Today’s headlines from the Daily Evangel, in the Evangelical News & Views section, includes Christianity Today’s interview with Rick Warren in which he clarifies some of the comments he made during his interview with Larry King on CNN Monday night (click on “Q & A: Rick Warren” in the sidebar). In my last post, I introduced the topic with the statement that “a couple of pastor Warren’s comments troubled me,” then I only blogged on one of them. The second thing was his announcement, as an example of what he calls “interfaith projects” (which he finds far superior to “interfaith dialogue”), that he would attend a Jewish Passover seder hosted by a rabbi friend of his, Elie Spitz. Spitz’s congregation is hosting a “community seder” (see this advertisement).
Larry King had sought a comment from Warren about President Obama’s recent comments regarding Islam in Turkey. Here’s the exchange:
KING: Obama has traveled to Turkey, first president to visit a Muslim country. He had this to say about the United States and Islam in a speech to Turkish parliament. Watch. I’d like you to comment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The United States is not and will never be at war with Islam. In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical, not just in rolling back the violent ideologies that people of all faiths reject, but also to strengthen opportunity for all people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What do you think of that?
WARREN: You know, I think that’s the exact right tone, Larry. There are 600,000 Buddhists in the world. There are 800,000 Hindus in the world. There are a billion Muslims in the world. There are 2.3 billion Christians in the world. You have to get along together. That’s why I speak with Jewish groups. I speak to Muslim groups.
We’re all human beings. We have to work on issues we don’t always agree on. I’m not really into what I call inter-faith dialogue. I think that’s a lot of wasted time. I’m interested in what I call inter-faith projects. In other words, I’m not going to convince a lot of people who have other beliefs to change their beliefs and vice versa. But we can work together on issues like poverty, disease, illiteracy and things that — problems common to all humanity.
This week, for instance, tomorrow night, I’m going to a Seder dinner with my dear friend Elie Spitz (ph), who is a local rabbi. We’ll celebrate Passover together. And then later in the work [week? jdc], I’ll do Easter, which is — they’re both all about redemption. My next door neighbor is Muslim. I traveled with him to the Middle East. We’re dear, dear friends. And there’s no reason — what people don’t seem to understand is that you don’t have to agree with everybody in order to love them.
In the CT interview, Warren elaborates on these remarks:
People see me out there — I speak to Muslim groups and Jewish groups, I’m actually having a Passover Seder tomorrow night. People never need to doubt why I do what I do, even when associating with people gets me in all kinds of hot water. Jesus got into hot water for the people he associated with. Fundamentalist groups say Warren hangs out with Jews and Muslims and gays and on and on. The point is, I’m not allowed to not love anybody.
With these words, Warren blurs the lines between loving people regardless of religion or lack thereof, which is of course appropriate, and worshiping with them. It’s not hard to distinguish between the two, yet Warren seems to see no distinction. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 13:10, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” However, in the book of Hebrews, the author of that letter warns Christians against engaging in the worship of unbelieving Jews (Hebrews 5:11-6:8). To do so, according to the author of Hebrews, is tantamount to apostasy. The elements of the Passover seder, like the Old Testament temple worship, are a “copy” and “shadow of the heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:5).
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).
Dearly beloved, this type of activity on the part of Protestant (yes, I said “Protestant”) leaders is indicative of the spiritual decline in Christianity that I believe is linked to the kind of sociological decline reported on by Newsweek magazine. What American Christianity needs is a revival and a Reformation. It needs to regain the courage to be Protestant. I would ask you to consider the words of the Cambridge Declaration, a recent statement and call to reformation and revival prepared by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. This statement is found on my “Creeds, Confessions, Catechisms and Statements” page, but here’s the link for your convenience.
The introduction to the Cambridge Declaration describes well the state of affairs and the need of the hour. Please consider them seriously:
Evangelical churches today are increasingly dominated by the spirit of this age rather than by the Spirit of Christ. As evangelicals, we call ourselves to repent of this sin and to recover the historic Christian faith.
In the course of history words change. In our day this has happened to the word “evangelical.” In the past it served as a bond of unity between Christians from a wide diversity of church traditions. Historic evangelicalism was confessional. It embraced the essential truths of Christianity as those were defined by the great ecumenical councils of the church. In addition, evangelicals also shared a common heritage in the “solas” of the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation.
Today the light of the Reformation has been significantly dimmed. The consequence is that the word “evangelical” has become so inclusive as to have lost its meaning. We face the peril of losing the unity it has taken centuries to achieve. Because of this crisis and because of our love of Christ, his gospel and his church, we endeavor to assert anew our commitment to the central truths of the Reformation and of historic evangelicalism. These truths we affirm not because of their role in our traditions, but because we believe that they are central to the Bible.