What do you think about Rick Warren? He gets criticized but everything I’ve read or heard of his seems Biblical to me. Do you have any thoughts?
I get hammered routinely for tackling controversy, and truthfully I get a little weary of it. This question opens up a topic I have been burdened to write about for quite a long time and I have hinted at it many times in the past. So here goes…
In short, there are LOTS of “Christian” leaders, teachers and writers out there who are heretics and false teachers. If there was a nice way to say it, I would but that is just the plain and simple of it.
Warren is not one of them. He is evidently sincere, no doubt loves the Lord, and at times, teaches a clear and truthful Gospel. Much of his teaching is sound, and it appears his heart is genuinely motivated by wanting to serve God.
However, he has succumbed, like a growing number evangelical teachers, to humanistic psychology and his writing/teaching is full of it. The problem is, the Church is being saturated in this unBiblical and thoroughly unGodly worldview. So called “Christian psychology” is not Christian at all. It is the same humanistic theory that the world teaches, wrapped in Christian lingo, propped up with some out-of-context Bible verses and made “spiritual” by some accompanying prayer.
Psychology was founded and created by God-hating, occult-entangled, drug addict, sexual deviants (all or most apply to the following): Freud, Jung, Rogers, Maslow, Abrams, etc. (Note: I use the term “psychology” hence forth generically to mean “psychotherapy”; there is some legitimate psychology, and example would be how people react to colors, or respond to the layout of a building or mechanical interface)
The Church has embraced the fallacy of psychotherapy right about the time the world is starting to see it as the farce it is: creating its own diseases, conjuring up its own diagnosis, then wrapping it all in a pseudo-scientific air of authority steamrolling anyone who disagrees or proclaims it is not “scientific”. The very premise that psychotherapy is scientific is absurd. Thoughts, emotions and behavior are not physical or chemical, they are derived from the mind and soul. If they were purely chemical, as is the basis of many of the humanistic theories, then we would be at the mercy of our brains, waiting around, wondering what chemical reaction was going to produce what thought, what wicked act, or what mood.
Warren has embraced “Christian psychology” and pop psychology ideas just like vast numbers of Christian leaders, teachers and Pastors have. Men like James Dobson bring an air of sincerity and authority to it, but make no mistake: psychology is psychology… there is no such thing as “Christian psychology”. There are only people who profess Christianity and attempt to integrate and make compatible the Godless, (and 100% incompatible) humanistic, atheistic and often times occultic ideas of psychotherapy.
Psychology very simply is a replacement religion complete with a worldview (humanism), a god (man), it’s claim of authority (science) and a church (clients). How Christians can attempt, or even want to attempt, to integrate it with Biblical Christianity is an utter mystery to me.
Jim Dobson seems to genuinely love the Lord. He has a heart for people, that’s obvious. So does Warren. But they have simply and plainly erred by introducing and indoctrinating millions of Christians in the idea that Bible is NOT sufficient for EVERY aspect of our mental, emotional and spiritual life. Make no mistake, the message of psychology is loud, clear and undeniable: the Bible alone is NOT enough. Pastors and the Word of God are insufficient. Spiritually mature Christians armed with prayer, Scripture and the Holy Spirit need the help of “trained mental health professionals”.
I don’t think these men (Warren, Dobson, Osteen, Swindoll, etc) are malicious pawns of Satan, knowingly diluting the Church and our reliance on God’s Word, but that is IN FACT what they are doing when they attempt to integrate Christian and pscyhotherapy, or humanistic pyschology concepts (like self esteem). I do NOT question the salvation or motives of these fine men, I just disagree with them about psychology.
Yes, there are some who ARE malicious and teach a blasphemously false Gospel like Schuller. Even though Warren used to claim Schuller as a mentor, he now distances himself, and does NOT teach the heretical Gospel heard in the Crystal Cathedral. I want to make it clear, that as of this date and time, I don’t put Warren and Dobson in the same category as Schuller, Templeton and some of the “latter rain” leaders (Wagner, Wimber, Bentley, etc as well as a host of the more extreme prosperity teachers).
Dobson is the leading spokesman of “Christian psychology”, promoting it’s “selfisms” that are, in my opinion, in contradiction to Scripture (self-esteem, self-love, self-forgiveness, self-acceptance, self-image, etc.) Dobson states on one hand that a lack of self-esteem is the greatest problem we have (particularly women), and on the other, says that any Christian wanting to be trained in psychology better be strong enough to withstand the humanistic ideas. Huh? But let me state again, lest it be misunderstood… I don’t question Mr. Dobson’s motives or salvation. We just disagree about psychology. I’m sure he is mature enought to accept that people may disagree.
Warren’s books such as “Purpose Driven Life” are full of pop psychology and he repeatedly quotes the humanistic Bible paraphrase “The Message” which is “the Bible according to Eugene Peterson”. “The Message” is not only a very poor paraphrase, it is saturated in pop psychology (which makes it understandable why Warren quotes from it and why so many Christians and Pastors today embrace it).
