by Eric Barger
Since we're going to be hearing a lot about Rick Warren over the next few days, let's review.
Rick Warren is certainly one of the most notable names associated with Christianity today. He often appears to be on the right side of many issues near and dear to Christians. To the disdain of the gay and lesbian crowd, Barak Obama has chosen Warren to offer the invocation prayer at the inauguration next Tuesday. While this and other activities may be applauded by some Believers, before we allow Warren's appearances, proclamations and favorable new coverage by conservatives to cloud our critical thinking, lets not forget what got Warren where he is. Answer: books laden with incomplete or even heretical theology.
First, before we discuss why I believe Rick Warren's books and ministry has been a deceptive detriment and not a boon for the cause of Christ today, let me update you of one recent development. Believe me, you won't hear about this on Fox News this week. Actually, unless it is from a gay activist you won't hear anything construed as critical of Warren any week on Fox News because Rupert Murdoch owns Zondervan who publishes Warren's books.
If you have been reading my updates lately then you know that I have been critical of the very fact that Warren or anyone else associated with biblical Christianity would be involved with Obama. (To see why, please read "Rick Warren Should Have Rejected Obama's Offer".) Many of you agreed with my assessment and of course, some did not (read here).
Regardless, much has been written recently about Obama, Warren and New Hampshire homosexual Bishop Gene Robinson who Obama has also asked to be a part of inaugural activities tomorrow (Sunday, Jan. 18) at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. Robinson has declared that he will pray a decidedly non-Christian prayer at the event.
Though a professed homosexual who had abandoned his wife and family, Robinson was appointed bishop by the Episcopal Church in 2003. He also served as an Obama advisor and endorser during the campaign of 2008. Speaking on the issue of gay rights and the notion that sexual preference should be a protected minority status such as race, Robinson said last Monday "I think for the first time in a very long time we'll have a friend in the White House."
Sadly, Rick Warren has given positive acknowledgment to Robinson's participation in the Obama inauguration.
AFA News (OneNewsNow) reported: "Rick Warren is applauding Barack Obama's decision to invite homosexual Episcopal bishop V. Gene Robinson to pray at an inauguration event next week in Washington, DC.
Christianity Today quotes a statement from Warren, who says 'President-elect Obama has again demonstrated his genuine commitment to bringing all Americans of goodwill together in search of common ground. I applaud his desire to be the president of every citizen.' Warren's comment came in the wake of a controversy over Obama's decision to invite Warren to give the invocation prayer at the swearing-in ceremony at next Tuesday's Presidential Inauguration."
As usual, just as with liberal thinking, Warren wants to have it both ways. Now, let's review.
About two years ago I released a 30 page paper Examining the Purpose Driven Philosophy. I began compiling the information condensed in Examining in late 2005 but did not release it until 2007. During 2006 I repeatedly faxed, emailed and called Saddleback Church hoping to at least convey my concerns to Rick Warren. Every attempt to contact him was futile. I never received any sort of reply. As I said then, releasing the material found in Examining was done only after much prayer and perhaps greater trepidation. It wasn't that I had discovered anything necessarily earth shattering such as secret codes or something in Warren's books. I had just done the homework and simply compared what he was teaching with biblical doctrine. Simple apologetics. However, I was about to join a small band of voices who were crying out against the teaching of what is arguably the most visible pastor on the planet and I knew in advance that doing so was going to cost me some longtime friends and probably some supporters. It was troubling but so be it.
Whatever the outcome, I knew that I had to follow what God had clearly laid on my heart. The advancing liberalism inside once sound Evangelical churches was being led by Rick Warren among others and if I was to be true to the missions statement of our ministry I could not silently stand by. Shortly thereafter I experienced a phenomenon I was all to well acquainted with in that no matter how soundly documented any expose' might be there are a lot of people in the Church who would rather not be confused by the facts. Imagine that? Could it be that so many would just as soon ignore the rather unsettling facts about Rick Warren's Purpose Driven teaching? Most of them have by now removed their email addresses from our newsletter list. Resistance or not we forged on glorying in those who were indeed understanding what we were saying and praying for the rest.
