30 March 2012

Greg Laurie and Harvest America Seek 500,000 "Professions of Faith"

Is a profession of faith more sincere when made amid a large crowd and emotionally manipulative music? If God, through His Holy Spirit, is drawing someone to Himself, will that work be hindered simply because that person is not in the right environment?

Questions such as these are important to ask in light of a new effort being put forth by Greg Laurie and his Harvest Crusades. The Press-Enterprise reports:
Riverside-based Harvest Crusades is launching an ambitious expansion that organizers hope will bring its annual evangelical gathering at Angel Stadium of Anaheim to 1,000 venues nationwide via satellite and high-definition webcasts. 
About 165,000 people attended Harvest crusades last year in Anaheim and at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, making them among the biggest evangelical events in the country. 
But crusade organizers are estimating that the new “Harvest America” effort, formally unveiled Tuesday at a luncheon at Angel Stadium, could attract 5 million participants over the next three years to churches, arenas and theatres. 
“We think this could be our future,” said the Rev. John Collins, executive crusade director for Harvest. 
More than 250 churches — some with sophisticated, high-tech big screens and other equipment — already have signed up to hold events centered on the Aug. 26 crusade at Angel Stadium, he said. Many of the venues are expected to localize the event with live bands and preaching by local pastors, he said. 
The 12,000-member Harvest Bible Chapel, which has six campuses in the Chicago area, is starting to prepare for the event, said the Rev. Brian Bement, who is coordinating the church’s participation. 
“We’re excited that, given the current technology, there’s an opportunity to spread the word of God through Pastor Greg Laurie, who has a clear gift of evangelism,” he said.(Online Source)
Why the desire to clone this experience across the country?
Holding the event live adds to the energy, said the Rev. Thom O’Leary, pastor of the 1,400-member Mountainbrook Community Church in San Luis Obispo. 
“It’s pretty cool that we’ll be experiencing this at the exact same time as at Anaheim stadium,” said O’Leary, whose church will have a live band perform before the webcast. “You’re a part of the vibe.” 
Even though hundreds of thousands of people have watched the crusades online since 1997, it is more effective to have them experience the event with others, Laurie said in an interview after Tuesday’s luncheon. 
Just as Christians who attend the Anaheim crusade are encouraged to bring non-believing family, friends and neighbors with them, Christians who attend the webcasts nationwide will be urged to invite non-believers to events at their local churches, Laurie said. Those who view the crusade with friends are more likely to make a profession of faith in Christ than people who watch the crusade alone on a computer, he said. (Online Source, emphasis added)
Are we to believe, then, that if God has ordained for one to be saved, the Holy Spirit can only work in a more effective manner when that one is in a large crowd of people? Are we really to believe that God cannot save someone who is watching at home "alone on a computer?" Or are the comments above indicative of a larger problem in evangelicalism today?

On any given Sunday across America, "worship experiences" are taking place where once the saints gathered together for church. Where once the worship was designed to please God, now it appears to be fashioned as something for man to "experience." Today, flashing lights, "relevant" messages and emotionally driven music are strategically executed in order to deliver the product: professions of faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, if spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ is truly the main goal, is the "experience" necessary? Or does one only need to be true and faithful to preach the Gospel without compromise? Surely the Holy Spirit does not need "the vibe" of a large stadium event in order to draw people unto Himself!

Laurie, who also pastors Harvest Christian Fellowship in Southern California, states in this same article, as well as on the Harvest America website, that "Harvest's goal is to have 500,000 people nationwide profess their faith in Jesus over the next three years as a result of the live-stream events, more than have done so in the 22 years of the crusades."

This sounds like a noble goal, but the statement raises questions. What if God has ordained a different number, larger or smaller, than 500,000? And what if God is seeking actual conversions rather than "professions of faith?"

The Harvest Ministries website clearly defines what they interpret a "profession of faith" to be:
What does the term "profession of faith" mean? Is it the same as a conversion? 
We believe that only God has the power to "convert" a heart to Himself. We use the term "profession of faith" to indicate that a person made a public, formal profession of a desire to follow Christ and live by His Word (whether that be a first-time commitment or a recommitment). While many of these people will be discipled, grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, and bear lasting fruit, we know that this is a matter of the heart and some will not continue on in the Christian faith (see Matthew 13). This is the reason that there is a follow-up process in place—to ensure that as many as possible are given all the tools and biblical counsel that they need, and are also prayed for. (Online Source)
It is moderately reassuring that Harvest Ministries recognizes that not all professions of faith are true and lasting. Nevertheless, it is still these professions that they seek to record at the upcoming Harvest America events. One tends to wonder, if not one person walked the aisle at a Harvest America event, and the 500,000 goal was not met, yet there was one - only one - person who remained seated, was convicted of his sin and repented and trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation and for the forgiveness of his sins, would the event still be deemed a success?

Of note is that, within this article at the Press-Enterprise, it is acknowledged that many of these event-driven "professions" may not "stick," however the reason for this lack of efficacy appears to be a bit misguided.
Holding Harvest America events in churches close to participants’ homes may lead to more long-term conversions rather than spur-of-the-moment declarations of faith in Jesus at big stadiums that may quickly fade, said Kurt Fredrickson, an associate dean at Fuller Theological Seminary, an evangelical institution in Pasadena. 
At the end of each night of the crusade, thousands of people typically walk onto the field of Angel Stadium to announce their faith in Jesus, but Fredrickson wonders how many of those decisions stick. (Online Source)
The above seems to hypothesize that those who will immediately have a nearby church to attend may "stick" to their profession of faith longer. It is true, the Christian walk is a lifetime one, but there are many people within churches who appear to walk that walk without ever having been truly saved by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Too many people have been misdirected to believe that attending church and getting "plugged in" and "doing life" in "community" means that they are saved. While being a part of a biblically-centered church ought to be the desire of every believer, the act of consistently attending the church will not save, nor is it necessarily indicative of one's salvation. Plenty of pews are warmed each week by those who have never heard the gospel of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Too many professing Christians spend all but 2 hours a week living like heathens, only to "wipe the slate clean" on a Sunday morning. Too many have been woefully deceived. Sadly, those who are deceived are often in this state due to a one-time, emotionally-high experience.

It might be suggested, then, that it would be more beneficial for Laurie and his team to focus on clear, unambiguous Gospel preaching as a means of true conversion rather than as a means of logging a number of mere mouthed professions.

