Rick Warren – Rick Warren Fundamentalist or Finagler?


Rick Warren
Fundamentalist or Finagler?


By Paul Proctor


The Covenant News ~ March 15, 2006


Journalist, Paul Nussbaum recently sent shock waves through a segment of the Christian community after reporting the following comments from Pastor Rick Warren in The Philadelphia Enquirer:

Warren predicts that fundamentalism, of all varieties, will be ‘one of the big enemies of the 21st century.'”

Warren: “Muslim fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism, secular fundamentalism – they’re all motivated by fear. Fear of each other.”

Apparently those waves were substantial enough that Pastor Warren and/or his staff thought it necessary to post an explanation on Rick’s website, pastors.com, in an article they titled, “Rick Warren on Fundamentalism.”

Here is an excerpt:

Within Christianity, there’s a large group of believers who affirm that there are certain facts about our faith that must be embraced, even if it isn’t popular to proclaim these facts as true. These are facts such as –

  • Jesus was God in the flesh,
  • God raised Jesus from the dead, and
  • The Resurrection opened the singular path available for men and women to intimately and eternally connect with God.

These are among the fundamental truths of our Christian faith (or, to use another phrase, they are foundational truths to our faith).

Now, if you believe that these fundamental truths are essential to the Christian faith, then you are a “fundamentalist” in the very basic sense of the word, and within that definition and context Saddleback Church is unapologetically fundamentalist.” (Underscore added for emphasis)

They went on to say:

There is, however, another kind of fundamentalism that has nothing to do with fundamentals of the Christian faith; instead, it is about keeping the right rules in the right way order to please the right people.

I’m not speaking here about the Ten Commandments or any of the other God-spoken standards that light our way on the narrow path; I’m referring to the fanatical pursuit of keeping – and insisting that others keep – rules that are man-made and often culturally influenced, rules that insist all Christians must look, act, and smell the same in order to be considered genuine believers.”

If you type the word “fundamentalism” into Dictionary.com, which searches and cites a number of reputable dictionaries, you will not find one definition that is even remotely close to what is described above as “another kind of fundamentalism.” The truth is; there is no other “kind of [Christian] fundamentalism.” It has nothing to do with the “rules of men,” but rather the inerrancy of scripture.

But, when words get church growth gurus in trouble, they often manufacture new definitions out of thin air and apply them to their uncomfortable situations to give them a lot more wiggle room in the public arena. This is why the church growth movement has its own ambiguous language and terms; so as to protect those who would deceive us with familiar words and phrases so they can quickly jump from one definition to another, if need be, to cover their embarrassing indiscretions, quiet their critics, advance their agenda and shield their marketable image, as if the resulting controversy created by their comments was all just a big misunderstanding.

It is important to note that Rick Warren did not author the above “clarification” himself; at least not officially, even though the article’s title implies that it is HIS position. According to the credits, the “staff” wrote it – whoever that is. Bear in mind, when an anonymous associate is used to defend an errant leader and deflect his critics, that leader can later disavow the associate’s remarks if they don’t play well under public scrutiny without humiliating anyone and adjust them accordingly; offering a revised more acceptable response later as if it were his first. This is another political tactic designed to dodge responsibility and accountability.

You should also know that Pastor Warren made no mention of “another kind of fundamentalism” in his published comments at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life held on May 23rd, 2005. In a transcript taken from this ecumenical meeting of religious leaders, held in Key West Florida, Warren specifically defined for attendees what he considered a “fundamentalist” to be; and in spite of the contradictory “staff” response above, he proudly proclaimed that he is NOT one:

Warren: “Now the word “fundamentalist” actually comes from a document in the 1920s called the Five Fundamentals of the Faith. And it is a very legalistic, narrow view of Christianity, and when I say there are very few fundamentalists, I mean in the sense that they are all actually called fundamentalist churches, and those would be quite small. There are no large ones…I am an evangelical. I’m not a member of the religious right and I’m not a fundamentalist …Today there really aren’t that many Fundamentalists left; I don’t know if you know that or not, but they are such a minority; there aren’t that many Fundamentalists left in America.” (Underscore added for emphasis)

So, before a very diverse, secular and ecumenical audience, Warren says he IS NOT a fundamentalist. Then, in a later damage-control article, written for the benefit of Christian pastors who subscribe to his website and buy his Purpose Driven products, “Saddleback Church is unapologetically fundamentalist.” Handy, huh?

I don’t think double mindedness is what the Apostle Paul meant by being “all things to all men,” do you?

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” – James 1:8

In fact, it is a perfect illustration of the duplicity that pervades the Purpose Driven paradigm and church growth movement, particularly among those who lead it. These men are shameless chameleons who alter their message as needed to accommodate whatever audience they are presently performing before to get the desired results.

As many controversial and contradictory statements as Warren has made over the years, several of which I have cited in past articles, I cannot recall one example where he has publicly admitted to anything that didn’t ultimately make him look good. On those rare occasions when he admits to past failures and wrongdoings, it’s as if he only uses them to set the stage and showcase all of the marvelous things he is doing now.

He is the consummate name-dropper, self-promoter and personal achievement proclaimer. Even when he is self-deprecating, it is to make YOU laugh and make HIM more likable. This is a person who writes articles on “being authentic” and sells transcripts of his sermons online for four dollars each with titles like: “Maintaining Moral Integrity In The Ministry.”

Worst of all, it is not limited to Pastor Warren anymore. It is systemic and has become commonplace among many of today’s pastors and church leaders in and around the CGM who follow his Purpose Driven lead to do “whatever it takes.” Are these men of conscience and conviction or are they cunning change agents pursuing career, convenience, consensus and control? You tell me.

No longer is it about doing well before the “eyes that run to and fro” for heavenly rewards; it’s about looking good before the eyes of men and protecting your “ministry” (i.e., your rear end) at all costs for earthy rewards – something that doesn’t require any faith in God or knowledge of His Word.

In closing, I’ll leave you with one good old-fashioned “fundamentalist rule” to ponder and pass along to YOUR Purpose Driven pastor:

    Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” – 2nd John 1: 9-11

Related Articles:

1. The Purpose-Driven Pastor
2. Rick Warren on Fundamentalism
3. Pew Forum – Myths of the Modern Mega-church
4. Maintaining Moral Integrity In The Ministry
5. Ambiguous New Age Terms used by Church Growth Leaders


Paul Proctor, a rural resident of the Volunteer state and seasoned veteran of the country music industry, retired from showbiz in the late 1990’s to dedicate himself to addressing important social issues from a distinctly biblical perspective. As a freelance writer he extols the wisdom and truths of scripture through commentary and insight on cultural trends and current events. His articles appear regularly on a variety of news and opinion sites across the internet and in print. Paul may be reached at watchman@usa.com


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