Rick Warren and his Purpose-Driven Life have spawned a small industry of Bereans compelled to point out the unbiblical nature of so much that is claimed. Some have focused on the psychological entanglements, others, such as myself, on the misuse and abuse of the Word. Smith pinpoints the New Age implications and Warren’s links with Robert Schuller. These are serious accusations and Deceived on Purpose does a good job connecting the dots.
Warren Smith was converted out of the New Age Movement and he is well positioned to recognize New Age teaching when he sees it. And he sees it often in the works of Rick Warren, especially in The Purpose-Driven Life. Smith clearly demonstrates how Warren uses many of the same terms and concepts found in main line New Age books and teachings. He also clearly ties Warren with Robert Schuller, documenting Schuller’s influence on Warren from his earliest days in the ministry. Smith’s contention is that much of what Warren teaches is really re-packaged Schuller. In other words, Warren is bringing through the back door of evangelicalism many of the false teachings of Robert Schuller which originally were resisted at the front door.
What is more difficult for Smith to prove is that Warren understands what he is doing. That he is introducing a generation of evangelicals to New Age principles and Schuller heresy is without question. But whether Warren is merely puppeting what he has been taught without discerning the error within or whether it is his agenda to drag the church into the new spirituality (which is the new term for New Age teachings) is up for grabs. I personally believe that Warren is a well-intentioned pragmatist who latches on to whatever he believes works. In addition, I believe that he is a careless student of the Word of God and has only a superficial understanding of doctrine or of the Christian life. But is he intentionally deceiving the people of God? I do not know. As John MacArthur said recently, “Rick Warren and The Purpose-Driven Life are a test of our discernment.” Books like Smith’s hopefully will teach us to be better discerners.