“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15).
The text of Matthew 7:15-27 was spoken by Jesus. He was a Jewish teacher speaking to a Jewish audience and warning all the listeners to be on guard for false prophets. Being Jewish they all, teacher and listener, had commonly understood definitions for the term “false prophet.” In Deuteronomy 13:1-5 a false prophet was one who made true predictions but led their followers to false gods. In Deuteronomy 18:20-22 the definition was one who made 1 false prophecy. In the Old Testament, living in a Theocracy, false prophets were to be stoned to death. In the New Testament (no longer a Theocracy) they were to be publicly exposed and avoided.
False prophets would look like true believers (come to you in sheep’s clothing). However, what they taught on the nature of God is false. Their fruit in Matthew 7:16-20 is the prophetic utterances and core teachings on the nature of God. In 21-23 He goes on to point out that simply because they use His name and even do seemingly miraculous stuff, they are still false prophets. He might even be regarded as an Anti–fill in the blank as He tells them:
“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, You who practice lawlessness.’”
Jesus goes on to state that those who hears and acts on His words are wise and on a solid foundation and those who don’t are foolish and have a foundation of sand.
I am reminded of this passage from time to time as I talk with or write about groups that claim to be Christian but deny essential biblical teachings. Invariably they fall back to an emotional plea that I am a “hater,” “religious bigot,” “Anti-” something or other. I, like others who are missionaries to false religious groups hear this quite often and cannot really take it personally. In fact, to some degree we must find the humor in it. For example, I point out that my wife Joy has been called “The Whore of Babylon” so often we call her floozy for short. Most of the groups who make these claims seem to be of the opinion that we are on a personal mission aimed exclusively at them.
This issue was recently raised again by Gwen Shamblin’s attorney, Samuel J. Harris. The unfortunate part is that if I met Samuel Harris under other circumstances we would probably like each other. Like followers of Bill Gothard, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and so many others, he has resorted to name calling with accusations of “religious bigotry,” “Anti-Remnant crowd,” “blinded by his hatred,” “vitriolic accusations ,” among others. He provides us with his definition of “religious bigotry” in Comment 8 of Gwen Shamblin “Suits” Up:
3. You asked me to define “religious bigotry” and I do so as follows:
Religious Bigotry is the obstinate devotion to one’s prejudices against others who have different religious doctrine and practices.
The dilemma here is that our devotion is to be to Jesus Christ and His teachings. He is the one Who in Matthew 7:15-27 held His doctrines to be the standard by which all others were to be tested. This theme continues after He resurrected Himself ascended in to heaven and then communicated communicated further to and through the Apostle Paul. We find this in the Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus. We also find it in Peter’s & John’s writings as well as Jude. Evaluation, contrasting and comparing the teachings of anyone who rises up and proclaims that what they are saying is from God are to be scrutinized in this way. Samuel also draws on the ever popular “…self-appointed groups who devote themselves to labeling other groups…” in Comment 8 of Gwen Shamblin “Suits” Up.
This is at the very least a mischaracterization. I say this because we are not self appointed. Rather, all believers are “appointed” to “Beware of false prophets.” Jesus Himself said that those who do are “wise” and those who don’t are “foolish.” There is more written in the New Testament on the issue of false teachers and false teachings than nearly any other subject.
In Acts 20:28-31 the Apostle Paul during his meeting with the Ephesian Elders states to them:
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.
In 1 Timothy 1:3 Paul writes to the young pastor:
As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,
As he moves through his letter to the young pastor he comes to chapter 4 where he gives the reasons for all that precedes:
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
Jude writes on false teachers in verse 12 & 13:
These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.
Listen to the descriptions, “false prophets”, “savage wolves,” “speaking perverse things,” ” hypocrisy of liars,” ” seared in their own conscience,” “hidden reefs.” Would Jesus, Paul, the Ephesian Elders, Timothy or Jude be considered “Anti-_____” or practicing “religious bigotry”? Of course they would, but only by false teachers and their followers.
The tradition of false teachers and abusive leaders trying to use the government as a club to threaten or crush leaders God has called goes back millennia. We see Sanballat employ the threat of reporting Nehemiah as treasonous and seditious in an attempt to stop Nehemiah (Nehemiah 6:5-7). Haman is another example we read about in Esther 3:7-10. Haman ended up being hung by his own noose. We find in the book of Daniel a similar attempted use of governmental power in Daniel 6:4-9 which ended up landing Daniel in the lion’s den. He emerged unharmed and then the plotters and their families were given their turn as dinner guests in the lion’s den. They didn’t fare as well. Today, particularly in Western nations, it is easier for false teachers to employ the weapon of government than in times past. They don’t need the ear of the king but can simply file a lawsuit against detractors. The Local Church of Witness Lee with the support of CRI attempted this tactic against Harvest House Publishers and authors John Ankerberg and John Weldon. Scientology has used this vehicle for years. Recently a new player has ventured into the arena of trying to silence critics via the courts. In November of 2006 Gwen Shamblin and a number of her followers in Remnant Fellowship filed suit against Anonymous Blogger and Rafael Martinez. No one seems to know who “Anonymous Blogger” is but Rafael Martinez is the Co-Director of Spirit Watch Ministries.
For those who have not heard of Gwen Shamblin, Weigh Down Workshop or Remnant Fellowship a brief overview may be helpful. Gwen was a nutritionist who developed a weight loss plan that she claimed was biblically based. In 1992 she began marketing video tapes of the program and over the next eight years she made her mark in Evangelical churches around the world and across all denominations as well as being a regular in the secular media due to her meteoric rise and accumulation of personal wealth. She had over a million participants at $103.00 per person go through her program in addition to her book sales (Weigh Down Workshop and Rise Above) as well as other WDW trinkets and paraphernalia.
In August of 2000 we at MCOI received a number of phone calls and emails from folks attempting to verify Gwen Shamblin’s view of the Trinity. Since we don’t really track diet programs we hadn’t heard of Gwen Shamblin or Weigh Down Workshop. After looking at her website I called and spoke with Gwen. She was very firm that the doctrine of the Trinity was of pagan origin and taught by false teachers in the apostate church. MCOI issued a press release which within days brought this to the attention of the church. We also pointed out that she had started her own church, Remnant Fellowship. In researching how she was able to infiltrate the church virtually unchecked we began looking at her material. In her “Remnant Fellowship Introductory Video, 2000” Gwen tells the viewer that for 20 years her plan was to sneak in to the back door of the churches:
For the last twenty years I’ve had concerns about the state of the church and my first response was Weigh Down which was a message that sent lordship, total lordship, into the back door really of churches.
