Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rick Warren, Websites, and Inaugurations, Oh my!

Much hoopla has been made already about the fact that Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the hugely popular “Purpose Driven” books, has accepted the invitation to give the invocation at President-Elect Obama’s inauguration. I’m not really interested in going into the why’s or why not’s of whether he should be offering the prayer. My opinion is that if someone is going to do it, why not a person with at least some evangelical leanings?

The latest development that has some evangelicals in an uproar is that the Saddleback website appears to have removed their page covering questions about creation, evolution, and homosexuality. This has been interpreted as Warren’s bowing to pressure in order to be more “politically correct” or perhaps “less offensive.” Those who already disagree with his accepting the invitation have latched onto this as further ammunition against the man.

Now, I’m not particularly a fan of Rick Warren and in all fairness I have yet to read any of his materials and so cannot offer an objective opinion on his beliefs. But, to borrow a Shakespearean phrase, methinks much ado is being made about nothing. Did Saddleback really remove any reference to their beliefs on these issues? A closer look will reveal the truth.

The page in question was the Small Group Information page, which previously had questions “taken from actual questions from Saddleback members and the resulting answers from Saddleback’s pastors.” While the contents of this page has been completely removed, a Google cache of the page can be found here. The questions/answers under scrutiny are #s 30 and 48. If you were to type in the same URL, you would see a page pretty much empty of content, except for side links of course. However, another page has appeared with a slightly different URL, but looking very similar.

At first glance, it would seem that the list is identical to the cached/removed page with the exception of the “offending” questions, but that is perhaps because we are specifically looking for these questions. Take another look at the two lists. You’ll notice that not only are they are vastly different in content, they are different in focus. Surprising to me is the fact that while the omission of the questions regarding homosexuality and creation are spotlighted, very little issue has been made about the omission of questions regarding communion, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, baptism, salvation, etc. Why are these far more important doctrinal issues ignored while the two hot topic items of creation and homosexuality focused on? As mentioned before, it also appears that the page in general has shifted the focus from general questions about Saddleback to more specific questions about Small Groups, which makes sense given that the page is about Small Groups.

But has the Saddleback website erased any reference to its stance on homosexuality and creation? No! A quick search of the website brings up this page answering the question “What does the Bible say about Homosexuality?” Another page from the Small Group Pastoral Care Resources addresses the issue in discussing sexual purity. Further, there are several pages dealing with the topic of creation and evolution in a manner that makes it evident what Saddleback’s position is. There are also pages dealing with questions on the Trinity, salvation, etc. on their Bible Q&A page.

While on the surface the changes might seem at the very least done in bad timing, we certainly don’t know the behind-the-scenes intentions of those responsible for the website. Perhaps this change was already in the works. We don’t know. As believers, let’s follow James’ advice: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19) and avoid the Christian tin foil hat.

2 comments:

Punkydunks said...

Thanks for sharing your careful research. Well said!!!

Jailer said...

I appreciate this. Politics is a seductive lure for the church (I myself can be something of a junkie, especially every 4 years or so). But it's one which rarely seems to lead to a closer walk with Jesus for the church or the country as a whole.

I have generally appreciated Warren's book on the Purpose-Driven Life, as it starts with a premise I can associate with (we're here to glorify God). I also thought the debate he moderated between the candidates was by far the most illuminating interaction of the campaign. However, the fact of his participation made me a little uneasy, as I always wonder what the union of spiritual and temporal power (in whatever form) will lead to, and in particular that the latter will corrupt the former.