by C Michael PattonSeptember 15th, 2010 125 Comments
I don’t keep up that much with Rick Warren, but I have read many of his books.
I have always scratched my head in confusion as so many Christians want to burn him at the stake. Well, I scratch my head a lot at all the friendly fire that is out there. We shoot stun darts at enemies and bazookas at our family. With Warren, at every turn, I see “discerning Christians” trying to rub him out.
These type of Christians stake out in front of the house of their target and don’t leave—ever. I suppose that I could go there and see where they are coming from. I suppose that I can understand their wiring. After all, from their perspective, they are standing up for the truth of the Gospel. They are “contending for the faith.” Grace must take a backseat to truth since, after all, it is truth that produces grace, right? Mercy must stand in line as it waits for contention to run its course. Maybe we will get to those things later, but the foundation must be laid. Onward Christian soldiers!
I call this ”the gift of parochialism”:
1) The ability of Christians to target and focus only on the bad in others; 2) The chronic display of other people’s shortcomings; 3) The gift of the Holy Spirit to be excessively narrow in our findings; 4) The uncanny ability of being indignant of other people’s theological shortcomings and indulgent of our own.
But it is easier. It is easier to attack than it is to be tactful. It is easier to lead rash assaults. “Skip the reconnaissance. Did you hear what he said?” After all, hastiness is natural. “‘Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?’ They answered, ‘He deserves death!’” . . . ”Master, we saw him casting out demons in your name and we tried to stop him.” . . . ”Master, do for me whatever we ask (for I am worthy and I can handle anything). Grant to me that I sit on your right hand, so that I can act as the judge and you can get a break.” . . . ”Cut off his ear!” (Loosely, Matt. 26:65-66; Mark 9:38; Mark 10:35-41; Jn. 18:10).
In fact, you will always have a following if you are hasty and rash because it appeals to the same in all of us. Wisdom, understanding, grace, and tact are not welcome when we are inciting a lynching. “He deserves death!” Everyone is a rookie of grace, but an expert at “monster.” The human body comes standard with pitchforks. Bandages are optional.
Back to Warren.
I feel sorry for Rick Warren. Well, I don’t feel too sorry for him because I know that he has thick enough skin to take what is being dished out. I also know that there are a lot of people who appreciate and see all the good that he does. Has he said some stuff that is theologically off? Possibly. Who has not? Has he misrepresented our faith here and there? Certainly. We all have (and do). Is he perfect or imperfect? Please use a number 2 pencil and shade in the circle next to “imperfect.” In fact, do that for everyone but Christ.
Why today? Why Warren? Why this post?
Because I read a blog post that was warning people about Warren and, simply put, it hurt to read. I get Warren’s tweets through my tweet catcher, TweetDeck. I have been impressed by his daily thoughts. Impressed and encouraged. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they tweet. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with Twitter, what it amounts to is quick thoughts that are 140 characters or less.)
Here are some of the more encouraging ones that Rick Warren has posted over the last 28 hours:
“If someone is full of bitterness hate, no amount of logic will change their mind. Absorb their hurt, love, forgive & pray for them.”
“What we think is a deadend is often God’s detour to a better way.”
“For Kay & me,our best way to pray together is conversationally, back & forth aloud, rather than 2 uninterrupted prayers.”
“The most common way Jesus comes into our lives is through a broken heart.”
“Prayer is dialog, not mere monolog. 50% is quiet listening.”
“Prayer isn’t convincing God to do our will but alligning ourselves with His will, which requires overcoming evil with good.”
“Neither the length nor eloquence of your prayers causes God to answer. God responds to faith. See Mark 11:24
“It’s dumb not to learn from others because u disagree with much of what they say.Even a broken clock is correct twice a day” [oh, the irony of that one]
“We’re always just one heartbeat away from eternity.”
“Giving up faith in God because perversions of faith occur is as irrational as giving up sex because rape & incest occur.”
“If u think divorcing& marrying another will bring u happiness know this:74% of 2nd marriages AFTER a divorce end in divorce.”
And last but not least:
“Many CLAIMING to hold to Sola Scriptura actually trust manmade confessions.The WORD,not us,is inerrant,so we need humility!”
Wait, one more,
“The darkest blindess is refusing to see the truth.”
I hope you were encouraged by his words. I hope you saw his heart here.
I am not cherry picking. However, I did leave out this one:
“Hiddenness is the place of purification. In hiddenness we find our true selves.”
This tweet caught the eye of some of our friends who were were staked out, binoculars in hand, in front of his house, in a dark alley. What? . . . You don’t see the problem? Desensitized fool! Oh ye who don’t have the gift of parochialism. Oh ye without the ability to discern. You who do not appraise what you eat. Take a close look at the leaven being put into your mind.
(The sarcasm here is about to make me point my canon straight up!)
The problem that this particular group has with this quote is this: “Rick Warren’s choice [for tweet] today was New Age mystic, Henri Nouwen, a Buddhist sympathizer who believed all paths lead to God.” They go on to dissect what this must mean about Warren. In short, he is attempting to lead people to universalism.
I tweet. I tweet often. Many times I quote from Christians who are not of the same ilk as me theologically. I just encouraged people to follow my friend Paul Copan, who is an Arminian. I have quoted Francis Beckwith, who is a Roman Catholic. Last week, I even tweeted this: “I slept with faith and found a corpse in my arms on awakening.” This comes from Aleister Crowley, an occultist. It does not mean that I have a secret plan to lead people to occultism. I also, like Warren, tweet straight from the Bible. Just this morning, while reading Genesis, I tweeted this, “Gen 6:1. Angels? ‘The sons of God saw the daughters of men were beautiful; they took them as wives.’ At least they married them 1st!”
If people are waiting for me to “slip” by quoting or saying something that is a bit off, they won’t have to wait long.
Here is what I think to myself about the attack on Warren here:
1) Who cares if Warren quotes from a guy who is off theologically? Does this mean that he endorses all Nouwen’s theology? Why would we ever think such?
2) Didn’t they read all of Warren’s other tweets? Didn’t they see how rich they were? His heart is on his sleeve. These other tweets were as orthodox as you can get. He is defending Christianity, not universalism. Why, out of all these, do they pick the Nouwen quote? Why not one of the others? He is quoting the Bible. He is defending marriage. For goodness sake, he is even standing strong on sola Scriptura!
When did grace get put in the trunk? When did reason get flicked out the window? Why do those of us who care about theology so dearly become back alley back stabbers of our own family?
We need to learn to have grace in our theology. We need to recognize those of the same DNA and commend before we condemn. We need to be seen as people of grace before we ever have a right to prune.
Folks, if we are hanging out on theology corner looking for a fight, we can find one. We will also always have an audience who is willing to watch and cheer as we beat someone up. But what we will find is that we become blood thirsty after a few rounds. The cheers of the crowd will become our heroine. However, in the end, we might discover that we are punching the face of our brother.
We need to be theologically discerning. We need “appraise” things. But when we realize that this is all we are doing, I think we need to appraise ourselves.
Grace and Truth. Truth and Grace. What a difficult combination to find.
- The Dark Side of Theology
- Fourteen Characteristics of Theological Legalism
- Can Heretics Be Saved? Or “Aren’t We All Saved Heretics?”
- Three Types of Christian Scholarship
- What does it take to be an Evangelical?