Issues, Etc.

Broadcast Transcript
Radio Host Todd Wilken

Discussion: The Purpose Driven Life
Guests: Professor Larry Rast, Pastor Wil Weedon, and Pastor Tom Baker
Date: October 29, 2003

 WILKEN: Welcome back to Issues, Etc. We're beginning a two-hour roundtable discussion for the remainder of the program. The book has swept the nation. This is—well, it's a New York Times best seller, there's no doubt about that. Congregations are buying this thing in mass. People are buying it. Their pastors are saying, "You gotta buy this book! You gotta read this book!" Some of them are saying, "You have to buy this book! You have to read this book, The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren." It's not his first book. It's not the first book that's come out from Rick Warren. He's pastor of Saddleback Community Church in California. The churches are doing "40 Days of Purpose," and that follows chapter by chapter this book through 40 days. The book is actually written for that very purpose so that congregations—whole groups of Christians and individuals—can go through this book chapter by chapter one chapter a day. And by the end Rick Warren promises that you will not only know God's purpose for your life, but you will be better equipped to receive eternal reward.

So what's wrong with The Purpose Driven Life? What's so troubling about it? We've been talking about it for weeks here on Issues, Etc. and finally we've assembled our roundtable of pastors and professors. Our call-in numbers are 505-7850 or 1-800-730-2727. Our roundtable includes Pastor Will Weedon of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, Ill. Pastor Weedon, welcome to Issues, Etc.

WEEDON: Hi, Todd! Good to be with you today.

WILKEN: We also have Pastor Tom Baker, known to our KFUO listeners as the host of Law & Gospel here on AM 850 KFUO. He's director of development for the Concordia Mission Society. Tom, welcome back to Issues, Etc.

BAKER: Good to be with you tomorrow.

WILKEN: And Dr. Larry Rast is our guest. Dr. Larry Rast, he's associate professor of historical theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind. Larry, welcome back to Issues, Etc.

RAST: Hi, Todd. Great to be with you.

WILKEN: All right, gentlemen, I'm going to go down the line one by one. I'd like to begin with you, Tom, your general impression of The Purpose Driven Life.

BAKER: I think Rick Warren has good intentions and such, but I believe he's right in the heritage of a Billy Graham, modern evangelical thought, very—from a Lutheran point of view—unable to distinguish between Law and Gospel, and has some other problems with the theology of glory, Semi-Pelagianism, little bit of legalism. Outside of that, it's not too bad a' book.

WILKEN: Pastor Weedon, your first impression of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.

WEEDON: It's a very well written book, and I think that's part of its danger. It's very—the man writes very well. It's very easy to read, and it's full of Scripture! Every page you turn, he's quoting the Word of God at you in some translation or another. And by the time you're done, you're thinking, "Wow! There—there can't be anything wrong with this! This man is full of the Word of God!" And he writes so well, and it sounds so practical and so good, and you don't even see the poison that's been slipped to you as you read along.

WILKEN: Larry, your impression of The Purpose Driven Life.

RAST: Well, I'll pick up one word that Pastor Weedon uses just before and that is practical. One of the things that I think people find attractive about this book is it's straightforward, simplistic, not in the negative sense—character—that is, extremely accessible and easily put into practice. The problem is, however, that as my two colleagues have pointed out very well already is that there are some basic problems here, like the confusion of Law and Gospel, confusion of justification and sanctification and, ultimately, it leads you in the wrong direction, which is to take your focus off of Christ and to put it upon yourself.

WILKEN: Now working back the other direction again, beginning with you, Larry. What positives do you find in this book?

RAST: Well, again, there's a lot of Scripture that's present in it. There are some practical kinds of lessons to be learned. There is an emphasis on the uniqueness of every human being. There's the idea that you're created by God and that is certainly to be affirmed. There's the idea that you do have unique talents and abilities that can be used in service to the church and one to another and to those outside the church. And all of those things are very good and proper. So in that respect there is a certain usefulness within the book. However, again, that is often tempered by the way it takes the emphasis off Christ and puts it on the self.

WILKEN: Pastor Weedon, beyond your first impressions, what would you say are the positives of The Purpose Driven Life?

WEEDON: I was really impressed by how he clearly confessed that God uses adversity to bring blessing. That is a theme that is dear to any Lutheran heart, and I was glad to hear that he got that for the most part very clearly said. I also thought his section on temptation and the way temptation works was very well written and very accurately followed the biblical teaching.

WILKEN: And, Tom, finally you on that question. What are the positives, if any, that you can find in The Purpose Driven Life?

BAKER: I think occasionally there are some good exegetical points, which simply means matters of interpretation of the Scripture. His discussion on Romans 8:28-29, I learned some things I was unaware of. I thought that was very good. And then throughout the book he has comments that, in my opinion, seem to contradict other parts of the book but in and of themselves are very good, such as, "Without God life makes no sense . . . At death you won't leave home, you'll go home . . . God's glory is best seen in Jesus Christ . . . Friendship with God is possible only because of the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus." And I could on and on with statements that, in their—just taking a look at them at first glance—they sound very well.

WILKEN: Now this is going to emerge in the course of this conversation that, with the positives stated here, there is even a more subtle danger in this book as Pastor Weedon pointed out, and that is, at least in my reading of the book, it is often—he often begins very well, and then with the left hand takes what he's giving with the right. And we'll get a bit of explanation of that a little later in the conversation. First, let's hear from Rick Warren himself on the premise of The Purpose Driven Life:

One day you're gonna stand before God, and He will do an audit of your life—a final exam before you enter eternity. The Bible says, ‘Remember each of us will stand personally before the judgment seat of God. Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God. Fortunately, God wants us to pass this test so He has given us the questions in advance. And from the Bible we can surmise that God will ask us two crucial questions. First, what did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ? God won't ask you about your religious background or doctrinal views. The only thing that will matter is, did you accept what Jesus did for you, and did you learn to love and trust Him? Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." Second, what did you do with what I gave you? What did you do with your life, all the gifts, the talents, the opportunities, energy, relationships, resources that God gave you? Did you spend them all on yourself? Or did you use them for the purposes God made you for? Preparing you for these two questions is the goal of this book. The first question will determine where you spend eternity. The second question will determine what you do in eternity.

WILKEN: Now, that's Rick Warren. He's laying out the premise for The Purpose Driven Life, and we've got a lot there to react to initially. First, Larry, what do you make of his statement that there's going to be essentially an audit or a final exam in eternity based on two questions, "What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?" and "What did you do with what I gave you?"

RAST: Yeah, in other parts of the book he calls this life a "try out" for that final exam as well, kind of a practice run, if you will, as you prepare yourself for what is coming down the road. The Scripture says that "indeed at the last day the Lord will return and He'll separate the sheep from the goats," that there is a judgment coming, and that we all will, in fact, be judged. But, in fact, those of us who are in Christ will find that it's not us and our works and what we've done and what we've accomplished that is the basis of that audit, if you will, but rather that the audit is accomplished already, that in fact Christ by His perfect life, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension has in fact finished it all already. Salvation unto us has come by God's free grace and favor, not by anything we can and would do of ourselves or with the help of God. Rather, salvation by grace is just that, God's free gift to us undeserved by us but nevertheless granted freely by Him.

WILKEN: Pastor Weedon, he seems to be making a distinction. Okay, if you're a Christian, you're gonna be saved. Judgment Day for you is more or less so God can determine what kind of eternal rewards He's going to give you, and it's going to be based upon these two questions, and it's going to be based upon whether or not you've fulfilled God's five purposes for your life. What do you make of these this teaching about Judgment Day for the Christian?

WEEDON: You know what I really miss in this entire way of speaking? Doesn't it almost sound as though, you know, God's gonna sit down and have a chat with you about this--you know, "How did you do it?" Where is the fear and the trembling where Paul can say, you know, "We will all stand before the judgment seat. Therefore knowing the fear the Lord"—you know, where is the fear that rings through in the church's hymn like Dies Irae, "Day of Wrath, O Day of Mourning": "Though the book exactly worded, wherein all hath been recorded, then shall judgment be awarded. What shall I frail man be pleading when the just are mercy needing? Who for me be interceding?" What I see in his discussion here, as I think it's endemic throughout the entire work, is he has trimmed down the wrath of God to a manageable proportion. In fact, I think he's pretty much wiped out the wrath of God.

WILKEN: Tom, your thought.

BAKER: Boy, I almost the exact opposite impression. This is not a heaven I'm looking forward to. Not at all.


WILKEN: What do you mean?

BAKER: Well, first of all he says on page 231, "At the end of your life on earth, you will stand before God and He is going to evaluate how well you served others with your life." Whoops. It doesn't look like I'm gonna make it, especially when I maybe give an excuse. Listen to 232. This is God speaking to me: "Sorry, wrong answer. I created, saved, and called you and commanded you to live a life of service. What part did you not understand?" In fact, this is a heaven I'm not even looking forward to! Number one, he says there are three rewards you get in eternity. The first reward is "Good job, well done." I'm not sure He's gonna say that to me because I confess every Sunday I'm a poor, miserable sinner deserving nothing but temporal and eternal punishment, not eternal heaven! But listen to the next one: "Next you will receive a promotion and be given greater responsibility." That's what I'm trying to get away from on earth! Ha! If anything, this book has moved me not to do anything in the church because I'd rather—since we're all gonna have the same bliss, what he seems to be saying is, if you really work hard for God here on earth, you're gonna have to work even harder in heaven. Well, forget it! I'll prefer just to stay here on earth and do my little things, and then I won't have so much responsibility in eternity. This whole thing—I don't know if he's talking about degrees of glory or whatever, but there certainly does—and this is the most important part of his whole book—is that Judgment Day is gonna be the day that God will decide your reward depending on what you do! It seems to me that's what the entire Reformation was against.

