Also know this, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, without self control, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying its power: from such turn away - 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
Rick Warren has become a legend in his own lifetime as a result of writing the Purpose Driven Life which has sold some 30 million copies and the size of Saddleback Church which is some 24,000 strong. He has prayed at the inaugural ceremonies of Presidents George Bush and Barak Obama.
Rick Warren is considered to be a conservative evangelical holding biblical views on such matters as saving faith, hell(although Saddleback’s statement of faith is weak) and creationism. It is this apparent orthodoxy in Rick Warren that has put many off his scent and led to his acceptance as a card carrying evangelical. He was appreciatively interviewed about the Purpose Driven Life by John Piper on 1st May 2011. Because he is accepted as a mainstream evangelical who has not openly denied any of the fundamentals of evangelicalism, few ask whether his teaching, behaviour and activities are actually consistent with his professed evangelical faith.
Rick Warren and Islam
Perhaps the most shocking of Warren’s errors is his compromise with Islam. Along with Robert Schuller, John Stott, Yonggi Cho and Bill Hybels, Warren signed a statement from Yale University welcoming an open letter signed by 138 Muslim leaders written to leaders of the Christian faith entitled, A Common Word Between Us, which was published on 13th October 2007. It claims that love of God and love of neighbour are central to both religions. The problem is that the Muslim letter contains statements that refer to the false belief that Muslims and Christians worship the same God:
Thus despite their differences, Islam and Christianity not only share the same Divine Origin and the same Abrahamic heritage, but the same two greatest commandments.
In the summary of A Common Word Between Us and You, we read: “The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God”. The Christian response to the letter referred to God as the “All Merciful One” which is a title given to Allah 57 times in the Qur’an although nowhere in the Bible is Jehovah referred to as the “All Merciful One”.
The Qur’an claims that Muslims and Christians worship the same God (Q.29:46). The Old Testament (Deut 6:4), Jesus (Mark 12:29) and the Qur’an (Q.112:1) agree that there is only one God. However, Allah is never described as “Father” in the Qur’an, which also gives a distorted view of the Trinity, consisting of God, Mary and Jesus (Q. 5:73, 116). The term “Holy Spirit” refers, in the Qur’an, to the angel Gabriel (Q.16:102). The Qur’an alters the identity of Jesus. He was “nothing but a prophet” (Q5:75) and clearly not the Son of God (Q.9:30), for Allah does not have a son (Q.4:171).The Qur’an denies the death of Christ, claiming that He was not crucified but taken up alive to heaven (Q.4:157). When Rick Warren ended his prayer at President Obama’s inaugural ceremony he prayed, amongst other names for Jesus, in the Muslim name for Jesus, Issa: Thus he prayed in the name of a false Christ.
According to the Bible, Islam is a lie and antichrist as John put it in 1 John 2:22: “Who is a liar but he that denies that Jesus is the Christ?” He is antichrist, that denies the Father and the Son”.
The Peace Plan
Rick Warren is well known for the PEACE plan he initiated which involves churches connecting all over the world. A church in America would connect with a church in Africa which would connect with a church in China, and so on. The aim is apparently to unite churches so that they can help one another spiritually, financially, and socially.
This site is open to anyone regardless of their spiritual beliefs. However, the site is intentionally focused on the work of the Christian church in the fulfilment of the Scriptures as represented by two passages known as the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).
As such, we affirm the essentials of classic Christianity such as the authority and inspiration of the Bible, the Trinitarian nature of God, and the sufficiency of Christ for salvation. We are committed to the work of the local church and in taking Christ’s message of faith, hope and love to a world that is lost without him.
To make use of the PEACEplan.com we ask that you acknowledge this foundational context, regardless of your own spiritual beliefs.”
On his website the PEACE plan is broken down into the following constituent parts:
Plant churches that promote reconciliation;
Equip servant leaders;
Assist the poor
;Care for the sick; and
Educate the next generation.
