Those who have been doing discernment long term may remember the battles that raged for years between Richard Abanes and Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries, the man many consider to be the godfather of the online discernment ministry.
By way of brief background, for years Ken Silva operated Apprising.org, a theologically sound discernment website where he discussed problematic Christian leaders and trends. One of Silva’s frequently discussed topics was Rick Warren and “The Purpose Driven Life.” This monstrously impactful book had come out a few years earlier and was shaping all the trends in evangelicalism. Silva would catalog the errors and concerns coming out of Saddleback, providing a repository of resources for those who opposed the teaching, and overall helping to shape online discernment ministries.
Silva would collaborate with Chris Rosebrough, who at the time was relatively new to the online discernment ministry and had a blog called “Extreme Theology” before it morphed into Fighting for the Faith and Pirate Christian Radio.
Silva sadly passed away in September of 2014.
On the other side was Richard Abanes. Abanes was a long-time Saddleback Church member, former Church staffer, and author. Describing himself as a 5-point Calvinist and apologist, he used to work for the Christian Research Institute, which was run by Walter Martin and Hank Hanegraaff. Prolific in writing for papers and magazines about the intersection of Christianity and pop culture, Abanes also wrote books against Mormonism, cults, world religions, Harry Potter, and video games.
He also wasn’t a very good discerner, despite the pedigree. He was content to defend the rapscallions of the emergent church movement, such as Rob Bell, Doug Paggit, Tony Jones, and Brian McLaren, complaining that they weren’t that bad as Silva made them out to be, and that he was being mean overly critical when he took shots at them. But more than that, he would rabidly and vociferously defend his pastor from critiques wherever he found them.
He even went so far as to write a book titled Rick Warren And The Purpose That Drives Him: An Insider Looks At The Phenomenal Bestseller. Tim Challies did an interview with him here back in 2005, where they discussed his passion and propensity to defend the purpose-driven pastor.
Consequently, Abanes would trade blows with Silva over this for years, particularly between 2007 and 2009, when things were about as contentious as they come and the battle raged the hottest. At the time Abanes threatened to sue Silva for slander and libel, all the while complaining that online discernment ministries were made up of malcontents who were acting unchristlike. In fact, he showed open contempt for them. (Some things never change.)
It was during this time when Abanes got wound up about an article Silva famously wrote back in 2005 an article titled “A PASTOR’S ASSESSMENT OF RICHARD ABANES.” Abanes believed it to be slanderous and somehow contacted Silva’s Internet Service Provider and asked them to take the page down. When Silva refused the request of his provider, IPower took down his entire website, forcing him to rebuild under a different ISP.
This was a major deal at the time, and might be likened nowadays to getting an army of people to flag every social post as inappropriate, resulting in their antagonist being kicked off the platform. [Editor’s note: Gee, that’s never happened, has it? Oh, wait a minute…]
In short, it was chaotic and messy and Abanes was about as rabid a foil as they come.
But then Richard Abanes pretty much disappeared.
In late 2009 he stopped getting into skirmishes about Warren and Saddleback. He left comboxes alone. Whereas before he wrote some 20 books in 15 years, he stopped writing and hasn’t published anything since. He went back to playwriting some and acting some, but overall has been a ghost, completely removed from this world entirely, with one of the last posts on his now-defunct blog being about how the tv show “Real Housewives of Orange County was “worldly.”
But now he has reemerged, at least a little. Someone recently found his YouTube Channel, which has only 6 subscribers and under 500 total videos. They are mostly of him performing or featuring the plays he’s written, with two in particular standing out.
One is 2016 Broadways Sings for Pride. The event is designed to celebrate the LGBTQ “community” and raise money to meet their needs. The brief snippet shows his coming out in defense of people living in that lifestyle and approving the message.
The second is a play he wrote, produced and directed called 5 Women, which, according to Abanes, was written to:
Enlighten audiences to the struggles women face every day in our society: mother-daughter relationships, sisterhood, sexual harassment/assault, unrealistic media images of beauty, and eating disorders. Also presented throughout ‘Five Women’ is the timely subject of LGBTQ relationships, which is something that must still be positively covered in the arts to further educate the public and dispel harmful myths/stereotypes about persons in the LGBTQ community.
His Facebook page likewise features support for LGBTQ rights, to the point that he even featured a pride flag on his wedding registry and writes that it would be “great” if the cartoon characters Ernie and Bert were gay.
Still claiming to be a Christian, his rabid praising of the Democrats, rants against Trump and the Republicans, support for Black Lives Matter, and his abandonment of God’s word show that he’s devolved into a progressive, liberal “Christian” who still hates discernment ministries and the truth of the scriptures.