Question: I recently read an article on onenewsnow.com in which T.A. McMahon was quoted as being in opposition to what Rick Warren is doing to encourage Christians to help solve many of the problems that have plagued the world. I'm surprised that anyone who calls himself a Christian would object to his humanitarian efforts. Isn't Pastor Warren simply exhorting us to fulfill the numerous verses in the Bible that would have us demonstrate our Christianity by our good works?
Response: One of the main purposes of The Berean Call is to encourage believers to check out what they are being told or taught against what is presented in the Scriptures. That is not only what I encourage, it's what I try to do in my own life. The articles quoted me accurately as I challenged the biblical basis for what Rick Warren is promoting. No matter how sincere someone's "humanitarian efforts" may be, if they are not supported by the Word of God, they constitute "a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs:14:12).
Warren has a goal of trying to solve the most pervasive ills of the world (poverty, disease, ignorance, the environment, etc.) through the involvement of "people of faith," i.e., those who follow the world's various religions. Initially (it seemed), his agenda was intended only for Christians and, supposedly, evangelical churches that would prioritize sharing the gospel in addition to doing good works. That later changed to allow the potential inclusion of the 2.3 billion people of every religious grouping that calls itself Christian (Catholics, Baptists, Orthodox, Mormons, Lutherans, Jehovah's Witnesses, Unitarians, etc.). Now it includes all religious people groups (amounting to five-sixths of the world's population) and their houses of worship as distribution centers for the goods and services required to meet the needs of the suffering world. This is Warren's 50-year global P.E.A.C.E plan.1
The practicality of what Warren hopes to do is rife with problems that I doubt many of Warren's supporters have considered. For example, what religious group is in charge of this global religious operation, and which one will manage it at a regional and local level? Doctrinal differences are no small matter. Catholics today are persecuting evangelicals and Pentecostals throughout South America. Sunnis are killing Shiites and vice versa. Hindus are attacking Christian missionaries. Muslims are murdering Jews and burning Christian churches. Beyond that, and should there be some successes, who is given the glory, and who is to be thanked? Allah? Buddha? Jehovah? The Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints? Ganesha, the Elephant God, or Shiva, the Destroyer?
Warren addressed an audience of diverse religions at the World Economic Forum recently and presented his P.E.A.C.E. plan. He brought up the motivation for doing good, i.e., relieving the suffering of humanity, and noted that his motivation was Jesus Christ. He acknowledged that this wasn't their motivation and then added that it mattered little to him what their motivation was as long as they "did good."2 "Good works" is the common denominator that Rick hopes will bring about the cooperative efforts necessary for his P.E.A.C.E. program to be successful. Successful according to whose standard? The world's or God's?
The critical question here is: Are Warren's humanitarian efforts true to the teachings of the Word of God or not? Good works aside for the moment, the fundamental issue is whether or not the Bible teaches an exclusive God and the one way of salvation. That is certainly its claim from Genesis to Revelation. Consider the following among hundreds of verses: "I am the LORD, and there is none else, and there is no God beside me." (Isaiah:45:5); "I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour" (Isaiah:43:11); "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus:2:13); "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name [Jesus Christ] under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts:4:12); "I [Jesus Christ] am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John:14:6).
If there is no other true God but the God revealed in the Bible, and if salvation comes only through Jesus Christ—as the Scriptures declare—then all other gods and other ways of salvation are false, with no hope for their followers. That's not a message that paves the way for collaboration among the world's religions. One of the panelists sitting next to Warren at the Davos World Economic Forum complained that those who claim that their faith is the only true faith, and who deny the legitimacy of other religions, breed hatred and obstruct the cooperation that is imperative among people of faith who are working for the common good. Warren made no comment.
Ephesians:2:8-9 tells us that God's salvation is received only by grace through faith, and that it is "not of [good] works, lest any man should boast." This belief is contrary to that of all the religions of the world; salvation for their followers is earned, obtained, realized, accomplished, etc., by their good works. To encourage that delusion today is akin to patting the lost on the back for working for the "common good" while ushering them into an eternity separated from God and subject to His wrath and the everlasting torments of the Lake of Fire.
The Bible makes a clear and continual distinction between the saved and the lost, the lives of the regenerate and the unregenerate, and those who are born again spiritually and the spiritually dead. There is nothing "good" the lost can do to please God (Romans:3:10-18). "If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain" (Galatians:2:21). They can neither receive nor know the "the things of the Spirit of God" (1 Corinthians:2:14). They walk "in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness" (Ephesians:4:17-19). They are "dead in trespasses and sins," subject to "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Ephesians:2:1-2). They are God's enemies (Romans:5:10).
It is for these reasons that the Apostle Paul tells us, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" (2 Corinthians:6:14-15). The believer is exhorted to minister to unbelievers—but not with them.
Far from being a pride issue among Christians, every believer knows that he or she was once in the condition the verses above describe. Moreover, believers know full well that it is only by God's grace and mercy that anyone can be saved, and that salvation is freely available to whosoever will receive God's gift of eternal life with Him.
Christians certainly can be--and have been—wonderfully involved in humanitarian efforts as witnesses of the love of Christ. Titus:2:14 indicates that those who are saved are to be "zealous of good works." Ephesians:2:10 tells us that Christians have been saved "unto good works." However, that witness can be quickly compromised as it accommodates man's way of accomplishing man's objectives rather than following the Scriptures. Furthermore, there is not a hint from the life of Christ or the acts of the apostles of any model or organized program for the church directed at eradicating poverty, disease, environmental abuse, ignorance, etc.—all symptoms of the sin condition of the world and the sin nature of mankind. The gospel is mankind's only hope. Therefore, anything that does not conform to the biblical gospel and to the truth of the Word of God in attempting to aid mankind, no matter how sincere, is a disservice of eternal proportions leading to dreadful consequences.
Jesus warned those who in His name believed they had "done many wonderful works" yet not according to "the will of my Father which is in heaven": "And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matthew:7:21-23).