In the last few weeks, I’ve been introducing some specific topics that we will later explore in greater detail as this blog progresses. So far, we’ve touched on Charismatic teaching, hearing God’s voice, Beth Moore, Sarah Young, Gay Christians, psychology, female church leaders and yoga. (Not too shabby for a six-week old blog!) So today I planned to address the issue of Rick Warren.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that the Grace To You Blog started its own series on Warren today, prompted by the soon-to-be released movie The Captive (which I don’t endorse). The post explains how this movie will revive interest in Warren’s best-selling book, The Purpose-Driven Life:
In 2005, Nichols was facing trial for rape. On the morning of Friday, March 11, he attacked his guard and several others before murdering the judge and the court reporter presiding over his trial. He shot and killed another guard as he escaped the Fulton County courthouse, and led police on a lengthy manhunt. Over the course of several tense hours, he stole a string of vehicles and murdered a federal agent.
Eventually, Nichols forced his way into Smith’s apartment, and held her at gunpoint for several hours. During their time together, Smith famously read him passages from Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose-Driven Life. She also let him snort some of her methamphetamine. Smith was an addict at the time, but today she traces her sobriety and spiritual awakening back to that night in her apartment as Nichols’s hostage. In the morning, he released her. She alerted the authorities to his location, and after they surrounded the apartment, Nichols surrendered.
In a few weeks, the movie version of their story—titled Captive—will hit theaters. Based on Smith’s 2010 book Unlikely Angel, the movie will likely revive national interest in their unique ordeal, and in The Purpose-Driven Life, which figures heavily in the film’s trailer. [Read the full blog post here.]
When I read Grace To You’s full blog post this morning, I marveled at God’s providence in the timing of me broaching the topic of Rick Warren. Evidently, the movie will cause a renewed interest in The Purpose-Driven Life, and therefore in Rick Warren himself. While I don’t want to compete with Grace To You in explaining the serious problems with the book (and with Warren’s ministry as a whole), I’d like to agree with them that this man seriously mishandles Scripture, gives a watered-down presentation of the Gospel and promotes a man-centered “Christianity.” Since Grace To You will demonstrate most (if not all) of these problems in the next few days, I encourage you to follow their blog this week.
Yet I want to say a few cursory things about Warren and his ministry based on first-hand contact with his ministry. Several years ago, the church John and I attended went through Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Purpose campaign. Both of us initially felt excited about the campaign, especially since the Sunday School Superintendent had asked John to lead the Adult class during those Sundays.
But as we watched the promotional videos leading up to the campaign, we noticed how frequently Warren wrenched Scripture out of context in order to advance his agenda. Because I’d had a past history of manipulating Scripture (and had recently repented), I easily recognized what he did. In response to my discomfort about him, I researched him and discovered quite a few people who also saw serious flaws in his doctrine. After a few days of fighting through his book, The Purpose-Driven Life, I could see that Rick Warren simply didn’t respect God’s Word. His use of multiple translations, for example, betrayed the fact that he used the Bible to legitimize his teaching rather than basing his teaching on the Bible. Therefore, John and I chose not to participate.
Rick Warren’s supporters defend his marketing techniques on the premise that “he brings so many people” into churches. Yet many people who purportedly “get saved” through his book, The Purpose-Driven Life, come through a grossly watered-down presentation that barely resembles the Biblical Gospel (page 58):
“Right now, God is inviting you to live for his glory by fulfilling the purposes he made you for . . . all you need to do is receive and believe…. Will you accept God’s offer?” Again, he offers a sample prayer, “I invite you to bow your head and quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity, “Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you.”
I’m sorry, but that’s not the Gospel! It may fill pews and, consequently, offering plates, but it neither shows people their deep depravity nor the wondrous grace and mercy of the Lord. Despite Warren’s statement, “It’s not about you,” Warren’s book revolves much more around us than around Christ’s glory. it neither exposes our sinfulness nor adores Him as our only Savior.
Rick Warren has other problems that I’ll discuss in future posts. For now, I merely want to caution my readers that this man promotes a subtly deceitful gospel that bears little resemblance to the Biblical Gospel. Sadly, in thinking about Warren, I think of the apostle Paul’s harsh words:
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. ~~Galatians 1:6-9 (ESV)