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09 June, 2008 / theexpositor

On the Radio….Extreme Theology, Rick Warren and the PDL

Chris Rosebrough author of the blog site, shares his reflections on his meeting with Rick Warren at a recent Purpose Driven Conference in Lake Forest California. Mike and Chris discuss his theological opinion of Warren and PDL, especially nowthat he has met the man personally; also what has been the reaction to his articles; and what should be the tone and posture of believers when it comes to contending for the faith.




  1. jeffshort / Jun 10 2008 2 45

    mike, i’m still confused about the dialogue with rick warren. what was warren’s response to the very serious charges about his misrepresenting the gospel? i heard that he considers himself a preacher of repentance, but how can he claim to preach repentance when he can consistently offers salvation without asking sinners to renounce their sins? i never really heard any concrete acknowledgment in the dialogue that warren understands why he is upsetting so many godly, faithful Christians. in other words, it seems to me that he still doesn’t “get it.” i hear that rick warren is an intelligent man, well, can he dialogue in a rational manner on subjects such as repentance? can he read theology (for example, wayne grudem’s systematic theology, on repentance), and still hold that he actually preaches repentance? these are concrete points that he either can or can’t understand. in respect to warren being wesleyan in theology, he may well be arminian in theology but he most definitely isn’t wesley in preaching because wesley preached law and grace. in fact, wesley instructed his preachers to start out preaching law until conviction of sin was obtained, then call for repentance and then offer grace — proper gospel preaching. warren doesn’t do that.
    yes, our tone must be patience and love, but in our discussions on truth we must not back down, nor let rick’s personality kill us with kindness. rick’s personality is huge, his ability to disarm and win over with his whinsome manner is well known, even legendary, but that shouldn’t keep us from pressing in our cross-examination of his teachings. we must hold him accountable, no matter how personable he is, no matter how whinsome his personality, no matter how disarming. in fact, in many instances, rick’s personality and his success make it even harder to hold him accountable, since he can deflect pointed questions with a laugh or a joke or a smile. the fact is, this brother needs to be held accountable for misrepresenting the essentials of the gospel. i’ve already written at length on his Christmas Wal-Mart “gospel” presentation, so i won’t go into that again here(see past blog comments), but anyone who has heard or read his Wal-Mart message will realize that his attempts to simplify the gospel confuse the gospel, distort the gospel, and actually misrepresent the gospel.
    my question is, has rick warren received any correction from his critics? has rick warren acknowledged any of his errors and mistakes in teaching? has rick warren repented of his over-simplification and trivialization of the gospel and the church? is there any sign of this? if not, inviting his critics in for a chat might be his attempt to reach out to them, disarm them, and soften their criticisms, not to learn from them, repent, and reform his own ways. i’m reminded of d.a.carson’s response to questions as to why he didn’t visit with emerging church guru brian mclaren first before writing a book criticizing the movement (after all, mclaren had invited him). he said he purposefully and intentionally decided not to meet with mclaren first so that he could be more rational and objective and state the truth in the book without the bias of any personal and subjective pressures. i think that was sound wisdom. i think the same should be applied to personalities like rick warren. rick’s personal gravitational pull is great, and he certainly feels like an old friend after you’ve met him (i know, i’ve met him too), but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s wrong and he needs his good old friends to tell him,and keep on telling him until he “get it.”

    jeff short
    new york

  2. Darren Sapp / Jun 11 2008 16 12


    During the interview with Chris, you were discussing why Warren believes this (i.e. PDL methods). I did not really hear an answer there. I think the answer is that he sees results. Saddleback has seen thousands of lost people come to Christ and then work out their salvation in ministry and mission. Either all those people are deluded or false converts, or God is using Warren to reach those people in a way that many folks don’t find “biblical.”

    I have concerns in my own church with the preaching. I want us to move more towards John Piper but sometimes it seems more like the opposite direction. I am trying to fuss less and pray more about this. Much like Saddleback though, I see fruit all around me. Lost people are saved and they are doing ministry and missions.

    So why does Warren believe it? Could it be that he sees fruit? Are they false converts? Are they genuine believers that are a mile wide and an inch deep? Is God using Warren in a different way them some of us like?

    Press On,


    P.S. I appreciate the method and temperament exhibited by you and Chris R. as opposed to the way some others have acted.

