Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life (2003) and Erasmus’ Enchiridion (1503): Comparing Approaches in Apologetic Evangelism -- By: Thomas P. Johnston

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 25:2 (Fall 2004)
Article: Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life (2003) and Erasmus’ Enchiridion (1503): Comparing Approaches in Apologetic Evangelism
Author: Thomas P. Johnston


Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life (2003)
and Erasmus’ Enchiridion (1503):
Comparing Approaches in Apologetic Evangelism

Thomas P. Johnston

Thomas P. Johnston is Assistant Professor of Evangelism at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri.

There is a certain safety in writing about church history: categories have been spelled out, issues have been debated, and the personages being studied are no longer among us. In contemporary church history or in contemporary theology, such is not the case. For example, one of the subjects in this study, Erasmus, has been analyzed for five centuries. He has been studied and restudied many times. While it is my goal to look at his Enchiridion as an evangelistic text—perhaps a slightly new twist—I do not expect that many of us will be enraged by my analysis. Rick Warren, however, is not a deeply studied personage. While he invites his readers to “interact” with his The Purpose-Driven Life,1 we do not yet have safe categories for the study of his theology and practice. Time has not measured the impact of his life and his ministry is still in process. Thus, the comparison of these two authors provides unusual challenges.

Because of the delicate nature of contemporary analysis, there is a penchant to lean in either of two ways: hagiography or unfettered antagonism. Cries of self-fulfilled prophecy may tarnish this study before it has commenced. This author is aware of the problems of historiography, as well as the Baconian fallacy.2 While complete objectivity is impossible, this author seeks to look at the two works in question from a theological perspective, thus seeking to avoid the prejudices of subjective analysis of a subjective topic. Objectivity may be improved as I have neither met Rick Warren, spoken with him, nor visited his church. Other than one e-mail, my interaction with Warren has been through the printed pages of The Purpose

Driven Life, as has been my interaction with Erasmus and his Enchiridion.

This paper is not an analysis of a person, a person’s character, a person’s ministry, the fruit of a person’s ministry, a local church, an ecclesiology, or the Purpose Driven Church method. Rather this paper is a comparison of the theological content of two books. The following pages will seek to compare and contrast the theological content of Erasmus’ Enchiridion and Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life as texts dealing with the gospel and spiritual growth.

In one sense comp...

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