mē genoito

May it never be! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.” (Ro 3:4)

Why Does Pastor Rick Warren Do What He Does?

In my last post I pointed out the Seeker Churches as a deviation from authentic Christianity. In this post I would like to point out, in my opinion, currently the most prominent leader in this movement, is pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church. Pastor Warren is the author of the enormously popular bestselling book The Purpose Driven Life. How popular is this book? According to Wikipedia,

The book has been on the New York Times Bestseller list for advice books for 174 weeks (as of May 2006). … Since September 2002, over 30,000 congregations, corporations, and sports teams across the United States have participated in a “40 Days of Purpose” emphasis. … The book has sold over 24 million copies (as of November, 2005).

Obviously there is a huge number of people who finds this book helpful. But what does this mean for the author himself? This is the question that Rick Warren asks of himself. (The following is a partial transcription of the video)

“What is the purpose of this? Because it brought in enormous amounts of money, when you write the best selling book in the world, it’s tons and tons of money. And it brought in a lot of attention neither which what I wanted.

I don’t think you are given money or fame for your own ego, ever. I just don’t believe that. And when you write a book that the first sentence of the book is, is not about you, then when all of sudden it become the bestselling book in history. You gotta figure, well I guess is not about me, that’s kinda a no brainer. So what is it for? And I began to think about what I call the stewardship of affluence and stewardship of influence. See I believe that essentially leadership is stewardship. If you are a leader in any area… You don’t own it. You are a steward of it. For instance that’s why I believe in protecting the environment. This is not my planet. It wasn’t mine before I was born and it’s not going to be mine after I die. I am just here for 80 years and, and that’s it. I, I, I was debating the other day on a talk show.
Do you believe that humans are responsible to make the world a little bit better place for the next generation? Do you think we have a stewardship here to take the environment seriously? … Do you believe that as human beings, I am not talking about religion, do you believe that as human beings, that it is our responsibility to take care of this planet and make it just a little bit better for the next generation.
So all of this money starts pouring in, and all of this fame starts pouring in. I am going, what am I going to do with all of this. My wife and I first made 5 decisions on what to do with the money.
1. We are not going to use it on ourselves.
2. I stop taking a salary from the church that I pastor.
3. I added up all of the church had paid me over the last 25 years, and I gave it back.
4. We set up 3 foundations working on some of the major problems of the world, illiteracy, poverty, pandemic diseases, particularly HIV AIDS, and set up these 3 foundations and put the money into that.
5. We became, what I call reverse tithers. So the good life is not about looking good, feeling good or having the goods. It’s about being good and doing good. Giving your life away. Significance in life doesn’t come from status, ‘cause you can always find somebody whose got more than you. It doesn’t come from sex. It doesn’t come from salary. It comes from serving. It is in giving our lives away we find meaning, we find significance. And that’s the way we were wired. I believe by God. … We give away 90% and live on 10.

What do I do with this, this, this notoriety that the book has brought? And being a pastor I start reading the Bible. There is a chapter in the Bible called Psalms 72 and it’s Solomon’s prayer for more influence. When you read this prayer it sounds incredibly selfish self-centered. It sounds like he says, God I want You to make me famous. That’s what he prays. … Until you read the whole Psalm, the whole chapter. … He was the king of Israel at that time at its apex in power. So that the king may care for the widow and orphan, support the oppressed, defend the defenseless, care for the sick, assist the poor, speak up for the foreigner, those in prison, basically he’s talking about all the marginalized in society. And as I read that, I looked at it and I thought, you know, what this is saying is that the purpose of influence is to speak up, for those who have no influence. The purpose of influence is not to build your ego, or your net worth. And by the way, your net worth is not the same thing as you self worth.
So I had to say OK, I would use whatever affluence and whatever influence I’ve got, to help those who don’t have either of those.

The thrust of Warren’s message in the purpose driven life is, “is not about me”. It is about using your talents, affluence and influence to make this world a better place. This is what will please God.