We have looked at Gwen’s teachings and claims at some length in our articles, “Weighed Down with False Doctrine” in the Fall 2000 MCOI Journal, “Gwen Shamblin: Weighed and Found Wanting,” in the CRI Journal, “Weigh Down Workshop – A Cult?,” in the Winter 2001 MCOI Journal and “Camping with Gwen: Or Will the True Remnant Please Stand Up?” in the Spring/Summer 2002 MCOI Journal. In addition Rafael Martinez and Spirit Watch have continued monitoring and commenting on Gwen and her movement. He has compiled a great deal of information on his website, Spiritwatch.org in the section titled “About Gwen Shamblin and Remnant Fellowship.” Gwen’s teachings are a matter of public record and in the spirit of 1 Timothy 5:19-20 Gwen and the Remnant Fellowship leadership have been publicly exposed and rebuked. As pointed out, by her own admission she had to sneak in under the doctrinal radar through the back door of the churches and she did so under the guise of a weight loss program. She is very clear that she views all churches except hers as Babylon and the pastors as well as discernment ministries are regarded as false prophets and false teachers.
With her core teachings and beliefs being fairly well known and accessible through the Internet, Gwen is experiencing a more difficult time in growing her church than she did in garnering a following in her weight loss business. Even though she has managed to get a few television appearances recently, interviewers such at Matt Lauer, raise the question of her being a cult leader. Although she laughs it off it would cause concern in the minds of the television audience. Add to that the adverse press which was generated after her followers, Joseph and Sonya Smith who live in Georgia, were arrested and accused of beating their son to death. The results of the trial may prove interesting to the future of Remnant Fellowship.
Along Comes the Lawsuit
Reading the lawsuit is a little intriguing. Most material is about “an anonymous writer/publisher of a website…” The anonymous blogger began blogging in August of 2006. At first they were copying and pasting the writings of an individual from a private online discussion group. They interspersed their own thoughts with this material and used a few cut and paste pieces from Rafael’s writings. The lawsuit was filed on November 6 and by November 28 all of the entries had been removed and instead two links to Remnant Fellowship websites were in place. Anonymous Blogger also posted a long apology to Remnant Fellowship and Gwen Shamblin amidst claims that the devil made her/him do it (visions of comedian Flip Wilson).
As I read through the complaint, it appears that what Rafael is guilty of is living in Tennessee and having an anonymous person quoting portions of his material without his permission or consultation. On page 2 of the “First Amended Complaint” the last sentence of point 1 reads:
Additionally, Plaintiff’s bring an action for defamation by the Defendant Rafael Martinez who writings are related to the postings on the aforementioned website.
Point 4 of the same page declares:
The Defendant, Rafael Martinez, is a resident of the State of Tennessee.
The next several pages cite sample statements from the website and make accusations about “Anonymous Blogger” but it isn’t until we get to point 7 of page 5 that Rafael is brought in to play again with the one sentence:
The Defendant, Rafael Martinez, has written numerous false and hateful statements regarding the Plaintiff’s and their religious beliefs that are related to the postings by Anonymous Blogger.
So far, no examples of his supposed misdeeds are given with the exception of the crime of living in Tennessee. Finally, on page 6 point 16 the document supposedly gives examples of Rafael’s objectionable statements. Point 16 reads:
Defendant, Rafael Martinez, published one or more written false statements that were intended to impeach Plaintiff’s honesty, integrity, virtue, and/or reputation. The false statements expose the Plaintiff’s to hatred, contempt, and ridicule. The defamatory statements include, but are not limited to the following and have the same objective as the aforemention website of the Anonymous Blogger:
The three quotes which follow were not taken from Rafael’s site but from the Anonymous Blogger’s site. Shamblin’s attorney, Samuel J. Harris, is not actually dealing with the truth and/or validity of the statements in context but is charging Rafael on the basis of how someone else may have used or misused them. Even though that is the case looking at them can be helpful:
a. “She won’t tell you about the marriages that have ended, the children who have been starved and the family relationships dissolved directly due to her application of “God’s Rules.”
Even though this is a cut and paste statement it should be demonstratably true in a court of law. There are a fair amount of phone calls and emails that MCOI and Spirit Watch as well as other ministries receive on a fairly regular basis from parents whose adult children have cut off all communication. In other cases they are threatened to have all communication cut off if anything questionable is said about Gwen Shamblin and Remnant Fellowship. In some cases the followers move to Brentwood, TN to be in the “New Jerusalem” as Gwen calls it. In other cases a distraught spouse whose husband or wife has been told to join the group or face divorce calls in desperation. I suspect this is one case that the witnesses who desire to testify will be so numerous that they will have to draw straws in order to determine who will get the opportunity in order to keep it down to a reasonable number. Having this sort of testimony in court documents will also be helpful in demonstrating the truthfulness of these claims from a neutral source.
b. “Furthermore, Remnant Fellowship teachings are dangerous and destructive. Over the past five years, Remnant members have lost dangerous amount of weight, with extreme fasting often advocated (even 14-21 day fasts). Family relationships are often damaged because any family member who tries to convince a Remnant Fellowship member to leave the group is cut off.”
The second part of this has already been commented on but the first part is again a matter of public record. She has stated on a number of occasions that she based her diet theory on the Holocaust. I am fairly confident that Gwen would stop short of saying that Hitler was just running a very successful diet program but she has been fairly clear that at least parts of her ideas are based on the examples of those who lost weight while in the prison camps.
The third is also a matter of public record:
c. “The most disturbing development of Remnant Fellowship’s teachings include its advocacy over the past couple of years of extreme discipline for children raised in the movement, included repetitive and harsh spankings and whippings for children who disobey and do not maintain emotional control.”
Phil Williams of News Channel 5 in Nashville has done some very good work on this as well as other questions on Gwen Shamblin’s teachings. In his stories on the death of Joseph and Sonya Smith’s son Josef, he was able to show that one of the teachings of Remnant Fellowship leadership at that time was the showdown spanking which could last for hours and may include repeated spankings until the child stopped crying. He also points out that Remnant Fellowship members use glue sticks (rods used in glue guns) to punish their children because they inflict a great deal of pain but do not leave marks. The description and confirming sources are cited in Phil Williams report and I won’t repeat them here.
