An article in a conservative Christian newspaper criticizes a popular Southern Baptist author for leading Bible-believing pastors astray.
Rick Warren meets with reporters at Baptist World Congress in the UK. (ChristianToday.com)
"Rick Warren is succeeding single-handedly where the entire liberal agenda could not--in leading Southern Baptist pastors and churches to abandon the infallible and inerrant Word of God," Michael Ramey, minister of music and youth at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Gloucester, Va., wrote in the August issue of Baptist Banner. "If we do not wake up and stop the trend immediately, our 'Conservative Resurgence' will have been nothing more than 'one last gasp.'"
Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and author of the best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life "undermines our conservative stance" in three ways, Ramey wrote in the newspaper sympathetic to conservative leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention and Southern Baptist Conservatives in Virginia.
First, he wrote, Warren undermines the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture by avoiding the original Greek and Hebrew biblical languages in sermons. Both Southern Baptists and Virginia conservatives, however, are on record as affirming the Bible to be inerrant in the original manuscripts.
That means the only authority of English translations is derived from their adherence to the original manuscripts, Ramey said. But Warren is leading pastors away from that standard by the thousands, he charged, by teaching "these texts are to be avoided, lest we bother our listeners with such trivia as what God actually said."
Second, Ramey said, Warren relies too heavily on modern Bible translations and paraphrases, while abandoning more conservative and literal versions. While there is nothing sinful in reading "looser" versions, he said, to base the entire message on them, while avoiding the original text and direct translations, "is dangerous at best and possibly deceptive and treacherous."
Ramey accused Warren of using paraphrases to support his own point, even when they are not supported by more literal translations. "Using this method of 'Bible exposition,' one can easily make the Scripture seem to say whatever one would like," he said.
Third, "the assault on Truth does not stop with erroneous teaching and a faulty example, but is marketed as well," Ramey said.
"Our misled brother, in an alleged effort to minister to over-worked pastors, writes sermons using these same anti-Scriptural guidelines, then sells them on the Web," he said. "Not only is he teaching us to abandon the inerrant original-language Scriptures; not only is he setting a poor example in his own published works. He is actually marketing poorly and dangerously written sermons, selling them to pastors to preach from the church's pulpit!
"Tragically, too many pastors are yielding to the temptation to sub-contract the sacred calling God has placed upon their lives, and this highly respected writer is making money off of their weakness. He short-circuits God's call to pastors to 'study to show yourself approved unto God ¼ rightly dividing the Word of Truth.' He invites them to ignore God's declaration that 'I am against the prophets ¼ who steal my words every one from his neighbor.'"
"While we praise Rick Warren for the number of books he can sell and the amount of money he can make, we overlook the inestimable damage his work is doing in our churches, as he leads pastors to a place where God Himself has promised to stand against them," Ramey concluded.
"Church, we are responsible to protect the sacred message in the pulpit. We must call our pastors to write their own sermons, and to write them (with commentary help if necessary) from the original text--the only truly inerrant and infallible Word of God. We cannot afford to raise anchor when the gales and tides against us are so great!"
The Baptist Banner is an independent newspaper with its own board of directors, but describes itself as "fully and enthusiastically supportive of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia and of the Southern Baptist Convention."
Its editor, T.C. Pinckney, has been active in SBC leadership, including being a past member of the SBC Executive Committee. He was second vice president of the SBC in 2001 and chaired the order of business committee in 2003.
He made the motion in 1999 to appoint a study committee to rewrite the Baptist Faith & Message, and served on the committee which proposed revisions in 2000.
In 2004 Pinckney co-sponsored a resolution calling for a mass exodus from public schools. It didn't pass, but this year the convention approved a similar resolution urging churches to investigate homosexual influences in their local schools.
Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life, is a best seller for LifeWay Christian Stores and his column appears in Baptist Press. He broke ranks with SBC leadership this summer, however, by accepting an invitation to speak at the 100th anniversary Baptist World Congress in England.
According to a BWA report, Warren said at a press conference that he disagreed with last year's decision by the Southern Baptist Convention to withdraw membership and funding from the BWA.
"I think that was a mistake," he said. "I see absolutely zero reason in separating my fellowship from anybody."
Warren said when he heard of the SBC's withdrawal, "I thought, 'This is silly! Why would we separate ourselves from brothers and sisters in the world?'" and wrote a check for $25,000 to the BWA.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
Previous related stories:
Moderate Baptists Split Over 'Purpose Driven' Phenomenon
Theological Panic Underlies Election Rhetoric
Does Rick Warren Read a Small Bible?
Rick Warren Going Global in 2005
Tour Marks Two-year Anniversary of 'Purpose Driven Life'
Southern Baptist Mega-Church Pastor to Address BWA