Incidentally, the previous post was about the misuse of separating the “heart and the will” or the intellect and the will, and Warren is most guilty of this false dichotomy in his preaching. Again, it comes from poor theology, in not grasping Law and Gospel, and then undermining scripture and ending up making scripture itself contradictory and confusing. The man is a false teacher/preacher and mishandles God's Word. Don’t say I have not warned you about him.
40 Days of Community = 100% Law, 0% Gospel (Chris Rosebrough)2 Timothy 2:15 admonishes pastors to correctly handle God’s word of truth. This is a fundamental requirement for all Christian ministers. Notice I said ‘requirement’. The Bible is God’s word and His message to world. Pastors and ministers are called to preach THIS message and no other. That means that twisting the message, inventing your own message, or preaching any another other message are grounds for dismissal from the ministry.
Properly understanding the Bible’s message is not that difficult, but it does take some work. Below I’ve listed some simple disciplines or ‘rules of thumb’ that help in correctly interpreting God’s word.
Discipline One: Each passage of scripture is to be understood according to its original context. The reason for this is simple. Ripping verses out of context oftentimes causes scripture to say or support ideas that are misleading or incorrect.
A great illustration of the dangers of taking verses out of context is the story of a young Bible student who was earnestly praying for the Lord to speak to him. He decided that he’d close his eyes and randomly flip through the pages of his Bible and then put his finger down on a verse and thus give God the opportunity to give him a personal message. So he closed his eyes, flipped through his Bible and put his finger down on a verse. It read, “Judas hanged himself”. He closed his eyes again and repeated the process. The next verse his finger fell on read, “Go thou and do likewise.”
Obviously God never intended that the Bible be used to convince someone to kill himself. This interpretation is only possible when you rip verses out off context and put them together. That’s why ministers should be careful when quoting verses. All ministers should take the time to insure that the points he is drawing from a verse are in agreement with the original context.
Discipline Two: Make sure that you are reading a good translation of scripture. The Bible was not written in English. It was written in several languages including Hebrew, Koine Greek and Aramaic. Understanding the ‘original intent’ therefore, is only possible by reading the Bible in either the original languages or by reading a good translation. Currently, there is a whole group of Bibles available on the market that are paraphrases of God’s word. Their goal is to make God’s word easier to read and understand. Unfortunately, these paraphrases cannot be trusted to give us an accurate picture of the ‘original intent’ of God’s word. Sadly this fact hasn’t stopped many Christian ministers from dogmatically teaching a ‘Biblical Principle’ that can only be found in paraphrase.
Discipline Three: The need to properly distinguishing between the message of God’s Law and the message of the Gospel. When it comes to good Christian preaching, this is where the whole game is either won or lost and people’s souls are either comforted or terrorized. How well a pastor does in this discipline will determine whether his sheep learn to trust in Christ for their salvation or to put their trust in their own good works and their ability to keep the law.
Scripture makes it clear that God’s Law cannot save us and that no one will be saved by keeping the law. Rom 3:20, 28, Gal 3:3-5, 10-11 In fact, scripture makes it clear that the purpose of the law is to point out our sin and to point us to Jesus. Rom 3:20, Gal 3:21-25
The Gospel on the other hand, teaches that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace that we receive through faith. Rom 3:21-26, Eph 2:8-10, In fact, scripture teaches that God does both the saving and the sanctifying Heb 12:2, Acts 26:17-18. The way the Protestant Reformers put it, “We are saved by Grace ALONE (sola gratia), through Faith alone (sola fide).”
Therefore, watch out for ministers who unlawfully confuse God’s law with the message of the Gospel. An easy way to spot this is to ask yourself, “What does my pastor or teacher say my problem is? Then ask, “Who does he say is responsible for fixing it?” If your pastor teaches that YOU have to solve your own problems, then chances are you are hearing a sermon or lesson that is misapplying God’s law.
Here’s how Warren violates this discipline in the 40 Days of Community. The question that Warren tries to answer in this series is “What are we here for?” He is talking about the church. So you could rephrase his question, “What is the church here for?” His answer is that, “The church is here to love.” So far so good, but then things take a bad turn. His solution to the problem of a church that isn’t "loving enough" is that each person in that church must learn how to love and choose to love because God commands it in his law.”
Listen Carefully to these sound bites.
Sound Bite 1 - Nothing I Believe Will Matter
Notice how Warren's emphasis on love undermines the Biblical teaching that Faith alone saves.
Sound Bite 2 - It Takes More Than Faith to Please God (Just in case you missed it)
Sound Bite 3 - Only Thing That Matters
Sound Bite 4 - What is Love?
Sound Bite 5 - Love is a Choice
Pay real close attention to Sound Bite 5! In this quote, Warren violates all three disciplines that I listed above. Warren quotes 1 Corinthians 14:1 out of context, using “The Message” paraphrase. "The Message" quotes this verse as saying, “Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it, because it does”. Based on how Warren uses this verse, I'd have to assume that my life and my salvation depend on how well I love.
However, when you read this verse in context using a good translation like the NIV you see that is NOT what the passage actually says. Here is how the NIV translates 1 Cor 14:1 “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.” The NIV translation makes it clear that this passage is about the 'loving practice of spiritual gifts'. Warren's misapplication of 1 Cor 14:1 demonstrates the fundamental flaw of his theology and the whole '40 Days of Community' program; it puts us back under God’s law and makes my salvation dependent on how well I keep it.
Notice that Warren makes it OUR responsibility to solve this problem, through OUR OWN efforts and OUR keeping of God’s commandments. Paul’s criticism of the Galatian church can rightly be applied to Rick Warren. In Gal 3:3-5 Paul says, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing — if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”
If there is any doubt about how to answer Paul’s last question in verse five, in verses 10 and 11 he says, “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”
Furthermore, Warren appears to have forgotten what scripture says about the source of Christian love. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us” and Galatians 5:22 teaches that “the fruit of the Spirit is love.”
Rather than putting us back under the law, Warren should have pointed us to Christ.
Rather than try to motivate us by threatening us with God’s law, he should have pointed out the clear passages of scripture that motivate Christians to greater love and service because of God’s great love for us. Rom. 12:1 is a beautiful example of this. It says “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.: See also Rom 8:1-8, Col 2:20-3:4The bottom line on the 40 Days of Community regarding the proper distinction of law and gospel is that Warren’s program is 100% Law. Warren’s program is all about motivating you to try harder to keep God’s law through your own efforts. The cross is missing, the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit is missing and Christ is missing. This program could easily be renamed, 40 Days Without Jesus.