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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Questions for all the Rick Warren Bashers

A few days ago, I wrote about some criticisms, unjustified in my view, of Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life.

Apparently there are many who share such critical assessments of the book, and some are even questioning his teachings, his beliefs and that of his church, the Saddleback Church.

It seems that people are also finding further evidence of his theological non-orthodoxy in the column that he has begun to write in the Ladies Home Journal.

I wonder why it is that people are so quick to judge what the guy really believes just by the things he writes (or does not write) in the Ladies Home Journal, or even in his one book alone?

For one thing, regarding the LHJ - have you heard of editors? Could it be that they deliberately remove the more ostensibly "evangelical-isms" from his article?

Even if the editors did not do their redline thing to his article, even if he had intentionally written the stuff as published, isn't there a possibility that Warren is aiming for the long term rather than the short haul?

What good would it be if he were to come out with all guns blaring so to speak only to alienate the culture that he (and we) so want to engage?

Couldn't it be that there is a long term strategy to gain credibility that what this guy says makes sense, and if that's the case, and he claims what he says is from the Bible, then perhaps one or two who likes what he has to say might begin to open the Bible and read it?

Paul says,
To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.
Is it really that hard to imagine that Rick Warren could have asked himself,
"How can I be all things to all (wo)men in this instance?"

"How can I reach out to the typical person who would be picking up a copy of the Journal and who would stop long enough to read the entire article?

"What would I have to say to get them even slightly interested in reading on, and perhaps to keep reading me so that the they would be interested to find out more?"
Apparently, the idea is that by doing what Rick has done, by allegedly deliberately "dumbing down" the gospel and not emphasizing sin, repentance and the cost of discipleship (just some of the many complaints floating out there), Rick is in danger of winning a different kind of Christian. A Christian who is not grounded, not really "born again", or in some respect a lower quality type of Christian who does not really understand what it means to be a Christian. And therefore, he is out to make followers of a different gospel.

Really? What or who saves a person? What or who keeps them saved? When you were saved did you have a full understanding of the gospel? Really?

And, is what Warren really aiming to win people to become Christians merely by reading the Ladies Home Journal, or by reading Purpose Driven Life for that matter?

Or couldn't we believe that what he is doing is to build links in the minds and thinking of the masses so that they can take a step closer to the kingdom?

Let's put the issue a different way, now that there is an interest in a "new kind of spirituality" in society, and the editors of Ladies Home Journal are interested in having someone of authority to write a column on the issue, who would you prefer to write that column? Rick Warren or Dan Brown or a host of other "spiritual leaders"?

The issue is this: Rick Warren is a communicator. Writing for the LHJ takes a different style (and content) than writing for the Discipleship Journal. The readership is different as well. That is precisely the point.

I don't think we can seriously think the typical LHJ reader would be interested to pick up Discipleship Journal at the hairdressers or the dentist's office. However, imagine this, the typical person who is going to pick up the Ladies Home Journal might be drawn to read the column, and hopefully after reading it, they might be interested to take a further step, and perhaps go purchase and read the [gasp!] Purpose Driven Life.

Then, from there, hopefully, they might go find a church that is doing a study on that book. Or maybe that person can find someone to talk about his or her life's purpose and perhaps more...?

Perhaps, that person is a friend of yours... hopefully if he or she talks about Rick's column, you are able to help him or her take the next step on the spiritual journey, or would you rather spend that time trying to correct all the supposed theological inaccuracies that this poor soul has been exposed to...?

Would you be helping or hindering your friend in his journey along the pathway of faith?

Here's another thought: Wouldn't it be a good thing if your friend or neighbor came up to you and rather than ask, "Say, have you read the Da Vinci Code?" they ask, "Have you read the Purpose Driven Life?

The question is, What would your answer be?

Would you go into a tirade of how inaccurate biblically that work is?

Even if you were to decide to do that, wouldn't it be easier to do so (as in way fewer inaccuracies) with the PDL than with the other work?

However, wouldn't it be better for you if you could begin with the PDL or the concepts within it (or within this month's LHJ's column, and starting from that text, preach Jesus to your friend, by perhaps starting with sharing from your own experience?

If your friend were talking to you about one of the other guy's books (the one about supposed mysterious codes in some medieval art and about ancient hidden secrets), wouldn't you have to do much, much more than just connect the dots?

My point is, Christians around the 'sphere ought to take another look at these works by our good friend (and he is a friend, guys, but really he is a dear brother, if truth be told) Rick Warren is putting out there, and see them as good pre-evangelism works.

And, we ought to prepare ourselves to help our friends to keep on walking down the road of faith, rather than alienate them from that journey.

Perhaps then those who spend their time dissecting Rick Warren's works ought to spend their time connecting the dots, that is, write what to say to our neighbors when they ask us about the PDL or about this month's LHJ columns in order to aid them in their journey of faith.