Question: I’ve heard that Rick Warren is a graduate of Robert Schuller’s Institute for Church Growth and that his teaching is merely Schuller’s Possibility Thinking slightly reworded. Internet sites accuse Warren of continuing to teach at and to support Schuller’s annual leadership Institute. Is that true?
Answer: The correct name of this annual event is the Robert H. Schuller Institute for Successful Church Leadership. As far as I know, Rick Warren has had nothing to do with this event since he was a keynote speaker in January 1997.
No reflection on Warren, who didn’t invite them, but that conference was attended by more than 80 gay and lesbian pastors and lay leaders from the Metropolitan Community Churches, who took Schuller’s training to help their churches grow. Schuller has also embraced Unity (one of the most deceptive and anti-Christian cults) and spoken at the dedication of at least one of their churches (in Warren, Michigan) as well as at their headquarters in Lees Summit, MO, sharing his church growth techniques to help Unity deceive more of the gullible in their slide into hell.
Rick and his wife, Kay, attended Schuller’s Institute for Successful Church leadership during his last year in seminary. “He had a profound influence on Rick,” Kay says. “We were captivated by his positive appeal to nonbelievers” (Christianity Today, 11/18/2002).
Schuller calls Muslims “Christians,” says we should not try to change anyone’s “religion,” went to Rome with plans of the Crystal Cathedral to obtain the “Holy Father’s” blessing before building it, has shared his pulpit with Catholics, atheists, agnostics, and occultists, some of whom, such as Larry King, a Jewish agnostic, Schuller has asked to pray (See TBC reprints for further information).
Schuller has denied the gospel and the Lord so many times that it is difficult to understand how any Christian leader could ever consent to be on the same platform with him, much less speak in his church. Nevertheless, the keynote speakers announced for January 24-27, 2005 include Jack Hayford, Bill Hybels (as usual), Ruth Graham, and Kirbyjon Caldwell (an attendee for many years and whose 1999 Schulleresque book, The Gospel of Good Success, does not con-tain the gospel of salvation—see TBC 6/’01). The theme for 2005 is “Finding and Fulfilling Your Mission: Proven Principles for Success.”
The similarity between Schuller’s teachings and Warren’s “Purpose Driven” ideas cannot be denied. Warren has obviously patterned his approach to a “successful church” after what he learned from Schuller.
Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life, which has sold more than 20 million copies and has been followed in its “Forty Days of Purpose” program by thousands of congregations, tells the reader that he is exactly the person God made and intended him to be. Missing is anything to convict the sinner of his rebellion against God and the coming judgment. It is all about success and fulfillment in this life. This humanistic approach is very appealing. No wonder corporations and athletic teams study it (NASCAR, Coca Cola, LPGA, Oakland Raiders, etc.). It echoes Schuller.
Consider the following from Schuller: “I don’t think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counterproductive to the evangelism enterprise than...attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition” (Time, March 18, 1985). “To be born again…we must be changed from a negative to a positive self-image—from inferiority to self-esteem...” (Schuller, Self-Esteem: the New Reformation, p. 68); “If Christianity is to succeed…it must cease to be a negative religion and must become positive” (p. 104); “The classical error of historical Christianity is that we have never started with the value of the person. Rather, we have started from the ‘unworthiness of the sinner...’ ” (p. 162).
Warren begins Purpose with “the value of the person,” a theme repeated throughout. Although not guilty, as is Schuller, of outright contradiction of the gospel, Warren does a masterful job of removing from it anything that those who need it might find offensive. Anyone familiar with Schuller’s writings recognizes an undertone of the same compromise in The Purpose-Driven Life.
We’re not suggesting that Warren holds any of Schuller’s heresies. Yet, like Hybels and other “church growth” gurus, he has definitely adopted many of Schuller’s compromises and methods. When Schuller claims that he is the father of the church-growth movement, it is no idle boast.
The watered-down Schuller approach, designed to offend no one, is even reflected in Saddleback’s doctrinal statements regarding, for example, “sin”: “Every person, although endowed with the image of God, inherited a disobedient heart from Adam, the very first man. This attitude of disobedience (called sin in the Bible)—unless rectified through Christ—forever keeps man from forming a relationship with his Creator.”
Missing is any explanation of Christ’s payment on the Cross for sin. Nor does not “forming a relationship with his Creator” even come close to “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (Jn:3:36); “whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rv 20:15).
Like Schuller, Warren encourages everyone to attend his pastor-training programs, including Mormons, Catholics, Jews, and women pastors, in spite of the SBC ban on the latter. “‘Why be divisive?’ he asks, citing as his model Billy Graham…” (See News Alert).