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From a 2004 interview of Rick Warren by Modern Reformation:

Theologically, I am a monergist and firmly hold to the five solas of the Reformation.

The whole interview after the jump.

MR: Can you briefly define the purpose driven life? Is it different from the ordinary Christian life?

RW: The first answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is the best definition of the purpose-driven life: "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever." That is our purpose, pure and simple. I just took longer to say it in the book. The first chapter, "It All Starts With God," and the opening sentence of the book, "It's Not About You!" makes it clear that we were made by God, and for God, not vice-versa. Chapter seven, "The Reason For Everything" is about Soli Deo Gloria. The purpose-driven life is a God-centered life so I wouldn't call it "the ordinary Christian life" because that lifestyle isn't ordinary at all. Very few Christians I know live a truly God-centered life on a daily basis.

I am deeply humbled that God has chosen to bless the book in such an unusual way in spite of its many shortcomings. I've received tens of thousands of testimonial letters from believers who've watched their churches come alive and from unbelievers who have entered into Christ's family.

I know the reason God is using the book and campaign across denominational lines is because it was written solely for his glory. I don't consider myself to be an able writer. So for six months I shut myself away from everyone for twelve to fourteen hours a day to meet with God and to write. I often wept as I wrote each chapter, sensing that the Holy Spirit was guiding me as I struggled to explain God's purposes for our lives in the simplest ways. It was an exhausting spiritual battle, and the only thing that kept me writing was my passion for the global glory of God.

MR: What motivated you to take the message of your book, The Purpose Driven Life, and create a systematic campaign called "Forty Days of Purpose" to be used in churches across the country?

RW: I love helping other pastors, especially bi-vocational ones. Since my father ministered in small churches all his life, I've always had a heart for guys who serve churches that are too small to pay a full time salary so they work another full time job during the week. I dedicated The Purpose Driven Church book to them, and for the past twenty years I've tried to help them with resources. Ministry is difficult and we need to help each other out wherever possible. We are blessed to be a blessing to others.

I deeply believe that in our relativistic world we need more doctrine, not less. But because the world no longer speaks our language, we theologians must also be translators. Like missionaries, the truth cannot set people free unless we share it in their language.

There is absolutely nothing new in The Purpose Driven Life. It is the "faith once delivered unto the saints." All I did was try to put it in a very simple, understandable format that captures people's attention for six weeks. It is a "stealth catechism" of sorts. It's just a tool to help pastors grow their people.

I love to teach theology without using theological terms (any seminary student can do that) and without telling unbelievers it is theology! For that reason, I intentionally labored to be as plain, uncomplicated, and simple as possible in writing the book. By simple I don't mean shallow or superficial -- the word means clearly understandable. Einstein once said "Your brilliance isn't worth much unless you can explain it in a simple way." It's quite easy to be complex and confusing with doctrine but it takes hard work to state truth in the simplest, shortest way. Jesus was the master at this. He stated profound truths in simple ways. Today, in our attempt to impress others, pastors and professors are more likely to do the opposite!

I knew that by simplifying doctrine in a devotional format for the average person, I ran the risk of either understating or overstating some truths. I'm sure I have done that. I also knew that I'd be criticized for what I left out of the book and for using fifteen different translations and paraphrases to get the message across. But I decided when I planted Saddleback in 1980 that I'd rather reach large numbers of people for Christ than seek the approval of religious traditionalists. In the past eight years, we've baptized over 11,000 new adult believers at our church. I am addicted to changed lives.

Regarding the campaign -- we've done an annual spiritual growth emphasis at Saddleback each fall for years. The power of focusing all our prayers, our sermons, and our studies on a single theme like faith (Heb 11) or love (1 Cor. 13) has incredible benefits. "40 Days of Purpose" was the most life-changing campaign in the history of our church. The number of people involved in weekly home Bible study groups grew from 8,000 to over 23,000. Membership, giving, worship attendance, and people involved in ministry and mission projects all exploded exponentially. As a result, over 4,500 of our members were sent out on a mission project somewhere in the world in the last twelve months. People who think Saddleback is a shallow, compromising megachurch just don't know the facts. The membership requirements at Saddleback are so high most American church members could not join us, and we actively practice church discipline.

