Rick Warren has again caused a stir in certain circles of the blogosphere. The newest occasion of controversy is the announcement of an agreement with a Muslim organization. The original article, Christian bloggers, and Islamic bloggers all understand the agreement to say that Christians and Muslims believe in the same God. Warren has answered that the agreement only states Muslims and Christians believe in one God. A few observations…
First, I find it particularly interesting that there are certain places that are saying nothing about this issue. In the past few months there has been considerable fallout about James MacDonald and his Elephant Room conversation with T.D. Jakes. MacDonald and the Gospel Coalition parted ways as members of the Coalition simultaneously equivocated (Justin Taylor) and criticized (Carson, Keller, Anyabwile) MacDonald’s conversation. At issue, supposedly, was the Trinity. There was never really a clear pronouncement on whether or not MacDonald was a heretic for hosting a heretic, but there was plenty of discussion. Now, in an even clearer example of someone who supposedly believes in the Trinity dialoging with people who have a clear denial of the Trinity there is nothing. Nothing from the Gospel Coalition or the men at Reformation21…why is this? Is it because of the past engagements of Warren and John Piper? As long as there is silence the void will only be filled by supposition.
Secondly, does Rick Warren believe Christians and Muslims worship the same God? I have tried to find the actual document in question and I have not been able to. Therefore, I can only take Rick Warren at his word that the statement agreed upon was that Christians and Muslims believe in “one” God and not the “same” God. There are still numerous problems with such a statement.
In the context of an interfaith agreement the statement seems to be rhetorically useless as it is parsed by Warren. A rough outline of the document’s three main points are: 1) We believe in one God; 2) We love God and our neighbor; 3) We will not seek to proselytize each other. In this context, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Muslims and Christians believe in the same God.
There is no logical necessity that flows from believing in one God to loving your neighbor. What if someone believes in the Hindu god of destruction?
If we both believe in one God and we agree not to proselytize one another there are only two options. We both believe in the same “one God” so there is no need to proselytize. Or we do not believe that our “one God” is the “only God;” thereby implying that there is in fact no such being as “one God.” In either of these two options Warren is surrendering the farm. In an interfaith agreement you cannot say “one God” without meaning “same God.” If you protest this, then you should have agreed that you believe in “a God.”
That this argument is correct demonstrated by the common reaction to the agreement. Once again, an impartial journalist, Christian bloggers, and Muslim bloggers, have all understood this to an agreement that Christians and Muslims believe in the same God. When representatives from these diverse groups agree on this implication, can Rick Warren really say they have all misunderstood the meaning?
Rick Warren has built his life on communication. He has sold millions of books. He is the pastor of one of the largest churches in the world. He knows how to speak and write clearly and persuasively. For him to protest that everyone has misunderstood his meaning is rather remarkable.
Warren’s assertion that Muslims and Christian’s believe in “one God” but not the same God violates the intended meaning of the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 8:5-6: “For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”– yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”
Warren’s interpretation of the joint statement makes him unbiblical. Everyone else’s interpretation makes him heretical. Neither option seems particularly appealing.
******UPDATE: 3/3/12 7:30 A.M.*******
Rick Warren has offered a rebuttal to the reports. Transcript of interview may be found by clicking here
A few observations:
- Everything he says to a member of the Christian media seems orthodox. But that doesn’t really address the issue at hand. All he has to do is make publicly available the text of the King’s Way agreement. My three year-old can tell me one thing and tell my wife something completely different, the question is what really happened?
- I praise the Lord for any and all souls saved as a result of Warren’s ministry. But evangelism is not a sign of orthodoxy- Matthew 23:15.
- Again, the simplest way to make this stop is to make public the King’s Way agreement. I find it interesting that the reporter who supposedly has or has seen the agreement has not changed his story. This is even after Warren accused him of false reporting. Why would the reporter continue to stand by what to him probably seemed a rather insignificant story?
- So Rick Warren has told Christians he believes in the Trinity and that Jesus is God. Great, but what has he told his Muslim friends and “brothers”?