THE INADEQUATE GOSPEL OF RICK WARREN

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

The Reforming (Reinvention?) Of Rick Warren

Apprising Ministries reminds you that in John Piper’s March 31, 2010 video defense of his wrong decision to open up Warrengate by inviting Rick Warren to share the platform with him in the 2010 Desiring God Conference he tells us, “I think Rick Warren meant it when he began The Purpose Driven Life with: ‘It’s not about you.’”

Well, in his excellent July 2005 article The Gospel According to Warren Dr. Gary Gilley noted:

No one has exemplified the market-driven approach better than Rick Warren, pastor of the huge Saddleback Church in southern California and author of The Purpose-Driven Church and The Purpose-Driven Life. While Warren is open and up-front about his philosophy, strategy and methods, nevertheless things are not always as they appear. For example, “purpose-driven” sounds better than “market-driven” but it is basically the same thing. In his book The Purpose-Driven Life, his opening statement is, “It is not about you,” then turns around and writes a whole book about “you.”

He belittles pop-psychology then repeatedly promotes it by simply calling it something else. He publicly cuts ties with Robert Schuller, then regurgitates some of the most odious things that Schuller has been teaching for thirty years. He claims commitment to the Scriptures then undermines them at almost every turn. He will tell his followers that he is not tampering with the message but only reengineering the methods, when in fact he has so altered the message as to make it all but unrecognizable… (Online source, emphasis mine)

Pastor Bob DeWaay, author of Redefining Christianity: Understanding the Purpose Driven Life Movement begins his article Recovering Reformation Theology: Rejecting Synergism and Returning to Monergism by informing us:

A key idea in the contemporary evangelical movement is that revival can be engineered. The Purpose Driven Web site says, “Peter Drucker called him [Warren] ‘the inventor of perpetual revival’ and Forbes magazine has written, ‘If Warren’s church was a business it would be compared with Dell, Google or Starbucks.’” The Purpose Driven movement can cite this business management guru approvingly only because they have a faulty theology of human ability. For example, Rick Warren says, “It is my deep conviction that anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the key to his or her heart. . . . It may take some time to identify it. But the most likely place to start is with the person’s felt needs.” If this were true one could use modern marketing principles to sell people on their need for Christian religion and convince them to convert in order to find satisfaction of their felt needs. But it is not true.

Furthermore, it might surprise many people that this idea is not new. Charles Finney first proposed it one hundred fifty years ago. Finney wrote, “A revival is not a miracle according to another definition of the term ‘miracle’ — something above the powers of nature. There is nothing in religion beyond the ordinary powers of nature. It consists entirely in the right exercise of the powers of nature. It is just that, and nothing else.” Finney wrote more: “A revival is not a miracle, nor dependent on a miracle, in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means — as much so as any other effect produced by the application of means.”4 Finney’s position that there is some innate power in man that can be motivated by some discoverable process makes an engineered revival plausible.

So how does one create a revival by the right use of means? Finney tells us: “There must be excitement sufficient to wake up the dormant moral powers, and roll back the tide of degradation and sin.”5 Finney and Rick Warren claim that revival can be engineered by human efforts. This belief is grounded on the idea of human ability. It is plausible to them only because Finney and Warren believe that there is some principle, be it a “dormant moral power” or “felt need,” that can be excited into action to cause people to become Christians and live godly lives. Neither Finney nor Warren would deny that the Holy Spirit’s work is necessary. But in their theology, the Holy Spirit is always everywhere doing His part. It becomes our business to find the key to unlock something in sinners to get them to do their part.

This theological perspective is fully at odds with the doctrines of the Reformation. The Reformers taught human inability and bondage to sin. They taught monergism (that salvation is fully an act of God) not synergism (that salvation is a cooperative effort between man and God). They taught that only a sovereign work of grace (grace alone) brought salvation. The ideas of Finney and Warren suggest that man has some innate principle or ability that could be stirred up by the revivalist with the right method, and thus anyone could be saved… (Online source)

Today while commenting a bit on Warrengate in Michael Horton on Rick Warren, Modern Reformation, and Desiring God Dr. Horton brings out the key point concerning the chameleon-like Rick Warren:

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?… (Online source)

And below you’ll hear Dr. John MacArthur share his view concerning the “gospel” of The Purpose-Driven Life, which he believes: 

is a gospel that I will tell you will contribute to apostasy. It will contribute to defection because people are going to come to that which they think is the saving message, and when it doesn’t do anything, they’re gone.

A shallow gospel presentation that doesn’t present the reality of eternal judgment, the reality of the Law of God, the reality of condemnation, eternal hell, does not warn of God’s wrath, that does not crush the sinner under the weight of his violation of the Law of God, that does not make him stand before God guilty.

The gospel presentation that doesn’t do that isn’t a faithful gospel presentation. And then to tell someone, “Welcome to the family,” as if you knew; this is fantasy. 

Maybe it’s just me; but when you add in that Rick Warren accepts the Roman Catholic Church as a legitimate expression of Christianity despite the fact that in its Council of Trent the Church of Rome quite literally anathematized the Gospel itself, it all just doesn’t appear very consistent with Reformation theology, and it sure doesn’t sound so rock solid biblically.

See also:

REFUTING RICK WARREN

OVERSTATEMENT ABOUT RICK WARREN APPEARING AT DESIRING GOD 2010

SBC PROTESTANT PASTOR RICK WARREN DOUBLE-MINDED ON THE REFORMATION AND ROMAN CATHOLICISM

SOUTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR RICK WARREN AND SADDLEBACK CHURCH OPENLY RECOMMEND CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY/MYSTICISM

SADDLEBACK CHURCH PASTORS USING ROB BELL TEACHINGS

DR. ROD ROSENBLADT CALLS RICK WARREN’S MAN-CENTERED THEOLOGY “ROMAN CATHOLIC”

WHAT DOES THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH TEACH ABOUT THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION?