In my previous article about Rick Warren, Pastor of the massive Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, I was mainly focused on his proclivity to cuddle up to the Muslims in his area; attending their Ramadan breaks in fasting, holding huge dinners for them at his church as well as endeavoring to find 'common ground' between the Christian and Islamic faiths in an attempt to "bridge 1400 years of misunderstanding between them."
He has been working at this for over 10 years and these efforts have resulted in an official document, called Kings Way which was co-authored by Abraham Meulenberg, Pastor of Interfaith Outreach at Saddleback and Jihad Turk of the Christian-Muslim Consultative Group. It was written to establish key points of theology that the two religions can agree upon. My beef was that this declaration says, among other things, that Christians and Muslims believe in the same God.
When Mr. Warren was recently interviewed by the Orange County Register, he vehemently denied ever saying this and the 'reporter obviously misquoted' him. He subsequently issued a statement in the Christian Post in February 2012 saying, "A few days ago an article appeared in the Orange County Register that included some outrageous statements about Saddleback that were incorrect." He goes on to lament that, "secular reporters trying to cover churches and theological issues often get it wrong." Well, I'd have to agree with him, but is that the case here?
See, trouble is back in 2007, Mr. Warren was one of several other Christian leaders who endorsed a document called, A Common Word Between Us and You at the Yale Divinity School, which says within the first few lines that "many Christians have been guilty of sinning against our Muslim neighbors. Before we 'shake your hand' in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world."
The title, All-Merciful One is what most Muslims call the Islamic god, Allah. Although Christians know that Jehovah is also all merciful, we don't refer to Him the same way. As much as Mr. Warren desires to distance himself from this controversy, this isn't the first time this issue has come up. Let's look back at the shocking prayer he gave at President Obama's inauguration. He ended his invocation by stating that he was "praying to the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus, Jesus (Hispanic pronunciation) who taught"
Whoa, back up there cowboy"Isa"??? Who the heck is Isa? Oh, he must have meant the Islamic pronunciation of the historical Jesus. But now I'm confusedhe denies ever implying that the Son of God we Christians worship, Jesus Christ, is the same as the Muslim's Isa. And he couldn't have been talking about the Christian Arab's Jesus because they pronounce His name, Yasu. So if that's the case, who was he praying to at the inauguration??
According to the Quran, Isa (the real, historical Jesus) was simply a created human being, NOT the Son of God and was a slave to Allah and did not die on the cross because a substitute was crucified by 'a very large deception hoisted by Allah on the world.' (Are they saying Allah is a deceitful liar?) According to the Quran, this Isa will appear on earth again, will be a devout Muslim and will accomplish two major things: he will help the al-Mahdi destroy their version of the anti-christ and he will 'correct the mistakes in Christianity'.
Isa will declare that Christians have been wrong to worship him; that he never claimed to be God's son and he will go around destroying crosses and forcing Christians and Jews to convert to Islam or die in war. Oh yeah, he will also confirm that Christianity is a corruption of the true religion, Islam. I'm still not clear on how Christianity could possibly be a corruption of something that didn't even exist until 650 year later. I mean, doesn't something have to exist before it can be corrupted? Raise your hand if you know the answer Anyone?
The point is the good Reverend most certainly HAS said the two faiths worship the same god until he is pinned on it, then he suddenly 'never said it and it's all some reporter's fault.' Yeah, that's the ticket! Unfortunately, when Mr. Warren is caught with his proverbial pants down, he has a long history of saying one thing and then flatly denying he made the statement, even when cold, hard evidence is present to him.
For instance, he denied supporting California's Proposition 8 which sought to protect and uphold the legal definition of marriage between one man and one woman back in 2009 even though he made a clear statement in front of his congregation endorsing it and encouraging the folks to vote 'yes.'
A short time later, he appeared on Larry King Live and stated that he had to apologize to his homosexual friends for making comments supporting the amendment and that he has, "never been and never will be anti-gay or an anti-gay marriage activist."
He also said that shoring up traditional marriage was not something that was on his agenda. Uh, excuse me? He is a Christian ordained minister, is he not? For that matter, why on earth does he have homosexual 'friends' when Christians are told not to associate with evil doers?
After several hours of research and having read his New York Times #1 bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life, which catapulted him to world-wide fame, I have much more serious issues with this man than whether he can keep his stories straight. Oh my, there is so muchwhere to start?
