Rick Warren and the Anti-Theology Position
It is very seldom that I will publish a direct quote from an individual when I do not have a source in front of me that I consider to be reliable beyond a reasonable doubt. This is especially true when I mean to give a critique of a quote. I firmly believe that it is the duty of every Christian to be very careful when critquing others, that we do not misrepresent anyone and thus cause needless division among those claiming the name of Christ. Therefore, if I find that the following quote is in error, I will remove this post and apologize fully for any comments made about the beliefs of Rick Warren.
However- the following quote is taken from the blog of Alan Kurschner, who seems to be diligent in checking his sources, and so unless I am given convincing proof that the quote is in error, I must conclude that Rick Warren did speak these words attributed to him.
A Portion of the Rick Warren Interview on Good Morning America (9/7/05):
Roberts: Rick Warren is the best-selling author of “The Purpose-Driven Life.” He’s also the pastor of Saddleback Community Church…. In my hometown of Pass Christian, [sic] I ran across a woman who came up to me and she said, Robin, it’s, it’s as if God tried to wipe us off the face of the earth. You know there are some people that look and see this destruction and, and say, where, where is whatever it is, or whomever they, they, they look to…
Roberts: …for guidance in a higher way?
Warren: Right. Well, first thing we need to understand that not everything that happens in this world is God’s will. I have a will, you have a will, we have a free will… And so, we have a lot of things that go bad… But what God wants to do is he wants to comfort us. Somebody asked me when I was actually on the floor of the, the, the Houston Astrodome talking to people and praying with people, said, where is God in all of this? And I’ll tell you where God is, he’s in thousands of lives of people who love him and follow him, and they are the hands and feet of God…
Warren: …You know Robin, we have nearly 4,000 Purpose Driven churches that have done the “40 Days of Purpose” program in the Gulf states. And we know at least four to 500 of them were, lost their buildings completely. And yesterday, I met with…
Roberts: Okay Rick. Thanks you very much… you take good care of yourself. Thank you Rick Warren. We appreciate your time this morning. Always good to talk to you.
The Deadly Problem in Warren's Teaching
The Theologian has said, "Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves." Why would knowledge consist almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves"? Because it is only by true knowledge of God that we recognize Him as the Sovereign Creator-Sustainer and Holy Lawgiver and it is only by true knowledge of ourselves that we recognize our condition as unholy, lawbreaking, rebels against His sovereignty- (for we have all willfully broken God's commandments). This knowledge of God and of ourselves grants us fear before the sovereign God whom we have offended, which fear the Bible declares as the beginning of all Wisdom (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10).
But the Church has always had to guard against people that would obscure and distort the true, biblical understanding of God and of Man. Specifically, people hate the following biblical teachings:
1. That Man is utterly sinful, so that every part of Man after the Fall recorded in Genesis chapter 3 is in bondage to sin and therefore "since the Fall of the first man free choice has been a reality in name only, and... we can of ourselves do nothing but sin."
2. That God ordains all that comes to pass so "that nothing happens by chance, but everything befalls us by absolute necessity."
[The above quotes are from Martin Luther, Defense of All the Articles of Martin Luther Condemened by the Latest Bull of Leo X, "Article 36" (WA 7:142-49), as quoted by John Calvin in The Bondage and Liberation of the Will.]
And in the above quote by Rick Warren these teachings are directly attacked.
"Not everything that happens in this world is God’s will."
The remainder of this post will examine how Warren's statement of Good Morning America contradicts the biblical teaching of God's sovereignty. Lord willing, I will post tomorrow on how his statement contradicts the biblical teaching of Man's sinfulness.
One reason that Rick Warren's statement is so unacceptable is that he knows what he said is untrue. As Warren wrote in his best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life:
Long before you were conceived by your parents, you were conceived in the mind of God. He thought of you first. It is not fate, nor luck, nor chance, nor luck, nor coincidence that you are breathing at this very moment. You are alive because God wanted to create you! The Bible says, "The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me."
God prescribed every single detail of your body. He deliberately chose your race, the color of your skin, your hair, and every other feature. He custom-made your body just the way he wanted it. He also determined the natural talents you would possess and the uniqueness of your personality. The Bible says, "You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something."
Because God made you for a reason, he also decided when you would be born and how long you would live. He planned the days of your life in advance, choosing the exact time of your birth and death. The Bible says, "You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your Book!"
God also planned where you'd be born and where you'd live for his purpose. Your race and nationality are no accident. God left no detail to chance. He planned it all for his purpose. The Bible says, "From one man he made every nation,... and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live." Nothing in your life is arbitrary. It's all for a purpose.
Most amazing, God decided how you would be born. Regardless of the circumstances of your birth or who your parents are, God had a plan in creating you. It doesn't matter whether your parents were good, bad, or indifferent. God knew that those two individuals possessed exactly the right genetic makeup to create the custom "you" he had in mind. They had the DNA God wanted to make you.
While there are illegitimate parents, there are no illegitimate children. Many children are unplanned by their parents, but they are not unplanned by God. God's purpose took into account human error, and even sin.
God never does anything accidentally, and he never makes mistakes...
God is not haphazard; he planned it all with great precision. (pages 22-24, emphasis added)
(Charles Spurgeon, in his famous "Defense of Calvinism", examined the subject of God's providence in language somewhat similar to that used by Warren in the quote above, having written:
First, let me ask, must we not all of us admit an over-ruling Providence, and the appointment of Jehovah's hand, as to the means whereby we came into this world? Those men who think that, afterwards, we are left to our own free-will to choose this one or the other to direct our steps, must admit that our entrance into the world was not of our own will, but that God had then to choose for us. What circumstances were those in our power which led us to elect certain persons to be our parents? Had we anything to do with it? Did not God Himself appoint our parents, native place, and friends? Could He not have caused me to be born with the skin of the Hottentot, brought forth by a filthy mother who would nurse me in her "kraal," and teach me to bow down to Pagan gods, quite as easily as to have given me a pious mother, who would each morning and night bend her knee in prayer on my behalf? Or, might He not, if He had pleased have given me some profligate to have been my parent, from whose lips I might have early heard fearful, filthy, and obscene language? Might He not have placed me where I should have had a drunken father, who would have immured me in a very dungeon of ignorance, and brought me up in the chains of crime? Was it not God's Providence that I had so happy a lot, that both my parents were His children, and endeavoured to train me up in the fear of the Lord?)
So, how can Warren state that, "Not everything that happens in this world is God’s will," when biblical wisdom as well any reasonable reflection on his own previous statements would lead to a contradiction of this postition?
I would assert that trials often bring forth a person's true beliefs. Under pressure, Warren was apparently ashamed to present the truth about God- obscurring the fact that He is sovereign, holy, and awe-inspiring. Warren chose instead to present God only as a god of love. Though it is true that God is love, proclaiming this truth without also proclaiming His just wrath against sin and sovereign control over His creation will never lead a person to the point of repenting and seeking God's mercy. For only proclaiming the entirety of the Bible message about God- that He is (again) the absolutely Sovereign Creator-Sustainer and the Holy Lawgiver as well as the Merciful Redeemer will lead people to the point of humiliation by which God's mercy will be found.
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
(James 4:6 NIV)
[I would like to encourage everyone reading this post to also view Tim Brown's excellent post on the same subject, which made me aware of Rick Warren's statements on Good Morning America.]