In the recent controversy involving John Piper inviting heretic Rick Warren for the DG2010 conference, Piper has posted a video whereby he posed doctrinal questions to Rick Warren to answer. Not surprisingly, Warren gave solid and reasonably orthodox answers to the questions posed to him. On the basis of such answers, Piper pronounced Warren as being essentially sound in doctrine.
So what's the problem here? The problem can be glimpsed at perhaps in this quote from the White Horse Inn blog here:
His best-selling book, The Purpose-Driven Life, begins by announcing that it’s not about you, but about God, and then the rest of the book is about you. There seems to be a contradiction between the God-centered theology that is professed and the basically human-centered orientation that dominates much of his message and methods. ...
Pastor Warren tailors his appeals to his audience. To Calvinists, he stresses his support for the “solas” of the Reformation. Yet he tells prosperity evangelist David Yonggi Cho, “I’ve read your books on Vision and Dreams - speak to pastors about how you hear the voice of the Holy Spirit?… What advice would you give to a brand new minister?… Do you think American churches should be more open to the prayer for miracles?” (“Breakfast With David Yonggi Cho And Rick Warren,” Pastors.com). In a June 2006 article in JewishJournal.com, editor-in-chief Rob Eshman reported on a speech that Warren gave for Synagogue 3000, after Rabbi Ron Wolfson became involved in the Purpose-Driven pastoral training seminars. “Warren managed to speak for the entire evening without once mentioning Jesus — a testament to his savvy message-tailoring.” When USA Today asked him why Mormon and Jewish leaders are involved in his pastoral training programs, Rick Warren reportedly said, “I’m not going to get into a debate over the non-essentials. I won’t try to change other denominations. Why be divisive?” (USA Today, July 21, 2003). Rick Warren endorses a host of books, from New Age authors to Emergent writers to conservative evangelicals. So why not include Calvinists?
The issue of orthodoxy for Warren is that doctrine for Warren is purely intellectual. This is precisely why in the Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren on page 213 can state that
The last things many believers need today is to go to another Bible study. They already know far more than they are putting into practice. What they need are serving experiences in which they can exercise their spiritual muscles
Doctrine in Warren's mind is purely academic. The problem with Rick Warren is NOT that he does not know what is orthodox truth. After all, Warren has a doctorate, albeit from the liberal Fulller Seminary, thus he can give all the orthodox answers. The problem with Rick Warren is that he does not believe the doctrines that he knows. For if he does, his practices will not be what they now are.
For example, if Warren actually believes that pastors are meant to be shepherds who are entrusted with the Gospel message, then he would not be involved with all the seeker-sensitive nonsense. There would be no need to do surveys of the unreached and no need to tailor the message to them. If Warren actually believes that we are Christ's ambassadors who are supposed to represent Christ, and that salvation is totally of God, then he wouldn't be too bothered with attempting to get into the good books of men by spinning the Gospel in order to do what he thinks is God's Will in the area of social service. (Contrary to what some may believe, I do not think it is necessarily wrong for a church to get involved in social service. But such is not the primary business of the church.) There would probably not be an outcry if Warren was orthodox and practice the theology he professed, quietly laboring in his church without disturbing other churches (think Church Transitions Inc.) and then decide to start programs to help the poor and needy etc.
This disturbing feature in Rick Warren is sad in and of itself. Faith consists of Knowledge, Assent, and Trust (as understood classically). In the classical sense, Warren does not have trust. In the Clarkian sense, Warren's assent is false. In what I think is the Witsian sense, Warren's "faith" does not have substance and no confidence on the reality of the object of that faith. In each sense, Warren does not have true faith in the doctrines he profess to believe in.
So the mere fact that Warren professes orthodoxy means nothing much at all in and of itself. Even the Devil can pass a theological exam with flying colors, but that does not mean that he has suddenly come to believe the truths of God (cf Jas. 2:19). Rather, as the book of James in chapter 2 verses 14-26 remind us, our profession of faith is meaningless apart from our showing that we actually have faith by our actions. In the context of doctrine, being able to give orthodox answers to a list of doctrinal questions is meaningless apart from our showing that we actually do believe in these doctrines by our practice. As it is written:
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? ... You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (Jas. 2:18-20, 24)
Customized for Rick Warren, it will state
But you will say, “You have orthodoxy and I have orthopraxy.” Show me your orthodoxy apart from practicing what you claim to believe, and I will show you my orthodoxy by practicing what I do in fact believe. You know all the correct doctrines; you do well. Even the demons know them — and shudder! Do you want to be shown, Pastor Warren, that professing orthodox doctrines without practicing them is useless? ... You see that a person's standing as one who is truly orthodox is manifested by his putting them into practice and not by mere profession alone.
May we not be fooled by professed orthodoxy and instead insist that the doctrinal practices of preachers such as Rick Warren match up to what they profess to believe.