If not a Protestant, then what?

Warren in his pulpitLast night, Saddleback Church pastor, Rick Warren, was interviewed on CNN’s Larry King Live. A couple of pastor Warren’s comments troubled me. Here’s one them.

KING: OK. Do you think Christianity is slipping in America? That’s the front cover of “Newsweek,” out today. Quite a loss occurring in the Christian community. There you see the headline.

WARREN: Well, I would say it’s the best of times and the worst of times. First place, I don’t think that all of the questions that are asked in surveys are always as objective as they could be. For instance, if you ask people, are you a Protestant — and the number of Protestants has gone down dramatically in the last 30 years. I don’t even call myself a Protestant. (emphasis mine) (read the transcript here)

Rick Warren is not a Protestant? What in the world is he? I didn’t think he was the sort that claimed to be “post-evangelical” like the Internet Monk, or a proponent of the “emerging church.” Even though I spent over twenty years in Baptist fundamentalism which denied being Protestants (even though they really are) because of their commitment to a view of Baptist history called “Landmarkism” or Baptist Successionism, I seriously doubt this is the case with Rick Warren.

I searched around the web looking for an answer and the only real lead I could find was found at Apprising Ministries, a discernment ministry blog. One post carries the title, “Southern Baptist Pastor Rick Warren Corrects Martin Luther.” In this post, Warren is quoted as saying:

“Now I don’t agree with everything in everybody’s denomination, including my own. I don’t agree with everything that Catholics do or Pentecostals do, but what binds us together is so much stronger than what divides us,” he said. “I really do feel that these people are brothers and sisters in God’s family. I am looking to build bridges with the Orthodox Church, looking to build bridges with the Catholic Church,….” 

It appears he’s willing to seek common ground with other segments of “Christendom” which deny the gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone, because of Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone–the gospel of the Protestant Reformation. I’m sure Warren affirms this gospel personally, I’m sure he’s aware the Roman Catholic Church anathematized this very gospel at the Council of Trent and has never rescinded such a blasphemous stance. I wonder, however, if Pastor Warren cares. Here’s the link to Apprising Ministries’ category of posts on Rick Warren, if you desire to read more about his activity regarding the relationship between Protestantism and Catholicism.

Do any of my readers know any more about Rick Warren’s stance on Protestant identity? Has anyone ever heard him deny that he’s a Protestant before? I’m interested to learn more about how he categorizes himself.


11 responses

  1. Could interdenominational churches also be similar to Baptists in disliking the Protestant name? Maybe out of some aversion to Reformed theology? Although I’ve heard Warren is reformed to a certain extent.

  2. Oh brother,
    Could Rick be anymore inclusive? Is there any exclusivity to his message? I tend to agree now with Rick that he is indeed not Protestant. Protestants protest something, and I’m not sure that Rick doesn’t Protest anything except Gay marriage. But as far as him being Reformed…I’m thinking not. The Pope is Reformed to a certain extent…other than that whole Council of Trent thing…everyone is Reformed to a certain extent…unless their theology doesn’t protest something…I pray that we never use the word “Reformed” to mean something so generic that guys who build bridges to Rome are included.

    Gage Browning

  3. Bob,

    I don’t know how interdenominational churches categorize themselves or whether they distinguish themselves along essential/non-essential lines. As for Warren’s Reformed background, I recall reading an article by him in Modern Reformation where he claimed he had ancestors who studied for the ministry under Charles Spurgeon. I also heard once he was amil (but don’t know for sure). Other than that, who knows?

  4. Gage,

    Yes, Warren could be more inclusive. One highlight of the King interview was that he thought “interfaith dialogue” was a waste of time. Of course what he gave with the right hand, he took away with the left, saying he prefers to simply work for social justice and all that with them, which in my mind, if done on an ecclesiastical level, is tantamount to lying down with dogs (and you know what happens when you do that, right?).

    Notice that I said at the beginning of the post that there were “a couple” of comments that bothered me. Stay tuned for the next misadventure–same Geneva time, same Geneva channel!

  5. Capt.,
    I don’t consider myself a “Prostestant.” I am a member of a Southern Baptist Church, and I embrace much of what the Southern Baptist Convention accomplishes, especially from a mission perspective. I am not “protesting” anything. The Roman Catholic Church never held captive all believers, and I never held the Roman doctrine of any value. I am a believer of the Truth of God’s Word. I associate myself with those who agree with the clear, accurate teachinig of God’s Word. Since I never departed from a tie to Roman doctrine, I have nothing to claim protestation from.