"40 Days of Purpose" brought such revival and renewal to our congregation we offered it to a few other churches. Those churches exploded with spiritual growth too. The word got out, and the rest is history. This is a sovereign move of God that caught us all by surprise. We certainly didn't manufacture or plan this. In fact, our staff has been playing "catch-up" with the demand from other churches all year long.

MR: Does the "Forty Days of Purpose" campaign reflect any particular theological stance or is it theologically neutral?

RW: It is impossible to be theologically neutral. However, it is possible to love, respect, and appreciate the ministry of godly brothers who have theological differences with you. On earth we "see through a glass darkly" so we all need a large dose of humility in dealing with our differences. God's ways are awesome and far beyond human mental capabilities. He has no problem reconciling the supposed theological conflicts that we debate when ideas don't fit neatly into our logical, rational systems (Isa. 58:8-9).

Theologically, I am a monergist and firmly hold to the five solas of the Reformation. It's pretty obvious from the book that I believe in foreknowledge, predestination, (see chapter two, "You Are Not An Accident") and, especially, concurrence -- that God works in and through every detail of our lives, even our sinful choices, to cause his purposes to prevail. Proverbs 19:21 (NIV) is one of my life verses.

But rather than categorize myself with a theological label, I want to be known -- like Jesus -- as "a friend of sinners" and -- like Paul -- as simply "a servant of Jesus Christ." In the past sixteen years, God has allowed me the privilege of helping encourage and train over 300,000 evangelical pastors from a wide spectrum of denominations and 137 different countries. (I am aware that some of my Reformed brothers believe that only they have the right to legitimately be called "evangelicals," and I playfully disagree.)

It's been fascinating to see how people interpret my book through their own theological lenses. On the same day this week I received an email from a Presbyterian brother accusing me of "being an Arminian" and another email from a Lutheran brother criticizing me for being "too Calvinistic!" I just remind myself that even Jesus could not please everyone, and I refocus on living for an audience of One. I'm a fourth-generation Baptist pastor. My great grandfather was led to Christ by Charles Spurgeon, attended Spurgeon's college, and was sent by Spurgeon to America to pastor. So I guess God predestined me to be a Baptist! I would ask readers for grace in three areas:

First, the book contains much of what I believe, but is does not contain ALL of what I believe about any particular doctrine. I actually removed over 400 pages of material that I wrote, but decided not to include. Exhaustive studies exhaust people. The book is a devotional, not a dissertation.

Second, the book is not intended to be a systematic theology. Saddleback's systematic theology is another book called Foundations. It is a nine month doctrinal course, written by Pastor Tom Holladay and my wife Kay, for our congregation. To my knowledge, Saddleback may be the only church in America that requires a nine month systematic theology course for anyone who wants to serve on our staff or as a lay leader in our church. Over 5,000 members have completed Foundations in the past ten years, and we have over 3,000 more members studying the course right now. Saddleback members are doctrinally astute.

Third, the book is about the Christian's walk, not justification. I did include a simple call to Christ in case unbelievers picked up the book (which thousands have). But to know my full view of the doctrines of grace, you'd need to have heard my two year, verse-by-verse exposition through Romans. We've gone through Romans twice since I started Saddleback.

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82 thoughts on “Rick Warren: Monergist”

  1. Paul Adams says:

    As Emeril would say “BAM!”
    Any questions?

    1. Donahue says:

      Yeah I have a question: does anybody know what lip service is?

      This is Rick Warren’s theology—any he is only fooling the people that enjoy being fooled. I know, I know, I just need to “chill the heck out” and love Jesus, right?

      1. Jason says:

        I’m curious Donahue, how does this email condemn Rick Warren. Is is because he is going to teach God’s word to unchurched people and share the message of faith with them. Is is because he desires to see people committed to the church and in fellowship. Is it because he is discipling the people in the church. Or is it because he is working with all God’s energy to proclaim Christ, to warn them of judgment, teach them with wisdom and present everyone mature in Christ (Col 1:28-29).
        Rick Warren is a good Pastor, and I am very impressed with his leadership, his heart for the nations, and his passion as an evangelist. You would do well to listen to Dr. Piper’s explanation why he invited Rick Warren and consider why you are condemning a Christian brother (
        Paul says, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 1:1-3).

