In his bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren asserted that “Whenever God wanted to prepare someone for his purposes, he took 40 days. " (This is the rationale behind his infamous “40 days of purpose" church campaign. ) To help demonstrate his point, he claims that God used 40 days of rain to prepare Noah for his divine mission.
I am certain that the Bible never says that God always uses 40 days to prepare someone spiritually. Rick Warren has a penchant for using sloppy exegesis, and this is one example of that. His claim goes far, far beyond what the Bible actually says.
In addition, I daresay that his example with regard to Noah is questionable as well. Did God really use 40 days of rain to prepare Noah? I don't believe so, for several reasons:First, Noah was clearly prepared long before the flood came. Out of all of humanity, God had selected Noah to build the ark and preserve the human race. This happened at least 120 years before the first drop of rain even came down from the sky! What's more, Noah and his family were in the ark for 53 weeks - for more than a year! (Genesis 8:14) There were indeed 40 days of rain, but after that, the waters continued to rise, since the fountains of the earth had been opened up. Even after that, it took many, many more weeks for the waters to subside. It would be rather silly to focus on the 40 days of rain - arbitrarily singling this period out as the time of Noah's spiritual preparation.
So, why does this matter? In the grand scheme of life, does this bit of sloppy scholarship really affect anyone? I think it does matter, and here's why. First, we must never claim that the Bible says something when it does not. Quite simply, it's a matter of reverence and common sense. If we value the truth, then we must never ascribe things to the Bible that it does not say - no matter how nice these things may sound.
Second, this sort of sloppy teaching can lead people down some wrongful (or even destructive!) paths. If God is calling someone in a particular direction - to pastor a church, for example, or to volunteer at a local food kitchen - I would hate for that person to think that he must first undergo a forty-day training period. This might sometimes be prudent, but at other times, we must simply go and obey! Conversely, I would hate for someone to think that God has already “prepared" him or her, simply because the prescribed 40-day period has elapsed. What if that particular person needs a great deal more time to be properly equipped? And third, I think this provides a terrible example of how to exegete the Scriptures. This is a very serious matter. Even if Rick Warren's conclusion were correct (which I heartily contest), his words would still demonstrate a careless and tortuous approach to the Scriptures. Whenever we teach from the Bible, we are not merely proclaiming truths; rather, we are also setting an example in the manner by which we discern these truths. This is a sacred trust, not something to be taken lightly.
So in summary, I certainly do not agree that God always used 40 days to prepare someone, nor do I agree that God used 40 days to prepare Noah. I think that is going beyond what the Scriptures teach, and I think that by doing so, it sets a dangerous precedent. By making this claim, Rick Warren is demonstrating an atrocious approach to exegesis. He sets a very poor example for his readers, and quite frankly, he should know better.
About the author:
V. Berba Velasco Jr. , Ph. D. is a senior electrical and software engineer at a company that provides ELISPOT-related products and technology . Some of his other writings can be found at his literary website, Articles and Stuff .