    Bet you can turn those phrases to mush. . .


  6. C.W.,

    This is not hard. It’s a matter of definition. Not a matter of whether you have officially lodged a personal protest with someone.

    Protestant (Merriam-Webster.com): a member of any of several church denominations denying the universal authority of the Pope and affirming the Reformation principles of justification by faith alone, the priesthood of all believers, and the primacy of the Bible as the only source of revealed truth ; broadly : a Christian not of a Catholic or Eastern church.

    If you admit you’re a Southern Baptist, then you deny the universal authority of the Pope, right? If you’re a Southern Baptist, you affirm the Reformation principle of justification by faith alone, the priesthood of all believers, and the primacy of the Bible as the only source of revealed truth, right? If you’re a Southern Baptist, then you’re not a Roman Catholic or and Eastern Orthodox, right?

    That makes you a Protestant. It’s very simple.

    As they say, “denial is not a river in Egypt.” And I know you’ll agree with that. We both rode in a boat together on the river that is in Egypt. . . . round . . . and round. . . and round.

    Enjoy your mush. 😉

  7. I don’t know where to begin. You all believe in the same basic principals (Jesus, the Bible, God) but if one guy says “Lets build bridges to the others who share the same basic beliefs. (emphasis on basic)” You’re ready to throw him under a bus. Funny…… Another guy said once how good it would be if everyone got along. Guess they nailed him up for that one. Shame isn’t it.

  8. Watcher,

    There are essential doctrines and then there are non-essential doctrines. Among the essential doctrines is one Martin Luther identified as “article on which the church stands or falls.” That doctrine is called Justification by Faith Alone. This was the chief doctrine recovered and established during the Protestant Reformation. This doctrine is clearly taught in the Bible, and has sufficient representation throughout church history.

    The state of the Roman Catholic Church by the sixteenth century, however, had allowed the light of this doctrine to be extinguished. When the Reformers reignited it, the Roman Catholic Church, at the Council of Trent, officially anathematized anyone who teaches Justification by Faith Alone, among the other doctrines related to salvation recovered in the Protestant Reformation. When they not only extinguished this essential article of the gospel, but anathematized anyone who believes it, they ceased being a true Christian church. There are other essential doctrines, like the trinity and the deity of Christ on which we agree, but when the gospel is lost, all is lost. Although it’s conceivable that there are individual members of the Catholic church who personally disagree with the teaching of their church and believe in justification by faith alone, and may thus be genuinely saved, the bulk deny it and are not true believers in the gospel of Scripture. If this is the case, they are not true brothers and sisters in God’s family, as Warren claims, and so Warren is compromising the gospel, even though he personally affirms the gospel. He’s an unfaithful shepherd who is allowing the wolves to gain access to his sheep.

    The absolute truth of Scripture is supreme. Unity must not be had at it’s expense. This is the kind Warren seeks, and those who love the absolute truth of Scripture must defend it, regardless of the spineless climate of the culture.

  9. Watcher,

    The apostle Paul also thought a false view of the gospel was worthy of division. In fact, just as I said the Roman Catholic Church anathematized the gospel at the gospel of Trent, in other words, condemning or cursing those who preach justification by faith alone, so did Paul anathematize any who would distort the gospel.

    Here’s Paul’s words from Galatians 1:6-9:

    I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

    Lest there be any confusion, the “gospel” the apostle Paul advocated was the gospel that brings justification by faith alone. Verses 15 and 16 of Galatians 1 say, “15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

  10. […] I submit that it is not unloving to refrain from worshiping with those who reject the gospel, while still living a life that does no harm to them. At the same time, I find that this announcement of participating in the copies and shadows of things fulfilled by the Lord Jesus Christ, in the context and company of those who deny his fulfillment of them, is just the logical conclusion of the kind of fuzzy thinking Warren engages in when he calls Roman Catholics and others who distort the gospel, “brothers and sisters in God’s family” (see my previous post). […]

  11. Rick Warren makes me sick and he also makes the LORD sick for He well throw up this lukewarm
    false teacher, Repent for the LORD God draws nigh.

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