      2. Paul says:

        Even if the charge against Warren has some substance, how must we respond in light of St. Paul?
        “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”

        Ergo…I rejoice!!

      3. I went to that link and clicked on the “accept jesus into your heart” or whatever link. I thought the Gospel presentation was pretty good:

  2. Thanks Justin. I’ve been really impressed with @rickwarren.

    For a long time his culture made me think that he wasn’t solid. But then I actually visited his town, met his people, met his staff, and went to his church. He’s loves Jesus and preaches the Gospel to his people

  3. Jason Woelm says:

    As convincing as this apologetic for Warren may seem, if one looks at the body of his work over the many years of Warren’s ministry, this interview with Modern Reformation appears to be an aberration or pandering.

    This post practices classic reductionism–it appeals to only a sliver of the evidence that will attempt to bolster the case that Dr. Piper hasn’t jumped the shark in inviting Rick Warren to DG10. No–beloved brother in the Lord Dr. Piper is a gift to the Church, but he has made a critical mistake in extending this invitation.

    As always, he has my prayers.

    1. Andrew Faris says:

      What evidence do you have that Warren is not, in fact, a monergist?

    2. Jason says:

      You might be interested to hear Pastor John address this issue. Here’s a video from last night –

  4. Aaron says:

    “this interview with Modern Reformation appears to be an aberration or pandering.” — I sadly concur

  5. Victor says:

    Was Warren ever on the White Horse Inn radio program?

  6. JR says:

    Great Find.

    I fear the blogosphere will be parsing Rick Warren for the next few days. Cross referencing statements such as these with lines in his book(s), interviews and sermons.

    I pray we’d be as diligent with the Scriptures themselves.

  7. David Hovis says:

    I think the problem most people have with Rick Warren is that he spends a lot of time being practical. Well, the day I needed practical answers he gave them to me. Rick came to New England while I was pastoring a small Baptist church there in an Irish Catholic neighborhood. He took time out to meet with pastors 35 and under at Congress in Boston – it’s THE annual Evangelical gathering in New England. He could have spent time schmoozing with anyone, but he spent it helping young pastors.

    Anyway, Rick was incredibly down to earth. When I described the problems I was having in my church to him, he nailed everything about it. Everything he predicted came true. He has a lot of wisdom about how churches work, why churches are more interested in the status quo than reaching their neighbors for Christ, and what it takes to get beyond the status quo.

    As to theology, I have been through their entire member’s class materials and they were challenging and biblical. I have read Purpose-Driven Life, and while it is definitely light reading, it sure got millions back into the church – what those churches did with them is their problem. Purpose-driven Church is an amazingly helpful book when you are a young pastor (and probably should be read by a lot of older pastors too). How many churches insist their members join a small group? Didn’t Jesus have a small group? Wouldn’t it be a good idea if we really encouraged small groups?

    So, in addition to reading the Modern Reformation article, meeting him for several hours, thoroughly studying his membership materials, and reading his books, I have also had a chance to see the fruit of these materials on other people in my church. For some, they merely got more insular and less interested in reaching the lost – more interested in being skeptical. For most, they got excited about the power of the Gospel and radical church membership where authentic fellowship, small groups, evangelism and missions were all strong pillars of the church, flowing out of a heart of Gospel-centered worship of our King!

    Don’t get me wrong, Rick Warren is a sinner and far from perfect. So am I. So is John Piper. So are their critics. But I’ll stick up for sinners striving hard after God through Christ most any day.

    1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

      But I’ll stick up for sinners striving hard after God through Christ most any day.”

      Count me in too.

  8. Echos of the freak out over @pastormark being invited to DG08. John Piper built a bridge (and also HELPED) Mark Driscoll. I can only hope to see the same work in Rick Warren after this is over.

    1. Dan Phillips says:

      Tangential question that I ask purely because I don’t know the answer.

      Why do you do “@pastormark” in a comment-thread? Does that accomplish something I’ve not heard of?


      1. David Gill says:

        It’s Mark Driscoll’s name on Twitter…same with Rick Warren’s being @rickwarren. It’s just another way to refer to them.

        1. Dan Phillips says:

          So… it doesn’t do anything? It’s just, what, so if people want to find Driscoll on Twitter, now they know how?


