Rick Warren, America’s newest neo-Evangelical, spoke this past Saturday at the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) at the Washington Convention Center. I won’t point out that July 4 is a very strange time for patriotic Americans to be having an annual convention, because doing so would only highlight the probability that the ISNA is not very patriotic.
But I will remind Americans that in December 2003, U.S. Senators Charles Grassley and Max Baucus of the Senate Committee on Finance listed ISNA as one of 25 American Muslim organizations that “finance terrorism and perpetuate violence” and that terror expert Steve Emerson has said, “ISNA has has been an umbrella and a promoter of groups that have been involved in terrorism.”
According to the Washington Times, Warren began his speech with the common Arabic greeting "Asalam alakum," (‘peace be upon you’), though as a Christian theologian Warren should know only the wrath of God can abide upon Christ-rejecters. Evidently, Warren is becoming more conversant in the Islamic Arabic language. Readers may remember his reference to ‘Isa’ (Jesus) in his Invocation during President Obama’s Inauguration.
ISNA President Ingrid Mattson, trying to diffuse criticism from her own organization, introduced Warren as a "distinguished guest" –someone she had invited because of his worldwide charitable projects—adding that the Saddleback Community Church pastor gives away 90 percent of his salary: "Here is someone who, in charitable giving, is very stiff competition," she said. Of course, President Mattson didn’t mention the millions of dollars Warren keeps from his “Purpose Driven” empire.
"Talk is cheap ... but love is something we do together," Warren stated. "As the two largest faiths on this planet - more than 1 billion Muslims and 2 billion Christians - as Muslims and Christians, we must believe in this. As more than half the world, we must do something to model what it is to live in peace, to live in harmony."
The book of James is thunderous in its advocacy of works alongside of faith. In James 2:17 the Bible states: "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." So it is clear the Bible wants both--faith AND works--to exist in the lives of the people of God. And it is true that most Christians err on the side of no works, just simply verbal professions of love for God and their fellow man.
But Warren is proof-texting and erroring on the other side. He wants actions. Loving, kind and helpful actions. There is nothing wrong with that, per se. But the Christian's (and the Christian pastor's) higher calling is eternal. To be paving a way for a Muslim/Christian partnership is far from the gospel.
Warren's statement, reminiscent of Harry Emerson Fosdick and his social gospel, is a theological impossibility. Warren is attempting to draw a wedge between words and actions. His goal of the betterment of humanity, while worthy, is short-sighted and temporal.
In his brief reference to Jesus, Warren said: "My deepest faith is in Jesus Christ. I am committed not only to the good news but the common good. Scripture says 'love your neighbor as yourself.' I am commanded to respect everybody."
Certainly, Biblical Christianity demands respect for others with whom we disagree. But respect does not mean silence. Warren’s emphasis is on good works. Talk can be cheap, but it can also be revealing. And allegiance to “the common good” (the second greatest commandment) can never be given at the expense of “the good news” (the first greatest commandment). To join Muslims in reducing African poverty and suffering, for instance, means to overlook their rejection of Jesus as God and Savior. And obedient servants of Jesus would not do such a thing.
Warren’s preoccupation with prominence has blinded him to his first call.
Southern Baptists (the denomination Warren belongs to) would do well to publically distance themselves from this Fosdick disciple.
P.S. Here’s a bit more of Warren’s swift decline from doctrinal integrity.
P.S.#2 Is Rick Warren in this commercial?
P.S. #3 Now I'm probably bordering on petty, but I've heard Warren speak at several conferences in my former Southern Baptist days. He never wore a suit then, why now?