As was asked earlier, if the goal of 500,000 professions is not met, yet only one soul is saved in the span of 3 years, will the event still be deemed a success? One would hope so.
Let us settle it in our minds that it will never do to be content with merely hearing and liking the gospel. We must go further than this. We must actually repent and be converted.
- J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew, 115.

The Gooey Mess that is American "Christianity"

This 'n' That

Well, anticipation is building as we rapidly approach Escalator Church's first Easter Extravaganza. While we don't want to spoil any surprises, we can confirm that our theme and focus for this year will be similar to what we are seeing in some of America's most prominent mega churches. What might that theme be? Well, you, of course! We know, we know, Easter is supposed to be a time of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, but that doesn't mean that you should be ignored! Come dressed in your finest, ready to take advantage of our instant photo booth, which offers backgrounds that will put you right into that first Easter story! If you have children, come early to participate in our irreverent sanctuary Easter egg hunt. Not only will your kids be filled with joy at the sugary goodness that awaits them in each plastic egg, but they will also find a note in each one with an encouraging word that will inspire them to feel better about themselves. Yes, Escalator Church will strive to make this Easter your best one ever!

Okay, enough silliness. Here's your week in review (kind of):
  • I have not seen October Baby, but Justin Edwards has. He shares his thoughts here.
  • Upon examination, it seems the recent events surrounding Mark Driscoll actually indicate a promotion.
  • For the record, I like Ray Comfort and his ministry, The Way of the Master. Still, I found this article by Jesse Johnson to be interesting and helpful, as it shares some valid concerns about TWOTM.
  • An openly gay pastor has been selected to lead a large Lutheran (ELCA) church in Minnesota. Sigh...
  • Dan Philips offers some thoughts as the newly installed pastor of Copperfield Bible Church in Houston.
  • The authority of the Gospel:

28 March 2012

Mark Driscoll Resigns from The Gospel Coalition Council

Almost immediately following the announcement that Mark Driscoll is handing the presidency of the Acts 29 Network over to Matt Chandler comes the following news from D.A. Carson and The Gospel Coalition:
Driscoll Steps Down from TGC Council 
Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle has recently announced he is stepping down from the Council of The Gospel Coalition. Mark let us know in advance of his intentions, part of a major reorganization of his priorities and a changing of the guard in Acts 29. We are saddened by his departure but understand that all busy people must establish priorities. 

The Council is grateful to Mark for his contributions to TGC during the past decade. In the months and years ahead, we will certainly be praying for him, his family, and the ministries he influences. (Online Source)
Carson has provided Driscoll's letter to TGC in his post here, wherein Driscoll offers his reasons for resigning.

It will certainly be interesting to see where all of this leads.

**UPDATE** 29 March 2012

Mark Driscoll has posted a detailed account of "what's next" for him here.

Matt Chandler Assumes Presidency of Acts 29 Network

26 March 2012

What's Theology Got to Do With It?

Over the weekend, Kevin Gerald, pastor of Champions Centre, tweeted the following:

(Online Source)
At the time, I sighed to myself and thought, "Well, there's a shock." This morning, my friend Chris Rosebrough of Fighting for the Faith reminded me of Gerald's tweet (you can hear Rosebrough's response to the tweet here). This time I thought, "It's a good thing that Kevin Gerald doesn't think theology matters, because that statement is full of bad theology!"

Consider a couple of things. First, if theology doesn't matter at all, and all we need to worry about is loving people, then there's really no point in evangelizing, is there? After all, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, atheists, each have really bad theology! So if theology doesn't matter, then why would Christians be spending so much time trying to fulfill the Great Commission?

This brings us to our second point. In Matthew 28, we read the following:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)
Jesus commanded that we teach others "to observe all that I have commanded you." During His three years of earthly ministry, did Jesus ever once say, "Hey, guys, I know that I'm the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity. And I know that one day, as prophesied long ago, I will be crucified for the sins of all who will believe and that three days later I will rise again. But, the truth is, it doesn't matter what all of you actually end up believing about me. Just be nice and be good. Love people. It will all shake out in the end."

Admittedly, I have not yet checked The Message translation on this, but as far as my biblical knowledge goes, Jesus never said anything like this. In fact, everything that Jesus commanded and taught His disciples was theology, and correct theology at that. So Code Orange speaker Kevin Gerald has a problem.

If we really want to "#lovepeople," then we will strive to teach them correct theology as found in God's Word. To do anything else would be quite unloving, for in not correcting one's erroneous doctrine, you may find yourself "loving" that person all the way to their eternal condemnation.

More Hypocrisy (from Possessing the Treasure)
False Doctrine Destroys Christian Unity (from Better Than Sacrifice

25 March 2012

Sunday Morning Praise: Amazing Grace

Has it ever just hit you? Your unworthiness. Your wretchedness.

The Apostle Paul felt this.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:21-25)
Have you ever stopped where you stood and been reminded of your absolute undeserving character? Have you ever knelt before God and been struck by the near-preposterous nature of the situation? Who are we to approach the throne of a pure, undefiled, holy, righteous and just God? Who are we to possess His grace?

Grace. Have you ever pondered how undeserving you are to receive not just God's saving grace, but even His common grace and blessings? Who are we to be privy to the beauty of a sunset? Who are we to be allowed to awake another day, to share the love of family and friends, to rest in the cool breeze of evening? Who...are...we?

Ah, but that is the wrong question. The question is not, "who are we?" Rather, the question is, "who is Christ?"
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)
Amazing grace indeed.

24 March 2012

Scripture is the Fountainhead of Truth

In the days of [William] Farel, when Bibles were kept out of sight, Satan could by his servants teach sin and folly, without any need to mix up evil with good to disguise his work. Men did not know in the pitch darkness of those days that the most utter folly was untrue. But now, when you all have Bibles, Satan works in another way. He puts the good and evil together in a book - it may be in a hymn book or a sermon - so skillfully, and so smoothly that you will think it good, and beautiful, and wise, and only God can keep you from these traps and snares. Farel in later years wrote these words, which I would have you to remember as long as you live, "I pray all those who love Jesus Christ, who alone is the Truth, that they do not blame me if I refuse to put the most ancient and honored teachers in the same rank as the Holy Scriptures, and if, when I read their writings, I search diligently in the Scriptures to see whether they have told the truth or not. Far be it from me to contradict any great and holy teacher who speaks the truth; on the contrary, the smallest and meanest person, if he speaks the truth, ought not to be contradicted upon any account whatsoever. I only ask that the truth they speak should be manifestly proved and maintained by the Holy Scripture and maintained by us, because we find it there; for the Scripture is very sure, and says nothing but that which is true, and which everybody ought to receive and to hold fast; but every single thing which cannot be proved by Scripture has no weight, no place, no authority in the worship and service of God. Christ is the Truth; He alone is the One who ought to be listened to. We must not turn to look at any other, nor attend to what any man whatever may do and say, but follow Christ, and Christ only. And if we doubt whether anything we are told by men is really what Christ has said and commanded, we are to turn to the Holy Scriptures, which are the fountainhead, from which God intends we should draw forth all truth. We should find out there what Christ really did say, and according to that we should hold fast, believing it and doing it, without adding to it or diminishing from it, nor twisting it this way and that, to right or to left, but simply obeying it." Well would it be if all people calling themselves Christians had walked by this rule!
- Frances Bevan, The Life of William Farel, 20-21. 