          1. David Gill says:

            Yes. It’s just a Twitter username. It’s becoming more common to refer to people that way so they can be located and followed. Doesn’t mean anything beyond that.

    2. John says:

      Sorry, Dan, that’s a symbol that one is cool and with it, and you obviously aren’t, so you’ll just have to come up with your own ways of utilizing the shift key and the number bar :-)

  9. Reg Schofield says:

    Where in Warrens preaching , messages can you find the doctrines of grace consistently spelled out? I read the interview with Modern Reformation and was not convinced when I read it back then . Plus the guys at White Horse have been critical of Warrens whole 40 day purpose driven slant. Need I say Michael Hortons book , The Gospel Driven Life anyone. While it was not a direct critic , it was definitely a bit of a push back . Warren is a pragmatist , if the context had have been with a major SBC convention magazine that despises Calvinism , I’m pretty sure Warren would have said not the opposite but it would have been pretty soft .
    He is not a heretic and I do think he has a love for the Lord but I just do not think his methodology is sound. Piper has been a major factor in Driscoll’s change , I think . So I’m trying to keep an open mind but I’m still a bit perplexed.

    1. DrewK says:

      Yes. I am perplexed too. Would that he had invited “gospel-driven Mike Horton instead.

    2. Nate says:

      George Whitefield was once asked, by a person who thought John Wesley was not “reformed” enough, a question. “Do you believe you will see Wesley in heaven?” Whitefield replied, “No!” After a pause he then said, “I won’t be that close to the throne of God.”

      We should do well to remember that Warren hasn’t been preaching heresy and Saddleback has seen thousands won to the Lord.

      1. Victor says:

        Are you seriously comparing Rick Warren to John Wesley?

        1. Nate says:

          No, but if you can’t understand the analogy, then you are opposed to any other form of orthodoxy except your own.

  10. Gary Fox says:

    I’ve always thought either Warren was a closet Calvinist OR he really did not understand the logical conclusion of the theme of his book (which is the case with the preaching and teaching of about 80% of Baptists btw regarding these issues…most live with a glorious inconsistency when it comes to the doctrines of Divine Sovereignty and human “autonomy”). But I do see traces of the reformed viewpoint sprinkled throughout The Purpose Driven Life and so this does not completely surprise me…in fact it encourages me! However it is certainly not the deepest spot in the pond of course.

  11. Gary Fox says:

    the “it” in my last sentence refers to his book, The Purpose Driven Life.

  12. Cornelius says:

    It was interesting last night on John Piper’s live discussion from Desiring God. There are a lot of mean and hurt comments coming across on Twitter about his theological foundation and questioning Piper’s decision to allow him to speak at the Desiring God Conference. While I have never read his book, he does seem genuine in telling others about Jesus. I guess that’s good enough for me.

  13. DJ says:

    I’m out the door to go buy Purpose Driven Life…

  14. Hayden says:

    In his book the “Purpose Driven Church” Rick states, “It is my deep conviction that anybody can be won to Christ if you discover the key to his or her heart… But the most likely place to start us with the person’s felt needs.” (pg. 219,also read all of Part Three in the book to see this played out in application)

    OR John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day”

    Which of these is monergistic?

    I appreciate much about Rick Warren and he may hold a monergistic position personally but it does not play out in his writings or in practice. A wise pastor told me once “Don’t tell me what you believe, show me”

    1. Nate says:

      So… The parable of the Good Samaritan is irrelevant? And God does not use believers meeting felt needs of the lost and sharing Christ with them to draw people to Himself?

      Well, your wise pastor is right. Warren has shown us. He has planted a church and seen thousands come to the Lord. I don’t have to agree with every aspect of Warren to affirm him as a servant of the Lord. Who am I?

      Perhaps your wise pastor should ask you to show and tell.

      1. So because God uses all things to work for His purposes, we should wholesale accept as legitimate all of those things? Would you have sat under the teaching of Balaam’s donkey because God was obviously using it?

        That argument is tired.

        1. Nate says:

          To compare Warren to Balaam’s donkey is ASSinine

          1. I actually didn’t compare Warren to Balaam’s donkey, but you were too busy coming up with a comeback to notice that.

            The point is, the argument “God uses that,” which presented itself in, “People are getting saved through his ministry,” is a non-issue, because the Scripture teaches us that God uses everything, even sin, and even asinine things like a donkey, to accomplish what He will.

