Christianity Must Lose Its Dualism (What Rick Warren Could Learn from Rob Bell)

Part 3: Progressive Reflections on Traditional Christian Themes

At the national gathering of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2010, a theme reiterated throughout the meeting was the “lostness” of the world.

One leader said,

“We need to be looking forward with an aggressive agenda to penetrate lostness around the world and in North America.”

Another leader said,

“Every pastor has to walk away from this convention asking, ‘What can I do . . . to make a difference by penetrating lostness?’”

Still another popular spokesperson proclaimed,

 “I think God has put in the forefront in all our minds the tremendous lostness not only of the world . . . but also of North America. We are a nation of lostness.”

The reporter for the Kentucky Baptist Paper, The Western Recorder, who quoted these convention leaders, assessed the theme of the meeting as “a fresh look at the lostness of our nation and world.”     

I doubt seriously if any of the SBC leaders or members who participated in the conference would consider the possibility that the “lostness” they were talking about might include themselves. It’s always the “other” who is lost. 

Until there is fundamental change in the theology, God-image, and basic worldview that undergird all this talk of lostness, I can’t see how such dualistic versions of Christianity will offer any hope to our world. 

As membership within American churches declines, the solution for those committed to either/or thinking seems to be louder rhetoric (shout louder) and more aggressive strategies (work harder) to proselytize those they believe are lost. 

At one time I believed I was one of God’s chosen and everyone else who didn’t share my faith in Jesus was “lost,” “unsaved,” or “under the wrath of God.” Though it pains me now to admit this, I even used words such as “doomed” and “condemned” and “children of the devil” to describe all those who did not fit my definition of a Christian. 

Dualistic Christianity needs to go. Our basic understanding of God and God’s relationship to the world through Christ must become more inclusive, holistic, compassionate, ecological, and reconciliatory or Christianity will increasingly be regarded with both indifference and disdain.

Some secular visions of a global community are much more holistic and redemptive than many Christian dualistic visions (for example, the whole “Left Behind” scenario). It would seem that the spiritual consciousness of some secularists is more evolved and developed than the spiritual consciousness of many Christians embracing “us” versus “them” versions of faith. 

There are reasons to hope, however. Case in point: Rob Bell.

Bell’s progressive Christian perspective is, of course, nothing new, but he is the first mega-church pastor (as far as I know), educated in and emerging from an evangelical exclusive and dualistic tradition and having grown beyond that tradition, who has had the courage to publicly proclaim a more inclusive, holistic vision. 

We can only hope that other popular evangelical Christian leaders will follow Bell’s lead, but this will be very hard for them to do. Another case in point: Rick Warren. 

On one occasion, Warren served on a panel with the late Peter Gomes, minister of Harvard University’s Memorial Church and Plummer Professor of Christian Morals. The question was asked whether one could be saved who was not a born-again Christian.

Gomes responded that he could not imagine that the God who created everything would have no other plan of salvation for the billions of other people in the world, or even beyond our galaxy, except the New Testament one.

Warren, as reported by Gomes in his book, The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus, was as generous as his theology would allow, but could not, on the basis of John 14:6, concede the possibility that others might find salvation outside of Christ.

This did not particularly strike me as noteworthy until I discovered in a book written by Rabbi David J. Wolpe, titled Why Faith Matters, that Warren wrote the foreword. In it, Warren spoke highly of Wolpe as a man of faith and personal experience of God.

Warren wrote,

“This beautiful book is a gift to all of us. So much of what is published today about faith just rehashes warmed-over clichés and feels out of touch with reality. In contrast, every page of this special volume has the smell of authenticity on it. . . .

The closer I get to David Wolpe, the more I am impressed by this man of faith. As an author, religious teacher, professor, cancer victim, and television commentator, his unique combination of experiences has given him a credible platform from which he presents the case that faith in God truly matters at this critical time in our world.

Regardless of where you are on your personal faith journey, I’m certain that the profound insights in this book will stimulate your thinking and even touch your soul about the reality of God in fresh and surprising ways.”

The reason I find this so intriguing is that, according to Warren’s evangelical theology, Rabbi Wolpe has not been saved by Jesus Christ (in the way that Warren interprets John 14:6) and is, therefore, destined for hell. Wolpe has not been “born again,” is not a Christian, and yet Warren commends Wolpe as a man who knows and speaks about “the reality of God in fresh and surprising ways.”

Here is an example of a highly popular evangelical leader who evidently does not yet see the contradiction he embraces, or else chooses to ignore it. My guess is that Warren is an example of an evangelical leader who has emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically outgrown his dualistic, exclusive Christian exceptionalism, but who does not yet have the courage to admit it, either to himself or his immense fan base.

