Friday, March 02, 2007

Ricks Ricks Ricks Warren

My own church is currently working through Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Church”. When I heard that we were set to do this series my first thought was: “Ah! I wonder if this is going to be another formulaic presentation of Christianity, suffused with an upbeat American tone and riddled with ‘do this and you’ll get that’ remedies. Easy as ABC…!” Well, the book is nowhere near as bad as that, of course, and it does raise many interesting and important issues. But best of all is that when one looks into the Rick Warren phenomenon it opens up a window on the hot scene of American religious infighting – witness the picture of Rev Rick Warren accompanying this post, a picture I found on one lurid and hysterical web site that screamed hell and damnation to the good Rev all over my screen!

The controversy surrounding Rick Warren reached my ears sometime ago via Reachout Trust, the Richmond (England) based group that watches the cults. Much of the controversy, it seems, is sourced in America where evangelical subcultures vie with one another in a seething sea of claim and counter claim. To date my own contact with Rick Warren’s textual presence suggests that he holds fairly conservative doctrines that I do not myself find particularly disagreeable.

The American Evangelical furor over Warren seems not so much due to his doctrine as it is his association with causes hated by the American evangelical right. For example: his signing of the Global Warming Pact, his connections with the United Nations; his inviting liberal democrat Barack Obama to Saddleback to talk on AIDS, his sharing of platforms with New Age speakers, his use of suspect Bible translations, and his soft peddling of fire and brimstone preaching, have all lead critics to attempt to trace Warren’s taste for bad company back to doctrinal unorthodoxy. Out and out unorthodoxy has been difficult to pin on Warren and these critics, unable to square his apparent doctrinal conservatism with the sympathetic noises he makes to those beyond the conservative political pale, have simply thrown their hands up and accused him of “flip-flopping”. Perhaps a lot of it is down to Warren having a temperamental disposition toward inclusiveness rather than confrontation – a trait I have seen in some other Christian leaders. But whatever, for Rick its “guilt by association” in a country where the quality of one’s of faith is often measured by an expectation that the ramifications of Christianity inevitably lead to a right wing slant to one’s politics.

The following is a quote from one anti-Warren web site I visited and is evidence of just how vicious evangelical infighting can get. At the end of a garish and vulgar looking web page dedicated to rubbishing Warren it concluded with:

“Rick Warren has NO FAITH in Jesus Christ, only in his precious purpose-driven program and Peace Plan. His dirty, rotten, stinking, gnat-covered fruit is an abomination and stench to the Lord.”

These “discernment” ministries, as they usually think of themselves, tend to cancel out in a welter of mutual criticism. However, they are also in danger of canceling out true Christianity in the process. Thank God for the Open Gospel, which provides us with the conceptual framework to make sense of just why Christianity is so often plagued by fragmented squabbling factions. Most amazing of all is that God gives these screaming hysterical believers the grace that they are so unwilling to offer to their fellow Christains. Either that or Christianity is false.


Ben F. Foster Esq. (c) said...

I should think old Rick is a gimicky for my taste, but I wouldn't describe him as an abonination to the Lord like Benny Hinn etc.

I do lament the left/right divide in cherch though. What a waste of time and effort

Timothy V Reeves said...

You are probably right about RW being gimmicky; but then perhaps I have something to learn from him there if I want to up my Amazon rating!

The Left/right divide: And don't forget the front/back divide, the top/bottom divide, the up/down divide, the outside/inside divide, the clockwise/anticlockwise divide, and the "anything we can think of" divide. Division seems to be the name of game! The "ecclesia" are so criss-crossed with dividing lines that these lines merge into a general background shade of grey!

I have probably said this before, but faced with any complex patterning like the foregoing one just has to stand back, half close the eyes to shield them from the inessentails and see if any overall pattern emerges - the only one I have spotted so far is that of The Message of Grace to the shade of grey that is the "church visible"