Were Van Impes Right About Rick Warren & Muslims?

UPDATE: Dr. Ed Stetzer was given permission to repost an interview with Dr. Rick Warren regarding the recent controversy surrounding the Orange County Register article that was the subject of my post below. I would encourage my readers to read this interview (hereso that you can hear from Dr. Warren directly. Even though I share my opinions — hopefully rooted in facts — I seek to be fair, balanced, and grace-filled in my responses, even if I don’t always get it right. That’s one reason I liked going from law to grace! With that being said, I do think that the OC Register article and the initial responses from Saddleback contributed to the confusion of some in this instance. 

 

I am neither a fanboy of Rick Warren nor a foe of the Southern California megachurch pastor who some liken to a false prophet. Like many Southern Baptists and other Evangelicals, I have used and even benefited from some of Warren’s resources (his Minister’s Tool Box has many valuable tips for ministry). Despite what some might think about me, I am not a wackadoodle conspiracy theorist on the hunt for purpose-driven (or Calvinist) bogeymen in the SBC.  

Therefore, when a few church members came to me last summer with articles about Jack and Rexella Van Impe’s charges that Rick Warren and Robert Schuller were advocating “Chrislam,” a blending of Christianity and Islam, I took it with a huge grain of salt. Let’s just say that the Van Impe’s are high nowhere on my list of theologians who I would turn to — not even in a pinch. I will admit that these two Michigan-based prophecy “experts” can be entertaining in an annoying kind of way. I’m sure that the Van Impe’s are nice folks, but a little bit goes along way.

Now it turns out that the Van Impes may have been right about Rick Warren after all. The Orange County Register, the paper of record in Saddleback Community Church’s backyard, is reporting that Warren

has embarked on an effort to heal divisions between evangelical Christians and Muslims by partnering with Southern California mosques . . . “

If “healing divisions” means trying to live at peace with our neighbors — even those of different faiths or no faith at all — then I’m not sure that there would be many Christians who would object to that lofty goal. Jesus, who commanded us to love God and to love our neighbor as ourself, used the parable of the Good Samaritan to define “neighbor” so broadly that no one was excluded, even the hated Samaritans. Of course, we can love our neighbors and live at peace with them without compromising our Biblical beliefs about who Jesus is and the importance of Salvation by faith alone in Christ alone. For orthodox Christians — particularly of the Evangelical and Southern Baptist variety (of which Warren is still a part) — that is a non-negotiable.

In introducing this new initiative to build bridges between Muslims and Christians, it was reported that the two principal players — Abraham Meulenberg, Saddleback’s Interfaith Pastor, and Jihad Turk, Director of Religious Affairs at a mosque in Los Angeles, described “King’s Way” as

a path to end the 1,400 years of misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians.”

That sounds like a noble aspiration, but one which will be fruitless. At the center of this great “misunderstanding” is the person of Jesus Christ — the pre-existent Son of God, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, suffered a sacrificial, atoning death on the cross, was crucified and buried, rose again and ascended into heaven where he sits at God’s right hand, and one day will come for His bride, the Church. This Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” No one comes to heaven but through faith in Jesus and what He did on the cross. That’s some misunderstanding to overcome. I would say “good luck with that,” but I don’t believe in luck. And, I don’t believe that this “misunderstanding” can be overcome without redefining who Jesus is. That can’t be done without entering the territory of false religions, a place that Bible-believing Christians should never go!

While I have not been able to find online an original source for the “King’s Way” document, co-authored by Meulenberg and Turk, the OC Register reported that there were three main affirmations contained in this “bridge-building” statement:

  1. Christians and Muslims believe in “one God”
  2. Christians and Muslims share two central commandments: “love of God” and “love of neighbor.”
  3. The Interfaith document “commits both faiths to three goals: Making friends with one another, building peace and working on shared social service projects.

Even though the Register article was updated on Leap Day — February 29 — apparently Rick Warren wasn’t available to offer any type of illuminating comment on this story, although Associate Senior Pastor Tom Holladay gave some generic pabulum regarding Saddleback’s “PEACE Plan.” When Muslim Turk is quoted as saying, “We agreed we wouldn’t try to evangelize each other. We’d witness to each other but it would be out of ‘Love Thy Neighbor,’ not focused on conversion,” the reader might begin to understand why Warren, one of Southern Baptist’s and America’s most well-known and influential pastors, would not want to comment on something that seems to contradict his denials last year that he was advocating “Chrislam.” I wonder if the “not evangelizing” part of the pact will mean that Warren and Saddleback somehow view the Great Commission in a different light than most Southern Baptists and conservative Evangelicals?

