Monthly Archives: May 2011

Who Designed the Designer?

In his book The God Delusion (pg. 158-9 I believe), Richard Dawkins proposes what he finds to be the greatest argument against God, that being that by invoking the existence of a cosmic designer, you are immediately lead into the question of who designed the designer?

William Lane Craig has responded to this argument here but I’m going to make a few points on it as well. There are a couple ways in which Dawkins and the other new atheists use this argument. One way is in response to the claims of the Intelligent Design camp in terms of their attempts to give evidence for the existence of God via the complexity of certain things in nature, and the other is against various philosophers and apologists who use cosmological arguments or philosophical arguments to argue for the existence of God.

There are several problems with this argument, many of which Craig either explains or hints at during that interview. First, the argument leads to an infinite regress. If there needed to be a designer of the designer, then you would also need a designer for the designer of the designer, ad infinitum. At this point I could hear someone saying “see! that’s the point! God can’t exist that way!” and I think that would be misunderstanding the objection. The whole concept of God is that He is uncreated, otherwise He wouldn’t be God. So you could say that Dawkin’s objection doesn’t even make sense. I could also hear an objection to that being something like “well, that’s cheating” only put more eloquently. However, if you are to actually debate something, you have to debate the actual position, and not a straw man. Another interesting point is that atheists which hold to the multiverse theory seem to be entirely ok with other lines of reasoning so long as God isn’t involved.

Like a child always asking the “why” question, one could ask where the multiverse came from. Or, depending on which multiverse theory you want to go with, where the first universe which spawned into existence the other universes came from. Interestingly, I haven’t heard a claim of eternality on the part of the multiverse, but only infinitude. That is an interesting choice because if you are dealing with a truly infinite number of universes, then the argument falls apart. If you get a mental picture of a timeline, infinity goes forever in both directions right? The problem is that you start running into logical absurdities. For example: if our universe suddenly explodes into nothingness, how many universes would be left? Or, if half the universes were destroyed, how many would be left? The answer, of course, is still infinity, even though there are now less than there were before. Secondly, it is impossible to traverse an actual infinite. If you think again on the timeline, you have the left side going to the past and the right side going to the future. If the number of universes is truly infinite, that means that they have to be going on forever in both directions right? But if they are going on forever on the left side of the line, then how is it that our universe is here? You couldn’t get to the current point (say, the middle of the line for the sake of argument) if you were still going forever into the past. When it comes to physical, natural, existence, there can be nothing truly infinite for those reasons among others.

Another point on the nature of this argument is that it misunderstands the nature of a necessary being, seemingly. William Lane Craig argues from the existence of contingent beings and realizes that this can’t extend backwards forever (infinite regress again) and so therefore there must be something which is not contingent on anything else for its existence. Aquinas argues similarly when he writes about the unmoved mover etc. I’ve heard objections to this similarly based on the previous objection of “well, then who designed/created/moved God?” but again, this misunderstands both the nature of God and the argument. Essentially, something cannot come from nothing, and if you acknowledge that there can’t be an infinite regress (nobody really argues for an eternal universe, but some go with the multiverse above) then you have to see that eventually there must be a stopping point. The chain of contingent beings/objects cannot go back forever.

This leads to how the argument is used against the Intelligent Design camp (there is some crossover as to how it’s used). Basically, the ID guys propose that there are certain things in nature that are best explained by some sort of designer, and they have some criteria as to when you can infer design and when you can’t. Now, there are several different arguments brought against the ID movement, but for the sake of this blog I’ll try to stick to just this one. Now, we’ve discussed above why the more straight forward question of, “well, then who designed the designer?” doesn’t work, but there is another step that Dawkins takes toward this particular argument from design. The argument goes something like this: “ok, suppose you’re right. but even if you are, the being who designed all this complexity must be astronomically more complex than what it designs.” On the surface, this doesn’t really seem to be a question or an objection or anything, but you have to understand that the concept of complexity is equated with the concept of improbability. The reason for this, is because the whole point of the complexity argument is to show that the best explanation for it would have to be an intelligent designer, and therefore it couldn’t be best explained by evolution by natural selection. The idea being that an undirected process (claiming it’s directed by natural selection is merely wordplay) like evolution couldn’t come up with it, the probability is simply to great.