(Do you think Warren will ever relinquish his exclusive, dualistic beliefs in favor of a more inclusive approach? Share your comments)

It is slow in coming, but there does seem to be an evolving spiritual consciousness within Christianity that is challenging traditional dualistic paradigms. The growth and popularity of websites like Patheos (congratulations on 5 years!) and ProgressiveChristianity.org are witnesses to this emergence.

The sad and ironic thing about those stuck in dualistic, exclusive Christian belief systems like the leaders and members of the Southern Baptist Convention with their infatuation with “lostness” is that the good news of Jesus—the inclusive message he proclaimed around an open table and the compassionate life he lived in pursuit of liberation for the oppressed—is too often “lost” to the very ones who herald him as Savior.

(The above reflection was adapted from chapter 3, “A New Way for a New Day (Christianity)” of my book, Being a Progressive Christian (is not) for Dummies (nor for know-it-alls): An Evolution of Faith.)

Chuck Queen is a Baptist minister/teacher and the author of The Good News According to Jesus: A New Kind of Christianity for a New Kind of Christian. He blogs at A Fresh Perspective.

 

  • Crash

    Is this to be read as parody or sarcasm? Rob Bell an authority on salvation??? Warren should keep up? Awesome… next time give a heads up. The SBC references threw me off.

    • ChuckQueen101

      The irony in the piece is that while Southern Baptist leaders are infatuated with the “lostness” of others, the Jesus of our sacred tradition seems to be “lost” to them. And while Rick Warren regards Rabbi Wolpe as a man of faith who is qualified to speak about God, Warren’s theology says that he is unsaved and doesn’t really know God.

      • P Natey

        The irony is that you advocate a dualism where you are the one who sees clearly and the SBC leaders are blind/lost to reality. Yours is of course much “kinder” since you don’t condemn them to hell…unless they are right. In which case, the warning is warranted.

        • ChuckQueen101

          Valid point. Some categorizing is always necessary in order to define one’s position. The “kinder” part is very important though, which highlights, I think, one of the basic differences between exclusive and inclusive expressions of Christain faith. I am making a judgment, though I am certainly willing to admit, “I could be wrong.” I suspect everyone who seeks to exercise some sort of prophetic voice has to make judgments and hopefully we will be kind in doing it.

          • P Natey

            Yeah, I totally agree with your last sentiment, it’s that whole speak the truth in love thing. Where I might quibble is if we are necessarily kinder as inclusivists, as the definition of kind changes with what your presuppositions are.

          • ChuckQueen101

            Very true. I am certainly capable of not being very kind in my promotion of an inclusive Christianity, which would then invalidate my message. However, it is much easier being kind when adopting an inclusive gospel, than it is in preaching Christian exceptionalism. Inclusive versions of the faith tend to promote acceptance, understanding, compassion, etc. more so than exclusive versions. I try to be understanding and kind to my sisters and brothers who cling to exclusive, dualistic versions of the faith (I was there at one point in my journey), though, I’m sure, being the sinner I am, I fail to love them as I should. That is indeed the challenge of being a prophetic voice and all who attempt it must live with that tension.

  • pio pod

    Bible is a propositional truth Chuck Queen whether you like it or not. Repent and believe the gospel that is the message. I guess neither John the baptizer nor any of the apostles would conform to your sweet-gushy-mushy-robby-belly-lets-pseudo-love-everyone gospel. Word of God is first!!! – you cannot even define what love is without it.

    • ChuckQueen101

      We all bring assumptions and biases with us to the Bible. Your assumption is that the Bible is propositional truth. Progressive Christians obviously do not share that assumption and more and more evanglicals are rejecting that presupposition as well.

      • pio pod

        Quote: “Progressive Christians obviously do not share that assumption” Assumption? Really? Throughout the whole Bible God says that His Word does not change which makes it propositional truth, you should know better Pastor.
        Progressive Christianity is not Christianity it is a man-made religion, but…. apostle Paul already knew it would come:
        2 Tim 4,3-4 “For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths.”

        • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

          Pio Pod, on the “propositional truth” issue in the “Word of God”, have you double-checked the “man-made” (your phrasing re. progressive Christianity) authority that determined what early Christian writings would make up the New Testament? And when it happened? And if there was, even back then (say from 100-300 A.D. or a similar period), authoritative agreement on who wrote what and if a given book should be considered the Word of God or not?

          For example, on what basis do you know that it was, indeed, Paul who made that statement in 2 Tim. you site? Do you accept the “chain of custody”, etc., in that his name appears as supposed author? Other Christian writings of the same period, like various religious and non-religious ones, claimed to be by someone who it was later proven was not the author. It was much easier to get away with such forgeries in that time and circumstance, although it was considered fraudulent then, just as it is now. And, in fact, many Christians who accept the strong evidence that 1, 2 Tim. and Titus (among other NT books) were written much later than Paul and passed off as forgeries, still take the Bible seriously and find it of high spiritual value…. The whole “propositional truth” matter, on the other hand, is a diversion more than anything… not helpful.