WILKEN: Pastor Weedon, what do you make of this teaching that he seems to be saying, "Okay, you're gonna go to heaven, but what you're determining by what you do in this life is how good your state's gonna be in heaven, or your estate in heaven." What do you make of this?

WEEDON: Again, as I said in the beginning, I think it's a dangerous thought—it's a very dangerous thought. When you go to heaven and—the Lord does indeed reward with different degrees of glory the works that are done. The thought is not, "Ah! Look what I got! It's pretty neat!" It's like, "Oh, my Lord, would you really give that to me? Oh, how can that be?" And when you look at your neighbor and see what they've been given, you don't say, "Oh, I should've worked harder on earth! I would've gotten the glory that they've got!" You go, "Look at that! Aren't they shining with the gifts of the Lamb?"

WILKEN: Larry, your thoughts on eternal rewards and, if you would, explain to us what Scripture teaches regarding eternal rewards and how they are acquired.

RAST: Well, the eternal rewards that we enjoy are the gifts of God. In fact, what Warren himself does in a couple of points in the book is contradict himself. Where he talks about how we have to become more and more like Christ, we have to do more, we have to be prepared for the final exam and the like, and he even goes so far as to cite the text that says, "May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation, those good things that are produced in your life by Jesus Christ," and he says that then proves how we have to work harder.

But you look at this and it says, "May you always be filled the fruit of your salvation, those things that are produced in your life by Jesus Christ." The Lord is the One who is at work in us both to justify us and to sanctify us. He remains faithful to us. He brings us into the faith. He nurtures us in the faith. He maintains us in the faith. He is the beginning and the end of all things. And so as we enjoy His mere presence in heaven, we won't come in via some exam in which we find ourselves, like Tom rightly noted, disappointed at the results! "Well, you got a C on your exam. You do get into heaven, but it ain't so great where you're gonna end up." The fact that we're there, the fact that our Lord welcomes us to Himself, is purely by His grace. So, again, at every point Warren takes the focus off of Christ and puts it onto the human subject.

WILKEN: Now, lying behind much of Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life, is his view of free will:

It's time to settle this issue. Who are you gonna live for, yourself or God? You may hesitate wondering whether you have the strength to live for God. Don't worry! God will give you what you need if you'll just make the choice to live for Him.

WILKEN: Pastor Weedon, there was a big if there. God will give you what you need to pass this test if you—how do you respond to that?

WEEDON: Everything that he says of salvation he has made—because he has predicated it upon our actions, he's made every last bit of it wobble. There's no way that a person working through The Purpose Driven Life—I'm assuming a person, you know, a heathen coming to the book and trying to work their way through it—how can they ever reach any kind of assurance of their salvation because it's always predicated upon what they've done? In fact, we'll probably come to that startling passage where after he gives you a "sinner's prayer," he immediately adds, "IF you sincerely meant that"! He takes away with the one hand what he gives with the other! And that is a consistent pattern.

WILKEN: Let's hear that:

God is not a cruel slave driver or bully who uses brute force to coerce us into submission. He doesn't try to break our will, but He woos us to Himself so that we might offer ourselves freely to Him. God is a lover and a liberator, and surrendering to Him brings freedom, not bondage. When we completely surrender ourselves to Jesus, we discover that He is not a tyrant but a Savior. Not a boss but a Brother. Not a dictator but a Friend.

WILKEN: Tom, this sounds so very, very good. But again what I heard in there is, "when we surrender, if we do this." What kind of conditions are you hearing here?

BAKER: As one professor at the seminary always asks, who's driving the verbs? Which simply means, who is the subject of the sentence? Who is the cause of the salvation? On page 20 he says that "if you don't have a relationship with Christ, I'll explain how to begin one." And he does that on page 58 by saying, "all you have to do is accept God's offer." That's like going to somebody in a casket in a funeral home and saying, "All you have to do to get out is just lift your leg." On page 79 he says, "We might offer ourselves freely to Him." On page 118, "When we place our faith in Christ." And 137, "The decision to commit yourself to Christ brings salvation." So we're the ones driving all the verbs here. And he is totally taken up with quoting both Billy Graham and also Bill Bright on the four spiritual laws where, obviously, they are getting mixed up the imperative with the indicative, which simply means that where God explains how God keeps His promises, they reinterpret them to mean this is what human beings are to do in order that God might fulfill His promises. They have everything in this area backwards. We call it Semi-Pelagianism, and as host you will explain that.

WILKEN: Well, Semi-Pelagianism, being a softer form of Pelagianism, taught that man has the capacity to seek God in and of himself apart from any movement of God's Word or the Holy Spirit. Semi-Pelagianism says, well, man doesn't have a complete capacity, but man and God could cooperate to a certain degree in this salvation effort. Larry, what do you make of Warren when he says God doesn't break our will?

RAST: I think one of the things he's worried about here is a typical error that those of the Arminian persuasion make. They're worried about the hard-lined notion of double predestinarian Calvinism that says no matter what the human will may choose by virtue of God's hidden decree in eternity, a person's eternal destiny is set even before their creation. And so falling off the horse on the other side, Arminians tend to say, no, everything is open to every single person. There is no bondage of the will. There is complete and utter freedom for every human character. And so what he's saying is that a basic part of human personality is the freedom of the will to choose one way or the other, either for the evil or for the good. And in this case he's saying we have the spiritual ability to do that. We have the ability to choose God or to choose the evil. Now, what this does, of course, is turn God into a passive bystander who watches as the real job gets done by us. God kind of standing by the sidelines hoping that we'll choose to do the right thing in seeking Him, but if it doesn't turn out that way, well, He sorta throws His hands up and says, "I did what I could, but this person chose to reject me and off they go." But if a person does choose then to accept God's offer of salvation, then God says, "Oh, great! Now let me tell you what else you have to do! There's this whole other list of five purposes that you have to fulfill before things are really and totally accomplished."

WILKEN: Now, before we go to the break, Pastor Weedon had mentioned the sinner's prayer that is recommended. Tom had mentioned the off-quoting of Bill Bright. Let's hear Rick Warren on this subject:

Wherever you are listening to this, I invite you to bow your head and quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity. "Jesus, I believe in You and I receive You." Go ahead. Just say "Jesus, I believe in You and I receive You." If you sincerely meant that prayer, congratulations! Welcome to the family of God!

WILKEN: Pastor Baker, respond to this. You've talked a lot about the sinner's prayer.

BAKER: It's almost unbelievable that someone who reads the Bible can say something like this, that someone who is an unbeliever can say "I believe You" without having received Him. It just makes no sense at all. It's kind of—if you're an unbeliever, you don't want to receive Jesus Christ. And if are a believer, then there's no reason to receive Him because He's already in you. But it once more shows the absolute necessity for people like this to give themselves credit where God alone should get the credit. Jesus is kinda clear, "You have not chosen Me, I have chosen you." And all this theology is directly opposite that very clear statement.

WILKEN: Pastor Weedon, before we go with a minute here, is this really kind of the fatal flaw of The Purpose Driven Life—this view of man's capacity, of God's passivity, man as the active agent?

WEEDON: I think so because the theme of choice runs throughout this book from start to finish and it shows up in some astonishing statements, which I hope we'll look at later.

WILKEN: We will. We'll continue our two-hour roundtable with Pastor Tom Baker, Pastor Will Weedon, and Dr. Larry Rast right after this break. If you'd like to join the conversation, feel free to jump in. 505-7850 or 1-800-730-2727. Now, Rick Warren does not dwell a lot upon Baptism or the Lord's Supper or the Sacraments in the book. But when we come back we will hear one of the statements that he makes about Baptism, and we'll see how it figures into the premise that we've laid out here in our evaluation of the book, The Purpose Driven Life. If you've driven past a church lately where you saw "40 Days of Purpose," you've driven past a church where they're reading The Purpose Driven Life. More on that when we come back.


WILKEN: Welcome back to Issues, Etc, well into our review of the best selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren. Maybe you got a copy of this at home. Maybe your pastor has recommended or maybe even required that you read this thing. A lot of churches doing "40 Days of Purpose." Can you read this—this is something we've gotta get to before our two-hour conservation is over—can you read this and spit the bones? Can you read this and say, "Okay, there's enough good in here that I can ignore the bad," or does it suffer from a fatal flaw?

Our guest, Dr. Larry Rast, associate professor of historical theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind. Pastor Will Weedon joins us here in Studio A. He's pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, Ill. And then Pastor Tom Baker, director of development for the Concordia Mission Society and host of Law & Gospel heard here on AM 850 KFUO. Let's see if we can tie up one loose string before we go onto Rick Warren on Baptism.

