Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Human Decisions v Divine Renovations - Rick Warren's Sermon At Desiring God (Part 11)

The following commentary corresponds to the following video from 37:35 to 41:18

Rick Warren starts out in this video segment by suggesting that godly convictions lead to godly habits. And these habits are what form our character. Once again, he tries to drag the horse by the cart. And his confusion is verified when he says "put on the fruit of the Spirit". This may be a slip of the tongue but it really brings us to the heart of the problem with moralistic preaching. Chris Rosebrough suggested in an earlier post that Rick Warren is a Pelagian and perhaps that accusation is over the top (maybe not) but I must say that I am certainly smelling a very strong aroma of Pelagianism here.

Pelagius was a monk from Britain, whose reputation and theology came into prominence after he went to Rome sometime in the 380's A.D. The historic Pelagian theological controversy involved the nature of man and the doctrine of original sin.

Pelagius believed that the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin (the Fall) were restricted to themselves only; and thereby denied the belief that original sin was passed on (or transferred) to the children of Adam and thus to the human race. Adam's sin merely "set a bad example" for his progeny and Jesus "set a good example" for mankind (thus counteracting Adam's bad example). Pelagianism teaches that human beings are born in a state of innocence with a nature that is as pure as that which Adam was given at his creation.

As a result of his basic assumption, Pelagius taught that man has an unimpaired moral ability to choose that which is spiritually good and possesses the free will, ability, and capacity to do that which is spiritually good. This resulted in a gospel of salvation based on human works. Man could choose to follow the precepts of God and then follow those precepts because he had the power within himself to do so.

The controversy came to a head when Pelagian teaching came into contact with Augustine. Augustine did not deny that man had a will and that he could make choices. But, Augustine recognized that man did not have a free will in moral issues related to God, asserting that the effects original sin were passed to the children of Adam and Eve and that mankind’s nature was thereby corrupted. Man could choose what he desired, but those desires were influenced by his sinful nature and he was unable to refrain from sinning. (courtesy of Theopedia)

Now, back to Warren's quote "put on the fruit of the Spirit". A logical think through of this sentence may help us to catch a whiff of this Pelagianism. Trees bear fruit as a natural extension of their true nature. Apples on the branches don't make it an apple tree but the apples do testify to the authenticity of the apple tree. But what would you think if you found a tree with apples hanging off it attached by sticky tape? The fruit of the Spirit is an indicative of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit - not an imperative that we add to our lives to make our Christianity authentic. As usual, Rick Warren, like Pelagius, is more interested in the how to do and the what to do, than the Who has done - the "Who" being Christ and the "done" being His finished atoning work that makes it possible for us to become new creatures in Him. This is the elephant that Rick Warren does not see in his own living room - but I am hopeful that you, the reader, can spot an elephant at ten feet.

I think the 70's band "Police" summed up the transcendent theme of Rick Warren's sermon when they said those immortal philosophical words "do do do do da da da da that's all I'm gonna say to you" (wow I feel so relevant and cutting edge in a seeker sensitive kinda way). And that's what we get as Warren continues - plenty of do do do. Some of the things he points out are beneficial but it always revolves around human decisions rather than Divine renovations.

Oh oh, in the midst of all this I couldn't help noticing that Rick Warren's mention that he has a "life verse". This is modern-evangelicaleze for picking a Bible verse that you like and deciding that it will apply to your life. Life verses are for people who think that Scripture is really a smorgasbord from which we can pick and choose verses to create a reality to our liking. If you ever visit that smorgasbord you'll find that there is nothing left on the Jeremiah 29:11 plate while poor old Jeremiah 29:17 and Jeremiah 29:18 have been left out in the cold with no takers. This is all building up towards "Rick Warren's Desiring God infomercial" where he will tell his audience that they need to get a copy of "Rick Warren's Bible Study Methods" (no this is not a joke - just wait and see . . .). Rick, based on what I've heard thus far, your Bible study methods are right up there with "Joel Osteen's Scripture Memorization Strategies" (ok that was a joke).

And another thing, I really would like to meet all these pastors who are "godly and love the Lord and preach the word" but lack the "skill" to have a successful church. What exactly is he saying here? Define success? What skill? The only skill you will find listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 (which list the requirements for church leadership) is to "be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it". What a shame Rick Warren didn't choose that as his "life verse" nor develop it as a skill!

More to come . . .

Go On To Part 12
Go Back To Part 10
Go Back To Part 1

1 comment:

Cameron Buettel said...

This always seems to lie at the heart of the problem with Warren's preaching - a faulty or confused understanding of what confusion really is. And the content of his teaching is a by-product of responding to the false converts generated by this false gospel.