With that background, the issue now seems to be more of an objection. If the complexity is too improbable to be explained by evolution, then to explain it via design means that the designer needs to be incalculably more complex, and therefore improbable. Interestingly, this could also be stated like this “if you’re saying evolution can’t do it, then nothing can.” However, even without brining it to that pejorative level, there are still issues with arguing like this. First, there is again a misunderstanding of the nature of God, as the historic Christian position has always been that God is simple, and not complex. That is to say, that God is not made of parts (more on this later). Interestingly, Dawkins (and others) won’t appeal to the ID proponents’ own definition of complexity to try and argue for God’s complexity. Seemingly, that would be the best way to go about it, if they have a definition of complexity, why not use what they already accept and apply that to the thing you’re trying to disprove? I’ll show you what I mean by borrowing from Alvin Plantinga’s review of Dawkins’ book called “The Dawkins Confusion”.

“More remarkable, perhaps, is that according to Dawkins’ own definition of complexity, God is not complex. According to his definition (set out in The Blind Watchmaker), something is complex if it has parts that are “arranged in a way that is unlikely to have arisen by chance alone.” But of course God is a spirit, not a material object at all, and hence has no parts.5 A fortiori (as philosophers like to say) God doesn’t have parts arranged in ways unlikely to have arisen by chance. Therefore, given the definition of complexity Dawkins himself proposes, God is not complex.”

Again, you could say something like “that’s cheating!” but if you do not take your opponents definition of the thing you are opposing, you are making a straw man of the argument. If you defeat a straw man argument, you have accomplished nothing. This is philosophy 101. I strongly encourage reading Plantinga’s review as it shows the severe philosophical inadequacy of Dawkins as well as his theological ignorance. However, as several people have pointed out the later portion (theological ignorance), Dawkins has responded by saying “do you have to read up on leprechology before disbelieving in leprechauns?” with the obvious answer being no. However, this assumes what Dawkins is not simply doing. Does he disbelieve in God? Absolutely. Does he stop there? Absolutely not. If all Dawkins did was disbelieve in God, nobody would know who Dawkins was. The fact is, Dawkins lectures, writes, debates etc. that God doesn’t exist, and further still that people who believe in God are delusional, irrational, dangerous etc. If you are going to be doing these things, you cannot hide behind that arrogant quip quoted above. If you are going to be doing the things Dawkins does, you need to be reading up on what you are disbelieving and encouraging others to disbelieve and attempting to disprove.

To that point, Dawkins states in his book that the only theologians he needs to deal with are ones who seriously have doubts about their position, but write about it anyway. That is a very strange (also arrogant) position to take. This is another example of Dawkins proving absolutely nothing by going after easy targets. I have often used the example to this point that no self-respecting atheist would take me seriously if I claim to disbelieve in evolution without having read Darwin or some of the more modern proponents like Dawkins etc. They would probably laugh at me and point out that I don’t correctly understand evolution, and therefore cannot speak to it or against it. They would be correct in doing so, but that same reasoning needs to be applied to God and theology.

Truthfully, I don’t see how Dawkins (and several others) find this to be much of an argument, let alone the most powerful argument against God. There are several other objections to this argument but I think I’ve provided enough of them to prove my point. On a final and somewhat related note, another thing you will hear from the Dawkinsian camp is that invoking God stops science. This is absurd. Claiming that God created the universe doesn’t mean that we stop investigating the universe (as they claim). In fact, scientists used to be called natural theologians, and were thought to be thinking God’s thoughts after Him. They were propelled in their work because they assumed that since God created everything, that it was therefore knowable and could be known by them. This does not mean that atheistic scientists cannot make advancements and discoveries in science, far from it. What it does mean is that the objection doesn’t do anything or prove anything. It’s simply false. Nobody stops doing science or stops thinking about the world or stops making discoveries or advancements simply because they believe God exists and created everything.

God?

First of all, let me say that a lot of this is coming from Francis Schaeffer, and I’m currently almost done reading his book “The God Who Is There” and it’s awesome. I suggest going here and purchasing his complete works set. If you do it there, it’s only $50, as compared with $95 on amazon.

“As Christians, we must understand that there is no word so meaningless as the word god until it is defined. No word has been used to teach absolutely opposite concepts as much as the word god. Consequently, let us not be confused. There is much “spirituality” about us today that relates itself to the word god or to the idea god; but this is not what we are talking about. Biblical truth and spirituality is not a relationship to the word god, or to the idea god. It is a relationship to the One who is there. This is an entirely different concept.” (Pg. 158)

I take this to be a profoundly important statement based on my own experience in reading, listening, and interacting with various people and their ideas. It doesn’t take long listening to any of the new atheists and those that would follow them to hear them say something like “well, god is just a concept that we have come up with to cope with life and the world.” This is the exact thing Schaeffer was talking about in the excerpt I posted above.

