As Rick Warren came onto the scene in the late 1990s many realised there were problems with his teaching. And then came 'The Purpose Driven Life' in 2002 and for several years it seemed like Rick Warren was going to be the new leader of American Evangelicalism.
His role and prominence in the 2008 election cycle raised some eyebrows in conservative circles and though he's still immensely popular it seems like his star has faded a bit. The suicide of his son a few years ago garnered some interest in the form of pity, but generally speaking it almost seems like he's getting desperate for attention.
This breathing-prayer nonsense has actually been part of his theology for some time, as well as the soft-Charismatic theology and emphasis to his spirituality. The Daniel Diet that he now promotes is absurd and something of scam. Its science is bunk, and it can only be described as yet another instance of a false teacher making merchandise of God's people. It is theologically and exegetically spurious.
I'm curious though. I vividly recall many conversations with Reformed people back in the early 2000s. I was still in those circles at that time and though many (like me) were very critical of Warren, there were also not a few who supported him. They considered his theology a little sloppy but overall they believed he was on to something and having a positive influence. Would they retract their previous support?
Or even better, would they re-think their own framework that apparently blinded them with regard to Warren?
From Promise Keepers, to the Purpose Driven Movement to WWJD to The Prayer of Jabez and on and on it goes, the Evangelical world is subject to being 'blown about'. Its foundations are paltry and weak and it is easily subject to false teachers and fraudulent ideas. Their financial resources are extensive and they are constant subjects of exploitation and deceit.
Warren seems to be trying to promote 'the next thing'. He's not a teacher, rather he's a less offensive and yet more dangerous version of Donald Trump. What I mean is, he sells not content but himself. And his 'brand' (to use the obscene parlance) seems to be waning.
He really has nothing to say in terms of Scripture and so he's turning to the sensational. Though his popularity has receded, he still can fill large venues and doesn't appear to be going away. He seems to be moving increasingly in the direction of political and social action... catching something of the current Evangelical zeitgeist.
One place he has been and continues to be very influential is in Africa and in particular with US allies Rwanda and Uganda. One wonders if during the Bush years there wasn't some sort of State Department collaboration with Warren's movement?
Whether you agree with abstinence strategy or not, there are other points of interest in the article, namely the hint of massive funds collaborating with Warren's own initiatives.
The Rewire article acknowledges that Saddleback isn't directly funded in Africa but it's also correct in noting that if you understand how these organisations work, then it doesn't have to be. Ministries can form offshoots and affiliates. There are ways to obfuscate the money and certainly the management of it. It's an old bureaucratic trick and one long used by corporations, the State Department and intelligence agencies. The Church in being a 'good steward' has also learned how to play the money game.
But that's another topic worthy of weighty consideration. Suffice it say, Rick Warren is not immune.
Warren's theology is troubling as are his associates in Africa. Warren is not a 'hard' Dominionist but he certainly falls within that sphere and the effects of this theology within Africa are nothing less than devastating.
Of course Africans are generally a religious people and a great deal of them profess Christianity. The heresy of Dominionism provides a theological and ethical justification for many of their aspirations and actions.
I'm not suggesting that Kagame and Museveni directly make a theological case for their actions but overall the theology of Dominionism inverts ethics in the name of power. It blends nicely with the needs of African dictators who rely on raw power in order to survive in tough geopolitical neighbourhoods. Consequentialist to the core it embraces evil so that good may come. What is the good? That's easy. It's Christian triumph in the form of political and cultural power. Warren's theology marshals the people and is packaged in a way that it is able to sell and channel energies and resources. Hence his appeal, especially to men in power.
Obviously as believers we're not going to share the views of Warren's many secular critics. This article is written by a sodomite and his personal bitterness comes through. But that does not mean that he and other critics don't have something to say and it doesn't mean that we as Christians can't glean from their research and reporting.
I guess my question is... what will Warren come up with next? How far will he go?
The current spirit of compromise and the growing worldliness of Evangelicalism might afford Warren to make something of a comeback. The hardcore wing of Evangelicalism will continue to work with him even if they don't respect him. And yet I wonder how theologically 'hardcore' the fringe of the Christian Right really is? I have my doubts. Once again it is the theology of Dominionism that is providing the basis for this new broad Ecumenical umbrella that can incorporate semi-liberal Evangelicals, traditionalist conservative Protestants, Catholics and now Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists and other cultists.