The fourteen count indictment filed against Joseph and Sonya Smith on June 15, 2006 includes beating their son Josef with a glue sticks and locking him in a box among other charges.
Gwen Shamblin and Remnant Fellowship may have gotten themselves in between a rock and a hard place on this one. If they back down it will serve to embarrass her before her followers. On the other hand, if they proceed with the suit against Rafael they will be embarrassed before the court and have the evidence enshrined in the court documents. Rafael’s response makes me smile and I am glad to call him friend. He ends with these words:
So who says Gwen doesn’t believe in Christmas? She sent me an early gift, one I took with humility and rejoicing (Matthew 5:11-12). The unvarnished truth is my defense, as well as the fortress of my One True God in Christ by the Spirit and it will be all established in a way beyond refutation .. thanks to this frivolous opportunism by a cultic movement finding itself increasingly under scrutiny.
At the end of January President George Bush will deliver his State of the Union address to the nation. It will be carried on the major networks and the pundits and talking heads will dissect and comment on it for days. Some of the citizens will watch but many will not. After all, folks don’t believe that what they think or do makes very much difference on a national scale. They are pretty focused on their own personal and/or family life. You know, doing the 9-5, planning for vacations and/or college for the kids, keeping their lawns mowed and in general trying to be good neighbors. Sure, they might grumble around the water cooler about immigration (either pro or con), or complain about the price of gas or the seeming inability of congress to stop the turf wars long enough to provide leadership to the nation but for the most part it is just talk. They simply don’t believe their elected leaders listen to them or that what they think makes any real difference. Sadly, this is largely true in the church as well.
We don’t have a president of the church to give such an address. In spite of the secular media electing and installing Rick Warren as the Pope of American Evangelicalism it isn’t really true. So in reality this article is simply my thoughts on the State of the Church as we begin the New Year.
The “Church Report” released the list of what it considered “The 50 Most Influential Christians” on January 6th or 2006. How were they chosen? Was it their servant attitude or commitment to sound biblical teaching? Was it their clear proclamation of the gospel or willingness to confront and challenge the increasing paganism in culture or more importantly within the church? No, nothing so mundane as the Heroes of faith we read about in Hebrews chapter 11. The “Church Report” chose the 50 most influential through a popularity poll. As they tell us in the first paragraph:
The staff of The Church Report did not choose this list; rather, we feel that the nominations from Christians across America and around the world are much more meaningful.
At the top of the list in position #1 was the oneness Pentecostal and Word Faith teacher T.D. Jakes. Of course, we wouldn’t want the rejection of a little theological teaching like the doctrine of the Trinity, which Jakes reject, to get in the way of Jakes being considered the #1 most influential Christian.
In the #2 spot, we have the seeker sensitive Word Faith teacher, Joel Osteen. In fact, 4 out of the first 10 in the list are false teachers. That brings us back to an issue that I looked at a couple of weeks ago in the article “What is a Christian?”. If Evangelicals are unable or unwilling to clearly state what a Christian is and follow the biblical mandate to expose false teachings and false teachers, why would we assume that the secular media would have any understanding? As a side note here, Dr. Richard Land, the President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethic’s and Religious Liberty Commission publicly denounced Word Faith as heretical on national television. That was encouraging. Also, I did hear from Dr. Land yesterday via email and he posted his response to the blog article as well. He said in part:
Regarding the question, “What is a Christian?” I explained my view more explicitly in remarks that CNN chose not to air. I do not disagree with any part of the last paragraph of your posting.
The entirety of his response puts CNN in the position of appearing deceptive with their handling of this important question.
The Church Fixing the World
Although Jakes and Osteen took the top of the list, and Ted Haggard (#33) took center stage for a week or so with the exposure of his homosexual affair which we looked at in “When Kings Go Out to Battle”, Rick Warren was probably the most influential leader in the world last year. After all he has relieved many a pastor from the difficult work of studying and preparing sermons to feed their flock by encouraging them to go online and print out his and preach those. But more important than that, he seems convinced that he can eliminate poverty, hunger and AIDS (physical AIDS not spiritual AIDS) on a global scale. It seems to me that if he can, then Jesus would be a false prophet for He said when challenged by Judas about the wastefulness of His feet being anointed with expensive perfume:
For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. (Matthew 26:11)
That doesn’t mean that as believers we shouldn’t attempt to alleviate the suffering of the poor or sick but that is not the primary emphasis of the mission of the church to non-believers. The primary mission of the church to non-believers is to preach the gospel. That is true even in the context of feeding the poor. Jesus said in Matthew 11:5:
the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.
When Warren was on MSNBC’s Meet the Press Tim Russert expressed concern that millions of Christians will be on the march and evangelizing in the process of solving the world’s ills. Warren was unresponsive. In the material I have read or listened to by Warren and the various media statements he has made, it does not appear that the gospel is as much of a priority as curing AIDS has become.
I am not saying that Rick Warren is a bad guy but he may be a one person example of the confusion which resides within the church. Sound doctrine is downplayed and social action is elevated. The result will be better fed and healthier lost people but they are still lost none-the-less. It seems to escape the notice of many that the sick, imprisoned and hungry that were to be ministered to were “brothers of mine” or believers:
The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
Paul writes about contributing to the poor saints in Jerusalem (Romans 15:26). The key word being “saint.” Again, I am not saying that as believers we should turn a blind eye to the suffering in the world. Christians have been the leaders on that front for millennia. We see it in the writings of the last pagan emperor of Rome, Julian the Apostate. He was attempting to resurrect the pagan religions of Rome and was not finding success. We read in his letter to his priest in Galatia:
“Why do we not notice that it is their kindness to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead, and the pretended holiness of their lives that have done most to increase atheism [i.e., Christianity]? I believe that we ought really and truly to practice every one of these virtues. And it is not enough for you alone to practice them, but so must all the priests in Galatia, without exception…In the second place admonish them that no priest may enter a theatre or trade that is base and not respectable…in every city establish hostels in order that strangers may profit by our generosity; I do not mean for our own people only, but for others also who are in need of money…for it is disgraceful that, when no Jew ever has to beg and the impious Galileans [Christians] support both their own poor and ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us.”