How about the beginning? Warren's Saddleback church had its first service on Easter Sunday, 1980 with about 200 people showing up. It has since grown to average 30,000+ in attendance. Nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but we need to examine why this church is so successful.
Back when he was new to the community, scouting locations for the church and meeting people in the area, he would poll them by asking what kind of church they thought they would like to attend. Huh? How about one that teaches the Bible? But no, that was SO pass and he felt he'd never be able to compete with all the other churches in the area, so he came up with a rather brilliant strategy.
He has been quoted saying, "The church audience must be treated as consumers and must be appealed to out of their love for self." He is a master marketer and has built a huge following by appealing to the Emergent Church style of New Age, feel good, aren't I a wonderful person, kind of crowd.
He spent the subsequent years developing the principals that led to the church's success, which he calls the five biblical purposes of the church: worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and evangelism. These are the points on which he based, The Purpose Driven Life. This book, by the way, has gone on to sell over 24 million copies in English alone and is now the bestselling non-fiction hardback book in history. Must be some mighty good stuff in there, right?
The issue his detractors and I have shows up within the first few pages of his book. When speaking of our lives, it declares, "It's not about you. It's about God." It supposedly shows how God can enable us to accomplish His purposes thus allowing us to live the ultimate life God planned for us. Boy that sounds good! However, the book ends up being light on the 'God' part and heavy on the 'you' part.
Back in May 2005, at the Pew and Religion Forum, Warren stated, "Now the word 'fundamentalist' actually comes from a document in the 1920's called the Five Fundamentals of the Faith and it is a very legalistic, narrow view of Christianity." What are these legalistic, out of date, fuddy-duddy fundamentals of our faith?
1. The Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ
2. The Virgin Birth
3. The Blood Atonement
4. The Bodily Resurrection
5. The Inerrancy of Scriptures
Apparently Mr. Warren feels the beliefs taught by Christ and the apostles are outdated or unneeded. These are a very legalistic, narrow view of Christianity?? I always thought they were the basics!
He goes on to say, "My goal is the 2nd Reformation of the church. The first one was about creeds, this one is about deeds. This reformation needs to be about behavior, about what we should do. It's about the church's mission. I intend to give my life to this."
(Does anyone else hear angels singing?)
Finally, he goes on to say, "Building churches is more important than evangelism." WHAT? Since when? I don't recall reading that in the Bible and I don't remember hearing that a 'church' ever brought someone to salvation. Maybe I missed something.
Mr. Warren seems to feel that the function of the church is to go about doing good and start new churches. Well, sound's reasonable. I mean, Jesus himself "went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil" so how is that philosophy in error?
Because it concentrates on works instead of the Great Commission. Anytime you hear a pastor blabbering on and on about works, you'd better perk up your ears because something ain't right.
In his book, Warren says, "People are driven by guilt because they are manipulated by memories. They allow the past to control their future. When Cain sinned, his guilt disconnected him from God's presence and God said, 'You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.' That describes most people today, wandering through life without a purpose." Cain's SIN disconnected him from God! SIN, Mr. Warren. You know, the reason we need a Savior. Remember?
He teaches that people need to accept Jesus, receive His forgiveness and begin to search for God's purpose for their life to further His kingdom, because He has one for every person. Strangely enough, he uses quotes from New Agers, occultists, mystics and spiritual liberals to back up his theology.
For instance, the book claims that 'God lives in everything' which is patently pantheistic New Age teaching. However, cool and groovy this sounds, it is not Biblical. Reverend Warren is missing some critical points here that completely negates any good he is trying to accomplish.
There is NO mention of the conscience smiting terms 'satan', 'repentance' or 'hell' anywhere in his writing. What bothers me is this appears to be a deliberate choice on his part. After all, we gotta pack those pews and we can't do that if we offend people, right?
He, like many other Christian authors, penned a prayer of salvation that his readers can say to receive Jesus and His forgiveness. What's wrong with that? Isn't that what the Bible tells us we have to do to be saved? NO! Listen up!!
Simply believing in Jesus and saying a prayer or walking up to the front of the church during an altar call will not accomplish anything unless you are convicted of your of sin and realize you are automatically doomed to be separated from a Holy God for eternity. The Bible tells us that even the demons believe in Jesus and tremble, so saying you 'believe' is basically worthless. A conscious realization of being hopelessly lost must take place.