22 March 2012

"We Want It NOW!"

Parents, would you let your child speak to you like this?

Hopefully not. Yet here we see Rob DeLuca of His Way Church encouraging a child to speak in this irreverent manner to the holy God of the universe. Blasphemous.

20 March 2012

Does 'Daniel Plan' Co-Author Care More About Your Scale Than Your Soul?

Rick Warren's The Daniel Plan was big news in 2011. Today, in 2012, it has largely joined the ranks of other church campaigns and fads, such as the Prayer of Jabez, the Purpose-Driven Life, and whatever marketing campaign the latest "Christian" film has implemented. Yet, like so many other trends, every now and then The Daniel Plan shows up in the headlines offering some new, fresh advice or insight.

This week Dr. Daniel Amen, one of the co-authors of The Daniel Plan, offered some comments of interest. The Christian Post reports:
Are American churchgoers becoming too fat and unhealthy to practice their faith? One prominent doctor thinks so. 
Dr. Daniel G. Amen, M.D., co-author of The Daniel Plan at Saddleback Church and author of the new book Use Your Brain to Change Your Age, told The Christian Post that our brains use 25 percent of the calories we consume. 
"If you want your brain to be healthy, your food had [sic] to be. It's your brain that connects with God," he said. 
Amen also stressed that a lack of brain function increases your risk of sin. "You have to have good frontal lobe function to inhibit saying hurtful thing [sic] or having the discipline to show up at church or Bible study – optimizing brain function can bring you closer to God and community," he said. 
According to a media release, Amen said he had the sobering thought that "churches are sending people to heaven … early" when he saw donuts, bacon, sausage, and hot dogs at his church one Sunday. The church minister also mentioned a recent ice cream social. (Online Source, emphasis mine)
According to these remarks made by Amen, man's problem with sin ultimately is due to a poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle. Consequently, a man's sin would be something that man could mend on his own by simply taking steps to improve "brain function." Unfortunately for Amen, the Bible would disagree. Man's sin problem is inherent, innate and incurable apart from Jesus Christ.
as it is written: 
“None is righteous, no, not one; 
no one understands; no one seeks for God. 
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; 
no one does good, not even one.” 
“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” 
“The venom of asps is under their lips.” 
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 
“Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” 
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18)
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. 
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12-21)
Even the healthiest, most well-rested, adequately exercised, and properly-fed individual is a sinner, and a wretched, wicked one at that. Without repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, the activity of a man's frontal lobe will not save him. Yet churches, in their efforts to reach the felt needs of the congregation, have opted to place their focus on programs that seek to strengthen the body at the expense of the soul.

While Amen and others decry the atrocity of the presence of doughnuts and coffee cake in the church kitchen, there is another abysmal diet being consumed by churchgoers. This is a diet rich in narcissism, self-help and conceit. This same diet is dreadfully lacking in biblical truth, doctrine and theology. As the Daniel Plan slims down bodies, it also starves the soul. In the end, those bodies will still die and decay, and though they will one day be resurrected, what good is a fit and trim body if it is merely housing a soul that has been damned?

The fact that The Daniel Plan originated in Saddleback Church, and has been led by "America's Pastor" Rick Warren makes Amen's statements even more tragic. Ought not a Christian pastor be more concerned with the state of the souls he shepherds? Of course, there is nothing wrong with striving to live a healthy lifestyle, but when dieting and exercise become the focus of a church campaign rather than the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, then clearly it is not just the congregation that is unhealthy, but rather the entire church and all of its components. The aforementioned Christian Post article ended, then, with a most appropriate question asked by Amen:
"Are churches going to be part of the problem or part of the solution?"
Sadly, the answer to this seems to be: many churches are the problem.

"Easy Button" Easy-Believism

The following article was written by Christian Research Network correspondent Justin Edwards of airĊ and appears in its entirety here.
Gutless Gracers’ Easy-believism 
Before and shortly after God saved me in March 2009, most of the websites I followed were primarily concerned with biblical prophecy. Naturally, most of these sites are dispensational and unfortunately have an unbiblical view on the doctrine of salvation (known as soteriology). Of course, these sites have a very unfavorable view (at best) of Calvinism, and they detest the doctrine of lordship salvation. 
Now, to be clear, I am a dispensationalist and Calvinist (of the Steven Lawson and John MacArthur type), so being a dispensationalist does not equate to rejecting lordship salvation or Calvinism (for you reformed saints who may think otherwise). In any case, one such website popular among online dispensationalists is Grace Thru Faith run by Jack Kelley. His website is also very popular at the Rapture Ready message board, where I used to be a moderator in my infant days (full disclosure here, save the tomatoes please). 
Having not thought much about Kelley’s website for some time since I grew out of these particular circles, I was quickly reminded of it when reading through chapter 10 of Pyromaniac Dan Phillips’ The World-Tilting Gospel. I remembered a few of the articles I had read years ago from Kelley and his destructive teaching of easy-believism. Ultimately, Kelley is of the type who believes saving faith does not result in a changed life. After reading Dan’s book last night, I think it’s pretty clear Jack Kelley might be called a “Gutless Gracer.”
Continue reading

