05 March 2011

"God Wants to Talk With You," a Saturday Night Sermon

Well, you know you're either bored or burned out when you resort to watching Saddleback Church's live service online. Yep, that's what I did tonight. It seemed to be an appropriate way to end a mildly productive, yet overall lazy day. Besides, when Rick Warren tweeted this out, how could I resist?
Yes, I tuned in to hear Rick talk about how to hear God speak to me. And, ironically enough, early on in the "sermon" he taught that we need to be "tuned in" to hear God. Just like a radio. Yeah... Now, let me clarify: early in his message, Warren acknowledged that he is skeptical of people who claim to audibly hear from God. So I want to squelch that story before it even begins to be concocted. From what I heard, this message didn't really contain mysticism. There are plenty of other places where Warren's propensity toward things mystic has been documented, so that is not the direction that this post will take.

The main text of this sermon was Luke 8 and the parable of the soils. Yes, you read that correctly. Rick Warren devised a sermon entitled "God Wants to Talk With You" from the parable of the soils. Now, unless I followed his logic incorrectly, I believe that Luke 8:8, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear," is why "Pastor" Rick decided that this passage is teaching about God wanting to talk to us. He then proceeded to rip other verses out of context in order to prove his point. It was classic eisegesis and he should be ashamed of himself. But let's face it, this is how Warren preaches, so we should expect nothing more. I'm not going to rehash the entire sermon here, but if you'd like to see my sermon notes, click here. The black text is provided by Saddleback and the red text is where I filled in the blanks. You'll notice that there are several different Bible translations referenced. I suppose that's why no one ever brings their own Bible to these mega-churches, you can never follow along because you don't know ahead of time which translation will best fit what the pastor wants to make the text say!

If you look at the notes, you'll see that "how we hear from God" is all about what we must do. It's always about works, even with the seeker-sensitive and purpose-driven crowd. That's because unregenerate people feel better about themselves and their ultimate fate if they're doing something. Rick's main point with all of this was that the parable of the soils doesn't just talk about four different types of people. Nope, you see, the parable of the soils is about four different types of attitudes. And did you know that you, dear Christian, can have all four of these attitudes all in one day? I'll pause here while you sigh in exasperation...

Here all this time it was thought that the parable of the soils was about salvation through hearing the word of God, about people's receptivity to the Gospel. But Rick never mentioned salvation. Or sin. Or gospel. Instead, I and everyone who listened to Warren walked away feeling like there was more we needed to do before we could ever hear from God. We were told that if we weren't hearing from God everyday, then it must be something we weren't doing right or something that we needed to do more of. Now, to be fair (even though this has nothing to do with this story in Luke 8), even Christians can experience a break in fellowship with God if there is unconfessed and un-mortified sin in our lives. But this isn't what Rick was teaching. As I said, sin wasn't mentioned. No, it was just that we're too distracted, or we aren't involved in a small group, or we just haven't told God "yes" in advance that we'll do whatever He says. It was a very bizarre way to preach through this wonderful parable, but the audience was loving it. How do I know this? Because for awhile, I infiltrated the Saddleback chat room.

Yes, that's right, there's a chat room that is active during the service. Very cool and relevant, isn't it? And everyone in the room was oohing and aahing and laughing at Warren's silly little stories. I couldn't stay logged in for very long. Others were getting upset when I began to point out some errors and, quite honestly, staying to "chat" would only have caused me to sin out of exasperation and frustration! But I saw just how effective this man's preaching can be. He said all the right things and it made everyone feel good. The sad and slightly scary thing is that some of what Warren said actually may be true in some way, shape or form (of course, he puts a legalistic twist on it). It just wasn't in the slightest related to the text. So not only is he perpetuating works-righteousness, but he's teaching his church some really terrible methods of Biblical interpretation! But then, why should I be surprised by this? 
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV)
If you'd like to hear some accurate sermons on this passage in Luke, visit Grace to You:
Receptivity to the Gospel, Part 1
Receptivity to the Gospel, Part 2
Receptivity to the Gospel, Part 3

One final note, don't forget that Warren is holding his "Civil Forum on Peace in a Globalized Society" with Tony Blair tomorrow, March 6. It will be broadcast live online. This could be interesting...

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