The believers lived holy lives, markedly different from the pagan culture in which they lived. It wasn’t in their dress or Christian haircuts but in their care for others, believers and then non-believers. Their goals weren’t personal health and wealth but how they could better serve others. It wasn’t primarily about solving world hunger or sickness or poverty. They had an eternal perspective which placed the proclamation of the gospel to those outside the church as its mission and training, equipping and caring for those inside the church as its ministry. It was about assisting those who came in to their area of influence. Christians were not trying to imitate or mimic the world but rather the pagans began realizing that if they wanted to gain ground they would have to start imitating the Christians. Bill Honsberger has done an excellent article on this titled “How to Reach a Pagan World.”. The current state of the church is confused. We are looking at book ends in time. In 361 the pagan leadership was busy trying to imitate the Christians. Today, Christians are busy imitating the non-believers. Sadly, imitating paganism has largely left us with what Peter Jones has called Pagans in the Pew
This past couple of weeks and particularly this past weekend, coverage of Christianity was wall to wall in the media. We had After Jesus – The First Christians on CNN which we reviewed in the blog article “Merry Christmas from CNN.” CNN followed up with the Anderson Cooper 360 special, which we reviewed “What is a Christian?” I was looking forward to some down time with the family and decided to set the recorder to capture the various programs that were being done on Christmas and Christianity. There is The Birth of Jesus, Who is Jesus?, One Nation Under God. It seemed that a great deal of the available media was about Rick Warren, especially on FOX. There was the special “Can Rick Warren Change the World?” and “The Three Purposes of Christmas.” Rick was a guest on MSNBC’s Meet the Press with Tim Russert. There was also the December 22 article in Christianity Today “Three Purposes of Christmas” by Timothy C. Morgan. In between family gatherings I read the C.T. article and watched “Meet the Press.”
I was a little disheartened by C.T.’s coverage on this. I have enjoyed a fairly good working relationship with them over the years. It is true and even expected that we don’t always agree with one another’s positions on various issues but there has been a general respect between us. C.T. was willing to take a potentially unpopular stand about Bill Gothard as being a false teacher when other organizations and media have turned a blind eye to the destruction he and other false teachers bring in to the church. After MCOI exposed Gwen Shamblin as a false teacher who had infiltrated the church C.T. was one of the first to expose her. However, I am concerned about the handling of Rick Warren in this recent article (it should be noted that I did email Tim Morgan prior to writing this but have not heard back as yet). As I read it I noted that Rick did three things with regard to Tim Morgan’s first question:
“World Net Daily columnist Joseph Farah has been hugely critical of your trip to Syria and your explanations, suggesting that you exhibit behavior ‘bordering on sociopathic.’ What’s your reaction?”
1) Rick Warren began by demonizing Joe Farah with his accusation that: “This is a fellow who’s hooked his star to criticizing somebody. There’s so many over-the-top things about it.”
2) After making his assertion, without naming anything that was “over- the-top” Warren successfully distracted the conversation to how many churches there are in Syria. Although possibly interesting it was irrelevant to the question.
3) He went on to claim “A lot of the criticisms have come from people who politicize the Christian faith. To them, politics is more important than winning people to Christ.”
As to number 1 and 2 I think this is a serious problem for the following reasons. First, either Warren said the things that Joe Farah (and MCOI in our blog) claims he said or he didn’t say them. If he didn’t say them than both Joe Farah and MCOI would be biblically required to publicly repent of the libel to at least the same degree that we published it to begin with. On the other hand if he did say them and then lied about and is attempting to cover it up we have a credibility issue. Rick Warren was allowed to demonize his critics without being called to account to prove his accusations.
Second, according to the article “Megapastor Rick Warren’s Damascus Road experience,” when Farah asked Warren for copies of the video tape his team shot while in Syria the reply was, “He also told me he did not tape anything while in Syria, ‘because it was a courtesy call, like I do in every country.’” I am sure Farah would be more than happy to provide copies of his and Warren’s emails to verify this exchange. As Farah was reading Warren’s email a link was sent to him to a YouTube video recording of Warren saying what had been ascribed to him. The video tape unfortunately for Warren demonstrated that Farah and MCOI had been correct in our handling of the facts. Shortly after this was pointed out to Warren the video mysteriously disappeared from YouTube. However, not before an audio copy had been made of it by a radio station who subsequently made it available on the Internet. Warren was not truthful about his statements and was at best factually challenged (in secular circles this would be called a lie) about the event not being videotaped. Now that I think about it, this is beginning to sound very Clintonesque. Warren didn’t actually say the event wasn’t video taped but that “…he did not tape anything…”
The message of the Christian faith is about repentance and restoration. If Rick had been honest to begin with rather than attempting what looks like a cover up, the pain would have been over fairly quickly. If he is covering this up what else could he be hiding? Perhaps he needs to go to the “warnings file” he talks about in the C.T. article and reread the clippings there. I will refrain here from suggesting which of Rick Warren’s three categories that I believe this falls in to.
Third, while sending an email apology to Farah, Warren also sent an email to his followers attacking “four bloggers” and claiming they had based on their material questionable sources. Warren wrote:
“Recently, four “bloggers” made accusations about my visit to Syria (between speaking in Germany and Rwanda). They based their accusations on a Syrian state press release!”
This is artfully written as it provides Warren with “plausible deniability.” It is pretty well known who the four bloggers are but if he is called on the carpet by any one of them he has left an escape route of “Oh, I wasn’t referring to you. It was four other bloggers.” It should also be noted that Warren’s statement is designed to imply that the Syrian state press release is questionable or inaccurate although he doesn’t actually claim either one. I have to admit this is shrewd for if someone accuses him of saying the Syrian Press twisted his words he could deny having said that as well. For someone who claims to not be a politician Rick Warren has learned to do the Political Two Step very well. In reality the accuracy or inaccuracy of the Syrian state press release is irrelevant. Our claim was based on his own words and not the press release. Although Joe Farah started with the press release he allowed in his article “The purpose-driven lie” that Warren’s words may have been twisted. In fact, Farah went so far as to say that he hoped that was the case. As it turns out it is Warren who is tinkering with verbiage.
In C.T.’s article Warren is quoted as saying, “A lot of the criticisms have come from people who politicize the Christian faith. To them, politics is more important than winning people to Christ.” These are very serious allegations and I would suggest that he needs to demonstrate his case. Simply making assertions about motives and the priorities of one or more individuals is insufficient. His assertions must be proven. If he in unable to do so he has committed libel and character assassination with the aid of C.T. I can state for the record that his claims are untrue for MCOI. I cannot comment for Joe Farah but the bulk of Farah’s material had to do with Warren’s honesty and trustworthiness. After watching Warren on Meet the Press I find it very interesting that he so glibly demonizes others:
“I would say I’d like to see a culture of civility. Our civilization is becoming less civil. It’s just gotten quite rude and you don’t have a right to demonize somebody just because they’re different. Civility means I’m going to treat you with respect even if I totally disagree with you.”
