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Fundamentalists reconsidering their ire at Rick Warren5 min read

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In What I Like About Rick Warren, New City Press has really done a nice job of reconsidering the overly negative, critical approach that many reformed and fundamentalist sites take to Rick Warren, author of the heinously successful Purpose Driven Life.

Of course, I entered the fray, and I decided to post my last comment here as content, since I put some effort into it.

1. Some Background Reading

The following articles are typical doctrinal critiques of Rick Warren:

The last link is interesting in that it clearly outlines what is wrong with the PDL approach.

2. What is missing from fundamental critiques of Rick Warren

What is glaring in all of these critiques is the total absence of introspection on the part of the reformed and fundamentalist about how they have contributed to the problem by

  • ignoring the social part of the gospel (helping widows and orphans)
  • focusing myopically on sin, without offering a loving God (the only “goodness of God leading to repentance” they can present is a God who hates sinners, but offers them a way out. While that sounds doctrinally correct, it bears little resemblance to the “humanistic” father of the Prodigal Son, and sounds a lot like the older brother.)

I mean, the whole reason I think evangelicalism left fundamentalism in the 30’s and 40’s was over the extremism, unkindness, and “older brother” approach of fundamentalism which included:

  • the doctrine of separation, both primary and secondary (see my post NeoFundamentalism and the doctrine of Separation)
  • anti-intellectualism (which was really anti-higher-criticism – in throwing out the liberalism, they also threw out a respect for scholarship and reason – not that they didn’t have scholarly theologians, but they refused to enter meaningfully and graciously into philosophical, exegetical, and hermeneutical debate – wanting to avoid heresy, they also hardened into their positions and forced those wanting discussion to leave).
  • isolationism – leaving modern culture to rot
  • anti-modernism – confusing modernism with worldliness

You can see my further discussion in What’s wrong with modern fundamentalists?


In summation, as an evangelical, I absolutely understand and agree with those who criticize the doctrines that many evangelicals are courting these days, esp. the Emerging Church. However, what is really distressing to me is that the critics are entirely failing to see that their own shortcomings and gospel failures have spawned these movements, and the fundies are STILL failing to address the shortcomings that forced people to leave.

They are also failing to recognize the real works of God that these new movements are accomplishing.

1. Like the Pharisees

It reminds me of how the Pharisees obsessed over doctrine, and often, had good doctrine which Jesus said should be obeyed – yet, they missed the Messiah, quite honestly, because he was too friendly with sinners (a drunk, winebibber, glutton, and friend of sinners), and too theologically liberal (breaking the Sabbath).

2. Missing God in the Pentecostal Movement

In our time, I see the critics of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements in the same boat – not seeing how God renewed worship and Christian art through these movements, and how God has saved literally MILLIONS through such denominations – sure, doctrinal errors have crept in in places and done damage, but they forget the scripture:

Proverbs 14:4
Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.

Translation: If you want to actually get work done, there’s gonna be some mess. You want pure doctrine and no mistakes, you’re gonna have a nice clean barn and nothing getting done.

The truth is, we need to balance doctrine and practice, and fundies err towards perfection in doctrine to the point of Phariseeism, and to the point of missing the Spirit of God at work. That is what grieves me. I observe:

  • We’ve got more doctrinal policemen than workers in the harvest.
  • I doubt God’s first question in heaven will be “how pure was your doctrine?”

3. An Illustration – Whitefield and Wesley

It reminds me of the story (apocryphal?) where Whitfield (reformed) was asked if he thought he would see Wesley (Arminian) in heaven. Whitfield responded, “No, but if I’m lucky, I might see the back of his head as we face the throne of God.”

Translation: They had big doctrinal differences, but maybe that’s not the primary criteria by which we should be evaluating the work of God in others – not that it is unimportant, but you get the idea.