Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Purpose-Driven Life

The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?, by Rick Warren, has been on The New York Times's list of best-sellers (in the Hardcover Advice category) for 184 weeks. I hadn't heard of the book until today, when I happened to channel-surf by an interview with the author. The title of his book flashed on the screen and piqued my curiosity. I didn't linger to watch the interview, but instead turned to the web for enlightenment. Here is's review:

The spiritual premise in The Purpose-Driven Life is that there are no accidents---God planned everything and everyone. Therefore, every human has a divine purpose, according to God's master plan. Like a twist on John F. Kennedy's famous inaugural address, this book could be summed up like this: "So my fellow Christians, ask not what God can do for your life plan, ask what your life can do for God's plan." Those who are looking for advice on finding one's calling through career choice, creative expression, or any form of self-discovery should go elsewhere. This is not about self-exploration; it is about purposeful devotion to a Christian God. The book is set up to be a 40-day immersion plan, recognizing that the Bible favors the number 40 as a "spiritually significant time," according to author Rick Warren, the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, touted as one of the nation largest congregations. Warren's hope is that readers will "interact" with the 40 chapters, reading them one day at a time, with extensive underlining and writing in the margins. As an inspirational manifesto for creating a more worshipful, church-driven life, this book delivers. Every page is laden with references to scripture or dogma. But it does not do much to address the challenges of modern Christian living, with its competing material, professional, and financial distractions. Nonetheless, this is probably an excellent resource for devout Christians who crave a jumpstart back to worshipfulness

That's all well and good if you like your self-help with a heavy dose of Warren's brand of religiosity. For those of you who are not inclined in that direction, I recommend Victor E. Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy, which I read (and re-read) some 20 years ago. Frankl survived a Nazi concentration camp, and he uses his experiences there to introduce what he calls "logotherapy," or "meaning-therapy." As Frankl puts it, logotherapy

focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on man's search for such a meaning. According to logotherapy, the struggle to find a meaning in one's life is the primary motivational force in man.

I will not try to summarize Frankl's psychotherapeutic approach, which he outlines in the second half of the book, except to say that he addresses such topics as the meaning of life, the meaning of existence, the meaning of love, and the meaning of suffering.

Even if you're not interested in logotherapy, the first half of this inexpensive book ($6.99 in paperback at -- which recounts Frankl's experiences in the concentration camp -- is well worth the price. The story is candid without resorting to graphic sensationalism, and it sets the stage for Frankl's explanation of logotherapy in the second half.