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November 21, 2006

RE: Warren and Obama

Just to clarify, when I read that Rick Warren had asked Barak Obama to speak at Saddleback, I was not accusing Rick Warren of apostasy. Like millions of others, I have read and been through a church-wide study on The Purpose-Driven Life, and been edified by his insights, and I've never found anything theologically to take issue with. The only issue I had with the book is that it is "theology light" in the sense that it is aimed at educating immature Christians -- something that is badly needed in our Biblically challenged days, but something that must not be viewed as an end in itself. It's a good beginning for those whose knowledge of God's Word is lacking and whose spiritual journey is just beginning; but, to me, the real test of the book's "success" is the degree to which it encourages Christians to dig deeper spiritually.

Given my knowledge of PDL, the Obama invitation struck me as inconsistent with what I know about Warren. That's why I wondered what else might be behind the invitation. OK, I now know that this is a conference on AIDS that will include both secular and religious speakers. That, explanation, however, only makes me more curious: why is a Christian church hosting a "secular" anything? Why not call together other Christian groups that are addressing AIDS in Africa and believe that the Lord is powerful enough to deal with the issue without bringing in those with a merely secular point of view?

Yes, I know that is going to strike some of you as naive. I do mission work in Africa, so I'm well aware of the fact that any work we want to do there will have to go through Muslim governments and officials. That can't be helped. But what Warren is doing CAN be helped! We are called to minister in this fallen world; but we are also cautioned to maintain a certain degree of separation from sin and evil lest we compromise our faith ("What fellowship has light with darkness?" -- 2 Cor 6:14). Sorry, but Barak Obama's political stance on abortion and homosexual rights put him on the "dark" side. Thus, I can't shake the feeling that this is a really, really bad call on Warren's part.

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I think it is fine to have differences of opinion on this issue, as long as the facts are understood correctly. My concern was over the manipulative measures employed my WorldNetDaily and the commentary from Townhall, to smear Rick Warren. If you don't think a church should host any 'mixed' non-worship seminars, I can respect that...not sure I agree, but it is a valid discussion as long as it is based on truth, not lies.

Also, I don't think your original post made any accusations of apostacy; however, the sources for this information have not been as reserved. Rick Warren, as well as any other person, does not deserve to be treated in this manner. If I implied in any way that you made a charge of apostasy, I sincerely apologize--that was not my intention.

Katharine Eastvold

I do take issue with your opinion that a church should not host a conference featuring both religious and secular speakers. (Note that I DO agree that a church should not be "hosting a secular anything," as you put it. It is possible to host a conference that is not secular while inviting some speakers with secular messages.)

Originally, "secular" simply meant "not sacred" - in other words, not explicitly spiritual. (This definition has its own problems, as it can lead to the impression that part of life is spiritual and part is not, whereas in reality, God is omnipresent.) "Secular," properly used, does NOT mean non-Christian. A Christian might, in fact, be a secular speaker when speaking to, say, the American Bar Association about the evolution of mandatory minimums in sentencing. So, to say that Obama is a secular speaker says nothing about his personal faith - which is an important point, since Sen. Obama does identify himself as a Christian. In other words, we don't have to pass judgment on whether or not he really is a follower of Christ.

Is it problematic for a church to host a secular speaker (whether a non-Christian or a Christian who is not speaking in explicitly Christian terms)? I don't see why. All truth is God's truth, and there is a lot of truth out there. We Christians, while we know the essential truth from the revealed Word, cannot by ourselves know ALL truth - scientific, medical, artistic, social, etc. Especially where a problem like AIDS is concerned, we must work with non-Christians - not just because many African governments are controlled by non-Christians, but because non-Christians are doctors, scientists, relief workers, and so on, who have valuable truths to teach us about the AIDS crisis and how to address it.

It's not easy to separate truth from untruth, and yes, when we listen to non-Christians, there's always the danger that we will be deceived. But that danger isn't absent within the church, either; after all, our reason is still fallen, and we all still sin. The Holy Spirit, though, has been sent to help us discern truth and test what others say. We must have faith in the power of God to keep us from being led astray while we are in sincere pursuit of answers to our neighbors' suffering.

None of this speaks to Sen. Obama's qualifications to speak about AIDS, and I don't know what he will have to add to this conference. But I think it's a mistake to assert that non-Christians or secular speakers have no place at a Christian conference. Light has no fellowship with darkness, but we also must remember that truth can reside anywhere, and that no person (while on earth) is either completely "light" or completely "darkness."


Katharine, that was excellent! I wholeheartedly agree with your position; however, I think we need to allow for debate on the issue. To paraphrase someone I heard long ago, "debate vigorously, but do not divide over."

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