As well, Warren employs many culturally popular, sales-and-marketing and worldly-success-techniques that puts his church at the forefront of the seeker–friendly and emerging church movements which are in a nutshell “give the world what they want so they will come to us to hear about Jesus”. Sounds great from MAN’s perspective – it’s pragmatism (“if it works, it must be right”). It works in business and it works making money – so if it works to fill pews, who can argue with success? If it “works” then it MUST be blessed by God, right?
There is one big problem though: psychology does not, and cannot line up Scripturally. In many ways it is dangerous, transforming a message of “sin and the need for repentance” into a prosperity-laden, features-rich, Jesus-will-improve-your-life Gospel that leaves a very troubling question: Can this new “positive” Gospel result in genuine converts who come to Christ because they are “poor in spirit”, laying down their life, taking up their cross, and surrendering ALL to the Lordship of Jesus Christ?
The problem is not Warren, or Dobson, or even Schuller and Peale. The problem is a Church that has gradually eroded sound and serious Bible teaching which has resulted in a loss of discernment.. INCREASINGLY, THE CHURCH DOESN’T EVEN RECOGNIZE OR IS AWARE THAT THESE INSIDIOUS DILUTIONS OF THE GOSPEL AND CHRISTIANITY ARE OCCURING.
What I am writing today will be met mostly with eye-rolling and “huh?” People will write and say “Christian psychology has helped me, so you are wrong”. Then throw in a little “well my Pastor doesn’t agree with you” and “who do you think you are????? You’re not a doctor or scientist. You haven’t even gone to seminary!” and for most, that will end the discussion (and probably their subscription). My reply:
“I’m nobody… You’re right. I haven’t been to seminary, I’m not a doctor or scientist or professional clergy. I have a God-given mind, a Holy Spirit led conscience, the infallible and sufficient Word of God, and I trust the Word of the Creator of the Universe more than I trust the theories of atheists, occultists and drug addicts, even when it’s been embraced by sincere and kind Christian men and wrapped in a scientific cloak with pious sounding Biblical vocabulary.”
The Bible is the Truth, revealed and solidified for us, SUFFICIENT for EVERY emotional, spiritual and mental need:
- 2 Peter 1:2-4 (NKJV; emphasis mine) Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
- 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV; emphasis mine) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
- 2 Corinthians 2:14 (NKJV; emphasis mine) Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.
- Philippians 4:13 (NKJV; emphasis mine) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
- 1 Peter 5:10 (NKJV; emphasis mine) But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
How much clearer could the Bible be? Are these verses TRUE OR NOT? Does “all” mean “all”? Does “every” mean “every”? Is God casual in throwing around all-inclusive terms that He doesn’t really mean? Do those verses, or the following leave any gaps, any loopholes, any insufficiency whatsoever?
- Psalm 19:7-11 (NKJV; emphasis mine) The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.
That is just a taste of Scripture that declares the sufficiency of God’s power, Word and Spirit for EVERY aspect of our “life”. Regardless, we are told that we need “professionals” that have discovered and been trained in additional “truth” and without it, we cannot deal with depression, habits, mood swings, “addictions” and the tragedies of life. The Bible is good, but everyone knows that psychotherapy and worldly counseling by “trained professionals” is necessary to really deal with life’s problems, right? Especially the really difficult ones? Right?
To whatever degree you believe that atheistic, humanistic, Godless ideas of worldly psychotherapy are NEEDED to round out God’s Word and Christian discipleship, that is the degree that you do not believe in the sufficiency of Scripture for life, fulfillment, happiness and Godliness that is categorically and plainly declared cover to cover in God’s Word. My, that’s really judgmental isn’t it? Divisive? Mean spirited? Unloving? The extreme words of an untrained simpleton, ranting about that which he neither knows nor understands. All I can say is “guilty as charged”. I must have “religious delusion simplicity extremism disorder”. At least it’s not my fault… I’m sick… a chemical imbalance is causing me to say these things.
One last thing… the clarion call you’ll hear trumpeted over this issue is “all truth is God’s truth”. This pious sounding, open-minded, fool-proof mantra is repeatedly endless until it is no longer a debate. Like Al Gore and global warming, “the debate is over”.
Is “all truth God’s truth”? On the surface, of course we would say “yes”, philosophically, but we then we have to stop and really consider what we are saying. Evolutionists believe (and a large majority of Christians, sadly) that Darwinism is FACT, scientific fact. It is TRUTH. Therefore, it is now part of God’s truth evidently, since great efforts are made to make the Bible fit this “fact”.
In the same manner, psychotherapy is “scientific fact”, therefore “truth”, therefore part of God’s truth… so goes the logic and argument. First of all, let’s reiterate, psychotherapy cannot be “science” because it is not physical… but dressing it up and making it sound like science gives it automatic authority and credibility to the undiscerning. Second, even if it was TRUTH, is “all truth, God’s truth”?