  3. Ken Silva / Jun 12 2008 16 16

    [Carson] said he purposefully and intentionally decided not to meet with mclaren first so that he could be more rational and objective and state the truth in the book without the bias of any personal and subjective pressures. i think that was sound wisdom.”

    It is Jeff, and this is the heart of the matter. As one who has personally spoken at length with both Tony Jones and Dan Kimball I can relate to how Bob and Chris felt.

    As we get to know those whose teachings we are opposing it can set you back a bit. And it is my sincere belief (for what’s that’s worth) that this is a common tactic.

    I applaud Carson for his sound wisdom and we need to remember that it is entirely possible to criticize – even harshly if necessary – someone’s teachings and still love them.

    Or is Warren et al prepared to argue that Jesus – pure Love in human flesh – did not love the Jewish religious leaders which He called “children of the Devil” to their very face…

  4. jeffshort / Jun 18 2008 14 13

    darren writes that rick warren may feel justified in continuing with his message and ministry methods because he sees fruit coming from them. he can point to thousands attending his mega-church weekly. who can argue with success? and so the argument goes. but we must be careful to not fall into the trap of using numbers as confirmation for our message or methods. joel osteen can point to success as far as numbers go. he can use all the “fruit” that he is producing as evidence of “God’s blessing” on his ministry and message. but if we use that test, so can the mormons, since they are the fastest growing religious group in the nation. can we look at their “fruit” as justification for their message and ministry? no. what we must ask it, “who are these people who attend rick warren’s church and what do their lives faith and practice look like outside of the crowd on sunday?” we must be cautious about saying that rick warren’s ministry is bearing lots of fruit, because fruit isn’t measured just by quantity but also by quality. i remember david wells’ observation in his book “whatever happened to truth” when he says, “if contemporary church-growth mega-churches were really bearing biblical fruit, as evidenced by their large numbers, american culture would already be transformed and secularism would be on the run. but since this is not the case, we must question the so-called ‘fruit ‘these methods are producing.” despite high profile pastors and their mega-ministries, american culture isn’t being tranformed, but in fact is losing ground to the forces of secularism. so we must look beneath the surface and see what is really taking place.
    who attends rick warren’s church and churches like his? probably already converted christians who enjoy praising the worshiping God in the midst of thousands of others. probably semi-religious people who enjoy the positive and upbeat atmosphere at saddleback. probably people who, like the people who attend joel osteen’s church, enjoy the positive benefits of the gospel while ignoring or rejecting the discipleship demands of the whole gospel message. only God can look into a person’s heart and pass judgment upon one’s salvation state, but there are no doubt some (many?) who embrace a repentant-less faith while thinking they are saved. it isn’t our judge to judge people but it is our job to teach the accurate gospel message and not soften it in order for more people to supposedly receive it. rick warren can’t point to the large numbers, success, or “fruit” for confirmation of his repentant-less message or his careless ministry methods. the best that he or any mega-church growth pastor can claim is that he’s meeting human needs in one form or another. whether those needs are the true biblical, spiritual salvation gospel need is the question. and that must be answered separate from numbers. it must be answered by examining the biblical message of salvation and then examining the spiritual fruit of conversion among the converts. if rick warren preaches the true gospel message, including repentance, and then sees his converts bear the fruit of repentance and faith, then i’m prepared to say that he is producing ministry fruit that lasts.

  5. Darren Sapp / Jun 19 2008 13 51


    My post referred to fruit as “missions and ministry.” I never mentioned numbers as I agree that is never a sole reason to declare success in ministry. John MacArthur has a mega church. The numbers indicate that people are drawn to what they hear but are those people bearing fruit in missions and ministry? Are the lost that come being saved? I don’t know but I would suspect they are. So numbers are only one indicator.

    I am specifically arguing that if Warren sees people in his church that were saved in his church and are now bearing fruit evidenced my missions and ministry, would that not motivate him to continue his current methods?

    I see the problems with preaching a shallow gospel every day. I am in a mega church with seeker sensitive preaching very similar to Warren’s so I know what happens “after the sermon.” I have chosen to stay there and work in missions, ministry, and discipleship because I see so much fruit in spite of our human efforts. The Holy Spirit is working even when we are not.

    I think your reservations are geniune and justified, but until you have hard data to confirm that people are not being saved are are not bearing fruit, we have to trust and pray that Warren’s ministry, as well as MacArthur’s, thrives.

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