Perhaps no single individual has done as much to stunt the spiritual growth of and sear the modern American evangelical conscience than Rick Warren. With his Peter Drucker-mentored corporatization of the church, his Schuller-inspired, man-pleasing “gospel,” and his endless ability to taint every would-be solid minister from John Piper to Al Mohler on his way to becoming the king of dollar store, bargain bin Christianity, Rick Warren’s career has been nothing short of infamous. Warren’s brand of cheap, biblically-devoid, “I’m lovin’ it” Christianity has been the junk food that fattened up the American McChurch with so many empty spiritual calories that, even if we knew the race we were supposed to run many of us couldn’t do it.
In the wake of Warren’s Saddleback Church being (surprisingly) disfellowshipped by the Southern Baptist Convention for their blatant disregard for the scriptural (and Baptist Faith and Message) teaching on the office of pastor, Warren joined his fellow former SBC interloper Russell Moore to discuss his supposedly changed beliefs on the topic. No Rick Warren appearance would be complete, of course, without his signature Bible-twisting, patronizing abuse of language, and a healthy dose of Trump-esque narcissistic puffery, and Warren didn’t disappoint.
Warren begins by comparing himself to Moore himself and Beth Moore as people who left the SBC (apparently forgetting the fact that the other two left of their own accord), then reminds listeners that of all the Southern Baptists, he is the most Southern Baptisty of all:
Because when I started Saddleback Church 43 years ago, although I am a fourth-generation Southern Baptist… And my grandfather, Chester Armstrong was related to Annie Armstrong. That’s my pretty much pedigree. My great, great grandfather was led to Christ by Charles Spurgeon and sent to America to plant churches in the 1860s. So I have a long Baptist background. But you know what, we’ve done so many things not by the book…
Not by the book. We couldn’t agree more. Not to be outmaneuvered, self-described lifelong SBC’er Moore describes himself as “bowled over” that the SBC would be concerned about “giving women too much [leadership]” (women pastors at Saddleback) when the convention is full of sexual abuse and “crises” involving the treatment of women:
…I would think with all of the crises involving the treatment of women – sexual abuse within the SBC – that saying that a church is giving women too much, is really not the problem in the SBC as I see it, and I couldn’t believe that that’s what they were taking up.
Warren responds with an attempted dunk on “voices” in the SBC who object to losing church autonomy in an effort to fight abuse in SBC churches, claiming that:
It’s not an accident that the same voices that said, “we cannot protect women from abuse because of the autonomy of the local church,” are the same voices that are saying, “but we can prevent them from being called pastors.”
Hey genius, nobody is trying to prevent you from calling your women “pastors.” We just object to associating with churches that can’t obey the clear teachings of the Bible.
In what may have been the dumbest thing he claimed, Warren drew a distinction between “conservative” Baptists and so-called “fundamental” Baptists, and said “fundamental Baptists,” like “fundamental Muslims,” “fundamental Buddhists,” and “fundamental atheists” are simply those who have “stopped listening.” Unlike Warren of course, who in the same breath utters, “I believe in the inerrancy of scripture,” but “I could be wrong” before deriding so-called “fundamentalists” for ascribing inerrancy to what they believe the Bible teaches.
In other words, Rick Warren is just fine teaching people things under the authority of scripture that he is not confident are actually correct. One wonders which of Warren’s teachings he is okay being uncertain about – could he be wrong about the deity of Christ? The virgin birth? Could he be wrong about his purported belief in salvation by faith alone?
Warren then explains to Moore how, because the Great Commission presumably includes women (“teaching them to obey all I have taught you”), the clear, natural limitations prescribed by God for men and women don’t apply. Much like during his 43 years of preaching (which he will surely remind you along with his 57,000 baptisms, 165 countries supposedly visited, and 200 books he supposedly read while his church closed down for COVID, 30,000 church members, 20 campuses on four continents, staff of 500, 2nd-best selling book next to the Bible, translated into 200 languages, record-breaking Warren Act bill in congress, preaching starting as just a boy, 120 crusades before age 20, caught the attention of Billy Graham who then mentored him for 50 years while giving out the book he wrote in his 20’s in 17 languages, starting his own Jesus Revolution at his school and converted several hundred kids, etc.*), Warren happily decontextualizes Acts 2:17 (Joel’s prophecy about the Millennial Kingdom) to claim that “your sons and daughters shall prophesy” somehow means women can ignore the 1 Tim. 2:12 prohibition to teach men in the church before laughably regurgitating the silly “Mary Magdelene telling the disciples Jesus was alive was the first sermon, therefore women can preach” nonsense. Warren falsely claims that “John MacArthur doesn’t even cover that verse,” even though the MacArthur Study Bible has a 200-word commentary on just Acts 2:17 with 18 contextualizing cross-references to other passages.
*Yes, all of these humble, not-at-all-exaggerated claims made an appearance during the 54-minute podcast.
Moore asks Warren if he’s not okay with women serving as elders or senior pastors, and Warren says he is, followed by yet another bizarre, ridiculous lie:
For 2000 years, the church has debated the role of women in culture.
No, it hasn’t. The role of women in the church (as an extension of the submissive order within the family) has been firmly defined within orthodox Christianity until pragmatists like Warren started bending the knee to the secular culture.
Of course, no flailing explanation would be complete without pulling the race card, which Warren did as he claimed that the SBC refusing cooperation with woman-pastored churches was tantamount to refusing to welcome black churches:
For hundreds of years, black Baptist churches have been ordaining women. As bishops, as pastors, as prophetesses, as apostles, as elders, as deaconesses. If this is true, the SBC is holding up a sign that said, “all black churches look elsewhere. You’re not wanted here.” Because they already have.
Ever the saint, Warren claimed that, while he’d rather walk away from the SBC, he will most likely appeal the decision to disfellowship Saddleback to “stand up for the [woman-ordaining] pastors who are scared to death by this Inquisition” (of churches insisting on fidelity to scripture).
The rest of the podcast is Warren being Warren – insecurely doting on himself. Moore asks Warren about the so-called Asbury revival, and after telling those of us who have been critical of things we’ve seen to “shut up,” Warren reminds everyone not to forget how Asbury is really about Rick Warren:
I was in high school at that time. I was in high school. Robert Coleman wrote a little book very quickly about that revival – 52 years ago at Asbury. They sent out over 2000 revival teams to share their story with other universities. That was one of the factors that started the Jesus movement – the Jesus revolution. That was one of the factors that started it in the 70s. I got that little book and I read it, and it turned my heart on. And revival’s caught. When you see you go, “Oh, Lord, I want that in my school.” I took it back to my high school, several hundred kids came to Christ. And a revival broke out in my school, which was one of the places the Jesus movement started in Northern California.
Despite his purported personal desire to “not go where he’s unwanted,” Warren’s saintliness will likely compel him to appeal Saddleback’s disfellowship in June, and given how many SBC institutionalists are cut from the same cloth as Russell Moore, Saddleback will most likely be welcomed back with open arms and closed Bibles.