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Rick Warren’s Invocation for the Obama Inauguration

December 22nd, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Pastor Bayly writes very strongly on Rick Warren and why he should not have agreed to lead the invocation prayer at Obama’s presidential inauguration:

So everyone’s talking about Rick Warren’s payoff. He gets to pray in front of millions during Senator Obama’s inauguration, calling down God’s presence and blessing on a ceremony centered around the national politician most committed to the slaughter of his nation’s children taking God’s Name in vain as he falsely promises to uphold the Constitution of these United States.

Pastor Warren has more famously offended the Left by being against homosexual marriage and abortion. His invitation by Obama is clearly a conciliatory gesture by Obama to conservative Christians. As such, I think it is right for Warren to accept it. Neither Obama nor Warren are saying that they agree with the other’s views, though each does show a certain amount of respect for the other by agreeing to be thus involved. The question is whether Obama’s strong support for abortion– even for infanticide– should disqualify him from association with gentlemen. It seems to me that expressing abhorrent views is different from actually performing evil deeds. Perhaps even evil deeds should not be a disqualifier. Jesus did eat with open sinners. Participating in a government ceremony is much less intimate, and no more public than what Jesus did. Obama has been legitimately elected our President; should we now boycott government?

But that is all about whether Warren– or Bayly, or any minister– should do the invocation or not. Rick Warren does have a problem, though: he panders to The World. I’ll discuss various quotes from this AP story:

The 54-year-old pastor and founder of Saddleback Church in Southern California told the crowd of 500 that it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to agree on everything all the time.

“You don’t have to see eye to eye to walk hand in hand,” said Warren.

There is a difference between agreeing on 1 out of 100 things and agreeing on 99 out of 100 things. Warren is suggesting that he and Obama are in the second category, agreeing on everything important. It *is* wrong for Warren to walk hand in hand with Obama. That indicates agreement. I could imagine myself working in the Obama Administration as an economist, but I can’t imagine myself saying that I worked hand in hand with him. Some distance should be kept, even if Obama weren’t so wrong on abortion.

Warren said he prays for the same things for Obama that he prays for himself integrity, humility and generosity.

This is an extreme form of a bad habit of preachers: confessing to congregations
that they sin just as badly as their listeners do. Humility is not bad, but that isn’t humility. Instead, it just results in the preacher only talking about publicly acceptable sins such as pride or selfishness. I’ve never heard a preacher preach against child porn or crack cocaine and admitting that he’d just sinned that way himself last Wednesday.

In the present case, the humility is even thinner. Do we really think that Warren would agree with what he’s just implied– that Barack Obama lacks integrity, is proud, and is stingy to the poor? (otherwise, why pray for those things for him?)

Of course, if Pastor Warren really thinks abortion is wrong, then he should pray that God will forgiven Obama and change his mind about it.

… Warren also talked about singer Melissa Ethridge, who performed earlier in the evening. Warren said the two had a “wonderful conversation” and that he is a huge fan who has all her albums.

The openly lesbian gay rights activist even agreed to sign her Christmas album for him, he said.

This amounts to support for homosexuality. Warren can’t help liking her music, if he really does, but he should keep quiet about it. I like Wagner, but imagine this 1880s scene:

Warren also talked about composer Richard Wagner, whose works was performed earlier in the evening. Warren said the two had a “wonderful conversation” and that he is a huge fan who goes to all his operas.

The openly adulterous anti-semite even agreed to sign his program for him, he said.

I think Warren’s problem is that he wants everyone to like him. He wants his evangelical congregation to like him, so he has to oppose abortion. But he wants The World to like him, so he has to pretend it’s not a big deal. That way, too, he might even get feminists to like him because they’ll say, “For a fundamentalist he’s a pretty hip guy. I bet he just pretends to oppose abortion so he can keep his job.” That is the way that mainline church pastors used to be like around 1930, perhaps– officially opposing sin, but unofficially winking at the same time. Perhaps they even did oppose sin– just not enough to take a real stand against it in front of The World.

Warren has won kudos from some liberal quarters by focusing less on traditional conservative issues such as abortion and gay rights, and instead calling on evangelical leaders to devote more attention to eradicating poverty, fighting AIDS in Africa, expanding educational opportunity for the marginalized, and global warming.