You must have a desire to repent, which means to turn away from and give up your sinful ways. You need to confess you are unable to ever do enough good deeds to be acceptable to God, and then receive the pardon Jesus paid for with His blood and desire to live in a manner pleasing to the Lord. Unless this spiritual transformation happens, there is no salvation.
You will be a false convert and will go your merry way deceived and bound for hell just like you were before you said your nice, scripted little prayer. Wouldn't you expect Time Magazines, 2004 'Most Influential Christian in America' to teach this basic truth?
The problem is our flesh rebels against having to bow before God. We naturally want to be our own little gods and gain heaven by 'being a good person' which is exactly what a purpose driven life means and this is what is so dangerous about Mr. Warren's teaching!
He acknowledges we must be saved, but does not explain exactly what that entails, probably because it is repugnant to our sinful nature. It's hard to build churches and gather in millions of dollars if you are offending the sensibilities of the ones you are trying to reach.
There is nothing wrong with seeking God's will and desiring to serve Him, but unless we give up our own agenda on the altar of our hearts and completely surrender, we're wasting our time. Heck, we might as well be out partying and partaking in all the ways of the world!
Now, to be perfectly fair, Rev. Warren claims that he and his wife are 'reverse tithers', that is, they keep 10% of their income and give 90% away. If that is truly the case, I heartily applaud and admire him for such a wise decision and encourage other mega church pastors to consider doing the same! But back to the point of this article
When Paul was speaking of the last days, he warned us in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."
This purpose driven teaching is exactly what Paul was describing we would see in the last days. 2 Timothy 3: 5 states that people, even in the church, will be seen, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."
Jesus never told us to build churches. He never mentioned we are to worry about finding our purpose in life. In Mark 16: 15 "And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." What is the Gospel? It is the news that "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." The Gospel is the Good News that we can be reconciled to God through the blood of Jesus and escape an eternity separated from Him, frying in everlasting fire. Gee, that IS good news!
It is NOT figuring out what our purpose on this earth is! How did Rick Warren drift away from the basic Gospel? Why does he feel the five fundamentals of our faith are outdated, narrow minded and legalistic? Somewhere Mr. Warren has lost his way and his first love, Jesus Christ. His eyes appear to be on the conquest of ever larger congregations and building more ministries around the world.
Corruption is always born out of the lust for either money or power. I'll give Tricky Ricky the benefit of the doubt and assume he really does give away 90% of his income. But boy oh boy, that fame must feel mighty good!
Just think: "The Most Influential Christian in America." Being invited by the newly elected President of the United States to pray at his historical inauguration. Traveling the world, meeting heads of state, kings and princes. Having an inside track with what is happening behind the scenes in Washington.
Mmmm, can you smell the heady, seducing fragrance of that kind of power and influence? Is that your motivation for failing to present the ugliness of sin and the need for repentance and the cross to your congregation? To avoid offending someone and losing all the accolades and privileges?
I've been chided by several people for my first article criticizing Rick Warren because I was being 'divisive' and judgmental and doing damage to the body of Christ. I agree that Christians don't need to be fighting Christians over minor theological issues. But when a Christian, especially one who is as well known as Rev. Warren, starts coming out of left field and obstinately refuses to listen to the concerns of other pastors, you'd better believe I'm gonna call him on the carpet, whether anyone agrees with me or not!
1 Timothy 5:19-20 says, "Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others may fear." Reverend, you are the elder or the one who presides over your congregation. You have been rebuked for years by numerous clergy regarding your insistent failure to present the full Gospel message, which is a sinful violation of God's Word and call on your life. Must I actually remind you that your Lord, if He indeed is still that, considers you to be their shepherd?
Let me be blunt, Mr. Warren. To measure the success of your ministry by the size of your church, or by your book sales or by the influence you wield over the movers and shakers is worldly and carnal. Dare I even say, narcissistic? How successful are you in winning souls for Christ; not false converts but sincere, changed lives dedicated to the service of Christ?
What will you say to those thousands of lost souls who listened to your incomplete teaching, as they pass by you on their way to hell? What excuse will you give your Savior when you are forced to admit you knew better?
Finally, I want you to really consider where all this so called success might be coming from.
Almighty God is not the only one who can manipulate minds and increase book sales, you know...
Donna Wasson is all of the following: Married. Mom. Hospice RN. Avid reader. Animal lover. Needing to spread the Gospel while there is still time.
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