Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from The London Observer, July 11, 2004, with the headline: “America’s Pastor—Rick Warren, dubbed America’s pastor by the media, has written one of the biggest selling books of all time, generating tens of millions of dollars. He heads one of America’s five largest mega-churches and runs a religious network that spans the globe. If his religion were a business, then Warren would be a Wall Street mogul.
“Yet, Warren is not a household name. He has crept under the media radar while building his religious empire. He has been a guest at the White House. He ministers privately to some of the most important figures in American industry and was instrumental in helping market Mel Gibson’s controversial religious blockbuster, The Passion of the Christ.
“The Purpose Driven Life has sold a staggering 20 million copies worldwide. ‘It is…’ Warren says, ‘…selling a million a month. If you took Bill Clinton’s book, Hilary Clinton’s book, the latest Harry Potter, and The Da Vinci Code, and added them together, you still would not get the same as The Purpose Driven Life,’ he boasted. He is on a mission that stretches far beyond Saddleback, far beyond America, even. That mission is world domination. ‘We need a billion foot soldiers,’ he said. ‘If you love Jesus, we are on the same team.’
“America’s pastor works through a global network of churches, which have participated in his 40 Days of Purpose program, an activist program that goes along with Warren’s books. In Britain alone, more than 1,000 churches have already taken part. To that, can be added 1,500 in the Philippines, 400 in Singapore, and many hundreds across the world. In total, more than 15,000 churches in dozens of countries have carried out the program. They span all denominations. ‘They can be Catholic, Free Church, Lutheran, Methodist, whatever. We don’t put a sign up. You won’t know they are in our network,’ Warren says.”
Tom: Dave, this article, as Gary mentioned, The Observer—these are excerpts. It was quite a favorable article and I’m just really interested in some things. The reporter points out—it says, “He was on a mission that stretches far beyond Saddleback, far beyond America even. That mission is world domination.”
Now, you know, one of the things that I found really curious with all of what Rick is doing, is that it really seems to be related to things that we’ve dealt with before. The Manifest Sons of God, Latter Rain, Kingdom Now, Kingdom Theology—in other words, he is building…the reporter uses “empire,” but beginning with the church, we see the church developing, going from church to community, then from community to global. He has a Global Peace Plan. Is this like theonomy? Is this like Christian Reconstructionism in a sense, that we’re trying to build the church to a degree that people will be converted and we’re holding Christ in the heavenlies until He returns? It smacks of that.
Dave: The article talks about “his religious empire” that he’s overseeing. And, if his religion were a business—it sounds like it is in many ways—then Warren would be a Wall Street mogul. The only reason is he’s not selling shares on the stock exchange. It goes on to say, “The mission is world domination.”
I’m wondering how much—it says, “he boasted…” you know. His book is selling more than Bill Clinton’s, Hilary Clinton’s, Harry Potter, Da Vinci Code altogether. He’s boasting of that. I think there may be a little tongue-in-cheek here. World domination? He says if you love Jesus, we’re on the same team. Well, there are a lot of people who claim to love Jesus. Do they? And what is this all about? We’ve dealt with that.
But it’s very ecumenical. Catholics love it. Lutherans love it. He says, “We don’t put up a sign, so you won’t know they are in our network.” But now we’ve got a network. We’ve got a world empire; a religious empire—we’re heading for world domination because “we’re going to take over.” You follow these techniques, methodologies—it doesn’t quite sound like what Jesus said. “On this rock (that is, Peter’s confession of faith— ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God’)… on this rock, I will build my church.”
In Acts it tells us that, “…The Lord added to the church daily, those who were being saved.” It’s through the gospel and so forth, and it’s by the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s a bit more like a business.
Tom: But, Dave, the business moving in the direction of building a church—let’s say it’s not his empire, but he’s encouraged to spread Christianity throughout the world.
Dave: Mm-hmm, Mm-hmm.
Tom: I thought it was interesting in The Purpose Driven Life there’s only one little section in there—a paragraph about prophecy—about the second coming of our Lord and it says we’re not even to worry about that or think about that. What we want is to go out and evangelize.
Dave: Well, in fact, Tom, he says that when the disciples asked him for signs for prophecy he turned them away from that. And we’ve dealt with that…
Dave: …also in the past. So, again, he’s contradicting the Bible in many ways.
Tom: Yeah. Dave, the last item here—what about discernment? I only found one Scripture in his entire book that dealt with discernment, but he doesn’t interpret it that way. In other words, there’s no caution about the last days, there’s no caution about spiritual deception, delusion, and so on.
Dave: Tom, we’ve had a lot to say about the Catholic Church. It has a false gospel and it’s leading people to hell. But the Catholics love it, and Rick Warren—he loves them. He’s very happy for them to be part of this. There’s no correction. The Lutheran church—you know, a lot of Catholicism there—they believe in baptismal regeneration. You get baptized as a baby. You’re forgiven your sins. You’re made a child of God and so forth. There ought to be some concern about this, but as you point out, none of that in this book. This is a technique anybody can jump on the bandwagon—and they are.
Tom: Okay. Now, lastly, Dave, he wants a re-awakening. He thinks this is going to be God’s instrument to bring about a re-awakening and revival.
Dave: Mm-hmm. It doesn’t come about through methodologies that he has presented to us.
Tom: Or without discernment, I’m thinking—or without doctrine, which is another very soft issue.
Tom: Our heart here is for discernment. For people to search the Scriptures…to check everything out; to check us out—to see people by the millions and millions flocking to this, taking this in without discernment—“There’s a way that seems right unto a man," the Scripture says, “The end thereof are the ways of death.” That’s what we’re to take heed to. Jesus said, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” We want discernment—that’s our cry here.