The end of the article says:

Although Warren has said that he has nothing personally against gays, he has condemned same-sex marriage.

“I have many gay friends. I’ve eaten dinner in gay homes. No church has probably done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church,” he said in a recent interview with BeliefNet.

This doesn’t sound bad by itself, but, again, let’s change it a bit:

Although Warren has said that he has nothing personally against drug dealers, he has condemned heroin legalization.

“I have many drug-peddling friends. I’ve eaten dinner in the homes they bought with their drug money. No church has probably done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church,” he said in a recent interview with BeliefNet.

There’s something wrong with this (what exactly? -it’s interesting to consider) and the same thing is wrong with his actual statement. I’d think better of him, actually, if he’d made the statement about drug dealers instead, because socializing with that kind of sinner is not the way to media popularity and he probably *would* be doing it from Christian love.

December 23: The LA Times has an op-ed that says Warren is openly orthodox on many key issues. For example:

…on the signal issues of the religious right he is, as he himself has said, as orthodox as James Dobson.

And as inflammatory. Warren doesn’t just oppose gay marriage, he’s compared it to incest and pedophilia. He doesn’t just want to ban abortion, he’s compared women who terminate pregnancies to Nazis and the pro-choice position to Holocaust denial…

Speaking of Jews, Warren has publicly stated his belief that they will burn in hell, presumably along with everyone else who hasn’t accepted his particular brand of Christianity (i.e., the vast majority of people in the world)…

At his Saddleback Church, wifely submission is official doctrine: The church website tells women to defer to their husband’s “leadership” even when he’s wrong on important issues, such as finances….

On “Hannity & Colmes,” he agreed that the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, should be killed because “the Bible says God puts government on Earth to punish evildoers.”

What are we to make of Pastor Warren? He’s written a best-selling book, so I don’t suppose it’s just that he has trouble expressing himself. Perhaps he just likes to agree with whoever he’s last talked to, and he talks to a great variety of people. Or perhaps he’s as I suggested in the post above, basically sound, but timid.

Yet more on Rick Warren. I looked at the Baylyblog’s 2005 post on Rick Warren. It’s downright embarassing how he boasts and name-drops. Some excerpts:

I read a book a day and I read tons of magazines, tons of articles, and I just devour enormous quantities of material, and thank God for the Internet…..

You know, when you speak to 23,000, 24,000 people every weekend, crowds don’t impress you anymore. … Last night, I was in Miami speaking to this huge international convention of all of the Spanish-language publishers and they gave me the city key to Miami, but really I would have more fun with you here today….

Bono called me the other day and said why don’t you come up to the U2 concert at the Staples Center because we’re both active in AIDS prevention. My wife and I have given millions to the prevention of AIDS….

Ten percent of the churches in America have now done 40 Days of Purpose and that’s just now. We will take another 10 to 15 thousand through it this year, and on and on and on. And there’s a little story of how that got started in churches and then it spread to corporations like Coca-Cola and Ford and Wal-Mart, and they started doing 40 Days of Purpose. And then it spread to all the sports teams. I spoke at the NBA All-Stars this year because all of the teams were doing 40 Days of Purpose. LPGA, NASCAR, most of the baseball teams – when the Red Sox were winning the World Series, they were going through 40 Days of Purpose during the Series. So the story of the 40 Days of Purpose is more than the story of the book. And maybe we can get back to why that touched such a nerve around the world, because The Purpose Driven Life is not just the best-selling book in American history; it’s the best-selling book in about a dozen languages. It’s in about 30 languages right now and that’s why I was at this meeting last night with the Spanish…

The three largest churches in America are Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, outside of Chicago; the Lakewood Church in Houston, which is on television, so you might have seen that one (the pastor is Joel Osteen); and then Saddleback is the largest church in America. We had our 25th anniversary on Easter this year. I did 12 services. We had 45,000 in attendance and I preached 12 services in a row.

…every pastor in America knew who I was because I put all of my sermons on an Internet site and it gets 400,000 hits a day from pastors.

