After my meeting with Rick Warren I had decided that I would be commenting and critiquing some of the content that he taught at the Purpose Driven conference. I still intend to do that. However, after seeing the 'fire storm' that was created after I publicly thanked Rick Warren for his generosity and for being a gracious host it became sadly clear that there is another issue that must be addressed.
The chief passage regarding apologetics and defending the faith is found in 1 Peter 3:15. It reads:
1Pet. 3:15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
The battle for truth or the 'truth war' as some have called it, has taken a bad turn. Some segments of the battlefield have degenerated into ad hominem bickering and biting and toxic vitriol. This is not what Christ has called us to. In fact, that behavior is contrary to the clear teachings of scripture which call us to defend the faith with 'gentleness and respect'.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have a deep passion for the gospel and I will arm wrestle anyone in order to make the case that the message of 'Christ crucified for our sins' should be the central message of all of our sermons, lessons, studies, books and devotional material and many of you who read this blog and follow my public teaching share that same passion for the gospel.
What I find ironic almost to the point of irreconcilable contradiction is that there are some that claim to share a passion for the gospel yet they employ the most demeaning and vicious forms of personal slander and ad hominem attacks in their "defense of the gospel". I don't see how this contradiction is even possible because the gospel message is the good news of how "God so LOVED the world" that His only begotten Son died for my sins and yours on the cross and thereby reconciled us to himself in one supreme act of LOVE. Furthermore, God has entrusted us with this message of reconciliation.
2Cor. 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
I know that I have been guilty of the very behavior I am decrying in this post and I am deeply sorry for committing this sin and repent of it. That being said, I am appealing to all of my Christian brothers and sisters who have a passion for defending the truth and defending the gospel to repent of ad hominem and personal attacks and let your actions and statements and debates always be seasoned with love, compassion, gentleness and respect.
Contrary to what you may think, love, gentleness and respect do NOT compromise the Gospel. Instead, love, gentleness and respect are the fruits of the gospel in our lives and they only make our defense of the truth even stronger and more convincing. In fact, it doesn't matter if your theological precision is accurate to one one hundredth of a percent and all of your apologetic arguments are irrefutable. Attacking and demeaning and belittling are not actions that are in keeping with the gospel.
In the days ahead I will be posting my Biblical critique of the material I heard at the Purpose Driven conference. I am not doing this in order to personally attack Rick Warren, nor am I interested in slicing Rick Warren up into little pieces so that I can feed him to a hungry school of 'theological pirana'. Instead, I will be posting these critiques as part of an ongoing debate and dialog. The debate and dialog is necessary so that we can all wrestle with the scriptures, defend the gospel, identify and correct error and build people up in the truth.
"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." (Eph. 6:12 )