The Purpose-Devoid Life, Part 4
This week I will continue criticism of the “What on Earth Am I Here For?” booklet, which contains the first section of The Purpose-Driven Life.
The author starts the fifth day by saying that your view of life shapes your life. True enough, but as usual, he then brings religion into it. He has three metaphors for life; the first is a test. He describes practically everything (especially bad) that happens in life as a test from God. These tests are apparently meant to strengthen and show our character and obedience or whatever. I find it interesting that people born poor seem to be tested more often and more harshly than people born rich or in developed countries. I suppose God really wants to know their faith and hope by the way he gives them lots of problems and few possessions.
The author also says that life is a trust. No, not the kind of trust that means God has confidence in our character. He means that God is a banker and we are debtors living on borrowed time. Oddly enough, the author writes, “Our time, energy, intelligence, opportunities, relationships, and resources are all gifts that God has entrusted to our care and management. We are stewards, or managers, of whatever God gives us. This concept of stewardship begins with the recognition that God is the owner of everything and everyone on earth.” I don’t know Rick Warren, but apparently he doesn’t understand the concept of a “gift”. A gift is “something that is bestowed voluntarily and without compensation.” It is not defined as “something that is loaned, to be managed, and may be taken back at any time.” Despite twice saying that God gives us life and resources, the author goes on to make it perfectly clear that “we never really own anything during our brief stay on earth.” As usual, he goes on to say that how we behave in life determines what happens in the eternity he believes to exist.
The third metaphor for life is a temporary assignment. The author spends the sixth day (much like the fourth) devaluing life on Earth by comparing it to his mystical eternal life. As with most religious teachings, his intent is to portray the supernatural as more meaningful and more important than reality. “You’re just passing through, just visiting earth.” I don’t call my expected lifespan of sixty to eighty years a “visit,” especially when I have no reason to believe another existence is waiting for me. The author then makes some strange analogy that Christians should have “spiritual green cards” to remind them that they are just foreign visitors working on Earth. He goes on to say, “God says that his children are to think differently about life from the way unbelievers do. ‘All they think about is this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives.’” This time, I completely agree with the author and his (cherry-picked) quote. Believers and unbelievers do think differently about life. The Earth-focused unbelievers often waste their time with such mundane things as causality, curing diseases, and improving the quality of life for themselves and their children. The wise believers, however, are concerned with much better things such as calling life insignificant, consuming food and other resources while believing that praying is more productive than working, and waiting to die so their real, better lives can begin.
I burst out laughing the first time I read this next part: “In order to keep us from becoming too attached to earth, God allows us to feel a significant amount of discontent and dissatisfaction in life—longings that will never be fulfilled on this side of eternity. We’re not completely happy here because we’re not supposed to be!” Let’s review that. Discontent is a gift from God that helps us spiritually, our dreams are unfulfilled so we won’t appreciate life too much, and we are not meant to be happy on Earth. I can summarize the paragraph in one sentence: our purpose in life is not related to anything good happening to our lives. The more I read this excerpt, the more absurd it sounds. I think Rick Warren could’ve helped George Orwell write 1984; there could’ve been more party slogans such as “dissatisfaction is fulfillment,” “happiness is bondage,” and “death is life.”
Next quote: “Realizing that life on earth is just a temporary assignment should radically alter your values. Eternal values, not temporal ones, should become the deciding factors for your decisions.” Again, the author wants you to focus on mysticism instead of causality. “As C. S. Lewis observed, ‘All that is not eternal is eternally useless.’” Useless? If a man lives for sixty years and no longer, his life is useless? If his books are read and enjoyed for the next six hundred years and no longer, they are useless? If humanity persists for six hundred million years and no longer, everyone is useless? Does living now have no meaning? Is doing something pointless forever better than doing something good for a finite time?