I’ve spent the last 20 years training about 400,000 pastors in 162 countries. …Now, I’ve got three advanced degrees. I’ve had four years in Greek and Hebrew and I’ve got doctorates. …I was teaching this Purpose-Driven church seminar, and we simulcast it to 400 sites across the continent, and I trained in that time just about 90,000 pastors, in that one week. …Last week I spoke to 4,000 pastors at my church who came from over 100 denominations in over 50 countries. …I have an email newsletter called Rick’s Toolbox that goes out every Monday to almost 147,000 pastors. And I write a little note every Monday. I sit in my pajamas, hit the button, it goes to 147,000 pastors….

Last night I signed a book for Viktor Yuschenko, who asked for a copy of The Purpose Driven Life. A few months ago, I signed a Purpose Driven Life for Fidel Castro, who asked for one.

He doesn’t seem to ever think, just talk. That same blog post excerpts a Larry King interview in which King presses Warren on whether God caused Hurricane Katrina and Warren evades the repeated question clumsily, as if he really has no idea how to answer it and never heard of the Question of Evil. And what Warren says about his reception from audiences that should be hostile is revealing:

I’ve had two state dinners in China in Tienanmen Square and People’s Hall with their government, with the bureaucrats there, with the Cabinet members. I’ve actually had them in our home and had them in our church, and they’ve given me pretty much carte blanche in China for some reason.

When I went to Harvard a month ago, I honestly expected a pretty hostile audience – I’m an evangelical pastor and I’m going into Harvard. And I went in and I spoke four times and they gave me a standing ovation…

… when the book hit 15 million, I called up Rupert Murdoch and I said, “What are you going to do to celebrate my book?” And he goes, “Well, what do you want to do?” I go, “I want you to throw a party and I want you to invite all your secular elite friends from Manhattan and let me talk to them.” And he goes, “Okay.” (Chuckles.) So he sends out a list, he invited 350 people, who’s who in Manhattan to the top of the Rainbow Room, and I went up there and you know, I just started talking to them – again, standing ovation.

He just doesn’t realize what he’s saying. Here’s a bit of logic. Major Premise: Audience X is hostile to Christians. Minor Premise: Audience X was not hostile to Rick Warren. Conclusion—you draw it.

I was wondering whether the problem was that Warren had perhaps never gone to seminary and studied the Bible and theology in classes. But the interview quoted above says otherwise. I guess he illustrates that “discernment” really is a spiritual gift. He has a pathological lack of it.

Something else. From a comment on the Baylyblog post cited above:

John Aravosis of Americablog noticed on Friday that Rick Warren’s church website explicitly bans gay people “unwilling to repent of their homosexual lifestyle” from membership at Saddleback. (They are allowed, however, to attend services.)

Now Warren has removed the anti-gay language from the church website.


That’s bad. But I found something else that shows that Warren is actually much worse than I’d thought, though– that he knowingly perverts Christianity, and, more shocking to an academic like me even though it shouldn’t be, he intentionally misquotes the Bible. T

The Gospel: A Method or a Message? How the Purpose Driven Life Obscures the Gospel by Bob DeWaay is a very good essay on Warren’s misuse of the Bible and his hazy, bad, theology.

Rick Warren begins the first day of his journey by saying, “It’s not about you” (Warren: 17). Yet the entire book “feels” like it is about you and reads like self-help literature. He dedicates the book to “you” on the first page after the copyright information and uses the pronoun “you” continually throughout the book. Consider the following from day eight:

You were planned for God’s pleasure. The moment you were born into the world God was there as an unseen witness, smiling at your birth. He wanted you alive, and your arrival gave him great pleasure. God did not need to create you, but he chose to create you for his own enjoyment. . . . Bringing enjoyment to God, living for his pleasure, is the first purpose of your life. When you fully understand this truth, you will never again have a problem with feeling insignificant. It proves your worth. If you are that important to God, and he considers you valuable enough to keep with him for eternity, what greater significance could you have? (Warren: 63).

His statement that this is not about “you” is disingenuous (insincere). His style, word usage, Man-centeredness, distorted Bible translations, and many overt statements show that the book is about you!