The Word of God is Living

The following is excerpted from a sermon entitled, "The Talking Book," which was preached by Charles Spurgeon on October 22, 1871:
[T]he Word is living. How else could it be said: "It shall talk with thee"? A dead book cannot talk, nor can a dumb book speak. It is clearly a living book, then, and a speaking book: "The word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." How many of us have found this to be most certainly true! A large proportion of human books are long ago dead, and even shrivelled like Egyptian mummies; the mere course of years has rendered them worthless, their teaching is disproved, and they have no life for us. Entomb them in your public libraries if you will, but, henceforth, they will stir no man's pulse and warm no man's heart. But this thrice blessed book of God, though it has been extant among us these many hundreds of years, is immortal in its life, unwithering in its strength: the dew of its youth is still upon it; its speech still drops as the rain fresh from heaven; its truths are overflowing founts of ever fresh consolation. Never book spake like this book; its voice, like the voice of God, is powerful and full of majesty.
Whence comes it that the word of God is living? Is it not, first, because it is pure truth? Error is death, truth is life. No matter how well established an error may be by philosophy, or by force of arms, or the current of human thought, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all untruth shall be as stubble before the fire. The tooth of time devours all lies. Falsehoods are soon cut down, and they wither as the green herb. Truth never dies, it dates its origin from the immortals. Kindled at the source of light, its fame cannot be quenched; if by persecution it be for a time covered, it shall blaze forth anew to take reprisals upon its adversaries. Many a once venerated system of error now rots in the dead past among the tombs of the forgotten; but the truth as it is in Jesus knows no sepulchre, and fears no funeral; it lives on, and must live while the Eternal fills His throne.
Over and above all this, the Holy Spirit has a peculiar connection with the word of God. I know that He works in the ministries of all His servants whom He hath ordained to preach; but for the most part, I have remarked that the work of the Spirit of God in men's hearts is rather in connection with the texts we quote than with our explanations of them. "Depend upon it," says a deeply spiritual writer, "it is God's word, not man's comment on it, which saves souls." God does save souls by our comment, by still it is true that the majority of conversions have been wrought by the agency of a text of Scripture. It is the word of God that is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. There must be life in it, for by it men are born again. As for believers, the Holy Spirit often sets the word on a blaze while they are studying it. The letters were at one time before us as mere letters, but the Holy Ghost suddenly came upon them, and they spake with tongues. The chapter is lowly as the bush at Horeb, but the Spirit descends upon it, and lo! it glows with celestial splendour, God appearing in the words, so that we feel like Moses when he put off his shoes from his feet, because the place whereon he stood was holy ground. It is true, the mass of readers understand not this, and look upon the Bible as a common book; but if they understand it not, as least let them allow the truthfulness of our assertion, when we declare that hundreds of times we have as surely felt the presence of God in the page of Scripture as ever Elijah did when he heard the Lord speaking in a still small voice. The Bible has often appeared to us as a temple of God, and the posts of its doors have moved at the voice of Him that cried, whose train also has filled the temple. We have been constrained adoringly to cry, with the seraphim. "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of Hosts." God the Holy Spirit vivifies the letter with His presence, and then it is to us a living word indeed.

18 March 2012

Does Perry Noble Need to Heed His Own Advice?

Have you always wondered what is the secret behind a mega church pastor's sermon success? Well, if so, then you should have tuned in last week to the webcast of the Preach Better Sermons online conference. Speakers for this online-only event included Andy and Charles Stanley, Perry Noble, and Louie Giglio, among others.

The Christian Post enlightens us as to some of Perry Noble's advice to the viewers of this event:
NewSpring Church Pastor Perry Noble advised the thousands of pastors watching online to begin with the Word of God and not a VH1 video or popular song. 
"Let the text, the Bible drive the sermon. Don't say I saw a video on VH1 and I want to establish a sermon around that," the South Carolina megachurch pastor exhorted. "The Word of God has to be where it starts. I'm so passionate about that." (Online Source)
Um...has Perry Noble forgotten about Easter 2009?

Well, it was nearly three years ago, so perhaps it slipped his mind. But what about the Spring of 2011, when Newspring Church featured Katy Perry's then-hit single "Firework" in the Sunday service?

Glad to see that popular songs aren't driving the services there at Newspring. The Christian Post article continues:
Noble, whose church is getting ready to launch its eighth campus, said nearly every idea that he has preached on for the past five years came out of his quiet time. He made it clear, however, that his quiet time with the Lord is not sermon prep time. 

"But while I'm reading the Bible to try my best to hear the voice of God, if something pops in my mind, I write it down," he explained. 

"A preacher preaches best when he preaches out of the overflow of his heart. I really want to try my best to communicate that idea that God set my heart on fire with." (Online Source)
We certainly hope that Noble is not listening for an audible voice from God, however, it's difficult to imagine that a careful study of Scripture would lead one to use the above two songs in a Sunday worship service. But then, Noble has previously explained what led him to the decision to play "Highway to Hell" for the Easter Sunday service, and he does seem to claim that the idea came from God.

So which is it? Is Perry Noble preaching from the Word of God, or from an "idea that God set [his] heart on fire with?" One is clear, God-breathed Scripture, while the other seems to be an emotionally driven whim. So what does Perry Noble's track record indicate? Is he really allowing the biblical text to drive the sermon, as he described to the online viewers of the Preach Better Sermons event?

Well, it wasn't too long ago that we heard Perry Noble preach Matthew 6:33 as a text that commands tithing. So, even if he is opening a Bible on the stage each week, it appears that Noble is still in need of a refresher course in biblical hermeneutics and exegesis.

It seems, then, that Perry Noble knows the right thing to say when discussing what a pastor should do. Unfortunately, it appears that he at times has difficulty practicing what he preaches (pardon the pun). Nevertheless, we certainly hope that Perry Noble will begin to heed his own advice. How nice it would be if those soon-to-be eight campuses of Newspring Church would begin to hear the clear, un-compromised Word of God preached each week rather than merely having their itching ears scratched.

Perry Noble Says "Seek First" Means "Tithe"
Robert Morris Teams Up With Hybels, Noble, and Word Faith Preacher Tim Ross
"Code Orange" Speaker Perry Noble

Sunday Morning Praise

O God, Our Help in Ages Past

This hymn, written by Isaac Watts, is a paraphrase of Psalm 90. Early on in his Christian life, Watts felt concern over the music being sung in churches. "His father one day challenged him to write something better for the congregation, a challenge which he accepted (Kenneth Osbeck, 101 Hymn Stories, 184)." Indeed, Watts went on to become one of the most well-known and well-loved hymn writers even to this day.

12 March 2012

A King's Way Comparison

Christine Pack of Sola Sisters has created a helpful visual aid that assesses the conflicting claims surrounding the Rick Warren - King's Way controversy. It provides a nice, clean comparison of the entire debacle.