In Examining the Purpose Driven Philosophy I reviewed eleven reason why I believe The Purpose Driven Life book and philosophy is erroneous. Here below are mentioned just four of the eleven areas of concern. I encourage everyone to click here and go and read the entire Examining the Purpose Driven Philosophy document for yourself. If you desire you can also request printed copies by visiting our online bookstore as well.
Dr. Warren stated the following speaking at The Pew and Religion Forum, May 23, 2005:
"Now the word 'fundamentalist' actually comes from a document in the 1920s called the Five Fundamentals of the Faith. And it is a very legalistic, narrow view of Christianity..."
Here are the Five Fundamentals of the Faith Dr. Warren is referring to:
1. The Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. The Virgin Birth.
3. The Blood Atonement.
4. The Bodily Resurrection.
5. The Inerrancy of the Scriptures.
The fact that Dr. Warren views the fundamentals of the faith as "narrow" and "legalistic" should offend every authentic, concerned Christian on the planet. This is a direct attack upon the very bedrock of Christianity itself. What Warren seems to be saying here is that Christianity as we know it and as it was delivered to us by the Apostles and the Lord Him-self is either unneeded, outdated or just plain wrong.
NEW AGE THOUGHT
Perhaps one of the most disturbing statements in the PDL appears on page 88 where Dr. Warren states that "God lives in everything." This is exactly what pantheists believe. Religious Science practitioners teach this too. It is also a main tenant of New Age thought and though you will find a few liberal theologians spouting the idea it is not Christianity. In fact, this demonic misconception has succeeded in persuading multitudes to doubt why a God who supposedly lives in everything would have to come and die for the restoration of a creation in which He resides in every single molecule. This is a particularly damaging error which undermines the effectiveness of Christian witnessing when dealing with New Agers.
Dr. Warren employs what is commonly known as "Scripture fishing." Of the 642 Bible quotations used in the PDL he quotes from at least 15 different versions of the Bible. This is simply attempting to get the Bible to appear to say what one wants it to.
While there is no doubt that Dr. Warren's teaching on music and worship in the PDL and PDC are controversial to some it is his teaching on issues such as sin, repentance and salvation itself that are of the most concern to me. I believe wholeheartedly that a baby Christian or seeking unbeliever turned loose with The Purpose Driven Life alone will most likely come to radically different conclusions about these issues than that which is taught in the Bible. These troubling conclusions are further aided by the instructions given to the "40 Days of Purpose" leaders which encourages that people not use their own Bible's during the teaching sessions. This encourages and legitimizes the aforementioned "scripture fishing" I mentioned and causes the student to rely completely on The Purpose Driven Life instead.
Moreover, Dr. Warren firmly instructs people to avoid judging anything, which is a position I advise him to continue with if he intends on furthering the Purpose Driven message. On Page 34 of the PDL he states that doctrinal views do not matter. This is an idea that Scripture takes a completely opposite view of. Should I sight the many passages that indicate the utter importance doctrine plays in the success or failure of our eternities?
I'll just mention two:
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
- Colossians 2:8
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
- I Timothy 4:1
On page 164 of the PDL Dr. Warren says, "God warns us over and over not to criticize, compare, or judge each other. ... Whenever I judge another believer, four things instantly happen: I lose fellowship with God, I expose my own pride, I set myself up to be judged by God, and I harm the fellowship of the church."
This sounds so good to the ear and flesh of man but it does not wash with the counsel of the Scriptures.
Frankly, the more I read and research this it is no wonder that Dr. Warren insists that no one bother comparing or judging practice or doctrine to the Scriptures. His doctrine seems to be less defined and certainly less biblical as time passes, yet his ever-growing audience seems unabated by his outrageous statements and views. Remember, he thinks that fundamental Bible believers are "dangerous terrorist" because we believe, follow and practice the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Is it just me or is anyone else uncomfortable with the fact that the most popular Christian leader today is quickly turning what is perceived as Christianity into a "different gospel?"
If we examine Dr. Warren's statements on page 34 of the PDL carefully we'll see what is becoming a "different gospel" in action. Note the two confusing and potentially deceptive errors made here.
