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Mar 2, 2012

Rick Warren Interview on Muslims, Evangelism & Missions (Responding to Recent News Reports)

Once again, watchbloggers are accusing Rick Warren of heresy. Why? Because, Warren explains, a secular Orange County newspaper got something wrong about a religious issue. Some of the usual bloggers have done their usual job.

However, due to the nature of the story, some mainstream news organizations and bloggers, without the constant anti-Warren agenda, were asking questions and wondering what what was going on. I was. So, I emailed Rick and asked him.

Rick sent me this interview where he seeks to bring clarification. He gave me permission to share it here at the blog. I think it will be helpful.

Furthermore, it is important to note that secular newspapers do not get the nuance we often use in evangelical Christianity. However, when we read well-known Christian leaders quoted as saying something in a local paper that seems out of character or contrary to their views over many decades, perhaps we might give that person the benefit of the doubt.

I am sure those who quoted the OC Register will also quote this to clear up any confusion.

Here in the interview Rick sent me:

QUESTION: Do people of other religions worship the same God as Christians?

WARREN: Of course not. Christians have a view of God that is unique. We believe Jesus is God! We believe God is a Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Not 3 separate gods but one God. No other faith believes Jesus is God. My God is Jesus. The belief in God as a Trinity is the foundational difference between Christians and everyone else. There are 2.1 billion people who call themselves Christians... whether Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Pentecostal, or Evangelical... and they all have the doctrine of the Trinity in common. Hindus, Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, Unitarians, and everyone else do not accept what Jesus taught about the Trinity.

QUESTION: A recent newspaper article claimed you believe Christians and Muslims worship the same God, that you are "in partnership" with a mosque, and that you both agreed to "not evangelize each other." You immediately posted a brief refutation online. Can you expand on that?

WARREN: Sure. All three of those statements are flat out wrong. Those statements were made by a reporter, not by me. I did not say them ... I do not believe them... I completely disagree with them ... and no one even talked to me about that article! So let me address each one individually: First, as I've already said, Christians have a fundamentally different view of God than Muslims. We worship Jesus as God. Muslims don't. Our God is Jesus, not Allah. Colossians 2:9 "For in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Second, while we urge our members to build friendships with everyone in our community, including Muslims and other faiths, ("Love your neighbor as yourself"), our church has never had any partnership with a mosque. Friendship and partnership are two very different levels of commitment. Some of our members have hosted a Bible study with Muslim friends, which I applaud, but I've never been to it, and a Bible study certainly isn't any kind of partnership or merger! It's just crazy that a simple Bible Study where people explore Scripture with non-Christians would be reported as a partnership and others would interpret that as a plan for a new compromised religion. Just crazy! Third, as both an Evangelical and as an evangelist, anyone who knows me and my 40 year track record of ministry that I would never agree to "not evangelizing" anyone! I am commanded by my Savior to share the Good News with all people everywhere, all the time, in every way possible! Anyone who's heard me teach knows that my heart beats for bringing others to Jesus.

QUESTION: That same article mentioned that you ate an Iftar dinner with Orange County Muslims. What is that all about?

WARREN: It's called being polite, and a good neighbor. For years, we have invited Muslim friends to attend our Easter and Christmas services, and they have graciously attended year after year. Some have even celebrated our family's personal Christmas service in our home. So when they have a potluck when their month of fasting ends, we go to their party. It's a Jesus thing. The Pharisees criticized him as "the friend of sinners" because Jesus ate dinner with people they disapproved of. By the way, one of my dear friends is a Jewish Rabbi and my family has celebrated Passover at his home, and he attends our Christmas and Easter services. I wish more Christians would reach out in love like Jesus.

QUESTION: Why do you think people who call themselves Christians sometimes say the most hateful things about Muslims?

WARREN: Well, some of those folks probably aren't really Christians. 1 John 4:20 says, "If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen." And 1 John 2:9 says "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness." I am not allowed by Jesus to hate anyone. Our culture has accepted two huge lies: The first is that if you disagree with someone's lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don't have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.

QUESTION: Let's talk about evangelism. In the past 10 years, Saddleback Church has baptized over 24,000 new believers. No other church comes close to that record. You are likely the most evangelistic church in America. What's the key?

WARREN: We are willing to do what many other churches are unwilling to do. We are willing to go beyond our comfort zone.

QUESTION: For instance?

WARREN: Because Jesus commanded us to take the Gospel to everyone, I spend much of my time with groups of people who completely disagree with what I believe. I'm constantly trying to build a bridge of love to nonbelievers, to atheists, to gays, to those I disagree with politically, and to those of other faiths. We don't wait for these people to come to church; we go to them and share with them on their turf, not ours. Every member is a minister and a missionary. Saddleback was a missional church 30 years before the term became popular. We just called it being "purpose driven"

QUESTION: "Building a bridge" sounds like compromise to many people.

WARREN: Building a bridge has nothing to do with compromising your beliefs. It's all about your behavior and your attitude toward them. It's about genuinely loving people. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Before people ask "Is Jesus credible?" they want to know if you are credible. Before people trust Jesus they must trust you. You cannot enemies to Christ, only your friends. It's part of what Paul calls "the ministry of reconciliation." It is Christlike to treat people with dignity and listen to them with respect...

QUESTION: What is the PEACE Center?

WARREN: Based on Jesus' instructions in Acts 1:8, we practice the PEACE Plan in three dimensions: PERSONAL PEACE - my ministry to those closest to me; LOCAL PEACE -our congregation's ministry to our community; and GLOBAL PEACE - serving other local churches around the world as those congregations do their own local PEACE. The PEACE Center is the building on our church campus that houses about three dozen of our 300 ministries to the community. It offers our food bank, job training, family counseling, legal aid, car repair, tutoring, English as a second language, legal immigration assistance, and many other ministries.

QUESTION: I read an article that claimed you were building a PEACE Center to bring Muslims and Christians together in peace.

WARREN: It was the writer's mistake. He got two different stories confused. Our recently opened PEACE Center, on the Saddleback Church campus has NOTHING ...zero... to do with our Muslim friends.

This is an example of why I always doubt what I read in newspapers and blogs about ministries. Secular reporters trying to cover churches and theological issues often get it wrong . But then Christian bloggers, instead of contacting the ministry, blindly believe, quote and repost the errors made by secular reporters. Then those errors become permanent, searchable, and global on the Internet. I couldn't count the number of times a secular reporter has gotten a story about Saddleback wrong but then it is perpetuated by Christians who never fact-check. And the three factors I mentioned about the Internet make it impossible to correct all the misperceptions, and outright lies that get repeated over and over...

QUESTION: What is the goal of your ministry?

WARREN: To know Christ and make Him known! To live out Jesus' Great Commandment and Great Commission! In fact, this has been the motto of Saddleback Church since we started it in 1980: "A great commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will grow a great church." Everything we do comes out of these two great texts. God's five eternal purposes for both our lives and the church proceed from these verses. The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life explain this in detail....

QUESTION: Are you promoting Chrislam?

WARREN: Of course not. It's the lie that won't die. No matter how many times we refute it and correct that lie, people keep passing it on as truth. Jesus is the only way to salvation. Period. If I didn't believe that, I'd get into much easier line of work! But I do believe that everybody needs Jesus and I am willing to put up with false statements and misunderstandings in order to get the Gospel out.

Update: The full Warren interview, developed with Brandon Cox and Alex Murashko, is now online at Pastors.com and the Christian Post and, it is my understanding, has also been sent out to the Saddleback church family.

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Posted:March 2, 2012 at 12:00 am

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