This notion that man has a free will, what does Scripture teach about the freedom—or as Larry put it a few minutes ago—the bondage of man's will according to his fallen nature? Pastor Baker.

BAKER: In regard to temporal matters, we really do have free will. We can choose what car to buy, what wife to marry, what house to live in. But in regard to spiritual matters, we are dead in sin. That means that, unlike the book, we are no longer born in the image of God. This is a theme that you find in evangelicalism that there's still that image of God and, of course, that allows the free will to make choices, etc. We're actually born in the image of Satan now. And that's why in infant Baptism, it's taking the person—it's kind of taking them out of the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of heaven. So that's how I would respond to that question.

WILKEN: Pastor Weedon, you often hear the objection from someone who says, "But I remember October 27, 1972. I remember the day I made my decision for Christ!" What was really going on October 27, 1972?

WEEDON: The Holy Spirit is the giver of faith, and faith is not something we do. Or I should say, faith is not something that originates in us. Ephesians 2 is just a crucial passage in God's Word for this whole discussion. As Pastor Baker already pointed out, you know, "you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once walked." And then later on in the chapter when he comes to the topic of faith, he says, "By grace you are saved through faith"—and he could not be clearer—he says, "and this is not your own doing, it is not the result of works so that no one can boast. It's a gift of God."

WILKEN: Let's hear what Warren has to say on the subject of Baptism:

Now Baptism doesn't make you a member of God's family. Only faith in Christ does that. Baptism shows you are part of God's family. Like a wedding ring, it's a visible reminder of an inward commitment made in your heart.

WILKEN: Larry, evaluate Rick Warren's statement there on Baptism.

RAST: Well, he—it's a typical kind of thing that you find in this book. Despite the fact that the first sentence of the book is that it's "not about you"—quoting him—in fact, what Baptism becomes is totally about you. That is, according to Warren, it is your public identification of an already existing faith—something internal, something in the heart. As he goes on to say, or kind of the language he uses regarding it, is that Baptism symbolizes God's purpose for your life. It declares your faith. It shares in Christ's death and resurrection, symbolizes your death to your old life, announces your new life in Christ but, in fact, really doesn't have any spiritual impact, any spiritual activity in the life of the sinner.

WILKEN: Is this what Scripture teaches about Baptism?

RAST: By no means! The Scripture is very clear. It says that it is by Baptism that the Holy Spirit works the gift of faith in us. "Baptism now saves you," says 1 Peter. Beyond that, "unless a man be born of water and the Spirit"—John 3—"he cannot see the kingdom of God." And also Titus 3 where we hear about God "who has washed us clean" and really applied the justifying merits of Christ to us in the waters of Baptism. So Baptism is really God's work, God's action on our behalf! Not something that we do, but rather a gift—a gift given freely by God.

WILKEN: Will, you mentioned at the outset that there were some glaring inconsistencies—internal inconsistencies—in Warren's book. But on this subject of Baptism, is he at least being consistent with his own premise that man has a capacity to seek God?

WEEDON: Oh, yeah! This is what—I mean, let us state it from the start—he is a good Arminian. He is teaching exactly what Arminians teach, which is that we have to have this cooperation of the human will to achieve salvation and that the Sacraments—well, I guess he probably wouldn't even call them Sacraments; what do they call them, ordinances—

RAST: Ordinances.

WEEDON: Yeah, ordinances—ordinances to show our obedience. It's not at all about what God does; it's about what we do. And that's how he pictures it with Baptism. I think Communion only gets a single passing mention.

WILKEN: Tom, your thoughts on Warren as he portrays Baptism as this outward symbol of something—kind of the product of our will.

BAKER: Because of his Arminian background and his theology, he's quite anti-sacramental in the sense that God is the One who objectively saves us, so I don't have to look within myself. He supplants Baptism and the Lord's Supper with prayer—talks about a mantra, of breath-prayers throughout the day, and then we're supposed to also make sure that we do this in order to honor God, not to control Him. We're supposed to have the ability to keep our motives straight. In fact, he says "prayer is the most important tool for the mission in the church" and goes so far also to say that "your personal testimony"—page 290—"is more effective than a sermon." Now get that. Personal testimony, namely, what Christ means to me is more important than a sermon based on God's Word. And he goes so far to try and prove that—and it's almost comical here—where he says on six different occasions, "Paul used his testimony to share the Gospel instead of quoting Scripture." Perhaps he forgot that Paul's testimony was Scripture.

WILKEN: That's a good point. Now, moving on from Baptism, obedience is a major feature of this book. You can hardly read this book without getting a very clear impression that Rick Warren is big on obedience. When he talks about sanctification, he talks about it as "friendship with God":

Second, to develop a friendship with God, I must choose to obey God in faith. Every time you trust God's wisdom and do whatever He says to do—even when you don't understand it—you deepen your friendship with God. We don't normally think of obedience as a characteristic of friendship. That's reserved for relationships with a parent or a boss or a superior officer, not a friend. However, Jesus made it clear that obedience is a condition of intimacy with God.

WILKEN: Will, you're shaking your head. What are your thoughts on that when he talks about obedience as a condition as a friendship with God?

WEEDON: It reminds me of something of my own past. At one point I had—when I was teenager—drifted away from the Lutheran church and was listening to a bunch of charismatic nonsense, and I remember hearing a preacher once say, "The grounds of your salvation is grace. The condition of your salvation is obedience." And when I heard that, the Holy Spirit was reminding me that's not true! That's not what God's Word says! "By grace you are saved through faith"! And that led me to realize right away that this group was something that I had to leave. It drove me back to the Lutheran church literally.

WILKEN: Tom, you mentioned before that you confess on a daily basis that you are a lost and condemned creature, a poor, miserable sinner. Warren says if you're going to be a friend of God, it requires obedience. What kind of obedience is he calling for? Is it the perfect obedience required by the Law?

BAKER: Since it's impossible to have perfect obedience in light of our old Adam—I do have to say though, my old Adam really does like this book, because to develop friendship with God, I need to be obedient to Him, and I tried that on my wife. Went to Louise and said, "Look, you want to be my friend? Be obedient, cook when I tell you to, wash the clothes, etc." and for some reason a division occurred rather than—


BAKER: —rather than a unity. And I said, "You're just not thinking right, woman!"

WILKEN: You didn't win a friend that day.

BAKER: No, it really didn't seem—and, I tell ya, this is a God and this is a heaven where I would prefer to be on earth.

WILKEN: Larry, this is an old theme that must sound quite familiar to you, because you've made a career of studying the revivalism era of American Christianity. Tell us about that.

RAST: Yeah, in this respect Tom's absolutely right that Warren does find himself in the line of a Bill Bright and back to Billy Graham, but this stretches well back before that to the revivalists in the 19th century and even before that. The greatest example of whom, of course, is Charles Finney who said that really what the Christian life is about is just that—obedience—and that salvation in the end is a conditional matter, conditioned upon the faithful response of the person who has the free will to choose God not only as Savior but to continue to choose God and to do the will of God in this life.

This is the word that undoes this book. Even though he says it's not about you, well, in the end as soon as you say that obedience is a condition of intimacy with God, you're distancing human beings from God! You're putting up a great barrier between them because, as we've already heard and rightly so, there is no human being—no naturally born human being—who can keep the Law in its perfection. Only Christ has done that and He's done it for us. But there's the whole thing. Because of our lack of ability to do so, because of the fact that we, in fact, don't want to do so and that we resist God and rebel against God, God insisted on breaking into our situation through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and making that broken relationship right.

Whether I choose to obey God or not in this respect doesn't change the fact that Jesus Christ came into this world and lived a perfect life, died, suffered and rose again so that the sins of the world are in fact forgiven. Now, Christ comes to me and the merits of His wonderful life are applied to me freely by God in Baptism, not as an obedient command that I fulfill but rather as a gracious act on God's part on my behalf.

WILKEN: You know what I thought, guys? I thought when I read that section, obedience is a condition for intimacy with God, I said, "You know, he's right, but it's not my obedience."

WEEDON: Right.

WILKEN: Christ's obedience is the condition for intimacy with God.

RAST: Exactly.

WILKEN: Christ's obedience is what has purchased and won for me a relationship with God where I need not fear, where I have peace with God. Tom?

BAKER: Yeah, I think that's an important point that, why does he think that Jesus Christ is important? Here's the difference, I think, between his theology and Reformation theology. For him Jesus Christ is absolutely important because he provides the potential for my able to cooperate in order that I might, by my obedience, please Him. Whereas in Lutheran theology, Jesus doesn't just provide the potential for my salvation, He actually provides my salvation. Therefore my works are never a cause of my getting right with God, they are always a result of Him getting me right with Him.

WILKEN: Pastor Weedon, is there any getting around this when you read The Purpose Driven Life? Is there any getting around the fact that essentially what he's saying is, your works cause a bettered relationship with God?

WEEDON: No, everything is integral to the whole message. And the picture he gives of the Christian is inherently flawed because he does not picture the Christian as same time, as we say, saint and sinner. He does not deal with the fact that there is an old Adam who corrupts every work that we do so that even the good works that we do need to be forgiven because of the rotten motives sometimes for which we do them! They're always going to be flawed! As Isaiah said, you know, it's our "righteousnesses that are as a filthy rag" in God's sight, not the sins—the good things we do that need forgiveness too.

