Sunday, April 04, 2010

Rick Warren and Orthodoxy

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,” In a June 2006 article in, 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.


Joel Tay said...

I think you have hit a raw spot. Seems like a lot of the people commenting on the topic online fails to question the authenticity of Rick Warren faith in accordance to his works.

PuritanReformed said...


Hit a raw spot? I don't know if that is good...

Bill said...

You are absolutely correct in your assessment.

I'll give another example, Warren has repeatedly said that in order to get rid of addictions and hang-ups, doctrine i.e. the word of God is not sufficient. You can memorize your bible and your addictions will not disappear according to Warren. So basically he resorts to psychology and small groups and programs designed by Saddleback to cure addictions. In essence human methods.

The reason for Warren's logic is because he is not born again. Rick Warren has not trusted in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins, and understood that his forgiveness is unmerited based on no good he has done but solely on God's good pleasure. Rick Warren does not truly believe that every human being (including himself of course) is lost in Adam, and unless he hears the gospel and repents of his sin and trusts in Jesus Christ's work on the cross he will eternally perish. And last but not least by his own admission Rick Warren does not believe that God sanctifies everybody that he justifies, he does not believe that anybody that God justifies he sanctifies at the same time. Luther and Calvin understood and believed this. Rick Warren does not believe it and that's why he thinks that addictions and hang-ups need to be fought in the flesh by human effort instead of through the spirit and the word of God. The word of god is the power of god unto salvation for everybody that believes. "Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof: from such turn away" 2 Timothy 3:5.

And I could go on and on. Like Rick Warren has repeatedly said that skill brings success in Ministry, quoting from Eclesiastes. He believes that conversions depend on the skill of the pastor, more than on God and the power of the word in the gospel.

It is abundantly clear from his actions that Rick Warren does not trust God.

PuritanReformed said...


it is sad that such is truly the case. And even sadder that Piper cannot see it.

dale mcalpine said...

What most people seem to be saying is that piper has somehow been duped into thinking that Rick Warren is "sound"

John Piper is a grown man and I for one minute do not believe that he seriously thinks Rick Warren has repented from all his heretical comments from years gone by and suddenly become "sound"

There has to be something else going on here. Time will tell.

PuritanReformed said...


possible. We will see.

Bort said...

In 1830, Joseph Smith taught men could evolve to be God. [18. Mormon Cartoon Banned, T. 0:01-6:12] This founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Ladder Day Saints, declared Christianity apostate. He claimed to be the prophet of the only true church on earth. He taught there are many planets ruled by gods who were once human. Smith prophesied the Father was once a man who evolved to be God. According to Brigham Young, the second false prophet of this cult, God the Father was Adam the first born of the human race. [19.Teachings Of Brigham Young- Adam God Doctrine, 1:30-1:48] Smith and Young denied Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. This is why Mormons deny Jesus as the only begotten Son of God. They believe they too will become God. Satan has sown this lie from the beginning of the human race.

"For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God...." (Gen. 3:5)

During this interview on Fox News, Joel Osteen told Chris Wallace he believes Mormons are Christians. He admits to having a bond with Mormons believing in Christ as their savior. [20. Joel Osteen Biffs It On Mormonism, T.0:14-1:12] Osteen assures us he will not judge the little details. Tell me, how is judging a doctrine of demons denying Jesus a little detail? It appears maintaining his reputation as a loving,non-judgmental, positive personality, is far more important than exposing this satanic cult. In his earlier interview, Billy Graham also affirms Mormons will go to heaven. The same can be said for Rick Warren. This famous pastor has no problem equipping Mormons to be better leaders at his Purpose Driven Life Training Conferences. He believes the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is an authentic Christian denomination. Of course, the Holy Spirit is not leading this pastor to strengthen ministers denying God's Son. Don't tell this to former President Jimmy Carter. This Baptist Sunday school teacher routinely rebukes anyone saying Mormons aren't Christians. In this case, it's painfully clear these men professing Jesus as the Christ have no intention of discerning between the righteous and the wicked. To them, making a righteous judgment is being divisive.

PuritanReformed said...


agreed. There are too many false believers around in leadership, and too many otherwise orthodox teachers who do not want to be seen as "divisive".