Friday, December 5, 2008

Tony "Lawman" Miano and The Gospel According to Rick Warren

My precious brother in Christ Tony "Lawman" Miano is a shining light in the body of Christ. He is a man who burns with passion for God's glory and the Gospel and weeps over the lost. I recently had the priveledge of hearing Lawman preach one of the best open air sermons I've ever heard during the recent Ambassador's Academy ( California. As an active preacher who labors in keeping the Gospel message pure and clear, Lawman was deeply convicted to respond to an interview with "America's Pastor" Rick Warren where Warren gave his version of the Gospel. I thought what Tony wrote was so good that I would also post it here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008
Rick Warren's "Book of the Month Club" Gospel

What I am about to say must be prefaced with a few very clear statements.

First: I do not believe Rick Warren is the Anti-Christ. There are those who may disagree. To those who disagree I say...get a grip. I do not believe he is any more or any less evil and sinful than I am.

Second: I do not question Rick Warren's sincerity. I believe he believes that what he says and teaches is consistent with the truth of God's Word.

Third: Rick Warren has done many, many things to advance social justice and benevolence around the world. I should aspire to be so generous and caring.

Fourth: I do not presume to know the true condition of Rick Warren's heart and the state of his soul, before a holy and just God. I must examine my own heart every day to see if I am in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).

However, with the above qualifying statements in mind, I also believe this. Rick Warren is one of the most dangerous men in Christendom, today. He is a danger to the Church and to the lost.

Strong words, I know. Hyperbole? Shrill rhetoric? I don't think so.

What follows is an interview (a 2-part video) Rick Warren recently did with Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes, on Fox News.

I will comment after each video segment.

At approximately 3:30 into the above video Alan Colmes begins to question Warren about the exclusivity of faith in Jesus Christ, as the means of eternal life. Warren doesn't miss a beat; but sadly he plays the wrong song.

Warren said, "I believe Jesus Christ came for everybody. I don't think He came for Christians. The Bible said, 'Take this good news to the whole world.' I don't care whether you're Baptist, Buddhist, Mormon, Methodist, Jewish, Muslim, or no religion at all. Jesus Christ still loves you. You still matter to God."

While later in the interview Warren would affirm that "Jesus is the way" and that God sent only one Jesus--not many, the above statement comes dangerously close to universalism. To the unsaved ear, it probably sounds as if you can remain a practitioner of any religion, or no religion at all and be right with God, if you believe in Jesus.

Without delving into a Calvinist/Arminian debate, it is quite obvious from Scripture and from the reality of life that Jesus didn't come for everybody. Why? Because many people die and go to hell.

Jesus didn't come only for Christians? Of course He did, because only Christians (true Christians) are saved. Only born again followers of Jesus Christ (Christians) will spend eternity with the Lord in heaven.

Colmes, recognizing (as any other honest person who watched the interview would recognize) that Warren didn't answer the question, specifically asks if people who don't believe in Jesus can still find their way to heaven.

Warren said, "I'm not the authority on that; but I believe Jesus is."

What, pastor? You're not an authority on the way of eternal life? Are you so ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ that you literally passed the buck to Jesus on national television? It was as if Warren was saying, "Hey, don't blame me. I didn't say it. Jesus did. Don't look at me. He did it."

Warren said, "Everybody is betting their life on something. Jesus said, 'I am the way.' I'm betting He's not a liar. I'm betting that He told the truth."

Yet more politically correct parsing from "America's Pastor." So, is faith in Christ some kind of cosmic roll of the dice, pastor? What if the person to whom you are bringing such a message isn't a gambling man?

And it got worse.

Colmes tries yest again to get a straight answer from Warren. In response, Warren reveals why he is so utterly dangerous to the souls of men. He said, "I'm saying that this is the perfect time to open their life and give it a chance. I'm saying give Him a 60-day trial."

Colmes response, while probably meant to be tongue-in-cheek, was profound and all-too-true of the gospel Warren proclaims. Colmes said, "Sounds like the book of the month club."

Instead of recognizing his error, Warren joins in the jocularity. "I dare you to try trusting Jesus for 60 days." Warren quipped. "Your money guaranteed back."

Warren's church and churches like it around the world are filled with people who are trying on Jesus for size--who are taking Jesus for a test drive, or using Him as a product for a 60-day trial. And what do people do with a product with which they are not satisfied? The return it. They return it and are embittered toward the product and the manufacturer. They don't trust the manufacturer and they tell others that the manufacturer is unreliable. They then look upon others who do trust the manufacturer as foolish, ignorant, and even incompetent.

And so is the case with those who "try Jesus for 60 days" in response to Rick Warren's gospel. Warren is dangerous because his message creates false converts who later become bitter backsliders. He is dangerous because to the non-religious people in our culture he makes the cross of Christ and Christianity appear shallow, trite, and foolish. To those in the unbelieving world who have no interest in spiritual things, Warren must look like a game show host, with Jesus being the lovely parting gift.

And what about the people who take Warren up on his "60-day trial offer"? What if they get through the 60 days and decide they like this whole "Christian-thing"? What then? Are they pronounced "saved" by Warren and other pastors who use the same infomercial tactics? Is that the test of salvation--trying Jesus on for size and, after a trial period, if the person sticks around and decides they have found their purpose in life they then are a Christian?

Pastor Warren, what verse is that?

Sadly, because of the kind of gospel Warren and others preach, this has become the all-too-common testimony of so many false converts in the American Church.

"My life was a mess. A friend invited me to church and it wasn't half-bad. The speaker didn't bore me with a lot of Bible stuff, the music was upbeat, the people all seemed pretty normal, and the speaker didn't make me feel uncomfortable about who I am by talking about sin and judgment--stuff like that. He gave me some really helpful suggestions for making my life better, and I knew I should include God in my life. After all, what if hell is real? Man, I don't want to end up there. So, I decided to give Jesus a go. It took a little while, but in time my life wasn't such a mess. Jesus really came through for me. He helped me get over my hurts and hang-ups. So, I committed my life to Him for the rest of my life. Now my life has purpose and I have a church family who really cares about me. Now, I am going to go out and help as many people as I can. And maybe, just maybe, they will see Jesus in me and then I can invite them to church."

Warren woefully missed the mark. No mention of sin. No mention of judgment. No mention of repentance. No mention of the deity of Christ. No mention of the sinless atonement. No mention of the resurrection. Warren presented just another feel-good, easy-to-swallow, "open up God's gift to you" message, which is no gospel at all.

The gospel of Rick Warren is as palatable (and as unimportant) to the unbeliever as the "Book of the Month" club. If you like to read, you enjoy a book. If you don't like to read, well, you're no worse off.

As much of a train wreck as Warren's statements were, there were some very brief and redeemable moments in the the second half of the interview.

But those redeemable moments didn't come from the "pastor." They came from the anchor. They came from Sean Hannity. At least Hannity mentioned sin and repentance.

I hope the Lord one-day leads Rick Warren to repent of the watered-down gospel he proclaims to the masses. Instead of using his present notoriety for presenting quasi-spiritual, pragmatic, and eternally-purposeless platitudes; I hope the Lord draws Warren to repentance and he begins to preach the gospel that saves instead of a gospel that further enslaves.

Yes, the world loves Rick Warren. But the world hates Jesus Christ. The world loves a "Book of the Month" gospel. But the world hates the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Repent, Pastor Warren. I'm praying for you.

You can read Tony "Lawman" Miano's blog here