Last week, I received a personal email from the director of a Christian organization who invited me to check out a blog article he had written and a YouTube video interview he had given.
He claimed that Rick Warren was “THE poster child global predatory pastor” and “THE MOST DANGEROUS PASTOR IN THE WORLD.”
So I read his article and listened to his entire video, jotting thoughts down along the way.
What did I learn?
That Rick Warren might be a 33rd Degree Mason and a member of the Illuminati … that he teaches “the tyranny of tithing” … that he doesn’t preach “Christ crucified” … and that because he prayed at President Obama’s inauguration, Warren is somehow linked to the elimination of the black race.
I kid you not.
And this “director” doesn’t have one good thing to say about Rick Warren … not one.
Let me try and answer each of these charges and then share why I think they’re being made.
First, is Rick Warren really a Mason?
When I was in seminary, my church history professor – Dr. Christian – made a statement I’ve never forgotten: “You can be a Christian and be a Mason, but you can’t be a good Christian and a good Mason.”
Because both the church and the lodge demand total commitment – and because they believe mutually exclusive things.
In the interest of full disclosure, my son works at (not for) Saddleback Church. He’s had his picture taken with Pastor Rick … twice.
And my son says that Pastor Rick is rarely at church because he’s always traveling to some other part of the country or world.
How in the world would Pastor Rick have the time and energy to be both a Mason and a Christian pastor?
After muttering the claim on the video, the discernment ministry expert admitted that he didn’t have the documentation to prove that Warren really was a Mason.
But if you want to be taken seriously, why even mutter the claim if you can’t prove it?
Second, does Rick Warren teach tithing?
Yes. And so do thousands and thousands of other pastors. They honestly believe that the tithe in the Old Testament is assumed in the New Testament and point to Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:23 as proof.
But by what stretch of the imagination is keeping an Old Testament command tyranny? Isn’t keeping God’s law supposed to be liberating? Didn’t Jesus come not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it?
I taught tithing, and I’ve practiced it for decades in my own life. What’s wrong with that?
Why single Warren out for teaching tithing when so many others have done so? It’s okay to disagree, but to call it tyranny?
Third, does Warren preach “Christ crucified?”
The charge against Warren is that he has garbled the gospel message by not consistently preaching that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead … and that he doesn’t tell people to repent of their sins.
This reminds me of a woman who once heard me preach on two consecutive Sundays. She wrote a note on her response card claiming that she wasn’t coming back to the church because I didn’t preach on John 3:16.
The following Sunday, that woman wasn’t present, but I did preach on John 3:16 … for the first time in years … but for some reason, I didn’t receive her note until the following day.
Can we put this “there’s only one way to preach the gospel” controversy to bed forever?
In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are arrested and imprisoned in Philippi. About midnight, a violent earthquake occurs, and the jailer – assuming his prisoners had escaped – attempts to kill himself. Paul stops him, and the jailer asks Paul, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Paul replies in verse 31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.” (If his household believes, they will be saved as well.) The next verse tells us, “Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house,” probably expanding upon their “believe” statement.
But do you know how many times I’ve heard preachers and evangelists tell people, “All you have to do to be saved is to believe in the Lord Jesus as Paul states in verse 31?”
Paul doesn’t mention Christ crucified … or the resurrection … or heaven or hell … or repentance … or judgment … or God’s law.
Guess what? Resurrection and repentance aren’t found in John 3:16, either … and Jesus said the thief on the cross was saved by simply saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
If using specific “code words” was vital to preaching the gospel, then Dr. Luke should have made sure that he used the right words every time he mentioned the gospel message in Acts … but he doesn’t.
He uses a variety of expressions to keep his book interesting … and many preachers do the same thing … including Rick Warren.
Finally, did Rick Warren sin by praying at Barack Obama’s inauguration?
Here’s how the argument is made on the videotape:
Warren blessed Obama at the inauguration … and Obama promotes Planned Parenthood … and their founder advocated the elimination of the black race … so, by implication, Rick Warren supports the elimination of the black race.
This is the kind of linkage that I grew up with as a fundamentalist:
If you’re in high school … and you go to a dance … you’ll get turned on … have sex after the dance … and get someone pregnant … SO DON’T GO TO THE DANCE.
How about this one instead?
If you listen to Christian kooks … and read their books … you’ll start sounding like a babbling idiot … pull away from your church … and sit in a corner sucking your thumb … SO DON’T LISTEN TO CHRSTIAN KOOKS.
But if you know anything about reasoning, you know there are huge jumps in logic between each step and that one step doesn’t logically follow the next.
Why are there so many Warren bashers out there today?
I have never met Rick Warren. I’ve read his books … and I follow him on Twitter … but I don’t know the man at all.
But I like him.
Last weekend, I watched him preach (using the Saddleback Roku app) on transforming your mind. The message was great.
It was biblical … interesting … relevant … practical … passionate … challenging … and convicting.
Do you know how hard it is to preach like that?
Rick Warren is an evangelist at heart, not a seminary professor. Like Paul, he seeks “to become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).
He’s not like John the Baptist: living in isolation … leading an ultra-disciplined life … condemning sins sternly … and having a small group of followers.
He’s much more like Jesus: socializing with all kinds of people … enjoying life to the full … condemning the religious more than the irreligious … and gaining a large following.
And like many Christian leaders, if he’s asked to do something … and he thinks he’ll have a chance to represent Christ … he’ll say “yes” as often as possible … preaching the word “in season and out of season.”
Why does Rick Warren attract so much harsh criticism?
Because God has wildly blessed his ministry over the past 34 years … and God hasn’t blessed most other ministries in the same way.
And this makes “Christian discernment experts” and many pastors wildly jealous.
Paul wrote in Philippians 1:18 that even if certain people preach Christ “out of envy and rivalry” or “in love” … “The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”
Is Rick Warren perfect?
Has he made mistakes?
He’s the first one to admit that he has … and he’s disappointed me a few times … but so have most Christian leaders at one time or another.
But has God used him mightily?
Yes … and God only uses imperfect people.
In listening to all the Warren-bashing, I’ve never heard anyone say, “Let’s pray for Pastor Rick.”
So let’s pray for Pastor Rick … that God gives him many more years of service … and let’s pray for the Christian discernment experts … that they’ll focus on somebody really dangerous.