The Bible never claims to be an authority on car mechanics or brain surgery. Therefore the “facts” (truth) of those cannot be included with what the Bible declares as its area of authority (life, emotional health, holiness). Two plus two equals four, but this “truth” is not part of “God’s truth” that gives us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2Pet 1:3). The Bible claims authority and completeness over the TRUTH that saves, that changes lives (Rom 12:2), that perfects us (Psalm 19), and that allows us to live a fully contented and pleasing life (Heb 13:5).
The “truth that sets us free” (John 8:32) is not “the sun rises in the east”. The Truth that “sets us free” is Truth about eternity, about the Word that pierces the heart, and can transform lives. With respect to Christianity, “all truth is NOT God’s truth”. The Bible proclaims authority and total sufficiency about the truth of salvation and sanctification. To add the “truth” of God-hating atheists (the psychotherapy principles founded by Freud, Jung, etc) to the Truth of Scriptures is to unquestionably declare the Bible as insufficient for living a holy, emotionally health and fulfilling life, and thus to call God a liar and the Bible a farce.
So, what do I think about Rick Warren? I think he has fallen for these humanistic ideas that erode God’s Word, dilute the Gospel and sadly, end up weakening and deceiving millions of Christians who are looking outside God’s Word and the Church for those things that God has specifically and completely equipped US to deal with internally. As much of the blame (or more) lays at the feet of Bible teachers, leaders, Pastors, preachers and authors as it does for the masses of Christians who now depend on and chase every fad, theory and movement that comes along, continually eating away, eating away at our reliance on God’s Living Word.
Warren is not alone. A growing majority of the Church has fallen into this trap: Word Faith leaders offering the prosperity Gospel; seeker-friendly leaders offering the watered-down, “Jesus will improve your life”, pragmatic Gospel; heretics like Schuller, Peale and Templeton offering the positive confession, new-age Gospel; the “latter rain” leaders offering the metaphysical, experiential Gospel; the cults like Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons offering “earn your way to heaven” by being in the right group Gospel; and the Roman Catholic Church offering a “Jesus plus tradition” Gospel.
In closing, let me leave you with a quick bullet list, and you decide if the pop psychology of Warren, Dobson, Schuller, Peale, Templeton, Freud, Jung, Maslow, Abrams, Rogers, Smalley, Minirth-Meier, etc. is compatible with Christianity:
- The founders of humanistic psychology did not believe in God, and were in fact hostile towards Christianity
- The major founders were atheists, occultists, sexual deviants, and drug addicts (each in various parts and ways)
- None were Christians, none believed in the Bible at all, much less the sufficiency of Scripture
- Psychology is based on the premise that man is physical, whereas the Bible says we are spiritual
- Psychology starts with the premise that man is good, and external factors, experience and chemical imbalance are the cause of our behavior. The Bible teaches that man is inherently sinful, and that the sin nature is the root of our problems
- Psychology does not recognize the role of God, the Holy Spirit or any divine power in overcoming problems or living a victorious, fulfilling life
- Psychology labels sin as disease, disorders and syndromes thereby excusing the sinner who now knows they are “sick”, not wicked
- There is NO such study course, or body of teaching known as “Christian Psychology”; Christians are trained in the exact same Godless theories even if they do include some prayer or Bible verses in their practice of it
- The world has already begun to see the fallacy of “self esteem” and other “selfisms” while the Church is currently jumping in with both feet
- Psychology cannot and is not a “science”; science is physical. Thoughts, emotions, moods and motives are not physical
- Psychology has hundreds of competing theories and studies show that none of them are particularly effective, and many are harmful. Even if they did “work”, pragmatism does not replace God’s Word
It’s easy to see why people like Schuller and Templeton preach this heresy… they don’t believe in the true Gospel. However, it’s genuinely heart-wrenching to see the sincerity and love of men like Warren, Dobson, Smalley and Minirth-Meier who obviously believe in God, preach a Biblical Gospel message… but then hamstring Believers with the power-sapping and maturity-eroding theories of human-derived psychology.
I’ve been hinting at this topic for a long time and frankly it will mostly likely be one of the most controversial I’ve addressed. I get a little weary of being a punching bag, but if I were to avoid this topic, I would be just as culpable as those who embrace the error I’ve addressed. I have to give an accounting to God, so no matter what the fallout, I consider this to be one of the most critical, important and urgent things I’ve ever written.
I do NOT believe that this will ever reach, much less affect, the major leaders of Christianity like Warren or Dobson. I’m a VERY small fish in great big pond. I think even if it did, it would be roundly criticized and immediately dismissed. After all, I’m NOBODY, and I’m the first one to admit.
I lack the self-esteem to think I’m somebody (pun intended). The eyes of the Church today are much the same as the eyes of the world: we look for the same credentials and qualifications that world holds dear before we will listen to or give consider to something. This is abundantly clear as we see throngs of Christians being referred to “professional therapists” by Pastors and Shepherds who are no longer confident or seen as competent to tend to the flock.
I’m assuming this will begin a succession of questions and responses on this topic. I’m anticipating a pretty interesting ride for the next few weeks as I address the responses and inquiries that will no doubt arise. Or perhaps, it will just fizzle as the rantings of an out of touch extremist. We can only hope.
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