            There’s no comparison of Warren to anything. Just trying to show that your reasoning is flawed.

            1. Nate says:

              Who are you comparing the situation to, Spurgeon? Please.
              We are speaking about Warren.

              1. Wow. Are you being intentionally dismissive of what I actually said?

                I’m not comparing the situation to anyone. (Re-read that.)

                I’m taking a look at the reasoning you’re using to give Warren a free pass, and I’m demonstrating that that reasoning is not sound. It has nothing to do with Warren.

      2. Hayden says:


        Please be careful with the snark factor. It is easy to criticize a man that you know nothing about. The wise Pastor that I was talking about has been faithful for 40+ years in the ministry and is far from bombastic or overly critical. It was in response to the both of us talking about 1 John, and had nothing to do with Rick Warren (we actually read through the “Purpose Driven Church” together and liked some of it and implemented some of it as well). (By the way the wise Pastor was asking me to show and tell which is why I am in a church plant pastoring outside of Gainesville Florida)

        I really do not have a problem with Rick Warren speaking at the DG conference. The only concern that I have is that words must have meaning. Mr. Warren may personally hold to a monergistic way of salvation but it does not bear out in his sermons (which I have listened to many of) or books (which I have read many of them). That is all that I am trying to say. He will stand before the Lord, as will I, and answer for His ministry whether good or bad.

        Please dial back on the heat my brother. I was just bringing up a point and was in no way attacking Mr Warren.

        PS Go back and exegete the passage in Luke that you are referencing to make your point. Read it in the context of Jesus’ ministry at the time He taught it.

        1. Nate says:

          I was not trying to bring any more of a “snark” factor than I presupposed your reference to John 6:44 did. Sorry if you didn’t mean to infer it either. I just find it unbelievably crass for us to pick at a man who is preaching the gospel (perhaps not as we all would). But he is not preaching heresy, or do you believe he is? It’s easy to cast stones, but I guess that story doesn’t have relevance here either, right? Just saying…

          1. Hayden says:

            I was only commenting on the claim that he was a monergist, which was the point of this article. I never said that he didn’t preach the Gospel, he just preaches a synergistic Gospel. You keep making many leaps to places I was never going.

            Though Mr. Warren claims to be a monergist, it does not bear out in his writings, sermons, or in the way he presents the Gospel. That does not mean he is a heretic or anything else.

            (Guys like Adrian Rogers, and Wesley were not monergists either, but I still think they did some great work.)

  15. DrewK says:

    Very, very interesting. Warren @ DG10? I had considered going. Not so sure now. Of course, Piper has invited other controversal speakers before, not just Driscoll. (Doug Wilson) As to Piper’s influence on Driscoll, I think it will become more evident as time goes on. Piper could be his dad, a clear mentoring relationship. As to Piper influencing Warren…I don’t hold out much hope. Piper often has a brief interview on why he invites the speakers he does. I am waiting with baited breath for his “why” on Warren. Perhaps this God’s way of getting Piper off my pedestal :)

      1. DrewK says:

        Just watched it. OK, I can accept that, but I still have misgivings about Warren. The rest of the lineup for the conference may be enough to offset the presence of Warren.

      2. Paula says:

        I watched the whole interview. This is only a small portion of it but it is bad enough. He also answered it back in February and called Warren ‘theological, doctrinal, and sound” which completely minimizes the great damage RW has done with is false teaching. Is JP on some other planet where he is completely unaware of how RW is dividing churches and ‘disciplining’ (oh he could put John Piper to shame for his church discipline routine!) out those who want sound theology taught in their churches and who don’t want heretics, marxists, pro-death people like Barak Obama to be given a forum at church.

  16. Gary Fox says:

    I think it is CRAZY that Warren is being treated like some heretic or something or as if the DG Conference is supposed to be some kind of sacred and hard core Calvinist pow-wow!

  17. This is a wonderful example and should serve as a wake-up call to all of us. What one confesses to be and to believe is not always what he in fact is and what he in fact does believe.

    1. Paula says:

      >This is a wonderful example and should serve as a wake-up call to all of us. What one confesses to be and to believe is not always what he in fact is and what he in fact does believe.

      Did I hear that right? You think this is ok? This is called being duplicitious, double minded, and dishonest.

