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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Crying Foul Over PDL Publicity

Everyone and his dog seem to be blogging about the Ashley Smith: "the Angel from God" story and about the book, The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?.

Hennessey View shares a moving story of how the story is helping him recall the pain of his own loss of his daughter and to begin a journey back to his earlier faith in God by embarking on the 40-day challenge in The Atlanta Killer and His Savior.

Many of the posts are positive, but some are critical about the way that people are glibly attributing to God events that He wasn't responsible for. Or they are casting doubts about God's hand in the events, asking why some Christians choose to be selective in praising God for some things and not for others.

Surprisingly (at least to me), it seems some Christians are worried that the news story will give undue publicity to the book itself. Apparently, they fear that because of this story more people would buy and read the Purpose Driven Life, and thereby, get a bad dose of theology or a watered down gospel or some such.

CNN highlighted the book in their show this evening, and apparently all these Christians could do was cry foul. It almost seems to me that they fear that people's lives would actually be changed by reading the book.

My question is, why?

Why can't we see this as a good thing for the kingdom of Christ? Why not see it as any publicity for the Church, for Christianity or for the gospel as a positive thing. After all, people are drawn to question their own mortality and their purpose in life.

Now, I must admit I haven't read the Purpose-Driven Life through. I made it only through to chapter 5 or 6, I can't remember.

However, what I did read, I could not fault. From what I have read of other people's evaluation of it, it may not be the whole story in that the book seemed to have been written for a wider audience than theology students. Apparently, it may not contain all the elements of a full-blown gospel message.

Therefore, the reasoning goes, people's lives cannot possibly be changed by it. And, if they were, it could not be a real authentic change. However, consider this, if lives are going to be transformed, it won't be just because they read a book, or because it was written by a particular person. If lives are going to be changed, it would be because God changed them.

If the book makes people think about their destiny, their Creator and why they are here, then surely the Holy Spirit can use it as a catalyst for a process in the right direction? If anything, it could be an excellent pre-evangelism book? After all, it is sold at many secular bookstores and recommended by many well known personalities. Shouldn't it allow more people to at least consider what it means for them to be creatures of a Creator who has a claim on their lives?

Even in the first century, there were those who did not preach the whole gospel or who preached out of bad motives. So, rather than bemoan the fact that one person, or his book, is getting "undue publicity" among the masses, perhaps the better posture for all of us who call ourselves Christ followers, to pray that God will use that book and that person for His glory?

Surely He can and will do that! So, why don't we join the party and celebrate rather than stand aside pouting like that older brother that JollyBlogger so eloquently wrote about recently?

Perhaps we can be like Paul and rejoice:
But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.