Is pointing out Rick Warren’s seeming inability to tell the truth and providing evidence for our claims “over the top,” uncivilized and rude? Does he mean that he has the right to demonize others with unfounded accusations but others are “uncivilized and rude” for following the biblical teachings on holding leaders accountable? His accusation that those of us who have raised this issue have placed politics above the gospel is also interesting in light of his view that there is no need to do Jewish Evangelism because there are already enough Christians. (See our article Rick Warren – Story Teller). Simply because the secular media has elected Rick Warren to the office of Evangelical Pope and installed him as “America’s Pastor” does not mean that he actually is infallible or unaccountable.
I am not saying that Rick Warren doesn’t have some good things to say nor that many of the things he says aren’t worthy of consideration. I am not saying that he isn’t a nice guy nor that he doesn’t have good motives. He may. But if we look to Scripture on the issue of leadership one of the first qualifications for an Elder is to “be above reproach.” (1 Tim. 3:2) It does strike me that a high profile leader needs to be accountable particularly when he publicly assassinates the character of another or several others for telling the truth. This is our biblical responsibility according to 1 Timothy 5:19-20.
Last week when I posted the new blog article, “Merry Christmas from CNN” I sent an email to the two CNN promotional contacts that had initially sent the material. I included a link to the MCOI blog review of their upcoming program CNN Presents: After Jesus – The First Christians as a courtesy. To my surprise Jennifer Dargan, Director CNN PR responded back:
Thank you for this link – and we appreciate the thoughtfulness and attention to detail in your thorough and researched review. We really do appreciate that our programming inspires thought, discussion — and even critique like yours. Thank you for taking the time to notice our show.
She also suggested that I watch Anderson Cooper 360 that evening. The second hour was a special asking the question, “What is a Christian?” Jennifer suggested that she would be interested in my thoughts on that program as well. Fortunately I was able to record it and watch it several times over the past few days. I have to admit that I have mixed feelings on the program for reasons that will become apparent as we go along.
Over all I do think Anderson Cooper and the CNN staff attempted to be as fair and unbiased as they probably could. They sought out and interviewed conservative Evangelicals along with liberals as well as a church that holds to New Age views. They gave what appeared to be a completely open door or rather open mic invitation but the Evangelicals interviewed never stepped through or picked up the mic with the answer to the four word question, “What is a Christian?” Anderson Cooper set up the question and the program:
Nearly 9 in 10 Americans is a Christian. So what is a Christian? How is the definition changing? No matter what you believe. No matter what your faith. Chances are the answers will one day touch your life. What do you believe?
The segue into the program sets up some scenarios, “Patriot Pastors,” which are those who are calling for involvement in the political system in an attempt to hold the moral line. “The End of Day” teachers who are focused on eschatology and the soon return of Jesus. A Gospel of Money, or what we (MCOI) and other discernment ministries expose as false teachers of what is known as Word Faith theology. Specifically in this case, Creflo Dollar and Joel Osteen were highlighted. Lastly, protecting the planet or Green Christians were interviewed and commented on. The main problem in the program begins right here. The question, “What is a Christian?” has already been abandoned and replaced by trying to answer it with various things that Christians may do. I am not suggesting this was intentional. Rather, those who were interviewed for the program fixated on what they do or what their particular priority or sense of mission was and consequently didn’t answer the actual question. What is a Christian? If I was a journalist in Anderson Cooper’s shoes and those of his staff, and let the subjects of my question that I interviewed answer the question and the answers I received immediately directed me to what “Christians do” I would accept that as the answer and may not realize that I had been distracted from the original question.
After the opening outline of the various groups Anderson Cooper continued:
Thanks for joining us tonight. If you were expecting a sermon or civics lesson, sorry you won’t find one here. This is an hour about religion and politics. But first and foremost we hope it is a vivid color snapshot of your neighbors and our country and how we all have a stake in this question that seems to bring thousands of answers. What is a Christian?
If one doesn’t have a clear and understandable working definition of what a Christian is then looking at the various groups, those that actually are Christians, those who claim to be Christians but are not and those who are false teachers within the church would indeed be confusing. An honest person and/or honest journalistic team who is trying to define the term in this setting is destined to failure and increasing the confusion rather than reducing it.
In order to address this I thought it might be helpful to use an analogy. If I were producing a special to answer the question, “What is a physician?” and looked across the landscape of the medical field using the same methodology that was employed in this program I would begin with the question, “What is a physician?” After wandering the nation and interviewing every group that claims to do healing I would try to reduce the material down to 4-5 representative groups and let them answer the question. In the introduction I would have an emergency room with doctors doing triage. I would have family practice doctor meeting calmly with a family about preventative medicine. I would have an imposter dressed in a white lab coat prescribing medications. I would have natural care advocates who are opposed to medications and shots as being body pollutants. Finally, I would have doctors who are now calling on spirit guides to perform psychic healing because they do not want to perform physical surgery which requires cutting the patient. They found surgery to be too bloody and gory, patients were in pain during healing and medications were being prescribed. They found all of this too narrow and confining and could no longer hold to such narrow minded hurtful views of medicine and healing. In general they feel better about themselves now. They also don’t judge witch doctors and others who practice healing arts or even those they gather with who do not believe there is even such a thing as sickness or the physical universe. Although they are tolerant of all of these other groups they are very intolerant and judgmental of the group who has the proper credentials and the narrow view that goes with it. In that special I would open with:
Thanks for joining us tonight. If you were expecting a health education or guidance in healthcare, sorry you won’t find that here. We hope over the next hour to give you a vivid color snapshot of your neighbors and our country and how we all have a stake in this question that seems to bring thousands of answers. What is a Physician?