(Online Source)

Worldliness: A Great Danger to Man's Soul

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
Worldliness is one of the greatest dangers that beset man's soul. It is no wonder that we find our Lord speaking strongly about it: it is an insidious, specious, plausible enemy; it seems so innocent to pay close attention to our business! It seems so harmless to seek our happiness in this world, so long as we keep clear of open sins! Yet here is a rock on which many make shipwreck to all eternity. They "lay up treasure on earth," and forget to "lay up treasure in heaven." May we all remember this! Where are our hearts? What do we love best? Are our chiefest affections on things in earth, or things in heaven? Life or death depends on the answer we can give to these questions. If our treasure is earthly, our hearts will be earthly also. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be."
Let us learn from our Lord's caution about worldliness, what need we have to watch and pray against an earthly spirit. What are the vast majority of professing Christians round us doing? "They are laying up treasure on earth:" there can be no mistake about it; their tastes, their ways, their habits, tell a fearful tale. They are not "laying up treasure in heaven." Let us beware that we do not sink into hell by paying excessive attention to lawful things. Open transgression of God's law slays its thousands, but worldliness its tens of thousands.
- J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew, 56-57. 

11 March 2012

Moody Church Welcomes Spiritual Formation Expert Larry Crabb

The Moody Church in Chicago is led by senior pastor Erwin Lutzer, who is widely known to be a staunch defender of maintaining a biblical worldview rather than succumbing to the liberal compromises of the day. That is why it is rather curious that Lutzer has chosen to hand his pulpit over to Larry Crabb, a psychologist-turned-spiritual-formation-expert whose efforts and books tend to promote contemplative prayer, mysticism, and elevate subjective experience over and above objective truth.

Crabb was invited to lead the 2012 Leadership Summit that was held at Moody Church on Saturday, March 10. Following this, he will be ushered into Erwin Lutzer's pulpit to preach the Sunday service on March 11.
(Online Source)
(Online Source)
So, just who is Larry Crabb? According to the website of his organization, New Way Ministries

Dr. Larry Crabb is a well-known psychologist, conference and seminar speaker, Bible teacher, popular author, and founder/director of NewWay Ministries. In addition to various other speaking and teaching opportunities, Dr. Crabb offers a weekend conference throughout the country entitled Life on the Narrow Road and a week-long School of Spiritual Direction held in Colorado Springs, CO. He currently is Scholar in Residence at Colorado Christian University in Colorado and serves as Spiritual Director for the American Association of Christian Counselors. Dr. Crabb has authored many books including; Understanding People, The Marriage Builder, Finding God, Connecting, The Safest Place on Earth, The Pressure's Off, Shattered Dreams, and SoulTalk. His latest book, The PAPA Prayer, was released in February 2006. Dr. Crabb and his wife, Rachael, live in the Denver, Colorado area. 
Educational Background 
Ph.D. Clinical Psychology, University of Illinois, 1970 (Minors: Speech Therapy and Philosophy of Science)
M.A. Clinical Psychology, University of Illinois, 1969
B.S. Psychology, Ursinus College, 1965
(Online Source)
Obviously, Crabb's background in psychology is quite extensive. Unfortunately, this has seeped quite extensively into his writing and work. Just one example is found New Way Ministries' course offerings of the School of Spiritual Direction (SSD). Crabb describes the SSD in the following manner:
I call it the Passion/Wisdom Model of Spiritual Direction, and I see it as offering the opportunity for our interior worlds and supernatural reality to meet. This model offers a conceptual understanding of the private and often confusing world beneath the surface of our everyday lives and a rhythmic strategy for following the Spirit into the depths of people’s souls, including our own. That is where God’s Spirit is moving us into the Father’s presence and into the light of the Son so that we can (1) enjoy God, (2) accept ourselves, and (3) engage with others in the energy of Christ. (Online Source)
What we read above is, at best, psycho-babble with a "Christianese" twist. At worst, it's mystical deception. As was mentioned above, Crabb has authored numerous books. The most recent of these, The PAPA Prayer, was briefly reviewed by Pastor Gary Gilley. Of this work, Gilley says,
Most importantly the ideas presented are not in any way drawn from Scripture. Crabb’s experience and imagination is the seed-bed of The PAPA Prayer. What little Scripture Crabb uses is taken out of context or distorted (e.g. pp. 29, 45-51, 111, 116, 119). Probably the most “creative” use of Scripture was tagging on a command by Jesus given to John based on Revelation 1:16-17, “Then the risen Christ placed His right hand on John and spoke. ‘Don’t be afraid. I’m alive and because I’m alive, you’re alive. Advance My kingdom until I return with great power to finish the job’” (p. 118). This last statement is simply not there (maybe Crabb should review Revelation 22:18-19).
The author also introduces his newer devotion to mysticism a number of times (pp. 123, 146, 149). As a matter of fact, in disguised form he promotes all three stages of classic mysticism: purgation, illumination and union (pp. 146-149). Centering and contemplative prayer is also recommended (pp. 9, 22). Even a little visualization in the form of dancing with God (pp. 19, 107, 163) is evident. 
But the heart of the book, and its chief error, is the goal behind the PAPA prayer. The PAPA prayer is a means by which we hear the voice of God—not necessarily audibly, but at least inwardly, “Prayer is more about us hearing God than about His hearing us. We’re the audience” (p. 71). Crabb promises, “PAPA will speak to you [if you follow Crabb’s formula]. He loves a good conversation with His children” (pp. 143-144). This is the carrot that will draw people to the PAPA prayer and is the reoccurring theme throughout (pp. XIV-XVI; 8, 9, 12. 13, 19, 71, 80, 85, 124, 143, 165). But where in Scripture are we taught any such thing? Yes, there were rare occasions in the Word when God spoke to someone while he was praying, but nowhere are we told that this is either the norm or the purpose of prayer. Prayer in the Bible is us speaking to God; it is the Scriptures that speak to us.
Crabb does not find his PAPA prayer in the Bible. It is drawn from experience, mysticism and faulty theology. (Online Source)
As Gilley notes, experience is what dominates Crabb's book. Indeed, experience is at the very heart of the vast majority of deceptions which today plague our churches. When the quest for a warm, welcoming experience is sought through such means as centering or contemplative prayer, then our ravenous enemy has a wide doorway through which to walk.