WILKEN: Pastor Will Weedon is our guest here in Studio A, along with Pastor Tom Baker. Dr. Larry Rast joins us on the phone. This is our two-hour roundtable discussion of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. Another major theme—and you mention this earlier, Will—in the book, The Purpose Driven Life, is that of choices:

Christ's likeness is not produced by imitation but by inhabitation. We allow Christ to live through us. The Bible says, "For this is the secret, Christ lives in you." How does this happen in real life? Through the choices we make. We choose to do the right thing in situations and then trust God's Spirit to give us His power and His love and His faith and wisdom to do it. Since God's Spirit lives inside of us, these things are always available for the asking.

WILKEN: Pastor Weedon, your response.

WEEDON: You know, when I first started reading that paragraph I was almost getting excited. I thought, "Well, he might be onto something here! He might be getting it right! Christ's likeness is not produced by imitation." And I wanted to say, "Amen! No way!" I kept on thinking about John 15, the branches and the vine. I kept on thinking about Jesus saying, "Apart from Me you can do nothing"! And I thought, "Surely now, surely this will be the place where he talks about how God through the Word and Sacraments inhabits us." And instead we are told that God inhabits us through the choices we make. I cannot express my horror at such a statement.

WILKEN: Why is that?

WEEDON: This takes guts, this Christianity, because our faith is not about the choices we make. It's about the Divine life which is in Jesus Christ, which He's—you know, He suffered and died and rose again to impart that life to us so that we may have koinonia—fellowship with God through Him. He wants that Life to be in us. And He extends that Life to us through the Word and Sacraments. And to say that that Life comes to us through our doings? This is worse than anything Rome ever came up with.

WILKEN: Tom, if salvation begins with my choice, it only makes sense that the indwelling of Christ—the ongoing indwelling of Christ—would occur also through my choices, right?

BAKER: If salvation begins with your choice.


BAKER: Which the Bible contradicts, right?

WILKEN: Right!


WILKEN: So if salvation doesn't begin with my choice but of God's choice of me—


WILKEN: —is there any way that someone who follows in the stream of the Reformation, "salvation by grace through faith for the sake of Christ alone," can say that Christ indwells us through the choices we make?

BAKER: No, not at all. What's happening with Rick Warren as a theologian of glory, he is simply interpreting Bible from his experience. He probably grew up in a household where his parents appreciated him more by how he acted, where his teachers gave him A's when he did well on tests, and where his job—employers—gave him promotions when he did well, and he thinks that's the way God is also. He is just applying the way things work in the temporal realm to the spiritual realm and, unfortunately, is falling back into pre-Reformation theology.

WILKEN: Larry, your thoughts on the choices we make.

RAST: Well, it seems that what Warren tends to do is reduce faith to choice, that is, almost to make the two synonymous so that the choices you make then become either the faith that you have or you don't have—faith as the action or the deed that's actually done, rather than how the Scriptures so clearly teach faith as that which receives the gifts of God, that which clings to Christ and Him alone.

In every case the author of this book retreats to the conditions that are left in front of us that we have to fulfill, the potential that we have to fulfill them, and then leaves us with the word of the Law that says "now do this!" whether it's in Baptism, whether it's faith, whether it's free will, whatever it may be. We're always left with the statement, "Now do this; it's up to you."

WILKEN: Larry, is this what we talked about—is this a good example of what we talked about Sunday night on the program—the similarities between Roman Catholicism and where Rick Warren stands, that is, in the heart of American Evangelicalism?

RAST: Yes, that's an excellent point you make there, Todd, because here you see one of the most amazing things of church history in that, those who claim to be apart of the Reformation to have grown out of it have, in fact, walked a path if not back to Rome in terms of their allegiances and their alliances, at least theologically they've beat a path towards that door. And in some cases have even gone beyond what Rome teaches. But you say, "How can that be?" Well, I think in the end it's simply a matter of the human nature playing itself out as it must if it's not well informed by the Word of God. Namely, that we human beings work from the posture of the Law, and we believe that if we are to be right with God, if we are to be in the fullest possible relationship with Him, then there is something that we have to do. Whether it be a little or whether it be a lot, there's something that's left up to the human being. And what Scripture makes clear over and over again is that it is God who makes things right between Himself and human beings—not the human being who does that.

WILKEN: So, I guess what I'm wondering is, someone is reading this book and they're loving every minute of it. Why does it appeal, Pastor Weedon? Is it precisely for the reasons that Larry just stated?


WILKEN: It speaks to the old Adam—

WEEDON: Yeah, it strokes the old Adam. It sure does. It feels so good to accomplish something. And this is what, you know, he's going to give you 40 steps to groom that old Adam every day. Can I add one thing on that before we go on?


WEEDON: It strikes me as characteristic of the whole book. Instead of killing the old Adam, he is out to reform him.

WILKEN: Clean him up.

WEEDON: Clean him up! I keep on thinking of that terrible phrase in the Anglican liturgy where in the confession of sins they confess that we are "very far gone from original righteousness." You know, we were very far gone but, you know, we're not totally lost, we're just very far gone and we just need to get our act together, and he has a book to help us get our act together.

WILKEN: Tom, you have served as a parish pastor in a previous incarnation for a long time.


WILKEN: I think 25 years we celebrated with you last year, is that correct?


WILKEN: So you've had a lot of time with the people of God as a pastor in the church. Having read The Purpose Driven Life, what do you think would be the result of one of your parishioners reading this book, taking it deeply to heart? Where would they actually be at the end of 40 days?

BAKER: I had two kinds of parishioners: those who are somewhat pharisaical because there's not really any problems in their life, and so they thank God they're not like other people and they would love this book. And then I had another kind who are really depressed. They're unable to follow God's will. They don't think God loves them. They don't think they're appropriate for the church. And here's the kinds of things that Rick Warren would want me to say to them if they walked into my office. This depressed person—page 80: "You can't call Jesus your Lord when you refuse to obey Him." Page 95: "Jesus made it clear that obedience is a condition of intimacy with God." 175: "God waits for you to act first." And 180: "Every choice has eternal consequences, so you had better choose wisely."

WILKEN: So where would that parishioner who believes that God hates them and realizes their own sin, where would that person end up after "40 Days of Purpose"?

BAKER: It depends on how they read it. If they read it with pharisaical eyes thinking that they can achieve these things, they're gonna feel real good about themselves. And the first thing that will happen, there will be a division within any community that attempts to do this, between those who've "We've made it!" verses those who say "I don't think I even want to be part of this!" because in their heart of hearts they know that this is not godly.

WILKEN: Pastor Weedon, you serve as a parish pastor right now. This is "40 Days of Purpose" that's being recommended to the church. The church has been doing its own 40 days for an awful long time—

WEEDON: Amen! Amen!

WILKEN: What's the difference? What's the difference between "40 Days of Purpose" and the 40 days that the church has called Lent?

WEEDON: You know, I was struck as I read this book about how it doesn't seem to fit very well with Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 2: "I was determined to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified." Those are 40 days—the season of Lent—when the church invites her people to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified, to be transformed the Bible way, not by, you know, pulling yourself up with your own bootstraps—even with the help of the Holy Spirit—but to gaze upon the Crucified and to hear the message that this is what your God has done to save you. You are His. You belong to Him. He has answered for every one of your sins. And you will share an eternity of joy with Him as you believe this.

WILKEN: Well, folks, I tell you what, I have a lot of questions that remain. That's why it's good we've got still an hour left for our roundtable, evaluating and reviewing the best selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren. When we come back, Rick Warren on worship, on mission, on the unity of the church, on the end times, and we'll revisit the subject that lies as the foundation of The Purpose Driven Life, and that is this notion of eternal rewards. Now, we haven't been taking your phone calls during this hour due to the fact that we have an awful lot of material to cover, and we have to cover it thoroughly in order to do justice to the book. We will be taking your phone calls right after this break. 1-800-730-2727 or 505-7850. We also have an in-studio e-mail address. If you're getting a busy signal, please keep trying. Or just e-mail us and we'll pick it up here.

Here's one of the biggest questions that remains for me. Picking up on what Pastor Weedon had to say about knowing Christ and Him crucified, what's going to happen in those congregations who are now taking up the call for "40 Days of Purpose" if they take it to heart and do it as Rick Warren prescribes and they go 40 days without Jesus Christ and Him crucified? 40 days of you!—40 days of your purpose, your obedience, your choices, of your ability to please God, your ability to prepare for that test that's coming, that final audit, that final evaluation, wherein will hang in the balance whether or not you spend eternity in coach or in first class. What's going to be the end result for a congregation that has to go 40 days without Christ and Him crucified? When we come back, Warren on worship.

[Commercial Pause]

WILKEN: I fear that having even allowed two hours for this roundtable discussion of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, we might still have bitten off more than we can chew. Maybe we should've planned a 40-hour review of the book. It might take that much time to examine not only its premise but also the errors therein. And I have promised to take your phone calls, so we will be taking a couple of phone calls here right at the outset of hour two of this two-hour discussion of The Purpose Driven Life.