The answer to “What is a Physician?” is actually pretty simple. The term “Physician” means a doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathy who is legally qualified and licensed to practice medicine. This recognizes them for what they are and is independent of what they do. They may be an emergency room physician or a family doctor. They may be a heart specialist or sports doctor. In other words the term “physician” defines what they are but their focus or specialty defines what they do. What they are tells us nothing about whether they are a good or a bad physician, honest or dishonest, nor even that their abandoning accepted medical practice to embrace something that is false and harmful makes them any less a physician. Conversely, because they may be a physician doesn’t mean that what they have now embraced is actually medical treatment or even good regardless of whether it gives them warm fuzzies. That we have a Frank Abagnale, Jr con man type in the mix impersonating a physician, giving medical solutions and writing prescriptions which may be helpful or harmful does not change the answer to “What is a Physician?” In fact, the correct definition of the term is what is used to expose him as a fraud. It is, to be sure, narrow minded and intolerant to hold all claiming to be physicians to such a restrictive definition I suppose but I really don’t see a public hue and cry to abandon such intolerance and just recognize anyone and everyone who claims to be a physician as a physician.
Defining by Practice
The first group that was looked at was Fairfield Christian Church in Lancaster, Ohio and Pastor Russell Johnson. Johnson and his congregation, like many Evangelicals, are concerned about the ACLU’s continual attack of Evangelical’s freedom of belief and expression, the increasing paganization of the culture, abandonment of the morals which have guided the nation and embracing of what they believe is the torture and murder of innocent humans who are unable to defend themselves. Interspersed between video of Johnson preaching we hear the voice over of the reporter, Gary Tuchman:
From the pulpit of the Fairfield Christian Church he delivers a confrontational message
Another clip plays and Tuchman continues:
Two months ago with the mid-term elections approaching, Johnson thundered against a different set of enemies. Supporters of gay marriage & abortion.
Focusing in on an aspect of the message and church life of Johnson and Fairfield, the challenge to be involved in voicing their views and using their votes in government policy, Johnson is labeled as a “confrontational,” preacher who thunders his message and doesn’t “mince words.” Of course, if we disagree with someone else’s views it is very easy to demonize them through our selection of descriptors and bias the hearer of our case. This is also helped by having a liberal theologian on board and CNN had Rev. Dwight Hopkins, an American Baptist and Professor of Theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School who weighed in:
I think we have to make a distinction between those who use very militaristic language, who wear their collars as pastors on the one hand and on the other what Jesus Christ says in the four Gospels of the New Testament.
I have listened to this several times and read and reread it since I transcribed it and still find that it is a meaningless and undefined statement. What did Jesus say and how does it differ? How is saying certain behavior is sin militaristic? We are left quite in the dark on this.
However, this neither proves nor disproves the validity of Pastor Johnson’s teaching. It unwittingly erects a derogatory label and makes it easier to dismiss the pastor and church as fringe. Conversely, it also seems to validate conservatives mistrust of the “liberal media.” More importantly it doesn’t define, “What is a Christian.” Many Christians do not believe in being involved in government while others do. There is no hard and fast rule on this. Some believe in being involved in the military and are supportive of defending against evil threats on our shores and helping our allies. Others are opposed to being in the military and are pacifists. These issues to be sure are important but are in-house debates. They do not define what a Christian is. This would be more of an example of Romans 14 and the gray areas or difference of practice among Christians in important but secondary issues of the faith.
The next group profiled is involved in environmental activism. Not all Christians agree on this issue and again, involvement or non-involvement in this issue doesn’t tell us what a Christian is. The end times teachers are looked at. Again, not all Christians agree on this. There is a wide variety of belief in a number of areas. When is Jesus returning? Is there a rapture and if so when? Should baptism be sprinkling, pouring or immersion? I could go on but the short hand of this would be that denominations exist largely due to orthopraxy (how to practice the faith) not orthodoxy (what the faith is). Christians disagree on important but secondary issues but all true Christians agree on the essential doctrines of the faith and the definition of what a Christian is.
Anderson Cooper had a segment looking at the prosperity gospel teachers, Creflo Dollar and Joel Osteen. The fundamental problem is they are false teachers of the highest order. I have to say that I was very glad to hear Richard Land, the President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethic’s and Religious Liberty Commission and Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners (a part of the post modern movement within the church) denounce this as heretical. I suppose I am used to leaders, like Don Wildmon and James Dobson who are busy calling for boycotts on non-Christians who live and act like non-Christians but ignore false teachers who are popular within the church and are therefore far more dangerous. A.T. & T., Ford or Wal-Mart may make a charitable donation to a Gay activist organization but no one looks to these corporations as spiritual teachers representing God.
The last section looked at a couple, Billy and Christy Wynn who had been raised Baptist and had questions which were not answered:
Billy and Christy both grew up Baptist, believed in God and went to church every week until their teenage years when they became what some call questioning Christians.
Sadly, I understand the plight of Billy and Christy far too well because I meet them regularly. They have left the faith of their childhood and in this case embraced the New Age views of the Unitarian Church. Christy says:
You can come in and you can have your own thoughts and you can have reason and you can have doubt and nobody will judge you for that.”
Those are words that the church needs to hear. Can Christians ask difficult questions without being looked down on. Can a Christian have thoughts and reason? Was Jesus just kidding when he incluided the mind as an element of faith in Matthew 22:37? Anderson Cooper and his staff have done an excellent job of demonstrating the cacophony of claims, teachings and variations along with the confusion one on the outside sees as the church. I think all serious leadership should purchase and view the DVD available from Anderson Cooper 360 and review it with their church leadership, other churches and para-church ministries. There is of course far more in the program than I can comment on in this article but I think Anderson Cooper and the CNN staff are to be commended for their effort. Much of the problems I have raised here have more to do with Evangelicals lack of clarity and taking the opportunity to give a clear answer. In the case of this program I didn’t detect any overt bias on the part of Anderson Copper and CNN. That leads me to the final point.
In the last few minutes of the special Anderson Cooper asked Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethic’s and Religious Liberty Commission, point blank, “What is a Christian?” Remember, this is the question had not been answered through out the previous 55 or so minutes of the program. There it was, a slow motion pitch right over home plate, in the strike zone and I sat up straight in my chair only to hear:
It means that you do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It means a command to be the salt and light of the world. It means to obey the command to go forth and share the gospel. Never seek to impose it. Never use coercion, but as an act of love to seek to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with all who will listen.
Well, let’s see. That may be a moralist or it may be a list of things that a Christian may or may not do, but this isn’t what a Christian is. So, it seems that for the record I need to state that a Christian is one who recognizes they are a sinner and are condemned as a result (Romans 3:23) They have believed and called on Jesus Christ as being fully God and fully man (Romans 10:9-13). They believe He was crucified, died, buried and physically resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) and as a result we are born anew and are joined to God as an heir with Christ. The definition is simple. Living together as a family of believers and speaking clearly to culture on the essentials seems to be more more difficult.