"One day you will stand before God, and He will do an audit of your life, a final exam, be-fore you enter eternity. The Bible says, 'Remember, each of us will stand personally be-fore the judgment seat of God... Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God.' (Rom. 14:10b, NLT). Fortunately, God wants us to pass this test, so be has given us the questions in advance. From the Bible we can surmise that God will ask us two crucial questions: First, 'What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ? 'God won't ask about your religious background or doctrinal views. The only thing that will matter is, did you accept what Jesus did for you and did you learn to love and trust him? ... Second, 'What did you do with what I gave you? Preparing you for these two questions is the goal of this book."
First, while it is true that every believer in Christ will stand before the Bema or judgment seat and there be properly rewarded there will be no test given there. The "test" is over once we leave this planet. Second, the question of what a person did or didn't do with Jesus Christ while they were here on earth will not come up. That is forever settled when here on earth each sinner confesses Jesus Christ, trusts in Him and makes the decision to turn from sin in repentance. When we stand before His throne our eternity is forever sealed and He is not going to hand out a pop quiz or arbitrarily change His mind.
Since Dr. Warren brought it up, on what basis does God exact judgment at the "Bema" seat of Christ? He judges our rewards based on our obedience to His Word. What does His word constantly instruct us to do? Jesus emphatically instructed His disciples more than seven times to preach the kingdom (repentance leading to salvation), pray for the sick and to cast out devils. Why doesn't the Purpose Driven philosophy teach this?
Paul sternly rebuked the Corinthian church for NOT identifying false teachers in their midst (II Cor. 11:1-4). In turn he tells them in I Corinthians 2:15 that the spiritual judge all things. In I Corinthians 14 Paul instructs them to judge preaching and says that sin must be judged in I Corinthians 5. In fact, I Timothy 5:20 implores us that those who continue to practice sin unrepentantly must be rebuked publicly "that others also may fear." So much for Warren's insistence on never judging the works or doctrinal beliefs of others. I'll side with the Apostle Paul.
In some circles, it is certainly acceptable to bandy about the phrase "judge not lest ye be judged." However, anyone understanding the context of Jesus' statement in Matthew 7 and the concept of "righteous judgment" (which Jesus clearly dictates in the very same chapter [7:24]) knows better. To imply that we should never test or judge anything due to the teaching of a single passage (Mt 7:1) is certainly one of if not the prime misuse of Scripture known to man! While the idea of being non-judgmental may tickle one's ears lets not forget that the Bereans were praised for their Scriptural evaluation of what Paul and Silas taught. We must surely do the same with every teacher we encounter in these increasingly strange days.
I am extremely troubled that according to page 167 of the PDL Dr. Warren requires Saddleback church members to sign a covenant that he or she promises to protect the unity of the church. I found the covenant on the Saddleback Church website as well. What a dangerous and unscriptural practice. Even though Dr. Warren intimates that unity such as this is an act of love, the Bible never calls us to blind allegiance to any leader or church. To be submitted to the covering of one's church leadership is a very important aspect of how the Church should function. But choosing unity at the cost of sound doctrine is not biblical and is certainly counter productive, even cult like. A covenant (i.e., oath) that insists on unity at any price is a pact that no biblical Christian should ever enter into.
Space in this update is limited but I haven't even touched on issues like Sin, Salvation and Repentance - a facet that is completely missing in The Purpose Driven Life book. Simply put - without repentance there is no salvation. This may be the most important point I outline in Examining. It is not just some of what he has said in print that is often troubling. It is the biblically vital information that he omitted from his famous teaching that I and many others rightfully lament. Teachers and teaching that merely sound Christian are going to abound. In these end-days we must know what the Bible teaches so as not to be deceived.
My friend, as you see Dr. Warren on television at the Obama inauguration over the next few days please remember that no matter what he may proclaim these days his books stand as a monument to the "new" look alike and counterfeit Christianity. Without a retraction and accompanying correction of the errors found in his books, the ongoing and eternally damaging effects of Rick Warren's teachings and influence will continue seemingly unrecognized by him.
Warnings for the Wayward Church
"Any gospel proclamation that does not preach the cross of Christ and its demand for separation from sin is ultimately doomed to failure; all such efforts will be empty of the presence of Christ and His Spirit." - the late Donald C. Stamps from the study notes on Isaiah 53:12, Full Life Study Bible
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