Rick Warren Waters Down the Gospel

Prof. Johan Malan
University of the North South Africa
Rick Warren has succeeded in watering down the gospel of salvation to such an extent that it is acceptable to Roman Catholics, Protestants of all descriptions, and also independent Christian churches all over the world. More than 20 million copies of his book, The Purpose- Driven Life, have already been sold, and thousands of congregations are following his 40 day program.

In the book the reader is told that he is precisely the kind of person that the Lord intended him to be. The Lord wants to make him successful in everything, so that he can enjoy complete fulfilment in life. Nothing is said in the book to offend anyone, for example that he in his unsaved state is a sinner deserving to be cast in hell. Dave Hunt remarks: “Missing is anything to convict the sinner of his rebellion against God and the coming judgement… Missing is any explanation of Christ’s payment on the cross for sin.” Although the cross is mentioned, the full meaning of Christ’s death on the cross as a substitute for us, is not explained to the reader.

Warren’s definition of sin is just as poor. He says that every person inherited a disobedient heart from the first Adam, and if Christ does not rectify this he cannot be in the right relationship with his Creator. It is just to vague to convince anyone of sin or give them a clear understanding of God’s wrath over sin (Joh. 3:36). Because Rick Warren does not define sin clearly, he does not get to the great stumbling block that is a person’s old sinful nature and also the devil’s share in maintaining it. Neither does he mention any “negative” subjects such as the Antichrist, false prophets, spiritual deception and the use of God’s armour against the powers of darkness. Nowhere does he warn against the New Age Movement and its influence on the modern church.

Besides, Warren’s association with people is extensive, even with enemies of the cross. He also encourages Mormons, Jews, Catholics and female preachers to attend his training programs for preachers. He refuses to determine definite norms and only says: “I’m not going to get into a debate over non-essentials. I won’t try to change other denominations. Why be divisive?” Rick uses Billy Graham as his example in this regard.

Not only is Rick’s ecumenical orientation apparent from the above but also the tragic consequences. The gospel is so watered down that it can at best only offer a form of godliness. Success then becomes your main aim in life and not discipleship which means that in effect you follow “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4).

At first glance it is difficult to identify the errors in Warren’s book. Most of the things he says sound so good and also sound right. The problem is that he has directed his discussions only at certain aspects of Christianity. This approach is called “positivism”. He does not draw attention to negative subjects such as sin, spiritual warfare against the powers of darkness and the identifying and rejection of false teachings. He also does not have a clear teaching on sanctification. That is why his focus is not on a “Spirit-led life” but on a “Purpose-driven life”. A person has to identify certain Christian objectives for himself and then search all available Bible translations, until he finds the perspective that fits his one-sided message.

His lectures are like elementary Sunday school lessons on a Christian life that is enacted in a world where everything is nice and good and the Lord only wants to bless you and make you happy. You are not offered help to remain standing in a world that is under the power of wickedness. The focus is also always on your happiness and not on the principles of true discipleship. In the process his teaching has been soft on the ears of millions of people and does not bring them to the foot of the cross.

He also frequently quotes from books by humanists, and by doing this confirms, his humanistic-psychological approach to Christianity. He tries to satisfy the needs of modern unsaved man by giving him only a form of godliness and in so doing helps him build his life on a false and inadequate repentance. Attention is also paid to the modern youth’s taste of secular music by giving them “Christian rock music” to sing. With such an approach he will draw millions of people but it is not the way of the cross.

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