A friend and ministry associate, Steve Hogel, was in town this week and stopped by to visit. He brought with him a review copy of a two hour special which CNN will be airing on Wednesday, December 20 at 7:00 and 10:00 PM E.T. titled, CNN Presents: After Jesus – The First Christians. It will be replayed on Saturday the 23rd and Sunday the 24th at 8:00 and 10:00 PM E.T. Unfortunately for Steve I had my pad of paper, a pen and the remote control to stop and reverse so I can write the quotes which caught my attention. As a result he was only able to see about 1/3 of it. The December 7, 2006 CNN News Release which he brought with the DVD lets us know that the final version will be narrated by Liam Neeson and they also write:
“CNN was able to leverage its extensive resources to tell the story behind the greatest story ever told,” said Mark Nelson, vice president and senior executive producer for CNN Productions. “The fundamental themes of challenge and resolution, power and struggle that we explore continue to be relevant in modern times.”
CNN examined archaeological evidence and spoke with the most renowned authorities on the ancient church to answer “the” question at the heart of the story: How did Jesus, a wandering rabbi from the hinterland, and his illiterate followers, triumph over Roman persecution and establish a worldwide faith?
A liberal bias surfaces in the News Release as they suggest that branches of the early church were polytheistic among other issues and described the apostles as “his illiterate followers.” This was very reminiscent of the view of the Jesus Seminar co-founder, John Dominic Crossan and his book The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant . The assumption Crossan makes is that since the nations around the Mediterranean were illiterate than the Jewish disciples themselves were illiterate. This reasoning suffers from taking what was perhaps generally true as the criteria to determine what was specifically true. Now while it is most probable that Peter and the eleven were not “college” educated as was Paul that does not mean they were illiterate. We dealt more at length with these particular views in our 1998 Journal “The Hysterical Search for the Historical Jesus” and so won’t belabor that here. After viewing the entire production I wonder, are they actually telling “the story behind the greatest story ever told” or just telling stories?
On the plus side, much of the surrounding historical data was accurate and well done. It will be helpful for the viewers to get a sense of the history and the culture of that time. The production was, as would be expected, first class and will be all the more so with Liam Neeson as the narrator.
Early on in the first segment CNN posits the possibility that Luke “exaggerated” his accounts. I am not saying that CNN is intentionally attempting to cause doubt about the reliability of Scripture due to their liberal bias. It may well be that they are attempting to be even handed and are simply blind to their liberal bias. As I watched the entire piece I cannot recall that they interviewed a single conservative scholar. They had scholars that were Jewish and scholars that were liberal but, as I mentioned, I didn’t notice any conservatives. That would be on about the same level as using Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and David Duke as the only or at least most reliable authorities on the holocaust. It is possible that they are simply unaware that high caliber conservative scholars exist. If that is the case it also brings into question the accuracy of other aspects of the production as well.
With that set up we suspected before viewing it that the two hour special is about power, politics and a movement which inexplicably morphed in to a religion. Lawrence A. Shiffman, professor at New York University appears on camera donning his Yammulke and says:
”So, the problem is not in the belief that Jesus is the Messiah. The problem is when the belief is moving from Messiah to a kind of deified Messiah and as this begins to be understood by the Jews the opposition to this movement is no longer a political thing. It’s a very strong religious thing.”
One of the main authorities was Bart Ehrman, author of Misquoting Jesus and professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. (We have a review of his book in our current Journal titled, “To Error is Ehrman” by Randal Ming and Randall Birtell. If you are not on the mailing list you can contact us for a copy). Although his bias and views were not overtly stated in the special, they do help to guide the viewer to a particular conclusion or at least point them in a direction as they suggest that the gospel accounts are not history but rather are more or less faith fables created by its two founders. The narrator tells us:
”Peter, the simple fisherman from Galilee who was Jesus’ chief apostle. Paul, a sophisticated Pharisee. Together they will create a religion that will change the world.”
And so the stage is set. The movement started out as a political one but After Jesus Peter and Paul collaborated to create a new religion loaded with political intrigue and power struggles. The gospels and the book of Acts were written to inspire faith but there is little in them that is actually historical or reliable.
Fast and Loose with the Text
CNN would have greatly benefited by having someone review the narration script for accuracy. It comes across as though they are playing fast and loose with the text in order to add more drama to the story (as if that were necessary) when the narrator states:
”Delivering the Jesus message put Paul and Peter in conflict. Paul’s open door mission to the pagan Gentiles was a huge problem for Peter who thought the resurrection of Jesus was for the Jews alone. If you wanted to follow Jesus you had to become a Jew and obey Jewish Law and Peter wielded considerable power back in Jerusalem. Power given to him by Jesus.”
They talk about the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, A.D. 48 or 49, where they have Paul trying to persuade James to side with him against Peter on the issue of not making gentiles convert to Judaism in order to be saved.
It is hard to know where to even start or stop on this without writing an entire article just on this section. It is true that Peter and the twelve only went to the Jews for the first ten years or so and didn’t leave Jerusalem (Acts 8:1). Those who were scattered at this point only proclaimed the gospel to Jews (Acts 11:19). After the conversion of Saul (Acts 9) God gave Peter a special vision before sending him to Cornelius (Acts 10) and upon Peter’s return to Jerusalem he was called on the carpet by the “the circumcision” for going to a gentile (Acts 11:2 & 3). After this meeting the disciples began sharing the gospel with gentiles (Acts 11:20-21). Peter is the head of the church in Jerusalem up to this point and James, the half brother of the Lord, isn’t even mentioned. Paul is not here and certainly is not in a conflict with Peter that James has to resolve.
At the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 James has replaced Peter as the head of the church, for reasons which Luke does not share and after Acts 15 Peter vanishes from the balance of the book of Acts and Paul is the main character. In Acts 15 not only are Peter and Paul not at odds with one another but Peter is the one who persuades James and the rest of the “circumcision” that they should not put the legalistic requirements of circumcision and other legalisms on the gentiles (Acts 15:6-11). His view was:
Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to hear?
As if that weren’t enough he turns the salvation tables on them when he elaborated and said in verse 11:
But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.