Dr. Larry Rast is our guest, associate professor of historical theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind. Pastor Will Weedon and Pastor Tom Baker join us here in Studio A to round off the roundtable. Pastor Will Weedon is pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, Ill., and Pastor Tom Baker is director of development for the Concordia Mission Society and host of Law & Gospel heard here on AM 850 KFUO. Our call-in numbers are 505-7850 or 1-800-730-2727. You will be getting a busy signal, but we'll be freeing up some phone lines here right now. We'll start talking with Al who's calling from his car. Al, welcome to Issues, Etc.

AL: Evening, gentlemen.

WILKEN: Evening.

AL: Just stepped in the middle of this. I just turned my radio on so I haven't heard too much. But it sounds like what we're dealing with is a study that—and I've been involved in studies like these before to where they really give a false image of what they're about. It's like they put forward that it's gonna be all Gospel and all good news and such, but in reality they may start you out with a little bit of Gospel, but they throw you right back under the Law or they leave you under the Law. And it's like you're left to your own resources then of what to do.

WILKEN: Go ahead, Al. Thank you for the call. Pastor Weedon, is Al's assessment pretty accurate?

WEEDON: I think it's a very accurate assessment. What is promised in the book is not delivered by the end of the book.

WILKEN: What does he promise?

WEEDON: I think what he promises you is a life that will be filled with the peace, the joy, the love of God—which he says very clear is not in contradiction to the—I mean, he gives us those things also in the midst of earthly sufferings and difficulties—but the way in which he would invite that into your life is by your obedience. And by your obedience you will not achieve any of that. Those things flow to you as gifts of God to you in the Word and in the Sacraments.

WILKEN: Tom, the book starts out with its thesis, it's not about you, it's about God, it's about Jesus. Is that your experience as you have read the book? Is this book about me or is it about Jesus?

BAKER: There's two people in the world that think different ways: those who are living under the Law, living under the Gospel. Those who live under the Law really think that what they do really—their contribution is gonna make a difference in how God regards them, in contrast to those who live under the Gospel. What he offers here—for example, he offers pie-in-the-sky things that simply don't happen. For example, "the more you meditate on God's Word, the less you will have to worry about"—verse 90—uh, page 90—I got in verses. "The next 40 days will transform your life"—page 10. Well, yes, so does Mormon theology and Jehovah Witness theology and other such theologies. What he offers is not fulfilled.

WILKEN: Let's go back to the phones. Kurt is calling from his car. Kurt, welcome to Issues, Etc.

KURT: Hi. My question is, if Rick Warren had submitted this manuscript to CPH, how would—what would the editors have said? Or how could they have edited the book to make it better? And I guess, would it had been sufficient at the end of every chapter to say, "Okay, we've been talking about Law here. I've been encouraging you to obey God and to do good things. But keep in mind that your good works are filthy rags." Would that have been sufficient to correct this book?

WILKEN: That's an excellent question, Kurt. He's talking about Concordia Publishing House, the publishing house of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Tom, could they have fixed the book by putting in the caveat at the end of each chapter?

BAKER: No, because it would totally contradict the many places of the book. I'll give you one example. "You can actually make God smile by five acts of worship," he says. "God smiles when we love Him supremely, when we trust Him completely, when we obey Him whole-heartedly, and when we praise and thank Him continually." Well, I looked in the mirror today and I found out I don't do any of those. I do not love Him supremely or trust Him completely or obey Him whole-heartedly or praise and thank Him continually to the point that I say on Sunday morning, "I'm a poor, miserable sinner deserving nothing but temporal and eternal punishment." So if we put that caveat at the end of every chapter, we are then saying therefore, "Well, okay. If these are the five acts of worship that make God smile," guess what? God never smiles at you. Now who would buy such a book?

WILKEN: Mark is calling from Creve Coeur. Mark, welcome to Issues, Etc.

MARK: Hello. I do have a question for your panel members. My question is this: if a person came to one of the members of your panel and said, "The Holy Spirit's been at work in my life, and I'd like to become a Christian. How do I become a Christian?" What would you say? And I'd also like their comments on the fact that many of the largest Missouri Synod Lutheran churches in St. Louis right now are using the "40 Days of Purpose," like, St. John's Lutheran in Ellisville, and—

WILKEN: Oh, I guess we lost him there. Larry, in answer to the question if someone came to you—you're a panel member here—and said, "How do I become a Christian?" What's your response?

RAST: Yeah, well, the premise was that the Holy Spirit has been working on my heart, this person says. And I'd be interested to know what that person means by that. Do they mean they become aware of their sin, that they've read the Scriptures and that they know that they are a poor, miserable sinner, one who cannot in any way, shape or form merit God's favor or claim to be a person who is worthy of being saved? If they're saying that's how the Holy Spirit's been working on their heart, then I'd say great! You know, but how do I become a Christian? You know, that's really in a lot of ways the wrong way to put it, although you would expect that of human beings when they find themselves in that position. Think back to Acts 2 where you have Peter preach the Word and these folks say, "What must we do to be saved?" and he comes right back around and said, "There's nothing you can do—that is, repent!" There's nothing at all you can do in yourself. And then he goes on and says, "Be baptized." That is, that's the place where God makes you His own. This is God's action on your behalf. So once again we see the clear kind of teaching of Scripture in this regard, that it is nothing in us that brings this about, but it's all about God's working on our behalf.

WILKEN: Pastor Weedon, the caller mentioned large Lutheran churches using this book and undergoing "40 Days of Purpose." Your thoughts about that.

WEEDON: My thought is how I don't know how any Lutheran pastor with any integrity can recommend this book to his people. I just do not understand, unless you're going to be going through the book and showing them all of the errors that are laced throughout it, that you can hand it to people and say, ‘it's a good resource, use." You know what it reminded—the idea that Lutherans could possibly use a book like this with Lutheran presuppositions—it reminded me of discussions from a long time ago there, Tom, where people would say, "Well, we can use the historical-critical method of Bible study. We'll just use it with Lutheran presuppositions!" And of course the fact was, it was an impossibility, because the presuppositions of historical-criticism are contrary to the presuppositions of biblical Lutheranism in the same way the presuppositions of the Arminianism that runs through this book are flat-out contradicted by our Lutheran confessions! There is no common ground here.

WILKEN: Tom, how would you have used this book in your former parish?

BAKER: I would have used it the same way I used it when one of my field workers alerted me to Charles Finney. I don't know where I was in the seminary, but I don't think the seminary taught me much about Charles Finney. But he has now, in my mind, I understand him to be one of the most influential theologians. And I've looked at his book on systematics and done a comparison between his theology and C.F.W. Walther's on The [Proper] Distinction Between Law & Gospel. I would use a book like this in my parish to help alert people to be, "Here's the kinds of things you're hearing on evangelical radio, hearing in evangelical sermons, and these are the things we want to warn you against." I think our people need to know about these things so—because they are so well stated and at times they sound so good, it's kinda like a good advertisement that if you really buy that Corvette, you're gonna get the blonde. And people buy Corvettes—


BAKER: —and don't get the blonde and they wonder what happened! And some other points. The other thing I would use this for, I tell you I have to say this! I have a whole page of insights that Rick Warren has that I think are very good. You know me on Law & Gospel, I like the Law as a hammer, and he gave me an idea of how God sometimes if a hammer isn't good enough, He uses a sledgehammer, and if that's not good enough, He uses a jackhammer. He has, as you mentioned before, Pastor Weedon, some way with words that I would definitely incorporate into my sermons in different ways. But it wouldn't be a book that I would just give to the laity without a lot of information as to, you know, this is the kind of theology in a nice summary of what we don't believe.

WILKEN: We're undertaking a critical evaluation of the best selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren. Dr. Larry Rast joins us by telephone from Fort Wayne where he serves as associate professor of historical theology. Pastor Will Weedon joins us here in Studio A. He's pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, Ill. And Pastor Tom Baker, you just heard him, host of Law & Gospel here on AM 850 KFUO and director of development for the Concordia Mission Society, also here in Studio A. Back to the phones. Troy is calling from Collinsville. Troy, welcome to Issues, Etc.

TROY: Hi, Todd.


TROY: Hey, I listen to your program quite a bit, but I have to admit to you that I'm a big Law & Gospel fan.

WILKEN: That's great!

TROY: Simply because of what time I get off at work, and Tom's usually on. I do get to listen to you occasionally.

BAKER: Oh, so it's a time thing, not a content. Hey, thanks a lot!


BAKER: I had a pretty good head till that came around.

TROY: Hey you know, guys, this issue that you're talking about needs to be talked about. I'm 41-years old and I grew up in a Pentecostal background in Cleveland, Tenn., with a Church of God branch down there. And they've got churches everywhere. And my mother and my grandmother and a lot of my family is still wrapped into this stuff. Here's something scary for ya. I know we're getting close to Halloween, but I was talking with my mom the other day and she said—we were talking about the communion of the Lord's Supper. I told Tom on this—talked to Tom about this on his radio program the other day, but I'll say it again. They think that when the Bible talks about examining yourself, they think that for that brief, short period of time that they are perfect. They've been forgiven and that they can take that communion because now they have no sin in their lives. And so they can go ahead and take this communion now. And I said, "Well, Mom, how long will that last?" She goes, "Oh, for about five minutes." You gotta be kidding me?