If what has been reported in the Orange County Register is true, count me as one who is concerned about the direction of both Rick Warren and Saddleback Church. While we should be friendly with our Muslim neighbors (and our Jewish, Hindu, and Atheist neighbors to boot), Christians and Muslims simply do not worship the same God. To even try to take a position which implicitly or explicitly makes that theological statement is nothing short of false and unBiblical.

I don’t know whether or not Rick Warren embraces “Chrislam,” but with the “King’s Way” Interfaith Initiative, it would appear that he is dangerously close to accepting a view of Christianity that many would view as unorthodox to say the least. Jack and Rexella Van Impe were saying as much last summer. Will prominent leaders within the Southern Baptist Convention, such as Dr. Albert Mohler, start saying anything about Rick Warren’s dangerous deviation from Biblical Christianity as it relates to Islam? If not, the silence will be deafening – and telling!

  


Comments

Were Van Impes Right About Rick Warren & Muslims? — 24 Comments

  1. Job,

    While Truth is universal and can be applied to religions other than Christianity, I personally am not comfortable in minimizing or blurring the lines between different faith groups, particularly when it comes to theology. I won’t go into the differences between Reformed Judaism and Orthodox/Conservative Judaism, but let’s just say that the Reformed wing is to Judaism what the Unitarian Universalist wing is to Christianity :-) As a Christian pastor, if you have that much comfortablility speaking to such a group and associating with such a group, that brings questions to mind regarding wisdom and judgment. Thanks for the link. God bless,

    Howell

  2. “Jihad Turk, Director of Religious Affairs at a mosque in Los Angeles,”

    Seriously? His hame is “Jihad”? That is scary.

    Warren is most consistent at inconsistency. He is a bit of a chameleon and knows how to appeal to his audience. That is why people rarely connect the dots. That is why he can be a Calvinist at Desiring God and connect Jews to Christians at Synagogue 2000. He is hard to pin down because he does not want to be pinned down. Ever. He is everything to everyone and can spin it to fit his interpretations of scripture. This is why, if you quote something from Warren, 20 people will give you another quote that seems to be saying the opposite. It is no win. Many have given up.

    If you want to understand him read the first part of PDL. He says this book is not about YOU. Then the rest of the book is about YOU. :o)

  3. Hey Howell,

    I think Lydia’s comment – “That is scary” – is but one example of misunderstanding!

    That Christians and Muslims worship the same God is not unique to Rick Warren. Richard Land has been going around this election cycle calling Mormonism the fourth “Abrahamic Faith.” Pretty sure that would make Islam one of the other three remaining “Abrahamic Faiths.” The common connector here is obviously that all four faiths worship the same God, the God of Abraham.

    I agree with Tim that Warren is probably being a bit disingenuous. But since when has being disingenuous considered a problem among all you preachers? I think all evangelistic Christians are a bit deceptive to some degree or another when doing the business of evangelism especially in a relational way. The SBC name-change is also deceptive if the goal is a more appealing name that eliminates barriers that hinder evangelistic effectiveness. Ends justify the means and all that jazz. It’s an ethic that many of us live by regularly – even if we’re reluctant to acknowledge it!

    • Aaron,

      Good to hear from you. Hope you are doing well. I’ve probably not paid much attention to Richard Land as of late, so I missed his calling Mormonism the fourth “Abrahamic Faith.” If that is the case, I shall have to write a post about that. If Land and/or Warren truly believes that “all four faiths worship the same God,” I would respectfully and strongly disagree. While Abraham may not have realized it at the time, his faith (see Hebrews 11) was most assuredly a faith based upon the Messiah, who is Jesus Christ. We have the New Testament to fill in the gaps, but the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” IS the Triune God who never changes — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For Warren or Land to state or imply that four different faiths worship the same God is, in my reading of Scripture, false. As to the “nickname” or Name Change, don’t get me started on that. I think we continue to witness an “ends justify the means” mentality in Baptist life, whether it’s name changes in the SBC or following graceless procedures for disfellowshipping churches who call women pastors. I try to be an equal opportunity contrarian ;-) Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend and God bless,