          • pio pod

            Howard Pepper, this seems to be a standard argumentation of liberal/progressive Christianity, if you find “difficult” fragment of Scripture that offends contemporary culture, (condemnation of homosexuality/sodomy, eternal punishment of sinners, warnings, etc) A – question historicity/authenticity of the fragment B – twist its meaning out of any exegetical context.

            The strongest arguments for authenticity of 1Tim and 2Tim, comes from early church fathers (I trust them infinitely more than liberal theologians), oral tradition established that Paul authored 1 and 2 Timothy, and this was well known and universally recognized by the Church (Eusebius). Early theologians and writers who lived during
            and were contemporary with the apostles or contemporary with Timothy (Clement of Rome, Ignatius, and Polycarp)
            were familiar with the letters and accepted 1 and 2 Timothy as genuine letters from the apostle Paul. As further
            evidence that their authorship was never in doubt, the Pastoral Epistles were found in the early Latin and
            Syriac versions of the New Testament.

            Clement, the Bishop of Rome (100 A.D.), wrote a letter to the church of Corinth, which was
            preserved and can be seen today.

            Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch (67-110 A.D.), was the pupil and friend of the Apostle
            John.

            Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna (69-156 A.D.), like Ignatius, was the pupil and friend of
            the Apostle John.

            Of the Church fathers, three were great scholars who wrote and cited the New Testament extensively.

            Iranaeus, the Bishop of Lyons (130-200 A.D.), was a pupil of Polycarp and Papias. Of his
            works in possession, he made 1200 references to the New Testament, including the earliest quotations of 1 and
            2 Timothy around 170 A.D. in his apologetic against Gnosticism.

            Tertullian (born about 150 A.D.) was the first Christian writer to write in Latin
            and coin the phrase “New Testament”. Trained as a lawyer, he was considered an “Apologetic Father” for
            his vigorous defense of Christian doctrine against Greek philosophy and Hellenistic culture. Of his known
            works, he made 2,500 references to the New Testament.

            In one of his works, Tertullian acknowledges that the Pastoral Epistles were written by Paul to Timothy and Titus and expresses surprise that the heretic Marcion did not believed that the
            Pastoral Epistles should be part of the canon. Marcion’s version of the canon, which he assembled around
            140-150 A.D., only had Luke (which he heavily edited), and only ten of thirteen of Paul’s epistles; the
            heretic omitted all of the Old Testament and 16 books (or 60%) of the New Testament.

            Clement, the Bishop of Alexandria (born about 165 A.D.) is considered, after Justin
            and Irenaeus, to be the founder of Christian literature. Alexandria was renown in the ancient world for
            its scholars, university, and library. Clement succeeded his teacher Pantaenus to be the head of the
            famous Catechetical School of Alexandria, which would produce other great Christian writers such as Origen.

            Clement of Alexandria, notable for his expansive knowledge of classical and biblical
            literature, cited more pagan and Christian authors than the work of any other ancient author. Of the
            New Testament, he cites all of the books except Philemon, James, 2 Peter, 2 John and 3 John.

            In light of how tradition was established, the claim of pious forgeries of 1 and 2 Timothy would
            imply that the early church fathers were either at best duped or at worst conspirators of the forgeries,
            and that the heretic Marcion was correct.

            Whom do you trust more Sir? Liberal theologians or pupils of Christ’s apostles?

          • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

            Thanks for the detail, Pio Pod. I can see that you, way more than most people, have at least looked at the issues and sought to find a chain of validation for authorship for the Pastorals (as for other NT books, either with or without author claims by name). If what you presented was the full picture, and assumptions all were valid, there might be a pretty clear case.

            However, there are a lot more complexities and few “clarities” (coined, I know). As to a scholarly accounting of the basic canonization of the NT, your picture is quite different than that of probably THE most noted (and considered NOT “liberal” by virtually everyone I know of in the biblical scholarship world) early textual scholar, the late Bruce Metzger. I recently read his major work on canonization (tho unfortunately don’t recall the exact title… having “NT” and/or “canon” and/or “text” in it… too in a hurry to look it up at the moment, sorry). Having read similar ones also, it presents, as I say, a much less clear and “authoritative” picture… the chains (links) of authority you cite are of a quite different nature, and certainly Eusebius has been thoroughly critiqued (rightly) for filling in many holes in inaccurate, misleading, or just wrong ways… overall NOT credible as a historian, but upon whom much depended in traditional viewpoints, as you probably know.

          • pio pod

            Hi Howard Pepper, thanks for your response:) Even if we crossed off Eusebius from the list as unreliable source and scriptural authority, wouldn’t you say that there is still overwhelming evidence to what early church fathers regarded as scripture(including 1Tim and 2Tim)?

          • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

            Thanks Pio Pod. Actually, no, I wouldn’t say that. Only partly from my direct, personal study in that I’ve not read much of the real early fathers (Martyr, Clement, Irenaeus, Tertullian, etc.). But form a lot of secondary (well-chosen) sources, across the theological/methodological spectrum, it seems to me to have been a very-much-human and gradual matter as to what was both originally and then continued to be considered authoritative…

            But authorship, dating, canonization of books are issues interwoven as part of one’s overall view and understanding of the earliest Jesus followers, and “the Church”, which is very complex and murky. Unfortunately, we are lacking in much verifiable data of any depth (I don’t, after careful examination, include Luke as mostly reliable and verifiable… the few places his work CAN be verified, mostly vis-a-vis Paul, it is not well verified, although the historical characters and major events in Acts seem generally correct). Lacking more specifics and any decent chain of clear authority (or authorities), I don’t see how the Pastorals (or 1 or 2 Peter, 2 Thess., etc.) can be taken as by the claimed authors, let alone the puzzle of Hebrews or others not attributed. And often, the internal indicators of authorship that are looked to in modern times seem at least as reliable as the murky claims of church fathers, based often on who-knows-what.

        • ChuckQueen101

          I don’t believe God’s Word is a static thing like a human document. It is living, dynamic, transforming; it is God speaking, revealing, inviting, wooing, etc. I believe God speaks through the written documents, but the written documents are not literally God’s Word. God’s Word is much more dynamic than that.

          • pio pod

            Quote: “It is living, dynamic, transforming; it is God speaking, revealing, inviting, wooing, etc”

            Oh yes!, I couldn’t agree more, but this power doesn’t come from frivolous interpretation and twisting of Scripture, that is signature of Satan, when Satan was tempting Eve in the garden he was twisting God’s Word, when he was tempting Jesus in the wilderness, again – he was twisting God’s Word. He always does the same trick he counterfeits and he mimics God’s Word.

            Living
            for Christianity means: giving life through Holy Spirit
            for Liberals means: shape-shifting

            Dynamic, Transforming
            for Christianity means: having ability to dynamically influence someone’s life to conform him/her to the image of Christ
            for Liberals means: giving permission to redefine it accordingly to one’s will/wishes, contemporary culture, etc…

            Speaking, Revealing
            for Christianity means: Exegesis, and take it all
            for Liberals means: Eisegesis, and pick and choose

            Inviting
            for Christianity means: invitation to live holy life through repentance and following Christ
            for Liberals means: don’t mind sin, don’t mind heresy, it is so un-loving

            and so on…….

            2 Peter 1,19-21 “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit”

            When I was born again God’s Word transformed my life, I was a drunk, lost in sin and terrified of dying, I was seeking God and he came to my life and transformed it by Gospel, I repented, I believed, I was born again, I was filled with Holy Spirit, I knew from that very moment that Jesus is alive! He atoned for my sins, He loves a wretch like me, Glory to God!

            Progressive Christianity gospel is not gospel of Christ, it’s different Gospel, which makes it heretical, and makes it (ironically) devoid of this “living, dynamic, transforming” power that you speak about. You guys are robbing people of this power, by passing counterfeit as real.
            You cannot redefine God’s Word Chuck Queen, by doing so, however noble it seems to you, you do Satan’s job.

            Quote: “I believe God speaks through the written documents, but the written documents are not literally God’s Word.”
            that statement is heretical and it is contrary to what
            Christ said(speaking of OT): Mat 5,17-19 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
            Your statement is also contrary to apostles’ writings and to early church fathers, who extensively quote Scriptures as God’s Word, are you wiser than Christ Sir?, do you have better understanding than John, Peter, Paul, Ignatius, Polycarp, Iranaeus?

            Bible is 100% God’s Word and it is 100% word of men, first doesn’t invalidate the other, that has always been stance of true Christianity.

            Please, please stop misleading people, don’t pass Rob Bell’s junk as Christian, call it something else, robbellism or chuckqueenism but don’t call it Christianity.

          • ChuckQueen101

            Pio pod, your belief that the Bible is inerrant and that the gospel I preach is heretical is exactly that, your belief. I believed such things too at one point in my faith journey until all the “evidence” led me in a different direction. Your comments above reflect why it is so difficult to have conversation and dialogue with fundamentalists. Your gospel is correct and mine is heretical and that’s that – you believe it and that settles it. Your comments confirm one of my basic points: exclusive versions of Christianity typically are not helpful when it comes to making the world a better place, they are not tolerant or respectful of other positions, do not engage in the common good, and are mostly about spreading Christian triumphalism and exceptionalism demanding others conform to their way of thinking.

          • pio pod

            Quote: “I believed such things too at one point in my faith journey until all the “evidence” led me in a different direction.”
            With all due respect Sir you gave no evidence, you just make some emotional statements, I would be more than happy to hear your evidence. Perhaps your evidence is some sort of “hidden knowledge” – but that would make you a gnostic.

            With regard to me wanting to conform you to my way of thinking – that’s not true you can believe whatever you want, but when you publicly say something that goes against teachings of Jesus, you should expect to receive a healthy critique.

            Quote: “Your comments above reflect why it is so difficult to have conversation and dialogue with fundamentalists”
            Your comments in turn prove that is almost impossible to have a healthy debate with Liberals, A – they don’t base their arguments on historical and biblical facts, but on feelings B – when you dare to disagree with them, they will brand you unhelpful and disrespectful fundamentalist

    • Rich

      If you don’t believe the Bible as truth then why are you a Christian at all?

  • Ottis Jenkins

    To answer your question, I do not believe he will nor should he need too. If one discusses inclusiveness from a point of view which does not include those with a dualistic belief it is not inclusive at all. Warren’s praise of the Rabbi does not separate him from his belief. I myself have had many discussions over John 14:6 and it is important for us all to remember(as Warren states) our individually faith walk is a journey. My own experience teaches me that God was working my faith long before I decided to accept Jesus. Jesus spoke about one coming to the Father, not the Father coming to one. Remember God is the author of inclusion.

  • Aine O’Brocken

    There is such sweet relief and connection to love in reading a piece like this. I love it. Was going through a bit of a faith crises…then my son sent me a copy of a Rob Bell book…and I cried. After that I heard Susan Boyle sing “You Have to Be There.”

    Yup…I cried again. God is there. S/he is real. S/he is involved. S/he loves me. And the same God who caused it to be written, “…no one comes the the ‘Father’ but by me,” also caused it to be written that “God is not willing that any should perish.”

    I strongly suspect that if God is not willing that any should perish….then none will perish. Don’t know just how S/he will work that out. But S/he will accomplish it.

  • Diana

    One of the bad things about the modern world is that everything is so darn public. I imagine that Rick Warren is rethinking some stuff and left to himself, he might even change his mind. The problem is, everyone is watching him. If he starts to change, he will be attacked, “for his own good,” of course.

    • KentonS

      Yep. And he knows it too.

  • Yonah

    I think you re misusing the word “dualism” here, or inventing a new meaning for it. Historically, the word denoted the notion of two cosmic oppositional forces against each other. Your using the word to denote exclusivist ideas strikes me as not linguistically accurate.

    I don’t know what Rick Warren thinks about this or that group outside his fold. Some of his stripe cut a special deal in their heads for Jews even if they don’t fully admit to it…so you bringing up the rabbi probably doesn’t help your assertion much.

    It seems to me that what you might include in your definition of dualism is something that actually isn’t dualism, but at the same time fails your wholistic test. And that is the original speficic contest between the ideology of the early Church and the ideology of Imperial Rome. That contest still exists. It has nothing to do with the comparative status between the Church and any other group…it has to do with ONE contest: that of the Judaic Tradition v. the Greco-Roman Tradition which only grants worth to human beings based on their status within the Greco-Roman system of power. This contest also fails the historical definition of “dualism” for it is not about two equal opposing powers, but in the faith of the Church, a contest that has already been proleptically decided. Thus, the “Good News”…of liberation from enslavement to the barbarity of Death incorporated. The singular task of the Church in that is to get the Word out.

    Hey, not too shabby for a Jew defending the Church, huh? Maybe Rick Warren will send me a Chanukah card.

    • Wesley Woods

      they do teach dualism for they teach that Satan will raise the antichrist from the dead on the third day at the middle of the great tribulation. beside dualism in simple terms means two opposing forces as seen in eastern religions; ying/yang, light/dark, good/evil. the belief that it is us versus them mentality is a form of dualism.

  • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

    Good points, Chuck! I made a similar transition to yours about 20 years ago myself (slowly, not all at once!). And you’re right that many, many others have made or are making it, in a variety of ways and at differing paces. Christianity has always evolved and occasionally spurted ahead in growth… I agree with Phyllis Tickle (and others) that we are in such a period… and very happy for it.

    No, I’d not speculate how Rick himself will go as to dualistic faith and such. I do believe that the tragic death of his son has deepened his and his wife’s understanding of the complexity of spiritual and emotional health, such that he is not likely to be as prone to the over-spiritualizing tendency as many Evangelicals; and I imagine that was true for some time prior to that loss, in the history of that situation. These “lostness” issues do overlap a lot with Christians’ understanding and treatment of good psychology. It was a long background in psychology (from a strong Christian Univ.) and practice of counseling that was one factor helping me face and make the important changes I needed to. Christians often are suspicious of it because they can sense that it will (rightly) challenge the familiar zone of “us-them” and “black-white”, etc.

  • Phil

    Well said Chuck….Very Well said.

  • Wesley Woods

    i think the root to this dualistic mentality in much of Christianity is many hold to their not really biblical man-made traditions. first saying the traditional sinner’s prayer, which does not match the real sinner’s prayer found in the parable of the tax collector and the pharisee. the prayer the tax collector said is the basis for the Jesus Prayer in the Eastern Orthodox churches. Christ tells us that those who cry out for mercy will receive mercy from God. second they tend to use Romans to share the gospel instead of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Romans tells us about the effects of the fall and the need for redemption, but does not give us the full gospel just the purpose behind the gospel. third faith alone does not save us. James makes it clear that Abraham was justified by works demonstrating his faith. James also goes on to claim that faith that does not contain works is dead. many tend to stop Paul’s grace proclamation in Ephesians 2 at verse 9, yet verse 10 clearly was meant to be connect to it. fourth they tend to underestimate the need for baptism and the Eucharist. Jesus claimed that he had to be baptized by John in order to fulfill all righteousness. this obviously strengthens the case for baptismal regeneration given outside of Peter at Cornelius’ the believers were first baptized and then received the Holy Spirit. the New Testament gives the impression that the holy Eucharist was a major part of their worship. fifth many tend to also avoid reading theologians of other Christian traditions. if a person is only willing to read works that they agree with than they really do not want to truly grow in their faith.

  • KentonS

    I’ll bite that delicious looking bait dangling from that nylon line. I think RW will eventually relinquish the exclusivism. As you suggest, he may already have done so but can’t bring himself to do so publicly. The implications would be enormous. Would support dry up like so much California desert? Would much of his staff lose their jobs? What happens to that big ol’ campus in Lake Forest?

    On the other hand this is California we’re talking. Maybe they would be more accepting then someplace like Grand Rapids, MI (Just to pick a place at random). It just might work there.

    I’d look for some tell-tale signs. They may already be there, I don’t follow RW that closely. Some little remarks that project a direction he’s moving. RB showed those long before Love WIns was released.

  • David Tiffany

    “Gomes responded that he could not imagine that the God who created everything would have no other plan of salvation for the billions of other people in the world, or even beyond our galaxy, except the New Testament one.”
    As a minister I would assume you have read and understood the Scriptures. You would then know that God is not multi-faith. There is only one Name given under heaven by which a man may be saved. There was a time when God overlooked the ignorance of man when he worshipped whatever and whoever he wanted because he didn’t know any better, but now that God has revealed Himself through His Son, He no longer overlooks this ignorance but commands everyone everywhere to repent.
    I was once part of this “lostness.” That is, until someone followed God’s calling on His children preached the Gospel to me. As a result, I came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
    All of the “progressive Christianity,” is nothing more than a cop out so you don’t have to preach the Gospel. As a result, you are doing no one no good. You’re allowing them to feel a false sense of security and allowing them to go to the judgement.
    Read your Bible and see if this isn’t so.
    http://downtownministries.blogspot.com/

  • Todd Brecount

    You seem to be suggesting that the Church must cast a wider net or face irrelevance. The problem with this approach is that it has not worked for mainline Christian denominations. Granted, Evangelicals and Fundamentalists have seen a significant drop in Church attendance. However, mainline Christian denominations with their more “inclusive’ approach saw this decline first and faster.

    • ChuckQueen101

      Todd, I’m not sure irrelevance is the right word. I’m hopeful Christianity can contribute to the making of a just world and can inspire its members to work for the common good and especially for the oppressed and marginalized. I don’t believe exclusive versions of Christian faith can inspire such engagement; a more inclusive vision, I believe, can. The kind of progressive Christianity I am talking about draws from the best of both the liberal and evangelical traditions.

  • Boyd

    Both Rick Warren and Rob Bell are far away from knowing what this this needs to help themselves. For Rick Warren has sent pastors unto Islamic nations like Egypt to teach the words of “Chrislam” which says that God and Allah are the same person. Chrislam combines the beliefs of Christianity and Islam to satisfy Islamic nations. Rick Warren took these actions and shows he denies God to teach false doctrine unto other people. Not everyone who states they are pastors, evangelists or children or God are telling the truth. Many Baptist pastors state you are forgiven of all your future sins when you are saved, but (Romans 3-25) you are forgiven of your past sins at the time of your salvation. Nobody can be forgiven of sins they have not yet committed. But many churches support this belief. They support people living as homosexuals, murderers, rapists, child molesters, and willful sinners after their salvation, because they teach all their future sins are already forgiven and they no longer need to follow God to enter heaven. (Galatians 5-19-21) list the sinful lifestyles that won’t enter heaven if you die living this way even if you have been once saved. Christ said you can’t serve two masters at the same time. Straight and narrow is the path into heaven, but few will find their way in. Christ said only those who endureth until the end are saved and will enter into heaven. Rick Warren and Rob Bell both say this does not have to be done. Who is liar, God or the people calling themselves men of God taking actions to please the people?

  • Russ LaPeer

    I should be long, and gentle in approach; yet this still would be absurd nonsense. Since the Fall, and the protoevangelium (Gen. 3.15), through the incarnate Son of God Himself, his apostles, St. Augustine, through Luther, Knox, the temporary dualism generated from the Fall is the urgent, dire reality of the space-time universe. It groans looking for the restoration and release. Those who think they need no doctor, are terminally ill; those who perceive the fatal disease or original sin, become healed. Those who do not believe on Jesus are condemned already; those who believe have passe from death to eternal life. When He makes all things new, and the kingdoms of this earth are handed over to Christ, the dualism will end. Until then, we are to cling the the One who opened the door for transfer for us, and share the Door for others to enter in, and pass from one world (city) to another.
    I am not an evangelical, but I am captive to the Word of God, in which this ultimate contrast is revealed.

  • Nina McDonald

    Dear Chuck,

    thanks for your insightful observations and article!
    As a former bible-study-teacher-worship-team-member-committed-Evangelical Christian I have three words for you: EXACTLY!–& Head East…

    It’s one of the big reasons I became Orthodox. I finally couldn’t stand the either/or–judgmental box I increasingly experienced as a Protestant in America. In the east–the Kingdom of Heaven, the world and people are viewed through a “both/and” lens that embraces mystery,paradox and love.

    Orthodoxy (Greek, Russian, Antiochian, Serbnian, Romanian etcetc –all the SAME church, just different local expressions) has NEVER been dualistic. Yet it has also never compromised the gospel. Instead of seeing salvation as an either/or proposition–We see everyone as on a continuum–at one end is God, love, light, truth and ultimately, eternal life. At the other is darkness, death and the devil. EVeryone in the world is either moving towards the Light or away from it with every second they live and every choice they make.
    AND it is not our job to know WHERE they are on that continuum. It IS our job (as Christians) to see the image of God in them–no matter how broken–to love and serve them as if they were Christ (Matthew 25)

    The narrow path towards God is found in following Christ within His Church–BUT that doesn’t mean that those who are not consciously or visibly doing either one are “lost”. As a matter of fact they may be be moving much more rapidly in the direction of God than others on that “narrow” path who are in stasis–and stagnant in their faith…

    You are so right in your observations–like Fezinni says in the Princess Bride–”Go back to the beginning”–or “return to the Ancient Paths to find rest for your souls…”Jeremiah 6:16. Highly recommend Matthew GAllatin’s book “Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells.” as well as this site—may the Lord bless you on your journey! http://journeytoorthodoxy.com/2010/09/27/from-baptist-to-byzantium-part-one/

    • Russ LaPeer

      I couldn’t agree more to go back to the beginning, which according to St. John was the Word. The incarnation (“Word became flesh”) was to seek and save the lost, as “Savior of the world.” The Scripture says that by the Gospel God calls and transfers us into the kingdom of the Son Whom He loves. If you are lost, and in a kingdom of darkness, death, and judgment, then to be delivered from those is precisely the unmistakeable dualism that Scripture reveals. Of course dualism in Christianity is not eternal: there was no sin, no death, no judgment with God before the Fall; and there will be none in the heavenly city (Rev.21) at the end of this torn, conflicted, struggling, striving journey. For now, however, to philosophize anything other than the two cities, with their antithetic character, goals, and members is to ignore the reason the Gospel is “the power of God for salvation.”
      To be sure, the Holy Spirit draws us on toward the Savior, and on that continuum of His leading, we cannot for certain label the real wheat and the look-a-like weeds. Just as sure, however, is the fact that the realm of darkness will remain vastly more populated than the kingdom of Christ, because the continuum those people follow and adhere to is the broad way.
      Just to talk about love, without also the contrasting judgment and death awaiting those who spurn God’s love in His Son, avoids the essential elements of the Gospel (1 Cor. 15.1-3), and leaves the lost on the wrong continuum — the one that leads to destruction.

  • http://readingscripture.org Ron Henzel

    Liberals like Chuck Queen and Rob Bell continue to amply demonstrate the point that J. Gresham Machen made a couple of generations ago: they are not Christians at all, but adherents of a different religion. “Liberal Christianity” is one of the most obvious oxymorons in history. Liberalism usurps the name of Christianity while disemboweling it of its substance and bleeding out its life blood. In fact, every word that it rips off from Christian theology (note the banal misappropriation of the word “dualism” here) exposes its inherent deceitfulness. If it were not so evil, it would be merely pathetic.

    • harry

      Exactly the opposite Sir. American style “Born Again” and “Christian Right” so called “Christianity” is in fact evil. It is exactly the opposite to the teachings of Jesus Christ and therefore “Anti-Christ”…doesn’t take a genius to figure this out

      • Jason R. Bullington

        Sorry but this has nothing to do with “American” it has to do with the words of and the Word of God. John 3:3 “Jesus replied, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”” and again in V.7 “Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again.” oh how about 1 Peter 1:23 “since you have been born again—not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God.” Then Jesus has this to say about the exclusivity of HIS way being the ONLY way. Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” that is from John 14:6. If you reject the exclusivity of Christianity and being born again as the means to connecting with God you reject Jesus and in Rejecting Jesus you reject God. To illustrate this Jesus says in John 14:9 “Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

  • http://norcrossit.net mycall

    This guy is so clever in his attempts to widen the way to God. But after giving it about a second worth of thought I think ill stay on the narrow path and put my faith in the salvation through Jesus exclusively.

  • cajb11

    Having been a member of Warren’s church for over 20 years as well as serving on staff for a time I can say as confidently as one human can of another that Warren would not take a universal or inclusive approach to Christianity now or in the future. He clearly believes in an inerrant Bible and a Jesus that say’s “no man comes to the Father but by Me”. One only needs to read some of Warren’s tweets following Bell’s controversial pronouncements to know Warren is not headed down that road.

    As for Boyd’s claim of Warren’s promulgation of “Chrislam”…he knows not of what he speaks! Listening to the claims of Jack Van Impe or self-proclaimed internet “discernment ministries” is fraught with error…and much craziness. To his credit, Warren get’s criticized from the extremes on both ends.

    • ChuckQueen101

      What do you make then of Warren’s endorsement of Rabbi Wolpe? Warren speaks of Rabbi Wolpe as a man of faith and as someone who has personal experience of God, who knows God, which contradicts the exclusive message that only by faith in Jesus one can know God? How do you work out that contradiction?

    • John O’Neil

      Living without certainty is difficult for many if not all. We rely on certainty in so many aspects of life that it is tempting and natural to seek it every aspect, especially something as vital as our salvation. In our search for certainty, we reach for pillars that we believe are solid, immovable and always reliable. Scripture. Tradition. Historical exegesis. Experts.

      No matter what pillar we cling to. it seems very clear that God did not intend for revelation to meet our 21st century standards for certainty. If God did, God would speak to us individually in our native language perhaps via an HD video we could replay as often as we needed to ensure we fully understood the message.

      Now just because we cannot be 100%, “21st century” certain about all of God’s revelation, does not mean we cannot hold to truths that we believe are solid and provide us with the foundation for our faith. But it does mean that when we find ourselves feeling “super certain” about matters of faith, chances are that is not God talking to us. And when we are attracted to the “pillars” of faith that make us comfortable in our goodness and judgmental of others, while ignoring similar “pillars” that may suggest otherwise, it is time to take a step back.

      For me, this is the grace of non-dualistic thinking.It is a constant struggle. I feel more comfortable when I am “certain.” I feel like I win more arguments. But I can’t honestly say I feel closer to God.

      I have admired Rick Warren for many years. If he is as “certain” in his beliefs and as judgmental of others as you suggest, I will continue to pray for him, as I am sure he is praying for me.

      Ironically, “21st century certainty” is getting less certain all the time, as anyone who studies quantum mechanics starts to appreciate. One of the best names for God is mystery.

  • Paul Young

    Not exactly sure what to do with this. If we as Christians do not believe people are lost apart from Jesus, then by all means lets stop spending millions of dollars sending missionaries all over the world. As Christians, our mission is not to make the world a better place to go to hell from, but to reach men, women, boys and girls with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Everybody can’t be right. Muslims and Christians can’t both be right. Buddhists and Christians can’t both be right. Wishing it to be so will not make it so. If biblical Christianity is true, then all other religions are false. The only problem with your theology is the Bible.

  • Alia

    “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Of course there is an emphasis on “lostness.” Salvation comes solely through Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us. That does not mean we have an “us versus them” view of others who have not accepted Christ; it simply means that we do what we can to be shining lights of God’s love and truth so that others may come to know the Lord as well.

  • Becca

    “penetrate” it is such a male thing to say. . . I do hope that more inclusive language will become adopted. . . God is not male. . . God is both, and neither, and beyond gender. . . not to say that Biblical gender metaphors are not helpful to our understanding of God. . . they are because we are human and we relate to that, but let’s ditch the words like that, please.


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