WILKEN: Just enough time, I guess, to take the Lord's Supper. Pastor Weedon, your response.

WEEDON: How can we ever be worthy of receiving the Holy Body and Blood that went into death for us, that conquered our sin, that—I mean, yeah. We are constantly sinners, but He is always pouring out His grace. And to examine yourself for the Lord's Supper above all is to examine why you're there and what you're expecting to receive and why you're expecting to receive it. And it doesn't have much to do with not having sin in your life. You better be there because you're a sinner and you need forgiveness! If He's promising you forgiveness, then that's the reason you want to come up there because you're a sinner and you need it!

WILKEN: Craig is calling from Park Hills, Mo. Craig, thanks for waiting. Welcome to Issues, Etc.

CRAIG: So much I can say about all of this. I grew up for 27 years under this sort of teaching, and I never had peace. I always doubted my salvation. I always doubted that Jesus loved me. I came to a point in my life where I said, "I believe in God, but He hates me because He doesn't give me a victorious Christian life." I'm horrified that this is being taught in Lutheran churches. I'm more horrified that our mission boards are using the purpose-driven church as a model to build churches, and I'm just as horrified that I've seen this book at Concordia Publishing House in a big display. If there are pastors that are using it, are they not promulgating false teaching, and are they not actually false teachers themselves? That's my question.

WILKEN: Craig, thank you very much. Larry, I'll let you take that one up since you speak—you don't speak for one of the seminaries, but you do serve there as a professor of historical theology.

RAST: Well, one of the things we are about—and I'll speak for the faculty that I'm a part of as far as my own personal reflections reflect those of my colleagues—what we want to do is carefully distinguish between Law and Gospel so that the clear message of the Scriptures always is at the heart of everything that the students we prepare for ministry in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. So that's always at the heart of everything they do, and that is simply keeping these things clear—clarifying between that which condemns and that which frees.

And the idea that you can give peace in any way through the proclamation of the Law is simply contrary to the Scriptures. And Craig's experience simply bears that out. Namely, you keep saying to people, "Do this, do this, do this," and they're trying to find some quantifiable way of saying, "I've done that, I've done that, I've done that," but there's always something else that they haven't done. The only thing that brings peace is this clear proclamation of the Gospel, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. And then to personalize that and say, "I'm the least—I'm the least—of God's servants in this regard. I'm the greatest of the sinners. But even given my failings, even given all of my faults, Christ still came into this world and died for me and made me His own, named me as His own in Holy Baptism."

So what we try and do at our seminary is make that clear teaching of Christ at the center—the center of everything our students do so that the Law is properly distinguished from the Gospel.

WILKEN: But, Larry, if this is being consistently taught in accord with Rick Warren's purpose, his statements here in the book, does it qualify as false teaching?

RAST: Well, when you get right down to it, yes it is, because it does in fact confuse Law and Gospel! There's no question about that. Anything that removes Christ from the center is—does, in fact, compromise the Gospel. It does becloud the Gospel and lead people then into that situation where they find themselves discomforted and living under the Law rather than comforted by the wonderful message of the Gospel.

WILKEN: Janet is calling from her car. Janet, thank you for waiting and welcome to Issues, Etc.

JANET: Hi, gentlemen. Thank you for talking about this. I find myself—I'm very angry. Right now my heart is just pounding! And I am heartened, though, by the people who have called up and said that they are outraged and astonished this is being taught in Lutheran churches. And because you're bringing it up and talking about it, I'm assuming that it is becoming a problem in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. And, you know, the one gentleman from Creve Coeur called and said it was big churches. Well, you know what? A lot of the big churches are often church-growth oriented, and this really sounds like the whole church-growth movement because it really satisfies the old Adam and it satisfies the itching ears.

I have a lot of comments, that's one. Another one is that this very thing is the reason that I was not a Christian until, I don't know, what—5, 6, 7 years ago, something like that—because of these ridiculous notions that I had to be good enough for God. I had to pray the sinner's prayer sincerely. I knew it wasn't sincerely! That meant 100 percent! I'm not a 100 percent person! I'm a sinner, and I always knew. I was a closet-Lutheran. And this is the kind of false teaching and heresy that I guess maybe had I died when I was 18, I'd have gone to hell because of this. And I am very outraged, and I want to know why pastors who are teaching this in their Lutheran churches are still Lutheran pastors and why they are not being—I don't know, defrocked—is that the word because I am angry and I am outraged at this.

WILKEN: Janet, thank you very much for the call. Now I would say before I toss this off to our panel, that even if it weren't being used by Lutheran churches, we would still have a reason to talk about it because it is a New York Times best seller, and it is being used broadly across all denominations. And that's reason enough to respond to it.

Tom, she talks about satisfying itching ears. What do you think of her assessment here, given this book's popularity?

BAKER: Yeah, I'm—to understand after 28 years at my congregation, St. James Lutheran, there's no way every pastor would not like to have more people involved in ministry in the congregation. Rick Warren has a congregation where he says in the last three years he baptized 9,000 people. And if you take a look just at the structure of what he's trying to do, he's trying to get people to be more loving to one another, to become more involved. These are things that I think every pastor should be looking to try and do.

What I—I'm not sure how, though, you can use this book to apply a structure that he's doing. Either you're gonna have to on every other page—there's two words I use when I read a book like this, and the one word is good, and the other word is barf. And I have to say there's a lot more barf that I wrote on these pages than I wrote good. But I did a bunch of goods here and there. However, two things are gonna happen. Either you're gonna have a pastor who just takes all of the structure out of Rick Warren's and therefore won't achieve because he achieves his peace-loving, growing church on the basis of legalism. And if you take that all away, you're gonna be back to a Word and Sacrament ministry and God gives the growth there.

The other thing that will happen, though, is that you're gonna have congregations that will become little heavens on earth. They're gonna implement these principles where there are gonna be those who are worthy to have the benefits of the blessings of the church, and others are not gonna be so worthy. You're gonna have two different groupings within the same congregation: those who maybe have agreed to go along with this way of thinking and those who haven't. And division will take place in such a congregation.

WILKEN: Now, folks, we're gonna take this next caller as we go into this break. And then we're gonna hold off on phone calls hopefully until near the end of the hour because there are a couple of subjects, and we still want to hear from Rick Warren on a few other subjects. For the couple of the subjects that are just absolutely necessary to deal with as we evaluate The Purpose Driven Life. Bob is calling from Kirkwood. Bob, you've been patient. Welcome to Issues, Etc.

BOB: Thank you very much. It's a very exciting show. Last weekend I attended a PCA church out of town and the pastor—and, by the way, they do not use the common lectionary—but he preached on Revelations 22:12, which reads, "Behold, I am coming soon. My reward is with Me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done." And "what he has done" meant to this pastor in the sermon—primarily the sermon was on sin. And in light of Rick Warren's book and your discussion, how would you interpret this?

WILKEN: Okay, that's an excellent question. Thank you very much for waiting on the line too. Tom, I'll read the passage again. You tell me—and this gets us into one of the things that you want to discuss the most about this book, and that is the use of Scripture, Rick Warren's use of Scripture in this book. Revelations 22:12: "Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with Me to repay everyone for what he has done." How does Rick Warren read this? How ought it be read?

BAKER: Rick Warren reads it as though these are things that we have done with the help of the Holy Spirit. He definitely doesn't think that you can be saved apart from the cross. That gives you the opportunity to make a decision. And then the Holy Spirit gives you the strength to do these things so that, in heaven, you will be placed in that area of heaven that you deserve because of what you have done.

In contrast to that kind of thinking, I would even point to an even stronger verse, 2 Corinthians 5:10-11: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body according to what he has done whether good or bad." Now, it sure seems like—and this is where the Bible just so seems to contradict itself all over place—that on the one hand we're saved totally by grace apart from works, and here we're gonna be judged by what deeds we've done. But if you take a close look at Matthew 25 and many other places, God isn't talking about good works that I have done even with the help of the Holy Spirit. He's talking about fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Weedon earlier off the air was talking to about to me one of the most important verses: "I am the vine, you are the branches. Without me you can do nothing." We got onto the vine of Christ by being grafted. It was totally His decision. And we bear fruit, but the fruit is not the cause of our salvation, it's the evidence that we've already been grafted. So when God looks for fruit, if He sees one fruit of the Holy Spirit, you are going to heaven even though the Holy Spirit gets all the credit for that fruit. He's not looking for good works which even atheists can do. He's looking for fruit of the Holy Spirit which only a believer in Christ can bring forth.

WILKEN: When we come back from this break, we'll be hearing a little bit more from Rick Warren, this time on worship. He tells us—and we'll hear this right coming out of the break—he tells us what worship isn't. And then we'll go on to talk about his view of missions, of unity in the church, and we'll revisit the thesis of this book, that is, eternal rewards—something Tom just addressed there. Also, we're going to be talking about how Rick Warren uses Scripture. If you've read the book, you might've wondered where some of these passages come from. He quotes them, and then he footnotes them. But they're in no translation you have ever seen before. We'll find out what that's all about after this.


