What little myths did Rick Warren, in his address at a certain conference, let slip through the cracks?
Many others, including Chris Rosebrough of Pirate Christian Radio, have already pointed out the biggest problems. Warren is a Pelagian, Rosebrough noted, and thus that assumption about human nature underlies all Warren teaches. His sermons, deeds, ministry, anything, assume the notion that humans can simply learn a truth and thus change their moral behavior.
But while listening to Rosebrough’s rundown of Warren’s message, I kept also hearing more little lies. It seems that even while trying to talk about the battle for Christians’ minds, Warren is allowing several wrong beliefs to influence his moral behavior and judgment.
What follows are some more errors, often very subtle, in Warren’s assumptions and quotations.
For the sake of time, I’ll mostly limit them to those I haven’t yet heard specifically rebutted.
Warren started with descriptions of difficulties in his life — the most recent of which was a family’s member’s illness, which prevented him from attending the conference live.
I’m confident that God has given me a message. I believe that Satan didn’t want me to teach it to you, and I believe that Satan didn’t want you to hear it.
Myth 1: We can make a good guess that the Devil is causing specific bad things.
It’s already hard enough to figure out what God’s up to, and He’s revealed so much about Himself. But we do know He is working despite whatever the Devil does, and even through what the Devil does. It is very risky to say “the Devil is doing this.” Why not cut out the middle man and try to discern why God is allowing difficulties to happen?
Myth 2: If it’s bad, hurting me, preventing ministry, etc., the Devil must be doing it.
The Devil is not even equally as powerful as God. Even if he is behind a difficult circumstance, shouldn’t we disclaim that God is more sovereign and not even partly endorse the subtle suspicion that God only causes good things to happen?
I have seen the face of mental illness. I have seen what it’s like to see people not able to hear God because their minds are broken and aren’t connecting to God even when they want to connect to God.
Myth 3: God often speaks directly to our minds.
This isn’t stated, but heavily implied. I hope Warren is not endorsing the belief that in addition to the final revelation of Scripture, God directs His people by use of inner “nudges” or subtle directions about His will. Warren could have easily said that it’s tragic when people undergo mental illness and aren’t able to study God’s Word or pray to Him in response.
I know that whatever gets your mind gets you. …
Myth 4: Our battle is primarily against evil’s assault from outside, not from inside.
“Jesus said, by the way, that sin comes out of a person,” Rosebrough cut in. “It develops inside of his heart. It comes from within” (Mark 7).
The battle for sin always starts in the mind. […] Every one of us has a mental illness.
This leaves out the truth that nonbelievers have sinful hearts, and even Christians fight most of the battle in their own hearts. (Even posters for the film Spider-Man 3 echoed this truth.)
Yes, the Devil is a liar and he causes temptations. Scripture is clear that much of our battle is external (cf. Eph. 6). But without understanding what’s in our hearts, sin, people will go around swatting at demons and imagining only external sources of sin, while the worst source festers inside. That applies to Christians, who still fight against sin-shrapnel, but even more so to non-Christians who must be first raised from spiritual death and resurrected to life in Christ (Eph. 2).
Why not at least distinguish between non-Christians whose chief problem is mainly in the heart, and Christians who are saved but who still fight wrong thinking? That would have been helpful.
But after so much damage done by Christians who assume if you aren’t a Christian, you must have simply not heard the right information! or even, non-Christians are basically good and just need to have their thinking corrected, it’s sad to hear Warren repeating these errors.
The reason we have so many ineffective Christians today is because they don’t know how to fight the battle of the mind.
Myth 5: We have so many ineffective Christians today.
That many people claim to be “Christians” and are ineffective is undisputed. Many others would dispute their claim to be Christians. Why not at least make allowance for false believers?
Myth 6: We must address battle-of-mind issues based on (a) perceived Problem(s).
Several times Warren goes on to talk about how Christians are failing, what the church is doing wrong, how we too often learn all this stuff but don’t apply it, etc. His rhetoric is all based on generalizations; he doesn’t even back up his claim with Barna surveys. Either way, this could be the result of Ministry Myopia. Here are the Problems I’ve seen in my ministry (views that often lead to more exposure only to these problems, because of a leader’s specific focus) so therefore they must be the same all over. Furthermore, we must do all we can to Fix the Problems.
Warren floats over several Scripture texts, emphasizing obedience, an implicit goal not of fixing our eyes on Christ, but Fixing the Problem. This leads to Law, either God’s true Law — which is fulfilled in Christ — or manmade Law, not the fact of dead hearts and our need for the Gospel.
Now the old cliché from the computer early days, GIGO, “garbage in, garbage out,” is still true today. The amount of garbage you put in is what you’re gonna get out.
Myth 7: Wrong thinking comes primarily from external sources.
This is very similar to myth 4. Warren has some good things to say about discernment, but citing this catchphrase without a foundation of humans’ sinful nature repeats a myth promoted by conservative and liberal professing Christians: if you put sin inside you, it will come out from you. Its implication: your main job is to avoid sinful Stuff. Its refutation: same as above, Mark 7. Jesus did not endorse that notion. He said garbage inside your heart comes out.
Warren even sounds like a dreaded “fundamentalist” when he talks about Christians needing to avoid junk in movies and on TV. He doesn’t say Christians do this mainly to honor God, but to Avoid Bad Stuff. Again it’s an emphasis on Fixing the Problem, not on glorifying God — and ignores the true source of sin, which doesn’t come from a Thing, but from the heart.
And here we thought it was only big bad Al Mohler and other “fundamentalists” who say this.
(Likely continued on Wednesday. …)