I’ve always been a kind of “Eat the Meat and Spit Out the Bones” kind of guy. It’s not a position that I think everyone should take. Without trying to be arrogant, I believe that I largely possess a grasp of orthodox and fundamental Christianity and its corresponding worldview that allows me to read a wide variety of authors ranging from Evangelicals to Infidels and to be able to sort through their various ideas and perspectives without “buying into” that which is unBiblical. I often use the “…eating the meat…” analogy to defend my broad stable of authors and leaders after whom I follow.
One such example of an Evangelical Leader I’ve enjoyed reading after and following his ministry has been Rick Warren. There’s plenty of meat in his book entitled “The Purpose-Driven Church.” It’s a stimulating read and I foundit helpful on multiple levels. I don’t believe in blindly closing my eyes to what the Lord is blessing in other cities simply because I wouldn’t use the exact same methodology in my own setting. I need to be prodded — even provoked, at times, to avoid falling into the traps of traditionalism, apathy or lethargy that is causing a lot of churches to fight over inconsequentials and whither in their own vineyards. In the interest of full-disclosure, you should know that we use some of the principles of “The Purpose-Driven Church” at our church, I’ve visited his church on two occasions and I’ve read several of his works. I just don’t switch off my brain when I’m reading someone.
For me, I was significantly less impressed with his blockbuster book, “The Purpose-Driven Life.” Yes…I know lots of people whom the Lord touched through reading this book. I don’t doubt their sincerity or the validity of the salvation. God calls whom He will using whatever means He chooses and I’m not going to engage in a debate on the genuineness of salvation experiences apart from Doctrinal Issues. Though speaking of Doctrinal Issues, I must note that my largest objection with “The Purpose-Life” was the absence of any significant discussion of what it means to “take up one’s cross and follow Jesus”. Short shriff was given to the non-seeker-friendly doctrine of Repentance in my opinion. There was a substantial whiff of Finneyesque “Decisionism” which promotes “making a decision” as opposed to a genuine “conversion” and which, once again in my opinion, promotes a false sense of security. So, I would say it is “light” on at least this key principle, but I would not categorize it as dangerous and heretical, as some have.
(As for giving someone a book that introduces them to the gospel, I far and away prefer Andy Stanley’s excellent little book, “How Good is Good Enough?”.)
But I will state here, that I have seen a marked change in the demeanor of Rick Warren since he became [arguably] “the world’s most influential Protestant pastor” and due largely, to his media-driven cash cows surrounding the “Purpose-Driven Life” campaigns. He certainly is now coming across as a man with an emerging “Messiah Complex” and we need to listen to his words carefully.
No longer satisfied with building a network of “Purpose-Driven” Churches, Warren now wants to end AIDS in Africa, erradicate poverty around the world and apparently unite all churches who “love Jesus” into a joint exercise in ecumenical group hugging.
For me, a major bone that caught in my throat was the press reports that he had written a substantial check to the rank liberal Baptist World Alliance which embraces a theological mushiness and liberalness that caused the Southern Baptist Convention to withdraw their affiliation and funding. Warren denounced the SBC pull-out, spoke kinds word about the BWA without caveat and announced that he and his wife had written a generous check to the BWA.
Now, there’s an even more ominous statement being attributed to Warren in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette article I linked to earlier in this article. (In case you missed it — click here.)
Let me quote some of his statements… (You can go read the whole article for the complete context.)
“It really doesn’t matter what your label is. If you love Jesus, we’re on the same team,” he said.
“Now I don’t agree with everything in everybody’s denomination, including my own. I don’t agree with everything that Catholics do or Pentecostals do, but what binds us together is so much stronger than what divides us,” he said.
“I really do feel that these people are brothers and sisters in God’s family. I am looking to build bridges with the Orthodox Church, looking to build bridges with the Catholic Church, with the Anglican church, and say ‘What can we do together that we have been unable to do by ourselves?’ “
Stop the buffet line, I’m harking on a major-league bone here.
If “loving Jesus” is all that is required to put someone on Rick’s “team”, then he needs to look around him before leading in Kumbayah. He’s going to be holding hands with Muslims (remember — in their book, Jesus was a Prophet and they “love” prophets), with liberal Protestants (folks like UMC and PCUSA and others still “love” Jesus while they try to earn their way to heaven on works), with cultists like the Jehovah Witnesses, Worldwide Church of God, Mormons and let’s throw in some White Separatists folks — they all “love” Jesus.
What should “bind us together” is not a shared goal, similar origins or some sort of mushy admittance that “Jesus” was a good guy — it should be TRUTH. Nothing less.
Why would Warren be interested in “building bridges” of cooperation with people who deny fundamental doctrines such as sola scriptura, sola gracia, sola Christos, sola fide, the Diety of Christ, the Doctrine of the Trinity and other key lines of orthodoxy?
What is it about high-profile evangelical leaders that entices them to sell out their beliefs to maintain their viability in the world politic? I sat, less than a year ago, and listened personally and in his presence, Billy Graham espouse the virtues of the head of the Roman Catholic Church as if he was an evangelical orthodox Born-again Believer. Even a first-year seminarian at any real evangelical or fundamental school will tell you that the gospel as preached by Rome is far removed from the Gospel taught by Bible-believing Baptist, Protestant and evangelical churches.
When men of the stature of Graham and Warren start making these kind of high-minded and unsound declarations in front of their adoring masses and sycophants, someone needs to speak up and demand clarification and/or correction.
I can turn my nose up at some of the pragmatic philosophies that drive much of the modern church movement today. I can choose to ignore some of the positional compromises that are taking place in regards to philosophy and methodology as I choose what I believe is a sounder, more Biblical strategy in my own ministry. I can dismiss some of the “trendiness” we see in today’s “Church Growth” empire as just one more fad that will flare up and die away in the face of Eternal Truth.
But when we start serving “bones” disguised as “meat”, someone needs to fire the chefs. The corruption being introduced into orthodox, fundamental Christianity by the likes of the “Emergent” folks, the “Open Theists”, the philosophically ignorant and the theologically pragmatic needs to be clearly identified and warned against.
While there is much to appreciate by many of today’s Evangelical “superstars” — when their notoriety and fame stir them to statements that are at least intemperate and poorly constructed and at worst, dangerous and heretical, good leaders need to stand up and speak out.
The road to heaven is narrow, the gate is small, the cost is high — and there is but one way to gain entrance — through Christ alone.
We must never water down the real message of the Gospel. Not for fame, not for fortune, not for opportunity, not for access, not for good and noble ends, not for anything. The Gospel stands quite well on its own. Spiritual leaders need to lift it high.