Earlier I mentioned that reading The Purpose Driven Life and checking it out with the Bible is a tedious task. Let me illustrate this using one of Warren’s Bible references. Here is Warren’s quote, “The Bible says, ‘Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self’” (Warren: 19). There is an endnote that takes us to the back of the book. Once there, looking for endnote 3, we have to figure out which of the forty days we are in. So with one finger in the endnote section, we go back to where we started to find out we were in day one. Now we go back to the end note section for day one and find out the reference is to Matthew 16:25 Msg. Assuming that msg is not the food additive, we proceed to the section in the back of the book that tells us the meaning of the abbreviations, and we find out that it is from a Bible called The Message. Now, having determined what passage is under consideration, we get out a real Bible (not a paraphrase) and find out what Matthew 16:25 says. Here it is: “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25).

Now we need to compare Matthew 16:25 with The Message perversion of it. In the context, Jesus was speaking of dying to self by taking up one’s cross (Matthew 16:24). The cross was not a burden to bear, but an executioner’s device. A person seen carrying his cross had literally been sentenced to death and was on the way to the place where he would be executed. So the person who “loses his life” is the one who has died to all hopes and dreams that the “self” ever had in this life. He is willing to suffer the loss of everything, even life itself if need be, for the sake of the gospel. His reward is eternal life. …

Having established the meaning of Matthew 16:25 in context, now we must return to the verse as cited by Warren: “Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.” Matthew 16:25 is not discussing self-help, it is discussing life and death. Matthew 16:25 is not discussing “finding your true self.” The idea of a “true self” is a term of psychology and is not found in the Bible. Matthew 16:25 is not talking about self-sacrifice, it is talking about dying to self…. Warren’s version of the passage suggests that by self-sacrifice we find our “true selves.” All false religions teach self-sacrifice, and finding one’s true self is a New Age lie. The truth of the gospel is that we must die to self through the cross and put all of our hope in Christ by faith in His finished work.

Now, having established that The Message does not even have the same concepts as the Biblical passage it claims to be a paraphrase of, let’s return to Warren’s book and see how Warren uses it. He uses it to show that we need to find out the purposes God created us for. He says, “It is about becoming what God created you to be” (Warren: 19). Now we have been Bereans, searched the Scriptures, and found that Warren is abusing them. He has obscured the clear gospel message in Matthew 16:24, 25 and replaced it with a spiritual journey to find the “true self.” So Warren ostensibly is telling us we do not need self-help and then sends us on a self-sacrificing journey to find our true self (which is self-help). …

The essay ends like this:

In 1982 Robert Schuller announced his plans for a new reformation based on self_esteem.3 His stated purpose was to make theology less God-centered and more man-centered. Now that Rick Warren has sold eleven million copies of the Purpose Driven Life, he too wants a new reformation. He is promoting a PEACE plan to solve the world’s five biggest problems.4 Apparently, the church needs a new reformation every twenty years. What happened to Schuller’s reformation?

Thinking about this and carefully studying Warren’s book, I have come to the conclusion that Rick Warren is completely in step with Schuller’s reformation, and is carrying it forward in a way that is more appealing to evangelicals (whether or not he is consciously following Schuller). Warren’s man-centered theology comes with more evangelical ideas than does Schuller’s. Warren includes many more Biblical truths than Schuller ever did. In my opinion this makes Warren more deceptive than Schuller. Schuller ignored the Bible and depended on psychological concepts. Warren uses perverted Bible translations that change God-centered passages to man-centered passages. By carefully selecting the right mistranslation for each of his teaching points he has made the man-centered theology touted by Schuller seem Biblical.

Now Warren wants to reform the church to focus on social action rather than gospel preaching. Wow! Look how far we have come. One of these times this man-centered reformation will succeed. When it does the modern evangelical church will be the latest incarnation of liberalism.5

Each of us must choose between a man-centered, man-made method loosely derived from parts of the Bible and the clear message of the gospel. Rick Warren promotes the former, a broad path with millions of fellow travelers; John MacArthur promotes the latter, a narrow path that few follow.

The gospel is based on a crucified Jewish Messiah, a concept offensive to all sinners. However, to those who embrace the scandal of the cross and by faith escape the just wrath of God, that gospel is the power of God for salvation. Dear reader, you have a choice between a spiritual journey to discover your purpose and the message of the gospel that declares God’s purposes. The one will make you think you are on the path to heaven when you may not be, the other will put you on the path to heaven by God’s sovereign power. I urge you to embrace the gospel on God’s terms.

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