. What makes it all the more vivid is that we baptize infants. We believe that adults and infants are in the same boat to begin with, so our baptismal rite is no different for adults and infants, except that sponsors answer for the infant since they cannot answer for themselves.
    It is an affirmation that God’s grace is completely unconditional. In that sense, even faith is not necessary for baptism. However, faith is necessary to _receive the benefits of baptism_. Faith is necessary for salvation, not as a good work, but as the hand that receives the gift. So while you are correct that we say “yes” to God’s gift to us, even the assent of faith is a gift from God. We are completely passive as far as salvation is concerned.
    As far as after we’re saved goes, we certainly do participate in what God does with us. But even this cannot be attributed to our selves. As soon as it is, we are no longer focused on Christ, but on ourselves, and that is always, without repentance, deadly to salvation.
    I think you can agree with me that we always want to keep the focus on Jesus, right? If that is so, why do we keep wanting to find some room for our own actions? I do it, you do it, and everyone does it. Why? Because we have not been completely sanctified, or freed of our sinful desire to find something good within ourselves.

    Free will: we are free to make all manner of choices every day, even as to whether to do something good, or not. But even unbelievers can make those choices. So our status before God has to be found elsewhere. That’s all I’m arguing. We are not passive in doing good works as Christians, but those good works don’t have anything to do with our standing before God. The good things we do can’t make Him see us as anymore righteous because our righteousness is found in Christ, and His is perfect. Christians do good works, and if they don’t, they’re not Christians. But that doesn’t mean that the good works are the _cause_ of our salvation. They are a sign that the Holy Spirit is working in us, but not necessarily a reliable one, because our sinful nature still breaks in, as Paul noted so eloquently (Romans 7:13-25).

    My wife gets mad at me for always talking about how “we” can’t do anything and it’s all God, but I believe sanctification by the Holy Spirit is causing us to rely more and more on Jesus and His righteousness, and seeing less and less in ourselves that is worth hanging onto.
    Thanks for the discussion.


  16. Tim,

    Thanks for your explanation. I think I understand better where you’re coming from and, while some differences may remain, we’re clearly not as far apart as it first appeared.

    I agree that works are neither the cause nor the condition of salvation, but certainly evidence (to ourselves, if no one else). I’m going to skim through Warren again in light of our discussion (only because PDL is so pervasive in my circles).

    Thanks for hanging in there with me on this. Your patience is a testimony to His presence in your life.

    Big hug to you, my friend.

  17. Thanks for continuing to discuss. And thanks for the encouragement. I certainly don’t have every answer or know everything, but sanctification is something I’ve had to think about for a while, because I do think that Lutherans have missed out on that part of the discussion. Everyone knows where we stand on justification and God doing everything, but the reason so many Lutherans are using PDL is because (in my opinion) Lutherans have forgotten how to teach sanctification. For example, most Lutheran sermons for the last couple generations went “Law [how bad we are]-Gospel [how good Jesus is]-Law [now do this].” That’s not how older Lutheran preachers did things, and it became uncomfortable because we didn’t want to end with Law. So, some preachers just preached “Law-Gospel” and because of that, there was no talk of what the Christian life looks like. So, some of my professors at the seminary are saying that Law/Gospel is certainly the way things go, but that’s not the best way to look at things with regard to the Christian life. A better way, according to them, is to look at things from a “Two Kinds of Righteousness” perspective. That just means that as far as our standing before God, He does it all; He makes us righteous for Christ’s sake. But as far as our neighbor is concerned, he or she needs the things that we can do for them. And that righteousness is completely active on our part. Of course, that “civil” righteousness can’t save you or contribute to your righteousness before God, but it certainly helps your neighbor out!
    Just a little more on how we look at things…


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