During his interview with Michael Cromartie, Rick Warren summarised his PEACE plan in the following way:
And we’ve actually created what we call clinic-in-a-box, businessin- a-box, church-in-a-box, and we are using normal people, volunteers. When Jesus sent the disciples ... into a village he said, “Find the man of peace.” And he said, “When you find the man of peace you start working with that person, and if they respond to you, you work with them. If they don’t, you dust the dust off your shoes; you go to the next village.” Who’s the man of peace in any village - or it might be a woman of peace - who has the most respect, they’re open and they’re influential? They don’t have to be a Christian. In fact, they could be a Muslim, but they’re open and they’re influential and you work with them to attack the five giants. And that’s going to bring the second Reformation.
Here Warren sounds like he is trying to tackle world issues with the “spiritual problem” being his first priority. Therefore, it might appear that he’s trying to promote the gospel as a priority and also help poverty, education, etc (which would be acceptable). However there is little evidence that his solution to the spiritual problem involves the gospel. His description of the “person of peace in a village” is confusing. He believes the man of peace could be a Muslim because that person might be most influential, and working with that person will help solve these five major problems. But he doesn’t mention whether that is focused on the Christian Gospel, or by sympathizing with Islam. This is the danger with quoting scriptures out of context. In each of the passages where the Lord Jesus speaks about finding the so-called person of peace (Matthew 10:14, Mark 6:11 and Luke 9:5) the man of peace is the person who accepts the gospel (see Mark 6:12 and Matthew 9:6). Therefore the idea that Christians are furthering the gospel by working together with unbelievers is unscriptural and becomes a works based social gospel which is no Gospel at all. It is amazing how subtle this deception is. Rick Warren appears Evangelical to the core and yet is promoting a message which is the very antithesis of The Gospel: this new reformation is a disintegration of The Gospel where works and not doctrine become the test of orthodoxy. This really brings to life John’s warning in 1 John 2:18-19:
Little children, it is the last time: and as you have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
Leadership Conference – May 2012
On 16th May 2012 Rick Warren was one of the guest speakers at a Leadership Conference held by Holy Trinity Brompton, the home of the Alpha Course where the minister in charge is Nicky Gumbel. Nicky Gumbel interviewed Rick Warren twice. Particularly revealing were the inconsistencies that Rick Warren displayed during these interviews which on their own show him up as hypocritical, boastful and untruthful.
In the first interview Warren claimed that integrity, humility and generosity were the antidotes to the temptations of “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” which are the common traps for leaders. He added that as a pastor there is the temptation to use your ministry to show off (pride of life).
There is no doubt that Rick Warren is right about these traps which come about if anyone, Christian leader or otherwise, loves this world more than Christ (1 John 2:15-16).
During his interview with Nicky Gumbel, Rick Warren defined integrity as follows:
I am exactly what I appear to be whether I am with my grandchildren, my children, my wife, the Queen of England, with Nicky, with you. I don’t live one way with one group of people and another with another group of people. I’m exactly what I appear to be all the time.
Yet this is precisely the same trap that Rick Warren has fallen into himself.
On 23rd October 2008, Rick Warren appeared in a video, which was posted on the Saddleback website and a link circulated to all his church members, campaigning in favour of proposition 8 which would prevent California from redefining marriage. This is what he said:
Let me just say this really clearly. We support Proposition 8. And if you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support Proposition 8…. We should not let 2% of the population change the definition of marriage that has been supported by every single culture and religion for 5,000 years.
This isn’t a Christian issue, it’s a humanitarian issue…. So I urge you to support Proposition 8 and pass that word on.I’m going to be sending out a note to pastors on what I believe about this, but everybody knows what I believe about it.
However when he was interviewed by Larry King only 6 months later about his support for Proposition 8 on 6th April 2009 he claimed:
I am not an anti-gay or anti-gay marriage activist. Never have been, never will be ... During the whole Proposition 8 thing, I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement, never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Prop. 8 was going...
Saddleback Church issued the following clarification about this interview:
When Dr. Warren told Larry King that he never campaigned for California’s Proposition 8, he was referring to not participating in the official two-year organized advocacy effort specific to the ballot initiative in that state, based on his focus and leadership on other compassion issues. Because he’s a pastor, not an activist, in response to inquiries from church members, he issued an email and video message to his congregation days before the election confirming where he and Saddleback Church stood on this issue.