Larry Crabb has authored another book which ought to be of concern to the Christian. In his book, SoulTalk, Crabb explains that, while in the hospital awaiting surgery, he was privileged to discover a sort of secret language of the Holy Spirit, a language that Crabb calls "SoulTalk." He writes,
I believe God kept me alive so I could speak about it, so together we could start dancing with God. Then we'll learn SoulTalk, and we'll speak with power into people's lives, especially the people we love most. (Online Source)
Dancing with God? Where is the Scripture that speaks to this? Where is the verse that speaks about "SoulTalk?" Check your Bible if you like, but you will not find these references.

Throughout this book, Crabb speaks about "catching the vision" of the Spirit. He speaks of looking into one's own soul, and then into the soul's of others so as to communicate "with power." Yet, is not God the only One who can see into the mind, heart and very soul of any man?

It is not the duty of men, not even redeemed men, to learn to speak some secret, even gnostic, language. It is not the job of redeemed men to search within themselves in their efforts to learn to communicate this imaginary, "supernatural" language. The duty of redeemed men, rather, is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified for our sins. The Bible does not speak of "SoulTalk," but it does talk of souls. And it tells us what will happen to those souls who die without Christ.

While we ought to be concerned that Erwin Lutzer has decided to welcome such a spiritual formation proponent as Larry Crabb into his pulpit, we ought not be surprised. After all, Lutzer himself has endorsed The PAPA Prayer.
(Online Source)
We pray the congregation of Moody Church will be listening with great discernment as Larry Crabb stands and teaches from that once great pulpit.
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

Sunday Morning Praise

'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus

This hymn was written by Louisa M.R. Stead. The lyrics are a result of perhaps one of the darkest hours of Stead's life, the drowning of her husband.
While eating their picnic lunch, they suddenly heard cries of help and spotted a drowning boy in the sea. Mr. Stead charged into the water. As often happens, however, the struggling boy pulled his rescuer under the water with him, and both drowned before the terrified eyes of wife and daughter. Out of her "why?" struggle with God during the ensuing days flowed these meaningful words from the soul of Lisa Stead. (Kenneth Osbeck, 101 More Hymn Stories, 288).
Indeed, is any trial too great for our Savior? Perish the thought! What a sweet, sovereign Savior we serve.

09 March 2012

This 'n' That

Last night was a full moon. As I drove home, the moon, a glorious creation of our holy God, was before me nearly the entire way. As such, I couldn't get the following song out of my head:
O Lord my God,
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all
The worlds Thy Hand hath made,
I see the stars,
I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy pow'r throughout
The universe displayed;
Then sings my soul,
My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul,
My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art!
How great Thou art!
Which, of course, led me to ponder Psalm 8:
O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
And now, here's your week in review (kind of):
  •  Wheaton College professor has been arrested for something terrible.
  • Remember the church that hired a convicted sex offender as their pastor, and decided to ban minors from the services as a result? That church has been asked by the Jacksonville Baptist Association to resign from the the JBA.
  • Pat Robertson says marijuana should be legalized. Really, could somebody please ask this man to just stop talking?
  • Donald Miller's not-so-wonderful book, Blue Like Jazz, has been made into a movie. Sounds like the typical Christian film: "raw, gritty, with some foul language...rated PG-13 because of mature themes, and some references to sexuality, drugs and alcohol." Wait a minute...that doesn't sound very Christian after all...
  • "It is God whom we must please, and there is only one message that pleases God."

John MacArthur on Vision Casting

John MacArthur shares his thoughts on the ridiculous - and unbiblical - notion of "vision casting." HT: Grace to You

07 March 2012

The Shepherd's Conference Begins Today!

The Shepherd's Conference, which is a ministry of Grace Community Church, begins today and runs through March 11. The main sessions will be streamed live at this address, and should also be available following the conference. If you have a chance to tune in, do so. The line up of speakers, which includes John MacArthur, Voddie Baucham, Steve Lawson, Al Mohler, Phil Johnson and Tom Pennington, promises not to disappoint. And no, to my knowledge, there aren't any elephants invited.

06 March 2012

Are We Witnessing a "King's Way" Cover-up?

Could it be that Saddleback Church's interfaith initiative, known as the King's Way document, has been a bit more trouble than it's worth?

Last week, Orange County Register reporter Jim Hinch broke a story that quickly went viral. Saddleback church, he reported, in conjunction with the Islamic Center of Southern California, had co-authored a historic interfaith document. Hinch's report reads in part:
The Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest and one of America's most influential Christian leaders, has embarked on an effort to heal divisions between evangelical Christians and Muslims by partnering with Southern California mosques and proposing a set of theological principles that includes acknowledging that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. 
The effort, informally dubbed King's Way, caps years of outreach between Warren and Muslims. 
The effort by a prominent Christian leader to bridge what polls show is a deep rift between Muslims and evangelical Christians culminated in December at a dinner at Saddleback attended by 300 Muslims and members of Saddleback's congregation. 
At the dinner, Abraham Meulenberg, a Saddleback pastor in charge of interfaith outreach, and Jihad Turk, director of religious affairs at a mosque in Los Angeles, introduced King's Way as "a path to end the 1,400 years of misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians." (Online Source
Rick Warren quickly responded to this post with the following:

This post by Warren was later removed. Warren followed this up by producing a white paper which first appeared on the blog of Ed Stetzer, and later also appeared on Warren's own blog. Part of this white paper reads as follows:
QUESTION: A recent newspaper article claimed you believe Christians and Muslims worship the same God, that you are "in partnership" with a mosque, and that you both agreed to "not evangelize each other." You immediately posted a brief refutation online. Can you expand on that? 
WARREN: Sure. All three of those statements are flat out wrong. Those statements were made by a reporter, not by me. I did not say them ... I do not believe them... I completely disagree with them ... and no one even talked to me about that article! So let me address each one individually: First, as I've already said, Christians have a fundamentally different view of God than Muslims. We worship Jesus as God. Muslims don't. Our God is Jesus, not Allah. Colossians 2:9 "For in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Second, while we urge our members to build friendships with everyone in our community, including Muslims and other faiths, ("Love your neighbor as yourself"), our church has never had any partnership with a mosque. Friendship and partnership are two very different levels of commitment. Some of our members have hosted a Bible study with Muslim friends, which I applaud, but I've never been to it, and a Bible study certainly isn't any kind of partnership or merger! It's just crazy that a simple Bible Study where people explore Scripture with non-Christians would be reported as a partnership and others would interpret that as a plan for a new compromised religion. Just crazy! Third, as both an Evangelical and as an evangelist, anyone who knows me and my 40 year track record of ministry that I would never agree to "not evangelizing" anyone! I am commanded by my Savior to share the Good News with all people everywhere, all the time, in every way possible! Anyone who's heard me teach knows that my heart beats for bringing others to Jesus. (Online Source)
While Warren's words seemed to contradict previous actions, this statement nevertheless was acknowledged by those who initially reported on the story. Not long after this, however, Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries corresponded with OC Register reporter Jim Hinch, who shared with Silva an excerpt of this elusive King's Way document. Upon reading this excerpt, it is not difficult to see why or how Hinch arrived at the conclusions that he did when he stated in his article that the document proposed, "a set of theological principles that includes acknowledging that Christians and Muslims worship the same God." Below is the excerpt of the King's Way document that was sent by Jim Hinch to Ken Silva:
The document, which was given to me [Jim Hinch] by a source for this story on condition it not be published in its entirety, outlines several areas of theological agreement between Christians and Muslims and commits members of both faiths to three goals: becoming friends; making peace; and sharing “the blessings of God with others.” Here is how the document describes the points of theological agreement: 
I. WHO: we believe in ONE GOD: 
1. God is one (Mark 12:29; Muhammed 47:19) 
2. God is the Creator (Genesis 1:1; Al Shura 42:11) 
3. God is different from the world (1 Timothy 6:16; An An’am 6:103) 
4. God is Good a. God loves (1 John 4:16; Al Buruj 85:14) b. God is just (1 John 1:19, Romans 3:26; Hud 11:45) c. God’s love encompasses God’s judgment (1 Peter 4:8; Al A’raf 7:156; Al Ghafir 40:7) 
The Register story based the phrases “same God” and “one God” on the phrasing in this document, which states that Christians and Muslims believe in one God. (Online Source)
Thus far, the contents of this King's Way excerpt have not been addressed by Rick Warren. This is unfortunate, as clearly some further explanation is necessary.

Today, however, has yielded another interesting discovery. In the post, "Historic Interfaith Document was One Year in the Making," it was noted that the following post was found in the December 2011 archives of the blog of the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC):
Last Sunday, a historic event took place at Saddleback Church in Orange County, California. Saddleback is known for its famous pastor, Rick Warren, who delivered the prayer at President Obama’s inauguration ceremony. The Church hosted a number of Muslim communities in based in Southern California for its second annual celebration of Jesus (pbuh). This event is significant because Saddleback is a large evangelical church with over 22 thousand members. Although only a select number of individuals were invited to this dinner, it demonstrates the new theological position of Saddleback. At the celebration, a document one year in the making was presented which encourages Christians and Muslims to appreciate the similarities of our faiths. 
The document encouraged that our communities work together towards the common good and to combat bigotry in a 1-2-3 plan. The first step in the plan identifies the belief in one God. The second step acknowledges God’s commandment to love God and your neighbor. Finally, step three is for our communities to commit to three things: making friends, building peace, and serving the world at large together. 
This relationship with Saddleback Church was initiated over a year ago with a friendship between one of the pastors, Abraham Meulenberg, and the ICSC’s Jihad Turk. Pastor Meulenberg reached out having heard about the Center and our interfaith work. From this friendship developed an institutional link between their respective organizations. (Online Source. To view pictures of this event, visit here.)
If one attempts to click on the links above, which initially led to the original blog post and to the ICSC Flickr page containing pictures of the event, it will be noticed that these links either lead to a different blog post, or, in the case of the pictures, the link no longer works.

Is this a mere coincidence? If Rick Warren is being so honest with his denials of the claims of the OC Register story, then why is all of the evidence of the King's Way document suddenly disappearing? Well, thanks to today's technology, the missing ICSC blog post has been preserved, captured, and can be viewed right here:
(Click to Enlarge)
This blog post by the ICSC is not just a mere blog post, however. It is important to note some of the language used within this post, specifically the following statement:
This event is significant because Saddleback is a large evangelical church with over 22 thousand members. Although only a select number of individuals were invited to this dinner, it demonstrates the new theological position of Saddleback.
A new theological position? For a Christian church? Perhaps the members of the ICSC misunderstood the intent of this entire endeavor. If so, one wonders why Saddleback did not seek to clarify such a misunderstanding sometime between December and today.  One also must surely wonder why the King's Way excerpt that has emerged has been ignored by Warren and his team.

Finally, it cannot help but be questioned why it is that the ICSC has suddenly deleted this clear, boastful evidence of the December event and this "historic interfaith document." In the interest of Christian ethic, we certainly hope that there is no "King's Way Cover-up" underway.

New Theological Position of Saddleback Church Concerning Islam (Apprising Ministries)
Historic Interfaith Document Was One Year in the Making
Rick Warren Builds Bridge to Muslims

04 March 2012

Rick Warren, Jim Hinch, & Islam: An Apprising Ministries Exclusive

The following was recently posted by Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries.