      It may mean that under all the trash, Rick Warren is saved himself, but it also means he is actively burying his talent, hiding his lampstand under a bushel. What does Jesus say about servants like that?

      1. No, I don’t think it’s OK. I think it’s ridiculous. But I’m hoping that it’ll send a message to the tragically-charitable tone-police type evangelicals that it’s actually quite undiscerning, not loving, to blindly accept whatever someone says they believe. Here’s proof positive that someone’s confessional theology doesn’t work itself out practically.

        1. Sorry, correction:

          “…doesn’t _always_ work itself out practically.”

  18. David H. says:

    I’m not too worried about the whole Rick Warren thing. Too few Christians understand the power of hospitality, let alone practice it, and I think Pipers gesture will reap good fruit in the long run. In the gospels, it was the religious establishment that called Christ a glutton and a wine-bibber because he was a friend of tax-collectors and sinners. We would all do well to remember that theological boundaries don’t define boundaries of Christian fellowship. If anything, I think that this move might serve to strengthen the bonds of the church universal. We’ve been splintered for so long that it’s made us highly ineffective in culture and it’s time that we got over our petty differences and started working with each other in the trenches and across doctrinal lines.

  19. Clint says:

    Purpose-driven Life was very influential in my conversion. My fear with this New Calvinist movement is that even faithful (yet different) shepherds will be treated like wolves. It would be a rapid demise.

    38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.

  20. Paula says:


    1. Alex says:

      *cricket cricket*

  21. Richard says:

    Rick Warren is not a “heretic,” but he does have a serious problem understanding the distinction between Law and Gospel. This can lead to some pretty serious screw-ups in your theology–“PDL” was an example of this. The book spent a chapter talking how it is all about God, then spent the rest of the book talking about us, and what we “need” to do to win God’s smile; it was pretty dreadfull stuff.

  22. Raymond Coffey says:

    When I was an Arminian I believed in the five sola’s. Much like a Roman Catholic who claims they beleive in salvation by grace. The issue is what does Warren believe about the Arminian perspective on “free will” and the ability to “choose” Christ.

  23. Lou G says:

    I have been praying that God would grant me better clarity on this issue and charity for our brother in Christ.

    A quote from Paul Alexender of 9 Marks has been helpful to me:
    “the tendency of purpose to replace the primacy of the Gospel has implications for the life of the church that we are confident Warren would not intend.”

    One the one hand, I have witnessed some of the implications for the life of the church where purpose replaces the Gospel as a primary driving force. I have seen what happens where reformed doctrine is clearly stated in the mission statement, but is ignored at the level of ecclesiology. It has been a truly traumatic experience for many people I know.

    On the other hand, I have been greatly convicted of my heart too.
    Warren is clearly on the same team — not a heretic. He is the Lord’s servant and I must not judge God’s servant. I can still take a stand on certain seeker sensitive practices in the church, and love my brother in the Lord.
    Peace, Lou G.

  24. Steve D says:

    From the way that some are acting, you would have thought that John Piper had invited Christopher Hitchens to speak. I have not seen one reference where Rick Warren has denounced the Gospel. I haven’t even seen statements where he could be accused of misrepresenting the Gospel. What I have seen is a lot of accusations and innuendo. I don’t agree 100% with Warren, but his presentation of the Gospel is Biblical. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but that is why God raises up different people.

    1. Lou G says:

      Steve, give me a break. You haven’t been reading if haven’t seen at least a few specifics on how PDL/PDC obscures and misrepresents the gospel. If you would like someone to spell it out for you with references, it would be better to do it offline. What’s your email?

      1. sean leroy says:

        Lou that’s your opinion…in YOUR opinion PDL obscures the gospel. That’s a total subjective statement and were you a journalist, you get a #totalfail. I’ve met others for whom it clarifies the gospel…I must be the only person in the world who has never read either book, but before you think and act like you have the corner on truth, think and then act again, my friend.