However in the interview with Larry King he refers to the email he sent to church members but failed to mention the video which had stirred up the controversy.
The sad thing is that the video is something to be applauded because Warren was so clear about his stand on same-sex marriage. It is a great pity that he couldn’t also be clear on National TV but chose instead to back-peddle. We should very soberly recall the Lord’s own warning in Revelation 21:8 that the fearful and all liars will be thrown into the Lake of Fire.
Looking at integrity and humility, it seems that Rick Warren failed to tell the truth during his interview with Nicky Gumbel as well. He stated that the Purpose Driven Life had been translated into 130 different languages.
However the Purpose Driven Life website reveals that it has in fact been translated into 52 languages and is in the process of being translated into a further 12. Why would Rick Warren feel the need to make such a boast that he would have known was untrue and which was so easy to check? He went further and claimed that the Purpose Driven Life was the “bestselling book in the English Language after the Bible”. Not only is this not true but it sounds very much like showing off (a failing you will recall he specifically warned against in his interview). According to Wikipedia the Purpose Driven Life has sold 30 million copies and is well down on their list of best sellers with 29 English books ahead of it which have sold between 35 and 200 million copies including such classics as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, A Tale of Two Cities, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. This list does not include Pilgrims’ Progress (at least 250 million), Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (150 million) and The Book of Common Prayer (150 million).
During his interview with Nicky Gumbel he claimed that when he wrote the Purpose Driven Life he did not know it was going to be a bestseller. When interviewed by John Piper on 1st May 2011, Rick Warren claimed he only wrote the Purpose Driven Life as a workbook for his people:
And so rather than writing the book and creating a campaign around it, I did it for the exact opposite. I was writing it for my people. It was only at the end that I thought an unbeliever may read this. I better throw something in here about salvation. And actually, if I had known how many unbelievers were going to read it, I would have explained salvation far much more in detail. Really, I admit, it was a cursory expression of it.
Yet in an article in the New Yorker dated 12th September 2005, Rick Warren told Michael Gladwell that “his publishers came to see him at Saddleback, and sat on the long leather couch in his office, and talked about their ideas for the book. “You guys don’t understand”, Warren told them. “This is a hundred million-copy book.” Warren remembers stunned silence: “Their jaws dropped.”
It would appear that Warren’s claim to John Piper was made partly to justify the weak gospel contained within it. Piper accepted this explanation at face value but it does not stand up to scrutiny when one considers that the Purpose Driven Life was first published in 2002 and has gone through several republications since in which there was plenty of time for Warren to amend the passages about salvation so that it was fully explained to the unbeliever. At pages 58-9 Warren writes as follows:
First, believe. Believe God loves you and made you for his purposes. Believe you’re not an accident. Believe you were made to last forever. Believe God has chosen you to have a relationship with Jesus, who died on the cross for you. Believe that no matter what you’ve done, God wants to forgive you. Second, receive. Receive Jesus into your life as Lord and Saviour. Receive his forgiveness for your sins. Receive his Spirit, who will give you the power to fulfil your life purpose. Wherever you are reading this, 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.’ Go ahead. If you sincerely meant that prayer congratulations! Welcome to the family of God! (p. 58-59).
This approach contrasts with the clear command to repent found in the scriptures. The gospel message that Jesus preached was to repent and believe (Mark 1:15). However there is no mention here of repentance or of the fruit of repentance which is emphasised by John the Baptist in Matthew 3:7 and demonstrated by Zacchaeus (Luke 19). It is true that Warren mentions that God wants to forgive us but this weak presentation suggests that we are forgiven if we believe in Jesus and receive Him yet we must repent first if we are to receive Him. Secondly we are to count the cost before we receive Jesus. The Lord Jesus taught plainly about the cost of following Him (Luke 14:26-35). The rich young ruler is an example of a man who believed in Jesus but was not willing to pay the cost of surrendering his riches (see Matthew 19:21-22).