If there is one thing you have to admire about self proclaimed Christians like Rick Warren and Brian McLaren is that their ability to make flowery speeches. These men have enormous talent to sound altruistic and noble. How can you not admire a man who gives away 90% of his income and lives on only 10%? It is true that Warren’s 10% is probably more money than what 95% of the Americans will make in their entire lifetime, but let’s not squabble over details here. Warren is certainly generous.

The question here is “what was this all about”, this sudden wealth and fame. To put it more succinctly, “what is the purpose”, that God gave (according to Warren, this was an act of God) Rick Warren wealth and fame? Warren discovered, after becoming wealthy and famous, his purpose in life is to make this world just a little bit better place for the next generation. This reminds me of the Sandra Bullock movie where all the contestants of a beauty pageant are required to wish for “world peace”. I think Christians all agree that we are to be good stewards of God’s Creation, because Adam was given dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:26-31). This does not mean that the purpose of our life is create a better environment for the next generation. Rick Warren is theological wrong is so many ways, not the least of which is that we live in a cursed Creation (Romans 8:19-22). More importantly the Bible tells us that the purpose of human beings were created to glorify God, as pointed out in the Westminster Confession.

Contrary to Warren’s popular purpose driven life philosophy, the purpose of human beings is not to protect the environment. It is not even to care for the widow and orphan, support the oppressed, defend the defenseless, care for the sick, assist the poor, speak up for the foreigner, those in prison, basically he’s talking about all the marginalized in society. While some of these things we do in the process of glorifying God, it is not the purpose of what we are. We all know the love passage in (1 Corinthians 13:1-13). If we miss the essence behind the works then it matters not how great those works are. It will be burned up as chaff. Rick Warren like all the works of Satan doesn’t need to be too far off. It just needs to be a little bit off.

My guess is Rick Warren would say what he is doing is glorifying God. The tragedy is that while he thinks he is glorifying God. He is really glorifying himself. The problem Rick Warren has is that he has lost his focus on God and he is myopically fixated on what the World deems as good. The purpose of life is NOT “about being good and doing good and giving your life away”. We cannot be good because only God is good. We can only be good through the imputed righteousness from Christ. We do good not because we are good but because as an expression of love toward God, good deeds are a result of that expression. If I give my life away other than the purpose of glorifying God then my life is given in vain.

Rick Warren is trekking down the wrong path and I predict that the gap between Warren and orthodox Christianity will only widen. Some people have asked why is Rick Warren so off? Why is he associating himself with anti-biblical politicians like Barack Obama? Why is he going to Syria? Why is he working with the World Council of Church? In my opinion the answer is simple, it stems from his focus, or what he calls his worldview. His worldview/focus is to do good and that goodness ”should” be acceptable by God. This is really not that much different than the humanist’s righteousness. The orthodox Christian worldview/focus is live according to the Word of God irrespective of what that means to the environment or society. Our focus is to glorify God through faithfulness to His Word and the effect of our faithfulness “may” also result in good works and help the environment. Warren mentioned he wanted neither affluence nor influence. Unfortunately that didn’t happen because he decided to write this book. As a result it has become a curse to him because with affluence and influence he felt obliged to create a new and unbiblical theology/Worldview/focus to live up to his book.

Some might think that I am making too fine of a distinction. At first glance that might be the case but the outworking of these two worldviews is huge. This is evident by the actions of Rick Warren and the alliances that he has made. Even if I want give credit to Warren’s argument that we could work with people of differing worldviews for the common good. His actions of broad and uncritical acceptance of opposing worldviews, betrays his claim of faithfulness to Scripture. If one must cooperate with other opposing worldviews, one should narrowly focus the operations that will not compromise our Biblical standards. As far as I can tell, Rick Warren has made no attempt to be that narrowly focused.

For further and the latest news on Rick Warren check out the Slice of Laodicea.

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