        1. Lou G says:

          Dear Mr. Sean Leroy,
          #1 no, I’m not a journalist, so therefore, I do not claim to write like one (I hope this calms your expectations of my reply).
          #2, I’m not going to re-link, re-quote, or re-anything the dozens of theologians who have examined and weighed in on their concerns about PDL and PDC from a theological standpoint (there have already been enough of those, if you choose to read them, including Piper himself in the video),
          #3 So.. you claim to judge how I “think” and “act” — that’s a lofty ambition, is it not? Of course, I don’t think I have the corner on truth and frankly don’t see any evidence of having acted that way either.
          #4 I’ve never met you, therefore, I’m not sure why you would come after me in such a personal way and then call me your “friend.”

          Good day, gotta run. +

      2. Steve D says:


        You obviously are seeing something I am not. I see a flyer that is inviting people to church membership classes and baptism the same day. It includes a link to a 12 minute presentation of the Gospel that is easy to understand. I am not so sure what is offensive, watered down, apostate, or heretical about what Warren has done. Perhaps you could be specific and enlighten me.

        1. Lou G says:

          Sorry, that was not specifically the link I meant. I was also unclear about that particular link myself. Sorry, I’ve been runnigng in and out and haven’t been able to follow-up well.

          I would try Dr. Horton’s link at:

          It points to legit concerns with respect and without condemnation, which is basically how I land (but it’s written 100 times better than anything I’d come up with) :)

          1. Steve D says:

            Thank you for the link, Lou.

            A few thoughts:

            I often wonder if we tend to complicate Christianity beyond belief. We are told that our faith should be child like, that is simple, not complex. After watching both Piper’s and Warren’s Gospel presentations and reading your link I think that some of the criticisms of Warren are true. However, if I had an unsaved, unchurched friend, I would show them the Warren video. It’s easy to understand and frighteningly free of christian jargon. Most unchurched do not get all of the jargon. To quote Horton:

            “However, the radical condition of sin is reduced to negative attitudes and behaviors and the radical redemption secured by Christ’s propitiatory death and resurrection are reduced to general and vague statements about God giving us another chance.”

            Honestly, do you think an unchurched person would get the idea of what he is saying? If the Gospel is supposed to be simple, then do we really need to add so many words just to complicate?

  25. JManning says:

    ::sarcasm:: Rick Warren evangelizes, he is, therefore, clearly not monergistic. ::sarcasm::

    Do the people who are dissing Warren really believe that Piper (or any other Reformed leader) has PERFECT theology? If you accept flaws in them, why won’t you accept flaws in another?

    1. sean leroy says:

      J – agreed…that’s what this is really about – perfect theology -underneath all the rhetoric, don’t ya think? I mean no body admits to it, but it’s often how we act. My spiritual heritage – Calvary Chapel – as an unnecessary black eye because of how they’ve chosen to handle Willow and SB…and they’ve come off not as a group concerned about truth, but as a manic group paranoid about everything/one that’s different than they are…sad to say, it’s business as usual w/ many on this blog, on this topic.

  26. David Gill says:

    If this were to be a serious examination of the negatives and positives of Warren’s theology and practice, where the man himself, whom I don’t know, were measured against the teachings of Scripture and the mix of good and bad were viewed with everyone in an attitude of repentance for both his sins and our own, I’d be all about him coming to speak.

    This, unfortunately, is not the attitude with which Americans (or anyone for that matter) come to conferences. People are more likely to rally around a magnetic personality, whether it’s Piper or Driscoll, Mahaney or Warren. Yes, there is less cause for concern in the theology of Piper or Mahaney or Driscoll…but how many people actually hear the theology and discern humbly is rather distressing.

    Maybe this is too much for many, but when I read a book by Piper, I read just as carefully as when I read one by Pagitt, McLaren, or John Owen. This is not because I like to find the holes in everyone’s theology, but rather because I want to be a workman approved. If Scripture is our highest authority, then no one is exempt from having what they say being compared to the word of God.

    I would echo many of the comments here in expressing concern that Warren’s practice does not, in fact, line up with this six year old interview. His sermons, while indeed practical, emphasize the practical to the exclusion of declaration of repentance and the forgiveness of sins as being both the basis and the endpoint of the Christian life. Sanctification is often assumed to be connected to salvation, but not clearly declared to be so.

    In my own practice, I have taken such error and rather than demonizing Warren, I’ve sought to correct my own error of emphasis, while also calling him and others who are out of balance to repentance and joy in Christ. This is not because I’ve fine-tuned my own speaking and worship leading, but because I’m striving to teach and sing in a way that is more and more consonant with Scripture.