      Howell

  4. I disagree with you about Jack VanImpe, He Knows the Bible better than anyone I know of!!! He doesn’t make things up, He reads the headlines and articles and uses the Bible to let people know that all this will take place before the Lord returns for His Church,

    • Joy,

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I was perhaps a bit sarcastic in my comments about the Van Impe’s theology. While I do not subscribe to their end-times theology, I have no doubt that they are learned when it comes to the Scriptures. We can study the Word and we can prepare for Jesus’ Second Coming, but only God knows the day and the hour. We can certainly all agree that Jesus is coming again — literally and bodily. We may disagree on issues of timing relating to the tribulation, but all orthodox, Bible-believing Christians will acknowledge that Christ is returning. It goes without saying that Christ’s return gets closer and closer with each passing day. Since seminary, I have dubbed myself a “pan-millenialist.” I believe that all of these questions as to timing and return will “pan out in the end.” :-) Hope you have a wonderful day and God bless,

      Howell

  5. Hope you don’t get this twice! Sent one and the computer said my email address wasn’t real so will try again! Thank you for responding . Appreciate you admitting that you were nice in the comment about Jack VanImpe! I have never heard him set a date for the Rapture! In fact he goes out of the way to make sure people know that no one knows the day and hour … Jesus doesn’t even know this only God the Father does!! As far as Rick goes I’ve heard things but never put stock into it, however this takes the cake !! He is wrong wrong wrong to do this and God will judge him for it! As far as the Muslims go I think 2nd John 1:7 was one of the ones this applies to.
    Thank you for the conversation. I am no scholar but was raised by Christian parents and in Church all my life! I Love the Lord and will take any chance I can to talk about Him!! Have a great day and may God Bless You!

    • Joy,

      It only came through once! I appreciate the dialogue and you taking time to share your thoughts about the Van Impes and Rick Warren. Sometimes I can write in a “snarky” way that is probably not best. Thanks also for “liking” From Law to Grace on my Facebook page. I’m always curious as to how folks find out about my blog. If you have a minute and wouldn’t mind sharing, I would appeciate it greatly. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  6. Im not sure how I got this it was on my FB wall. However I have re posted this to several friends so don’t be surprized if you get a lot of hits! I will not sit by and let Rick Warren do this without people finding out!! It is time Christians got off the fence and take a stand for Christ before its to late !! Thanks again for the chance to talk!

    • Joy,

      Thanks for reposting the article. I will be updating the post later today with a link to an interview that Rick Warren gave clarifying his position. Even with this interview, there are still unanswered questions regarding this whole situation and Dr. Warren and Saddleback’s role in the “confusion.” Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  7. Our group of church Seniors had breakfast this morning, & one lady stated that Warren & Schuller were rewriting a Bible to change “God” to “Allah”. I didn’t see that mentioned, but she heard it on Van Impe’s program. Now reading all these comments makes me wonder if that could be true. I’m no follower of the Schuller’s “flopped” church & never read a Rick Warren book!

    • Del,

      Your seniors and my seniors must listen to the Van Impes a lot more than I do :-) I honestly don’t know what is up with Warren (like you, never did pay attention to Schuller) and his “outreach” efforts with the Muslim community. Given his explanation, my concern has been lessened. However, as someone put it on another blog, Dr. Warren seems to find himself in situations where he has to make clarifying remarks more than you would think. For a “master communicator” to be “misunderstood” by reporters and by other Christians, such that he has to issue these kinds of clarifications, is perplexing. Maybe it’s the issues relating to working with Muslims. I had not heard about the Bible translation so I can’t speak to that, but I will continue to keep an eye out for any other developments in this story. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment today. God bless,

      Howell

  8. I watch the Van Impe broadcast every week. I have never once heard Jack say anything that he could not back up with Scripture. I am highly suspicious of Rick Warren’s motives in entering the Chrislam venture. However, at some point in discussion one Scripture is sure to arise: John 14:6. Warren will then show his true colors.

