Thursday, June 22, 2006

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

This is an essay I wrote back before The Purpose Driven Life was driven off the best seller list by The Da Vinci Code.......

....So I was watching Rick Warren on CNN. Larry King described him as a Christian superstar, which is a warning to my ears to begin with. But aside from that, watching Warren being interviewed was just frustrating from an Evangelical point of view.

Larry King was not hostile at all (I taped the interview). He gave Rick Warren all the time he needed to answer questions and every opportunity to preach the gospel. But getting him to do so would have been like trying to nail Jello to a wall. I watched the interview thinking to myself, "Say it; just say it. Jesus is the only way." Warren kept referring to God as God, making God sound generic, rarely uttering the name Jesus Christ.

I don't know anything about Rick Warren other than what I have read in his book and heard him say on television. I can't judge his heart and he gave good answers to many of King's questions such as the one about euthanasia. But I fear that in trying to make the Gospel oriented toward the 21st century listener, the Gospel itself is being compromised.

The purpose-driven message seems designed to avoid the things about the Gospel that make people feel uncomfortable, such as sin and Hell. Warren is absolutely right about many of the things he says. The world is full of selfish pleasure seekers. People are wondering about their purpose and significance in the world. Individual self-sacrifice is personally fulfilling and pleasing to God. But that is where Warren puts the cart before the horse.

The Bible says that without faith, it is impossible to please God. Rick Warren does not seem to be going so far as to suggest a works-based salvation but neither does he lead the reader of his book (yes, I have read it) to a personal awareness of one's sinful condition. He spent the entire interview with Larry King beating around that very important bush. It almost seems as if he's trying to sneak Jesus in through the back door.

The bottom line is this: If people decide, in their quest for self-fulfillment, significance, etc., to be self-sacrificing servants to others, and that makes them feel better about themselves and God, has Rick Warren done them any favors if they leave this life without the knowledge of their need for the redemption available only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ and His resurrection? Even servanthood is merely a good work and in the Christian life, good works are the product of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

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