    Personally, I’m all about calling a spade a spade. But the blatant mis-characterizations of folks who have concerns here by those who think those comments are absurd demonstrates that what is being said here isn’t being seriously considered.

    All of that said, I have a serious concern with giving the platform to a man who is semi-Pelagian in his teaching from Sunday to Sunday (a charge I can back up…I’m not over-reaching my interaction with his work here).

    1. Excellent perspective, David. It reminds me of this other blog post on the subject:

      It is true that even though we are talking about prominent church leaders, we are also just as responsible for our own study to show ourselves approved. Every leader, no matter how influential, has clay feet. All of the contributors to this blog have their own flaws and sins.

      “simul justus et peccator”

  27. Ken Silva says:

    Rick Warren: “Theologically, I am a monergist and firmly hold to the five solas of the Reformation.”

    Rick Warren: “Now I don’t agree with everything in everybody’s denomination, including my own. I don’t agree with everything that Catholics do or Pentecostals do, but what binds us together is so much stronger than what divides us,… I really do feel that these people are brothers and sisters in God’s family. I am looking to build bridges with the Orthodox Church, looking to build bridges with the Catholic Church,….”

    Which one do we believe?

    1. Paula says:

      Ken, he sure doesn’t want to build bridges with those who disagree with him on minor issues like bringing Obama into the church to speak, etc.

  28. Alan Kurschner says:

    Rick Warren is a theological politician. He will tickle the ears of his target audience:

  29. Ben says:

    This is exactly what I was afraid would happen. Now that Piper brought in Warren into the fellowship folks will do what they can to prop up Warren. Somehow he is a monergist? Really? I have lost so much respect for Piper over this. I am thankful for his books and ministry, but this is sad.

    1. JPManning says:

      With all due respect the attitude this embodies really scares me. If someone disagrees with your theological position he is apostate, but if someone hammers out diatribes against all free-willers and never sets foot on the mission field his is a saint of God. It doesn’t matter if he ignores the social implications of the Gospel for justice and mercy, but if he gets substitutionary atonement right, we’ll forgive his neglect of those annoying social issues.

      It’s a shame Piper has ruined the Calvinist club, now all the armchair theologians might have to read someone who convicts them for their actions, yet is a theological midget in their reckoning.

      I am a Calvinist, I’m Reformed, and I have no problem with Warren being invited to speak at this conference. His input will be good. Piper isn’t making the man into the pope, he is speaking and his ideas will be weighed and examined by thinking people I hope, not meticulously hounded by the Banner of Truth fanclub.

      1. Jason Woelm says:


        I would be more careful about the slivers of evidence you post next time. I think that article does not mean what you think it means.

  30. Eric Landry says:

    People are starting to ask us questions about our own views of Pastor Warren in light of the interview he did with us in 2004. Michael Horton provides a response on the White Horse Inn blog.

    1. Wow. That article is extremely helpful. I’m no Justin Taylor, but that article deserves its own front page post here at BTW.

    2. Bp says:

      “Pastor Warren tailors his appeals to his audience. To Calvinists, he stresses his support for the “solas” of the Reformation. Yet he tells prosperity evangelist David Yonggi Cho, “I’ve read your books on Vision and Dreams – speak to pastors about how you hear the voice of the Holy Spirit?…What advice would you give to a brand new minister?…Do you think American churches should be more open to the prayer for miracles?” (“Breakfast With David Yonggi Cho And Rick Warren,” In a June 2006 article in, editor-in-chief Rob Eshman reported on a speech that Warren gave for Synagogue 3000, after Rabbi Ron Wolfson became involved in the Purpose-Driven pastoral training seminars. “Warren managed to speak for the entire evening without once mentioning Jesus — a testament to his savvy message-tailoring.” When USA Today asked him why Mormon and Jewish leaders are involved in his pastoral training programs, Rick Warren reportedly said, “I’m not going to get into a debate over the non-essentials. I won’t try to change other denominations. Why be divisive?” (USA Today, July 21, 2003). Rick Warren endorses a host of books, from New Age authors to Emergent writers to conservative evangelicals. So why not include Calvinists?”

      That speaks volumes.

      1. Jason Woelm says:


        That article isn’t looking so good now, is it?

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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