WILKEN: Welcome back to Issues, Etc. We're in the midst of our two-hour roundtable on the best selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren. Before we go on to round off this conversation, I want to remind you that Friday we've got a special treat for our Issues, Etc. listeners. Normally you're hearing a rebroadcast of the Sunday Night program. Well, this Friday from 3-5 we are going to broadcasting live Issues, Etc. from Concordia Publishing House at 3558 South Jefferson in St. Louis. Now, we invite you to come out and watch the sausage being made. We'll be giving away books related to the Reformation, having conversations with Dr. Jeff Gibbs, Dr. Norman Nagel and Paul McCain on the Reformation. It will be Reformation Day on Friday, by the way. And we also promised to everyone who turns out to watch a two-hour tape of our conversations there at Concordia Publishing House, you'll also be able to serve as our studio audience and pose questions and comments for our guests in the middle of our conversations. So for anyone who shows up Friday to watch the broadcast of Issues, Etc. from 3-5 will get a free tape of this two-hour broadcast on The Purpose Driven Life. We know people can't listen to all two hours. This will be an opportunity for you to get the tape of this two-hour discussion if you show up at Concordia Publishing House from 3-5 this Friday, October 31.

Tom, before we go on, you have made extensive notes, and you've been chomping at the bit to talk about Rick Warren's use of Scripture. What are your concerns?

BAKER: Well, my concern came about because, like you noted, there seem to be many Bible passages I never heard of. And what I found out is, he has an Appendix 3, an explanation that he prefers to use paraphrases "in order to help you see God's truth in new, fresh ways." I would put in "new, novel, unique and error-filled ways." For example, let's take a look at Genesis 6:8: "Noah was a pleasure to the Lord," he says on page 69, giving the impression that because of Noah's works God was pleased with him. But then when you look up the original in the Bible, it's "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord," which is the very opposite of what Rick Warren was attempting to say! It wasn't because he was so good; it was because God found grace. In the eyes of the Lord, He was gracious toward him. Or another one, Hebrews 11:7: "By faith Noah acted on what he was told. As a result, Noah became intimate with God," giving the impression that Noah became intimate because he did what God told him to do. But when you look at the original Greek—this is the New King James—"by faith Noah, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness, which is according to faith." So now we see it's his faith that God saw and gave him righteousness.

WILKEN: Those are very glaring examples of how his use of a paraphrase in his application of those Scriptures renders exactly the opposite message of what the text says!

BAKER: The opposite. We call it isogesis instead of exegesis and perhaps the professor can explain what I mean.

WILKEN: Pastor Rast, your concerns about Rick Warren's use of Scripture, in particular, Tom just used the term, isogesis, which is usually defined as coming up with an idea and then going and finding a Bible passage to support it. What do you think?

RAST: Yeah, and I think Tom has made an excellent point here. Basically, the word itself means "reading into the Scriptures," that is, you come up with some kind of a point and then you go back to the Bible and you try and find your point. And if you can't find your point, then you go one step farther and actually read your point into the Scriptures. Now, should you find yourself not with a translation at hand that allows you to do that, then the next step you might go is to create your own translation.

I noted myself when I read the book that Warren says he finds it very important to read lots of different translations of the text so that you get a better sense of what the Bible might actually be saying. Well, in the end it's no coincidence, but whenever he uses a particular translation or settles on a particular text, it just happens to be rendered in the version that best supports his particular point when in fact often times, as Tom's pointed out, that point is in fact directly contradicted by a better rendering of the original text.

What we try and focus on—what we seek to do as Lutheran pastors—is to be faithful in our exegesis, that is, allowing the Scriptures to speak for themselves and drawing out of them what they have to say. So the Scripture becomes the sole source, norm and rule for everything we believe, teach and confess. And it runs the show, not our preconceived notions.

WILKEN: Now we talked about a number of subjects beyond the premise of the book, The Purpose Driven Life—Baptism and other things. Now Rick Warren also applies the premise of the book to worship:

Worship is not for your benefit. As a pastor I receive notes that say, "I love the worship today. I got a lot out of it." This is another misconception about worship. It isn't for your benefit. We worship for God's benefit. When we worship, our goal is to bring pleasure to God, not ourselves.

WILKEN: Pastor Weedon, your thoughts on Rick Warren's teaching about worship there.

WEEDON: I wish he had read the Apology to the Augsburg Confession; it might've helped him some. That worship which God seeks and desires from us is when faith receives the benefits that God wants to give. That is the worship that is most pleasing to God—faith receiving God's benefits. In other words, worship is all about what God gives, it is not about what we give to God! The accent is soundly placed in this book on the wrong syllable.

WILKEN: Now, in terms of what Scripture teaches about worship, how would you summarize that, Pastor Weedon? Where in Scripture would you find this notion that worship is not as Rick Warren says—us giving pleasure to God—rather, God giving His gifts to us?

WEEDON: You're gonna let me go to my favorite passage of all time again? I love it!

WILKEN: If that's where you're headed.

WEEDON: I'm headed there! I'm headed there! You know, the book of worship in the New Testament is Hebrews. And in Hebrews 12, you get this incredible statement about what we've come to in our worship. It says beginning in chapter 12, beginning at verse 22: "You have come to Mount Zion, you have come to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to innumerable angels and celestial gathering, to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, to God the judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel." "Abel's blood for vengeance pleaded to the skies, but the blood of Jesus for our pardoned cries." "You have come to this," he says. What you've come to in worship is nothing less than God imparting to you the benefits of the sacrifice which Christ offered once and for all upon Calvary's tree. In the Holy Eucharist He puts that into you, that forgiveness might be yours, that the Divine Life might be yours.

WILKEN: Tom, I've been listening to Law & Gospel lately. I know you've been thinking a lot this year about the nature of worship, about Christian worship. Your thoughts on Warren's take on worship.

BAKER: When you talk about the Reformation thinking in the German, the word was Gottesdienst, which is two words, God and servant. And, of course, most people think that worship is us serving God and therefore they kinda look at it like when you go to a play. You have actors up there, like the pastor. You have a prompter, and that's God prompting him. And then you're the audience. And then you appreciate and applaud when you hear what you want to hear and you're well entertained.

It's really quite the opposite, is that God is the actor. We prompt Him for gifts, and then in a sense—the pastor is in a sense—the audience seeing how God provides us the gifts through the Word and Sacraments. It's really totally foreign to what Rick Warren is trying to say to individuals. And I think that's where the confusion of Law and Gospel comes in again.

WILKEN: This would seem to grow again, Larry, out of a notion of what's going on in worship that focuses—that would make preaching kind of instructions on how you can bring a smile to God's face rather than the proclamation of the cross of Jesus Christ.

RAST: Yeah, that's very well put, Todd. Really what you've ended up with is turning the action on its head here. And what my two good colleagues here have said so very clearly and so beautifully is that what worship is about, what the Divine Service is about, is God's action for us, God acting on our behalf, God giving us His gifts. He is the subject. He is the One who does these things. We, on the other hand, are the ones who receive these things. That's how very clear the Scriptures are about these particular points.

What Warren turns it into is something that we do for God. It's all for Him, he says, so it's about us coming to Him, whether it means us coming with our decision in the first place to be a Christian for Him to give our hearts to Him; whether it's our ongoing obedience as a member of the Christian church. Well, that is something we do again for Him so that we may be closer to Him and do more things in His service once we find ourselves in heaven. All of these things turn everything on its head, namely, that the main thing in worship is that it is God who is at work forgiving sinful human beings and strengthening them in their faith.

This really is played out in the entire book. It really permeates the entire way that the book is structured and the way that Warren apparently thinks. And really what it does in the end is thrust everything back upon the human subject and force them into the posture of saying, "Have I really, really done enough?!"

WILKEN: The fifth purpose that Warren outlines in his book, The Purpose Driven Life, is you were made for a mission. Warren offers some practical advice on that mission:

The best way to be ready is to write out your testimony and then memorize the main points. Divide it into four parts. First, what my life was like before I met Jesus. Second, how I realized I needed Jesus. Third, how I committed my life to Jesus. And fourth, the difference Jesus has made in my life.

WILKEN: He's kind of given the classical perimeters for a Christian testimony. Pastor Weedon, your response to this as the way that Christians ought to be carrying out their mission, that is, witnessing.

WEEDON: I, I, I, I, I! How I, I, I, I! Tell everyone what He has done! Not I! Not what I've done! The goal of the Christian witness is always to proclaim to people the marvelous deeds of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light! Because "once we were not a people, and now we've been made the people of God." It's not proclaiming anything about what I've done, it's proclaiming everything about what He does and gives!

WILKEN: Larry, what are the roots of this form of testimony, sometimes called the personal testimony? And he's kind of—Warren has kind of laid out this classical definition for it.

RAST: Yeah, it is a very classical instance of this where you see people saying where I was, how bad I was, and how I came to realize I needed Jesus, and then what I did to make that right, and now how things have better since I've done that.