By  on Mar 4, 2012

Apprising Ministries has long been a leading critic of the semi-pelagian (at best) doctrine of Southern Baptist megachurch pastor Rick Warren.
In articles like Rick Warren And Teachings Of Demons I’ve also clearly documented his sinful ecumenicism as well.
Of course that’s merely one of the fruits festering within apostatizing evangelicalism because of its foolish fascination with corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism.
According to our article posted just a few hours ago, Rick Warren, megachurch pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, is currently working to build a “bridge” (through a document called “King’s Way”) between Christians and Muslims by claiming that the two faiths worship the same God. The “King’s Way” document, which is the foundation for these bridge building efforts, is not yet publicly available, but a December 2011 meeting at Saddleback Church has been documented here. From the article by Jim Hinch of the Orange County Register:
“The Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest and one of America’s most influential Christian leaders, has embarked on an effort to heal divisions between evangelical Christians and Muslims by partnering with Southern California mosques and proposing a set of theological principles that includes acknowledging that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.” (Online source)
You might remember that Rick Warren then appeared in the comments section of Hinch’s report with a rather nebulous comment about apparent misinformation allegedly put out by Hinch. So in Rick Warren, Islam, And Jim Hinch I shared with you the result of my personal conversation with Hinch and his clarification.
The Lord be praised that online apologetics and discernment works He’s raised up were able to put enough pressure upon Rick Warren that Ed Stetzer of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Lifeway publishing arm would lament:
Once again, watchbloggers are accusing Rick Warren of heresy. Why? Because, Warren explains, a secular Orange County newspaper got something wrong about a religious issue. Some of the usual bloggers have done their usual job.
However, due to the nature of the story, some mainstream news organizations and bloggers, without the constant anti-Warren agenda, were asking questions and wondering what what was going on. I was. So, I emailed Rick and asked him.
Rick sent me this interview where he seeks to bring clarification. He gave me permission to share it here at the blog. I think it will be helpful. (Online source)
Since I am considered one of those “watchbloggers” this immediately caught my attention. Stetzer would go on to say, “I am sure those who quoted the OC Register will also quote this to clear up any confusion.” Indeed Daniel Neades of Better Than Sacrifice, editor of my CRN, did immediately cover this development.
In an ‘interview’ published by Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Research, Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and one of America’s most prominent Christian leaders, has categorically denied an Orange County Register report that he had ‘embarked on an effort to heal divisions between evangelical Christians and Muslims by partnering with Southern California mosques and proposing a set of theological principles that includes acknowledging that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.’ (Online source)
Well, in the interest of fairness I decided to email Jim Hinch today. Remember, he is a veteran freelance reporter; not some “angry watchblogger.” I asked Jim if there’s any way I could get a copy of that King’s Way piece at the source of this confusion. I explained that without seeing it there wasn’t much more I can say.
Then I told him that my guess is the wording of it does imply what you said. it was my opinion based upon 25 years in the field of Comparative Religion that likely it’s wording is consistent with the original In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful A Common Word between Us and You, which says:
It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity. (Online source)
Now compare the Christian response to the above that Rick Warren actually signed. You’ll see it also, at least, implies that Islam is an Abrahamic faith believing in the same God:
A Common Word Between Us and You identifies some core common ground between Christianity and Islam which lies at the heart of our respective faiths as well as at the heart of the most ancient Abrahamic faith, Judaism…in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world…
We applaud that A Common Word Between Us and You stresses so insistently the unique devotion to one God, indeed the love of God, as the primary duty of every believer… (Online source)
As I then told Jim Hinch in my email to him, sure, someone can hide in the weeds claiming all of this doesn’t exactly say that they believe Muslims believe in the same God, but it’s my assertion this is the clear implication. I’ll also offer that if one doesn’t mean this they’re being a bit disingenuous to followers of Islam.
The Lord be praised, Jim Hinch has given me permission to publish the following, which further explains his thinking in his report and includes a bit of the King’s Way document. I read it the same way as Jim Hinch:
1. The primary source for this story was a five-page document jointly drafted by Abraham Meulenberg, a Saddleback pastor in charge of interfaith outreach, and Jihad Turk, director of religious affairs at the Islamic Center of Southern California, a mosque in Los Angeles. The document was unveiled at a December, 2011 dinner at Saddleback Church attended by approximately 300 Saddleback members and members of Southern California’s Muslim community. At the dinner a Powerpoint presentation described the document, and the King’s Way outreach effort which inspired the document, as “a path to end the 1,400 years of misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians.” The document, which was given to me by a source for this story on condition it not be published in its entirety, outlines several areas of theological agreement between Christians and Muslims and commits members of both faiths to three goals: becoming friends; making peace; and sharing “the blessings of God with others.” Here is how the document describes the points of theological agreement:
I. WHO: we believe in
1. God is one (Mark 12:29; Muhammed 47:19)
2. God is the Creator (Genesis 1:1; Al Shura 42:11)
3. God is different from the world (1 Timothy 6:16; An An’am 6:103)
4. God is Good
a. God loves (1 John 4:16; Al Buruj 85:14)
b. God is just (1 John 1:19, Romans 3:26; Hud 11:45)
c. God’s love encompasses God’s judgment (1 Peter 4:8; Al A’raf 7:156; Al Ghafir 40:7)
The Register story based the phrases “same God” and “one God” on the phrasing in this document, which states that Christians and Muslims believe in one God.
2. Rick Warren initially posted a comment to the article claiming that the article contained “multiple errors.” That comment was later deleted, I presume by Warren. After seeing that comment I reached out to Warren’s director of communications. On Monday, Feb. 27 a Saddleback representative called and told me that while the Register story was factually accurate, folks at Saddleback would prefer that the opening paragraph read “Muslims and Christians believe that God is one.” Following a discussion with a Register editor Saddleback decided to withdraw its request for a clarification. At no time has anyone at Saddleback said to me or to anyone else at the Register that the story contains factual inaccuracies.
3. Warren states in his white paper that “no one even talked to me about that article!” I made numerous attempts to contact Warren, both by phone and by e-mail, before the story was published. I was eventually told by Warren’s director of communications that Warren was too busy with other projects to speak with me or to e-mail a response to the story’s main claims, which I had e-mailed to the communications director. Instead I was put in touch with Tom Holladay, an associate senior pastor at Saddleback. I ran all of the story’s claims by Holladay and he affirmed all of them, including the language of the King’s Way document and the fact that King’s Way was an effort to build bridges of friendship and cooperation, not an attempt to evangelize. During my conversation with Holladay I asked whether the King’s Way effort, including the December dinner and the theological document, was done with Rick Warren’s approval. “Of course it has his approval,” Holladay replied. It is neither fair nor accurate to claim that this story was published without attempting to solicit Rick Warren’s response.
4. Warren claims in his white paper that it is “flat-out wrong” that either he or members of Saddleback have promised not to evangelize the Muslims they are working with in the King’s Way effort. As I stated above, that was not what I was told by Tom Holladay. Also, every one of the Muslim sources I talked to for this story emphasized that both sides promised not to evangelize one another. Indeed Muslims told me that the promise not to evangelize was one of the things that enabled them to overcome their wariness toward evangelicals and build bonds of friendship. Again, no source for this story, including at Saddleback, ever told me that the intent of the King’s Way effort was to evangelize Muslims.
This story, obviously, has generated a great deal of passionate response. I respect Rick Warren’s desire to make his views and intentions clear. However I do not believe it is fair to question the accuracy of the Register’s story or the way it was reported. I have had several conversations with people at Saddleback following the publication of the story, including with the church’s director of communications. Everyone I have talked to from the church has told me that the story is entirely factually accurate but they wish certain phrases had been worded differently. However, since those phrases stem directly from a printed document whose authenticity no one has questioned, everyone agrees that there is nothing in the story to correct.
See also: