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Why Is Rick Warren Waffling?

By Lee Duigon
April 30, 2009

“I hope you’re praying about your vote … We support Proposition 8, and if you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support Prop 8.”—Rick Warren, Oct. 23, 2008[1]

“I am not an anti-gay or anti-gay marriage activist, and never have been, never will be … I never once issued a statement … never once gave an endorsement, the whole two years Prop 8 was going.”—Rick Warren, Apr. 7, 2009[2]

“Syncretism is again our problem … Humanistic statism is easily and readily submitted to by churchmen.”—R. J. Rushdoony[3]

Pastor of a high-profile megachurch; best-selling author; frequent guest on prime-time television; speaker of the invocation at this year’s presidential inauguration; nicknamed by some “America’s Pastor,” the heir to Billy Graham …

What is Rick Warren afraid of?

As pastor of Saddleback Church, on the church’s own website he urges his congregation in California to vote for Proposition 8, amending the state constitution to reserve marriage to one man and one woman. California voters approved the amendment, angering homosexual militants nationwide.

As a guest on Larry King Live, Warren disavows all support for Proposition 8 and denies he ever urged anyone to vote for it.

What purpose drives him to tell such an easily exploded lie?

Trying to Understand

Warren’s conflicting statements have provoked speculation in the media.

Amy Sullivan of Time magazine, for example, tries to explain them in terms of his personality.

Warren, she says, is “surprisingly sloppy when it comes to speaking in public … Warren’s other habit is to do his best to agree with whomever he’s speaking to … from a desire to prove he’s not one of ‘those’ evangelicals.”[4]

To this she adds an observation that Warren “wants to be both the universally admired pastor who speaks to the nation and the influential leader who mobilizes religious conservatives for political ends. But these are two inherently conflicting roles, and he cannot be both, no matter how hard he tries.”

Media speculation can be interesting, but let’s also look at some of Warren’s own comments. The day after his appearance on Larry King, Warren was a guest on Hugh Hewitt’s talk radio show. From a transcript of the interview we have selected some comments that seem to shed light on his thinking.[5]

For example: “And where does it say that if you disagree, then you can’t get along, or you can’t even work on some issue like poverty, disease, illiteracy, humanitarian issues that we actually found a reverse form of discrimination. At Saddleback, we learned that Evangelicals were far more willing to work with, for instance, gays or other religions on humanitarian issues than they were willing to work with us.”

No one criticizes good works. But we might well ask: If a church group decides to partner with gay activists to run a local soup kitchen, how long could such a partnership go on without a conflict? And in the event of a conflict, which of the partners would give way? Where does “getting along” end and being unequally yoked with unbelievers begin?

Warren also said, “My number one goal in life is to have a Christ-like ministry, to treat people the way Jesus did. And Jesus hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors, and all different kinds of people. Today, he would have hung out with Democrats … and Republicans, and he would have hung out with gays, and with Muslims and Jews and Christians. And today, so much of the pickiness is look who he ate with, look who he associated with. And if you’re going to have a Christ-like ministry, you’re going to be criticized like Christ.”

Whoa, there! The Bible doesn’t say Christ “hung out” with sinners just for the sake of hanging out. Jesus himself said he was a “physician” to those sinners. Asked by the Pharisees why he dined with sinners, Jesus answered, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick … for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matt. 9:12–13).

Warren says nothing about calling any sinners to repentance. If a minister of the gospel “hangs out” with sinners but has no success at all in bringing them to Christ—and doesn’t even try for fear of disrupting their cooperation with him on good works—is his a truly Christ-like ministry?

Warren, Inc.

We might also want to examine the scope of Rick Warren’s good works.

For instance, his global AIDS crusade; under the auspices of Saddleback Church, Warren is trying to “bring together leaders to discuss unification of expertise to stop HIV/AIDS.”[6] This is envisioned to be an international effort to mobilize governments, scientists, and many millions of dollars in grants to fight and stop the spread of AIDS.

Even more ambitious is “the Rick Warren P.E.A.C.E. Plan.” The acronym stands for Promote reconciliation (the P has also stood for Plant new churches, or Partner with local churches); Equip leaders; Assist the poor; Care for the sick; Educate the next generation.

This is an enormous undertaking, backed up by Warren’s Purpose Driven Network in countries all over the world. Governments, businesses, and community organizations are to be gathered together into “a universal distribution system [for] health care, business development, teaching literacy … the largest volunteer force in the world,” and so on.[7] Once it gets going, whether successful or not, Rick Warren would become one of the most powerful and influential individuals on earth.

Then there is his Purpose Driven Connection, in partnership with the Readers Digest Association, Inc., to facilitate the worldwide distribution and teaching of his best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life. The network has trained more than half a million pastors around the world[8] and is intended to work in conjunction with the P.E.A.C.E. Plan, especially in 68 countries where local churches have signed on to it.[9]

It’s hard to keep track of the many initiatives and enterprises Warren has launched and funded. It would take a major research project to find out how much money and how many people are involved. Suffice it to say that Rick Warren’s ministries are among the largest in the world.

“Faith-Based Initiatives”

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has announced his intention to continue President Bush’s “faith-based initiatives,” in which the government will make funds available to churches, philanthropic organizations, and charities to set up and carry on various humanitarian programs. These would include the whole gamut of social services—housing the homeless, drug abuse treatment and prevention, feeding the hungry, day care, aid to single mothers, etc.

To help him decide which organizations and which programs are worthy of receiving government funds, the president has appointed an advisory council. His most recent appointment has alarmed some Christians.

Harry Knox, homosexual militant, director of the “Religion and Faith Program” for the misnamed Human Rights Campaign—a powerful and aggressive “gay rights” group—has been named to the advisory council for the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.[10] One of America’s premier Christian-bashers, Knox made news recently by attacking the Roman Catholic Church, calling the pope a liar and the Knights of Columbus “foot soldiers of a discredited army of oppression.”[11] Their offense, of course, is to take the Bible seriously and oppose the march of sodomy.

Owing to his support for Proposition 8, Rick Warren is not Organized Sodomy’s favorite person. Homosexual activists were very critical of the president for choosing Warren to deliver the invocation at the inauguration.

Harry Knox is not the only left-wing extremist on the nine-member advisory council.[12] It is hardly a committee that “looks like America.” It looks much more like a body that will favor “gay rights,” “social justice,” “reproductive freedom,” “community organizing,” and other pet causes seldom associated with the brands of Christianity to which most Americans subscribe. It’s hard to imagine Warren’s congregation, for one, finding much if any common ground with this council.

Interpreting the Evidence

So why would Warren now be trying to clear himself of the thought-crime of supporting Proposition 8?

Although Warren’s various enterprises would benefit by receiving “faith-based” grants, they can probably continue without government money. But there is more than money involved here.

The advisory council in charge of distributing the money is more than likely not to give any of it to Warren, on account of his support for Proposition 8 and his perceived opposition to “gay marriage.” The members of the council would likely be hostile to him—and he knows it.

Asked by Hugh Hewitt if the council “tilts left,” Warren answered, “Yeah … It tilts that way. My big concern about the Faith-Based Initiative, which I was very supportive of under the Bush Administration, is that, and I asked him [Obama] point blank this in the civil forum, will you have to give up your freedom in hiring in order to do, receive funds for different things like that? And he said yes. That will kill Faith-Based.”[13]

Warren may not need faith-based money to carry out his good works, but he would probably like to have some influence in the government. Other ministries, however, will decide they need the grants.

To get that money, any churchmen who apply for it will have to curry favor with persons on record for promoting sodomy, partial-birth abortion, forcible redistribution of wealth, “Black liberation theology,” and other schemes inimical to the core beliefs of faithful Christians. They will want the money to enable them to carry out good works. But they will not be able to get it unless, for the sake of their good works, they are willing to water down their doctrine and give at least their tacit approval to the government’s bad works.

When all is said and done, it’s dirty money.

The real issue is not Rick Warren but the church.

As an institution, has the church in America fallen into the trap of seeking salvation through works of the flesh? Are good works to be done for the glory of God and to bring both the doers and the recipients closer to Christ? Or do they become an end in themselves, and often at the expense of teaching, preaching, and doctrine?

If a church’s members believe that morality is a matter of personal choice, that any sincerely held religious belief will get the believer into heaven, that the Bible is largely inaccurate and useless as a guide for living—if they believe such things, does their church get a pass because it does good works? Do we not see, in the institutional church’s neglect of its duty to teach and preach God’s law-word and His grace, a primary reason for the deterioration of our nation’s culture?

Syncretists All

We are tempted to call it just a sellout and let it go at that; but R. J. Rushdoony looks more deeply into the matter.

“If a man believes that God and Satan, good and evil, can be reconciled and united, he is a syncretist,” Rushdoony writes. “If a man holds that we can remain true to the U.S. Constitution and have a welfare state, that man is a syncretist. If a man believes that orthodox Christianity can be reconciled and united, or live in peace with, modernism, humanism, Mohammedanism or Buddhism, that man is a syncretist, not a Christian. A syncretist has always abandoned his original position, even though he refuses to acknowledge this fact.”

Rushdoony continues, “Now syncretism is destructive of the human mind, of rationality … [A] man who wants to unite good and evil … has lost the capacity for clear thinking. His mind is darkened, clouded, fuzzed over, and incompetent … All non-Biblical thought is essentially humanistic; it is guilty of the basic, the original sin, the attempt to be a god, determining for one’s own self what constitutes good and evil in relation to purely personal or humanistic standards. Man, by presuming to be god, has by that act destroyed the possibility of true thinking; from so radically false a premise, no valid conclusion can follow.”[14]

We have quoted Rushdoony at length because this is precisely the dynamic that’s at work here. Seduced by the prospect of rich grants, of “a place at the table” of political decision-making, churchmen are willing to climb into bed with gay activists and abortion providers. For fear of losing their grants or being ousted from the political powwow, they will keep silence when the same pool of money and influence is used to carry on evil works, and by their silence, give consent.

Syncretists all, such churchmen will cease to teach the Bible from their pulpits, knowing that the moment that they do, they’re out the money, left out in the cold when decisions are made. And so the process of America’s moral decay will be accelerated, pushed onward by the very churches and preachers who are charged by God to teach and preach the truth.

“If ye love me, keep my commandments,” Jesus said (John 14:15). He did not say commandment-keeping would win for Christians the approval of this fallen world, shower them with money, or give them a place at the table of the rich and famous.

But what about the good works that the churches want to do, and might not be able to do without the government’s largesse?

Churches did good works for two millennia before the state came along and offered to fund them. Church members tithed, volunteered their time and resources, and founded schools and universities, hospitals, the Salvation Army, and other good works, strong and efficient, too numerous to list. But who is going to strap himself to tithe to a church that preaches a puny, watered-down, politically correct gospel and is already funded by the government?

Again, it’s dirty money; and churchmen who compromise the Word of God to get it will be corrupted by it.


[1] “Pastor Rick’s News & Views,” October 23, 2008, http://www.saddlebackfamily.com/blogs/newsandviews/index.html?contentID=1502.

[3] R. J. Rushdoony, Chariots of Prophetic Fire (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2003), 1–2.

[5] “Rick Warren on the Newsweek ‘End of Christian America’ article, Pt. 1,” Townhall.com, April 8, 2009, http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/talkradio/transcripts/Transcript.aspx?ContentGuid=aad3fbeb-8af6-4f09-9bac-8791c05c1662.

[6] “Pastor Rick and Kay Warren Bring Together Leaders to Discuss Unification of Expertise to Stop HIV/AIDS,” Pastor Rick & Kay Warren online newsroom, August 6, 2008, http://www.rickwarrennews.com/080806_hivconf.htm.

[7] J. R. Hall, “P.E.A.C.E the Rick Warren Way,” Berean Watchmen, May 21, 2008, http://www.bereanwatchmen.com/j.r.hall/p.e.a.c.e-the-rick-warren-way.html.

[8] “Rick Warren and Reader’s Digest Association Create a Multi-Platform Partnership to Serve Purpose Driven Readers,” ChristianNewsWire, November 24, 2008, http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/183018769.html.

[9] Ibid.

[10] “Obama Appointee Harry Knox Unfit to Serve,” Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, April 7, 2009, http://www.catholicleague.org/release.php?id=1590.

[11] David Limbaugh, “Radicalizing Even the Faith-Based Program,” Townhall.com, April 14, 2009, http://townhall.com/columnists/DavidLimbaugh/2009/04/14/radicalizing_even_the_faith-based_program.

[12] Ibid.

[14] R. J. Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1991), 599–602.


Topics: Church, The, Culture

Lee Duigon

Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine. Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.

Lee has his own blog at www.leeduigon.com.

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