During a radio interview with Michael Cromartie on 23rd May 2005, Warren began to discuss how he realised that Christians are called to help the poor as well as teach doctrine (which is a fair point), but then he expressed his surprise at failing to realise this before in the light of well-rounded education which he described as follows:
And so I went back and I began to read scripture, and it was like blinders came off. Now, I’ve got three advanced degrees. I’ve had four years in Greek and Hebrew and I’ve got doctorates.
According to his biography on Saddleback he only has one doctorate, one masters totalling two advanced degrees (unless he’s trying to count his bachelor’s as an advanced degree, which by definition it wouldn’t be).
He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from California Baptist University, a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Theological Seminary, and Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary.
During his interview with Nicky Gumbel, he was asked to tell the conference about his generosity which Rick Warren was ready to do (more showing off one wonders?). He claimed that he had increased his tithe every year since his marriage and now gave away 91% of his income. He also claimed that he added up his salary over the past 25 years and paid it back to the church. When asked why he had written the Purpose Driven Life, he replied that God knew what he would do with the money because he had a 25 year track record of being generous in poverty.
Assuming that this is all true, one has to ask first, why Nicky Gumbel asked him about his generosity in the first place and why Rick Warren told everyone about it? Warren volunteered exactly the same information during his interview with John Piper. In Matthew 6:3 the Lord Jesus expressly warns us that when we give we are not to let even our left hand know what the right hand is doing. While talking about the Purpose Driven Life he told the conference that it took him “7 months, 12 hours a day to write that book”. He went on, “I was fasting till noon every day”. Yet the Word of God warns us not to advertise that we are fasting in Matthew 6:16-18:
Moreover when you fast, do not be as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear to men to fast. Assuredly I say to you, They have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face; That you do not appear to men to fast, but to your Father who is in secret: and your Father, who sees in secret, shall reward you openly.
In his second interview with Nicky Gumbel he claimed that God used him because he believed God more than anyone else. However, according to Romans 10:17, faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of God. A man who believes God is therefore a man of God’s Word. As James tells us, in chapter 2, v20, faith without deeds, is dead. This is striking evidence that Rick Warren does not believe God, or if he does, he fails to do what the Lord says.
Rick Warren is a challenge of our naivety as Christians. The Lord Himself warned us that the children of this world were wiser in their generation than the children of light (Luke 16:8). Rick Warren carries all the credentials of a sound evangelical and many Christians will look no further and simply welcome him into the fold. After all his father, grandfather and great great-grandfather (converted under Spurgeon apparently) were Baptist pastors. He plainly knows his Bible and can hold his own with the likes of John Piper in debate over doctrinal issues. However those evangelical credentials mask a much more sinister side to Rick Warren. The Lord Jesus also warned us to "beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing". This article documents quotes by Rick Warren that demonstrate that he does not possess the virtues of integrity and humility which he himself extols and which are the hallmarks of a genuine Christian. Instead he is found to be untruthful and boastful. His global peace plan, while holding out humanitarian aims that cannot be faulted, involves a denial of The Gospel by making good works a point of unity in place of doctrine. This is further evidenced by his compromise over Islam where he is willing to concede that the God of Islam is the same God of the Bible in the face of the plain evidence that the God of Islam is no god at all. This is a man to stay well clear of.
Acknowledgements: I would like especially to thank Angela Arnold for her very helpful research and insight for this article. I am also grateful to Dr Bernie Power, lecturer in Islam and Missions at Melbourne School of Theology for his summary of the Qu’ran’s teaching contained in an article he wrote in the Christian newspaper “Eternity”.
About the Author
Mark Mullins is a practising barrister at the Bar of England and Wales, who is occasionally called upon by the BBC and others to represent the Christian position in debate and discussion in the national media. From 2002-2012 he was an elder at Stroud Green Christian Assembly (a traditional Pentecostal church started out of a Smith Wigglesworth crusade in the 1920s). The Assembly has had links with CWM since CWM was formed (www.sgca-online.org). Mark is a regular speaker at CWM conferences. He is currently helping with the ministry at Strangers Rest Evangelical Church.
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