Yesterday, I wrote that there appears to be an effort among Christian pastors of various denominations to transform our faith into an authoritarian, legalistic collective — not unlike Islam.

This convergence will differ from denomination to denomination. I predict that in conservative evangelical churches, which attract a number of members from pietist and holiness traditions, this will manifest itself in authoritarian legalism and a ‘covenant’ membership. Although some churches already have these characteristics, these congregations could become more plentiful, indirectly influenced by an Islamic lifestyle and perspective of a punitive God, where the salvific freedom in Christ Jesus is largely forgotten.

For more liberal evangelicals and mainline denominations, including the Catholic Church, it seems as if this will become a social gospel communitarianism involving much interfaith activity with Muslims.

Jim Hinch’s recent article for California’s Orange County Register, ‘Rick Warren builds bridge to Muslims’, met with criticism from Warren himself. Hinch says that he carefully fact-checked and worked closely with a senior pastor at Warren’s Saddleback Church before submitting the article for publication. No one had any problem with it. Warren was too busy to be interviewed.

The Sola Sisters and Apprising Ministries carry the story, including a screenshot of Warren’s and Hinch’s statements.

This is the offending paragraph:

The Rev. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest and one of America’s most influential Christian leaders, has embarked on an effort to heal divisions between evangelical Christians and Muslims by partnering with Southern California mosques and proposing a set of theological principles that includes acknowledging that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

It appears that Warren was uncomfortable with the interfaith set of theological principles.

The Revd Ken Silva, who runs Apprising Ministries, spoke with Hinch, who is a veteran reporter. Hinch told Silva (see the link for the full comment):

I do have a copy of the [King’s Way] document but it was given to me by a source who asked that it not be published. The five-page document lays out three areas of agreement, including shared aspects of Christian and Muslim belief and a commitment to work together on community service projects.

The part about shared areas of belief states “we believe in one God” and enumerates several characteristics of God common to both faiths, including that God created the world, is good, etc. The document does not address beliefs about Jesus, which is a major difference between Islam and Christianity.

I talked to sources both at Saddleback and in the Muslim community and all of them described the mutual outreach efforts and the attempt to find points of theological common ground. While reporting the story I asked to speak to Rick Warren but was told he was too busy for an interview …

The story makes clear that no one involved in this outreach effort, either at Saddleback or in the Muslim community, is proposing a merger of the two faiths or agreeing to disregard areas where the faiths diverge. Both sides acknowledge that differences remain between them.

But they have agreed not to focus on those differences for the purpose of reducing hostility between the two faiths and finding ways to work together on projects that benefit the community. No one at Saddleback used the words “same God” in an interview.

Silva asks that Warren come clean on the issue:

The bottom line now is that Rick Warren needs to publicly make clear what his stance is concerning this issue. Does he believe Christians and Muslims believe in the same God? That is a common position among many missionaries within the Church Growth Movement.

He refers us to Tony Miano’s post at Cross Encounters to see the flaws in Warren’s theology, deeply influenced by his time at Fuller Theological Seminary. Miano warns us:

I’ve watched interviews of and read works and comments by Rick Warren for two decades. And what I’ve discovered over that course of time is that Rick Warren is a chameleon. And I believe he is one of the most dangerous men in Christendom, today.

Plastic pastors transparent enough to see through, like Joel Osteen, are not as dangerous as Rick Warren. Modalistic moguls of the painfully-obvious-money-hungry prosperity movement, like T.D. Jakes, are not as dangerous as Rick Warren. Self-serving sorcerers of the false signs and wonders movement, like Todd Bentley, are not as dangerous as Rick Warren. No. None of the before-mentioned personalities or groups are all that dangerous because what you see is what you get. They all lack the ability to change their appearance to accommodate a change in environment. They lack the chameleon-like ability, the self-serving ability, to say what needs to be said in order to keep people in every camp liking them.

Rick Warren is a chameleon. Over the years he has shown, time and time again, his uncanny ability to say what will please his audience at the moment–secular news anchors and pundits, the masses at the request of a president who knows neither the Christ nor His Word, the leaders of false religions around the world, and sadly, even well-respected leaders of the real Christian community.

Undoubtedly, I will receive criticism for writing this blog post. There will be those who will call me judgmental. To them I say, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24).

There will be those who will say that I am being unfair to Warren because he is on a mission of peace. To them I say, “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14 and Jeremiah 8:11).

There will be those who will say that I shouldn’t write this way about such a respected leader in the Christian world. To them I say, “Now these Jews [Bereans] were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). And, if they do not find this compelling enough to question Warren, then to them I say, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test (2 Corinthians 13:5).

** UPDATE – March 07, 2012: I have removed the Afshan Javid videos posted here as per a helpful link left by a commenter. (See comments for more details.) **

The commandments of Christianity are positive, a sharp contrast to the oppressive framework of Islam.

And this is what worries me about authoritarian legalism which is on the ascent in Christianity.  Truth be told, it never went away, although it was restricted to smaller denominations. Now, it seems to be playing a major supporting role, particularly in the United States. Unfortunately, this Islamic-style oppression is also burning out a number of people in authoritarian churches.  Women conduct their lives in fear — ‘submission’, a word Muslims use all the time. Children are beaten for the slightest infraction. These authoritarians believe in a Jesus devoid of mercy.  It is the greatest twisting of Scripture imaginable.

Is that what the Gospel says? Or is this authoritarianism Satan’s work?

Going back to Rick Warren — a wolf in sheep’s clothing — how many former Muslims does he think are going to buy into his communitarian projects with mosques? I doubt that Muslim converts to Christianity would.  Warren and his one-world religion advocates live a pleasantly sanitised Western life surrounded by nice people and nice places. They do not seem to fully understand the danger of being a Christian in a Muslim country.

Monday: Prayers for Christians in Muslim countries