  9. It has come to our attention that someone has posted falsely under the name of Dr. Sproul. These comments were not made by him or anyone at Ligonier Ministries or St. Andrew’s Chapel. In view of the sanctity of truth, we ask that the comments attributed to him be deleted by the owner of this website.

    Thank you,
    Ligonier Ministries

    • Thank you for bringing this to my attention. The post falsely attributed to Dr. Sproul has been deleted, along with two other comments which addressed Dr. Sproul. The original comment did show up as coming from ligonier.org/rcsproul@ligonier.org and I do have well-known folks who comment from time to time, so I did not have reason to believe this comment was not from the real Dr. Sproul. If you have any other questions, you may contact me directly by email at howell88310@gmail.com. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  10. I am just doing some research on Rick Warren as we are at the for-front of making use of one of his books in a Bible study/ cell group on the recommendation of a pastor. It has come to my knowledge of Rick’s association with chrislam and I stand strong against anything where people say that we all worship the same God. I beg to differ with this statement and WILL never accept this. My wife and I have discussed this and distance ourselves from this misleading teaching, therefor we will abstain from partaking in this study program. Would like to hear any comments on my decision. We are saved by Jesus Christ, washed in His precious Blood and are awaiting His return, on the instruction of the Father. God bless you all while we await this great day. Prepared and ready !!!

    • Mike,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and to comment. I appreciate your wanting to understand the theology behind the book that was recommended. Was it your own pastor that recommended the book or was it another pastor not associated with your church? I ask this only in the sense that I would encourage you to talk with your own pastor about any concerns or misgivings you have about this particular book. I will say that from my own experience, I have profited from some of what Rick Warren has written, but I no longer take any Christian author at face value. When I led my church in Virginia to go through “40 Days of Purpose,” I came to realize that some of the verses that Pastor Warren used in “Purpose Driven Life” appeared to be taken out of context. However, because of the way that he used parts of verses and used various translations, it was often difficult to determine whether or not something that he wrote was based on the actual context of Scripture or on a loose interpretation.

      As to the issue of Rick Warren’s alleged support of Chrislam — a charge made mainly and most prominently by the Van Impes — I personally don’t believe that Rick Warren supports Chrislam. However, I think that the way that Saddleback Church reaches out to the Muslim community could lead some to conclude that Warren is more sympathetic — at least in practice — to Muslims than what others might find comfortable. I have not seen a follow-up on the whole issue which started the initial discussion, but I would encourage you to pray and trust the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth. Thanks again for stopping by. God bless,

      Howell

  11. Pingback: CHRISLAM: A Review | The CHRISTIAN ENQUIRER

  12. I thought our mission as a Christian is to bring people to Christ. If there is a way to bridge the gap between Muslims and Christians or really any other religion or non-religion, wouldn’t it be best to find a “common ground” to work with? The bible says to love our neighbor and also our enemies. I don’t understand all the hate against Rick Warren. I don’t think that the man who has started all this, the other Rick is a false prophet either but I do think that people who are on a t.v. show that are allowed to voice their opinions and only their opinions to a lot of people are a little misleading. With only their opinions, they can twist the Word of God around to whatever they want it to mean in any given situation. Well honestly that can happen with anyone but not everyone has their own t.v. show. I guess I just feel that if we “push” Christianity on people we are judged harshly and yet when we try and find some sort of “common ground” the same thing happens. Why does it seem that as Christians we are supposed to only stick to our own kind? People are human and they make mistakes but the bible says let the first person who has not sinned cast the first stone. We seem to cast more stones than to forgive one another, but who are we to judge? If he brings people to Christ this way then isn’t that the whole point? I’m a new Christian so I may not know so much as a seasoned Christian and also these I guess are my own opinions from things I’ve learned through my Church. I’m hoping I don’t offend anyone because that’s truly not my intention, I just can’t seem to understand why people who claim to be Christians still have so much hate instead of love and harbor unforgiveness instead of forgiving.

  13. islam is the predominate fraud of the last 2000 years . there are over 100 non Arabic words and phrases in the Koran . there are 90 suras that demand the deaths of infidels. the 90 attributes of allah does not contain love. the hadith defines allah as the moon god of the ka’bah a pagen god . the holly spirit continues to convert muslims to Christianity . the words of jesus does not have to be compromised by man for conversion .

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