The roots of this personal testimony go well back into the 19th century, perhaps even into the 18th century, where you find people—well, it becomes a way of quantifying whether or not one's claim to being a Christian is really true or not. And I think that's one of the things that is at the same time so attractive in Warren's book to so many people, and at the same time so insidious about the book. Namely, people are always looking for ways to distinguish between who's really a Christian and who's just a Christian in name, who's the nominal Christian. And one of the ways that human beings have devised to do this is to develop this personal testimony that gives evidence in some way or another as to whether or not this particular person is really, really a member of the Christian church or not.

The earliest roots that I've found of this, interestingly enough, actually appear in the New England Puritans of the 1600s, the early 17th century. But it's in the 19th century that things get codified, if you will, and put into a recognizable form that's been used on down to the present.

The problem is, as Will just pointed out so wonderfully again, is that it all talks about me and what I've done, how bad I was before I met Jesus, how utterly helpless I was, but then some how or another despite the fact that I was helpless, I was able to commit myself to Him, and then the way this has changed my life. Again, the point is, don't talk about yourself, talk about Jesus.

WILKEN: Let's listen to what Rick Warren has to say about unity in the church:

We must remember that it was God who chose to give us different personalities, different backgrounds, races and preferences. So we should value and enjoy those differences, not merely tolerate them. God wants unity, not uniformity. But for unity's sake, we must never let differences divide us. We must stay focused on what matters most, learning to love each other as Christ has loved us, and fulfilling God's five purposes for each of us and His church. Conflict is usually a sign that the focus is shifted to less important issues, things that the Bible calls "disputable matters." When we focus on personalities, or preferences, or interpretations, or styles, or methods, division always happens. But if we concentrate on loving each other and fulfilling God's purposes, harmony results.

WILKEN: That's Rick Warren on the unity of the church. Tom, what do you make of his description of unity, how it is achieved in the church?

BAKER: Yeah, it's too bad Jesus hadn't heard it. He could've saved being crucified. Jesus thought doctrinal beliefs were more important than what people think are love. On page 124 he writes—this is Rick Warren: "Jesus said our love for each other, not our doctrinal belief, is our greatest witness to the world." I'm not sure the Pharisees would've agreed with that, that that's how Jesus was coming across. And I don't think that's either how Peter would have agreed with that when Jesus turned to him, His best friend—and a believer by the way—and said, "Get thee behind me, Satan." It isn't that Peter was Satan, but that what he was now saying was coming right out of the kingdom of hell. And in a sense I believe that Rick Warren is a Christian. I have no problems with that. I think he's messed up on how God came to him, and I think he's also messed up on how He continues to come to us. But I do believe he's going to be in heaven. And I think he's gonna be very surprised when he sees some of us there also.

WILKEN: Pastor Weedon, on this notion of unity, he says, "For unity's sake we must never let differences divide us." This is a very popular notion nowadays. What does the history of the church indicate when it comes to differences? The church seems to be fraught with Christians who are willing to divide over significant differences.

WEEDON: Absolutely. The church may not purchase an external harmony at the expense of false doctrine. She never—I mean, to do so is to destroy the very foundation of the church herself. I couldn't help but think when you were reading him of our own Augsburg Confession where it says, "It is also taught that at all times there must be and remain one holy Christian church." So, you know, the unity of the church is already there whether we see it or not. It's always an object of faith. It is not something that we see. It is the assembly of all believers among whom the Gospel is purely preached and the Holy Sacraments are administered according to the Gospel. It is enough for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached harmoniously according to a pure understanding and the Sacraments are administered in conformity with the Divine Word.

WILKEN: Mike is calling from his car. Mike, welcome to Issues, Etc. Mike, welcome. We'll get Mike back if we can in the time left to us. There is—I want to return at the end here to the main theme that we began with, and that is this notion of eternal rewards that runs through Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life. Here he is again on eternal rewards:

At the end of your life on earth you'll stand before God, and He's going to evaluate how well you served others with your life. The Bible says each of us will have to give a personal account to God. Think about the implications of that. One day God will compare how much time and energy we spend on ourselves compared to what we invested in serving others. At that point all our excuses for self-centeredness will sound hollow. "I was too busy," or "I had my own goals," or "I was preoccupied with working or having fun or preparing for retirement." To all those excuses God will respond, "Sorry, wrong answer. I created you, saved you, and called you and commanded you to live a life of service. What part did you not understand?" The Bible warns unbelievers He will pour out His anger and wrath on those who live for themselves. But for Christians, it will mean a loss of eternal rewards.

WILKEN: Tom, you actually quoted this quote in the last hour. I want you to respond to Warren's statements there.

BAKER: I have another section of how judgmental he is. He says things like, "there are more than 750 Halls of Fame in America, and more than 450 Who's Who publications, but you won't find many real servants in these places." So I assume he's not either in the Hall of Fame or a Who's Who. Or, "Many Christians have missed God's plan for their lives because they have never even asked God if He wanted them to serve as a missionary somewhere."

The guilt trip! You see, what's so dangerous about this book is that this will change a congregation. People will really start giving more money, being more active, because they want to get to a high place in heaven! Legalism is the process of the theology that moves us to obey God for what we can get out of it. And no matter how many times he says "this is really about Jesus, it's not about us," why wouldn't I be doing these things if the promises are again and again that I'm gonna have a better place in heaven with more responsibilities, which means God thinks much higher of me than He would of other people who are, unfortunately, perhaps were not a pastor because they forgot to ask God whether they should be a pastor.

WILKEN: Pastor Weedon, if as Tom has said, and I think it's true, that we would count Rick Warren among Christians—as a Christian brother going to be in heaven—why would we spend two hours reviewing this book? Answer that from a pastor's perspective.

WEEDON: It's not enough that we can—that we spend our time confessing the truth. If we really love another person, we will also be willing to show when something is wrong. To quote a Scripture that he himself quotes, "Test everything and hold fast to that which is good." And so it is necessary for us to test the claims of this book against the Word of God and to hold fast that which is good. And as Tom has said, as I've said, Larry said, there are points in here that are good. But what's not good throughout the whole book, what we've found faulty from start to finish, is its foundation. And that makes the whole thing, you know, as it stands more than problematic just to be handed off to someone who says "here's a great way to grow in your Christian faith." It's not.

WILKEN: Larry, what is the basic danger that we're dealing with here in the book, The Purpose Driven Life?

RAST: That's an excellent question, Todd, and I could answer in part by going back to the original work of the Lutheran reformers—a good thing for us to remember during this Reformation week and as you all gather on Friday down at CPH, again, something you'll be doing. From the Apology from 1531 Melanchthon writes this: "These dissensions in the church certainly give us no pleasure. Therefore if we did not have weighty and compelling reasons for disagreeing with the opponents, we would be completely willing to keep quiet. But since they condemn the open truth, it is not right for us to forsake the cause that is not our own but Christ's and the church."

And once more it's simply this, whereas Rick Warren starts out saying "it's not about you," he then spends the remainder of the book simply focusing on you, on the individual subject. And the disastrous result of that is that He who should be in the center—in fact is always in the center in that which is distinctively Christian, namely, Christ Himself—is shunted to the side, much to the distress of confessing Christians and much to the detraction of those who want to be good and faithful servants.

WILKEN: Dr. Larry Rast, thank you very much for being our guest on Issues, Etc.

RAST: It's always a pleasure, Todd. And best to both Tom and Will as well.

WILKEN: Dr. Larry Rast, associate professor of historical theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind. Both of the other guests joining me here in Studio A will be back tomorrow on Issues, Etc. for Rally Day, so make sure that you tune in. Pastor Tom Baker and Pastor Will Weedon. Pastor Will Weedon, thank you very much for being our guest as well.

WEEDON: Thank you! It was a great joy to be with you all today!

WILKEN: Pastor Will Weedon is pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, Ill. Tom Baker, thank you as well. Tom, before we go, you're going to be at Peace in Lemay doing a Law-Gospel seminar, if I'm not mistaken, tomorrow night. Tell us a bit about that.

BAKER: That'll be at 7 o'clock. And actually I'm going to be talking about what we're talking about in this book and what my theme was for this last year on Law & Gospel. It's not enough just to have doctrine, about believing that Jesus is our Savior, which I believe Rick Warren has and that's why he's going to heaven. Where we're having the problem is his application of that doctrine to our lives—the practical applications—and that's where the confusion of Law and Gospel has taken place, and we're going to be talking about that tomorrow evening.

WILKEN: Pastor Tom Baker, thank you very much. Pastor Tom Baker is director of development for the Concordia Mission Society, and he is host of Law & Gospel heard here on AM 850 KFUO.

As I read through The Purpose Driven Life, I could not help but think page after page after page where the prospect was held out to me of good news and then taken away by being thrown back into my own works and my own commitment! I couldn't help but think of those two disciples who came to Jesus and said, "Give us the highest place in heaven, at your right and then your left." And Jesus said, "You know, the only way those places are had is through the death I'm going to die and the Baptism with which I'm going to be baptized and the cup I have to drink, and it's not mine to give," He says. "It's not mine to give."

Jesus has given all we need for this life and for the next life. Jesus has laid the foundation for our rewards! Jesus has fulfilled His purpose, and that means your purpose doesn't earn you anything with God whatsoever. Jesus has fulfilled your purpose at the cross. Thanks for listening to Issues, Etc.

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