This is an interesting reversal. Not only are Peter and Paul not at odds with one another with Paul attempting to persuade James to side with him but Peter turns the tables on the whole subject. The Jews, Peter says, will be saved in the same way the gentiles are, not the other way around. Did CNN intentionally play fast and loose with the text? Were they just sloppy in how they handled it letting their theme of political intrigue guide them in a haphazard and concocted treatment of the text. I don’t know but would suspect they hadn’t actually read the text but rather developed their understanding based on the writings of Bart Ehrman and others rather than going to the primary source material. If that is the case their misunderstanding of the events makes sense but does not bode well for their journalistic professionalism.
In Need of New Scripture
As the story unfolds the narrator voices a new concern that the church supposedly had at the end of the first century:
At the end of the 1st Century Christian leaders decided they needed a new holy scripture and they began writing down what Jesus had said and done. And now Christianity would take a different direction. A religion based on the word of written gospels. A religion that would guide them far into an uncertain future. But just who wrote the gospels and are they indeed the last word of Jesus?
In order to further cement the idea that the gospel accounts are the product of early second century churchmen we are assured that:
The gospels were written not as history scholars say but as a kind of divine story.
Of course, the scholars that CNN draws on must have the gospels written late and perhaps not even by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. The reason for this has more to do with liberal scholars needing enough time for a resurrection and deity myth to develop which would take one to two generations. Having the gospels written early would eliminate that possibility. There is a functional problem with their view. The book of Acts was written in the early 60’s, certainly before the Apostle Paul died as the book closes with Paul still in prison awaiting trial. We also know that Luke was with Paul during portions of the book of Acts but not for all portions. We know that by the change in terminology from time to time from “we” and “us” to “they” and “them.” Why is this a problem you ask? Well, Acts was the second book Luke wrote to Theophilus (Acts 1:1). The first book to Theophilus was his gospel (Luke 1:1-4). In general one’s first book is written before their second book which means that Luke was written probably in the early 60’s as well. It is also agreed by liberal and conservative scholars that Mark was the first of the gospel accounts written. That would mean that Mark was in existence before Luke and Acts were written. There was simply not enough time for the “Jesus myth” to develop. They are simply myth taken.
As CNN delved in to the Gnostic gospels one of the best observations they made as to why they had not been included was:
Perhaps the biggest problem with the Gnostic gospels is that they are written centuries after Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and for some historians that passage of time raises serious questions of authenticity.
I suppose if I said, “No duh” that would be completely unprofessional so I will refrain.
Overall CNN told an interesting story but not the actual “story behind the greatest story ever told,“ and that is sad really for they invested substantial resources into its making. It would he helpful if CNN would have articulate conservatives analyze and address some of these issues immediately after its airing but that isn’t likely. What is probable is that some of your friends, neighbors and family will be watching it and if you are prepared you will have an opportunity to:
sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; (1 Peter 3:15)
Rick Warren certainly caused a stir last week with his pronouncement of the tolerant and peace loving status of Syria and then having Barack Obama speak in his church on the AIDS pandemic. Those who missed my comments last week on this can read our blog article Rick Warren – Story Teller As I expected Warren plowed ahead undaunted by those who challenged him to his biblical pastoral responsibilities to guard the flock. Solving AIDS it seems, trumps biblical mandates. I posted the following question on the Apologetics Blog under the topic “Rick Warren and Abortion” on ChristiaNet.com:
Would Rick Warren have someone who is pro choice on slavery from, say, the Sudan, speak in his church if they were concerned about solving the AIDS pandemic? Would it be appropriate for Rick Warren to invite Larry Flint (owner of Hustler magazine) to speak at his church on behalf of solving AIDS? Is there any difference between these scenarios and having Barack Obama speak at Saddleback? Does solving AIDS trump guarding the flock (Acts 20:28-31)?
I think this is a very valid question. Would Warren have a leader of the Ku Klux Klan on the dais if he or she was supportive of AIDS? I am sure the answer to these three scenarios would be an unequivocal NO! Why? Because being “pro-choice” on slavery, involved with promoting and especially financially benefiting from being a purveyor of pornography and being a racial bigot would be viewed as morally reprehensible (not to mention politically incorrect.). In other words, Warren would be afraid of offending non-believers but doesn’t seem to be too concerned about violating God’s revealed Word. It isn’t that addressing AIDS is an issue that Christians should ignore or even that Christians can’t work with those outside the faith to address an issue of public health concern or even public moral behavior. Some hold to a two government view both ordained by God. One is God’s divine rule over all of creation. The other is a human government which He uses as He chooses and which makes laws that govern areas of this life. This seems clear from such passages as Romans 13:1-4, and Psalm 22:28.
In some cases, as in the case of Joseph and Daniel, God’s people have worked for a pagan government for the benefit of all. In other cases such as the Apostles, God’s people have taken stands against government edicts as did Peter in Acts 4:17-20. Activism and challenging the government has a long history even within Christianity to at least the days of Justin Martyr. He wrote his First Apology (defense) to the Roman Senate in which he argued against their persecution of Christians based on false and bigoted beliefs about them. He used sarcasm in some places such as “But you seem to fear lest all men become virtuous, and you no longer have any to punish.” (The First Apology of Justin; The Anti-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, Eerdmans, Reprinted October 1989, p 166).
The issues raised are not whether or not Christians should be involved in various causes which impact all citizens of a particular nation or even the world regardless of whether they are believers or not. The issue is should those who hold views which are antithetical to sound biblical teaching be put in to a place as a respected teacher within and under the auspices of the church? The answer is a resounding no! In the first century there were traveling teachers who would go to the home where the church met when they arrived in town. While in town they would reside in that home and teach the church. This is equivalent to giving the teaching position in church to an invited speaker. In addressing this in 2 John 7-10, the elderly Apostle writes:
If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.
By flaunting biblical teaching Rick Warren did not bring more credibility to the issue of AIDS but, according to the Apostle John, is participating in Barack’s evil deeds. Rick Warren’s attempt at damage control also raises the question of his honesty. Neither he nor any staff at Saddleback responded to my November 21 email but he did write again to Joseph Farah at WorldNetDaily. Joseph wrote his column Rick Warren says he’s sorry in which we discover opposing correspondence from Rick Warren going out. One to Farah apologizing and asking forgiveness and the other to Rick’s followers where he accuses the blogger’s who brought this to light as serving Satan and that their accusations are false and unconfirmed (even though I, Farah and others provided the supporting documentation and links while Warren simply makes assertions). Farah asks, “Will the real Rick Warren please stand up?” My fear is that if Rick Warren has abandoned sound biblical teaching, which seems to be the case and entered the world of politics, which also appears to be the case, aren’t we seeing the real Rick Warren in his political incarnation?