For the Christian, when we talk about God we are not using the word as a placeholder for the concept that we created or the idea we created. Instead, we use the word to describe what is objectively there. One of the hardest things in interacting with people, regardless of context, is to get them to understand you within your paradigm. In order for someone to understand what you mean when you are talking about God, you have to get them to understand that God actually exists and then move into how we know that and if He has communicated to us and what He is like etc. This is no easy task, but it is a necessary one because if this step is somehow skipped, all you will be doing is furthering their presupposition of what god is, even though you may be doing so unintentionally.

To Christians, the idea that we invented God or made Him in our own image is ridiculous, confusing, and/or insulting. However, you have to understand that unless we are clear on our terms and take the time to get them to understand what we mean and essentially bring them correctly into our paradigm, that’s exactly what they are going to think each and every time. That misunderstanding may be put differently (oh, well that’s just your truth etc.) but in every case, distinctions and definitions need to be made. This takes time and effort, not only during the discussion, but prior to it in your own personal study so that you know what you’re talking about. After all, how can you properly talk to someone else about it if you don’t know what it is in the first place?

This is why (among other reasons) theology is important, and doctrine is important, and objective, whole-orbed truth is important. These are not simply academic matters that theologians and philosophers discuss in ivory towers or that monks discussed in generations past. These are the essential lifelines for people to grab onto so that the gospel may be presented in a way that they desperately need to understand. The effectual work of the gospel is done by God through the work of the Holy Spirit, but God chose to speak propositional truths through the Bible, so these are the things that we need to constantly be working to better understand. These are also the things that we must never give up, regardless of what our motives are.

Practical Apologetics: Internal Contradiction

This may end up being a series of posts dealing with different things that I’ve picked up over the years that may be useful to you. In Tim Keller’s “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism” the entire first chapter deals with some common arguments against Christianity that fall under the heading of its exclusivity. He does a really good job at explaining what the arguments are and why they don’t work. Most of the time, this hinges on the fact that their argument, or position, is internally inconsistent or self contradictory. I find being able to see these sorts of inconsistencies to be invaluable when doing apologetics. It really saves a lot of time if you can bring up that sort of point right away because it will avoid “opinion vs opinion” type arguments as well as pretty much disarm the claim. Yes, it does take work to train yourself to be able to spot these, but I promise that it is well worth your time. Also, a lot of the work, at least in my case, just came from listening to and reading more experienced and knowledgeable apologists address issues over and over and over again.

1) A common claim when talking about different religions is that all religions see a part of the truth, but none of them can see the whole. The illustration of the elephant and blind men is often used. Fortunately, that illustration doesn’t work because they are taking for granted a vantage point from which they can see the entire scenario. In conjunction with that is a claim like “it’s arrogant to claim that your religion has the sole exclusive corner on the truth!” but, of course, in saying that they are claiming that they have the absolute truth to be able to make an assertion against the religious claim that you just made.

2) I hear all the time people saying things like “You believe that just because you grew up in a certain place and at a certain time. If you grew up elsewhere, you would believe differently. If you grew up in Saudi Arabia, you would be a Muslim and not a Christian.” and this is essentially an argument from social, cultural, and political conditioning. While it is true that your upbringing does influence your beliefs, one has to ask if their accusation is itself a product of social, cultural, and political conditioning. You can’t denounce a religious truth claim as being relative to their culture and therefore arbitrary and unreliable while not applying the same rule to yourself and the claims that you make.

3) The most obvious one is the postmodern assertion about relative truth. I’ve written on this several times, so I’ll keep this one short, since it’s the easiest to see anyway. It comes in many forms but the most common ones are “You have your truth and I have mine” or “There is no such thing as absolute truth” and the question you have to ask is “Is that absolutely true?”.

Justice

I’m currently winding down my time on jury duty and today I was actually summoned up to the courthouse. Turns out the whole thing was cancelled so we all just got up there and watched an orientation video and then went home. What got me thinking though, was the whole attitude our culture has toward jury duty. I’m reminded of Jim Carey’s Grinch and how he’s in the post office mail room throwing pieces of mail that nobody wants “jury duty, jury duty!” and I started going through why people don’t like it.

First of all, we had to be there at 8am, which is early for most of us, particularly people like me who work nights. Secondly, you have to take off work or school etc. (which could be a positive too, depending) and drive however long the distance…though you do get reimbursed for gas, the video told me. These things are annoying, to be sure, but I just didn’t think they were really enough to create the widespread hatred of jury duty that we have in our society.

One thing I heard from a lady who sat in front of me was “maybe if I’m hiding back here in the corner, they won’t pick me” and later, when the judge was telling us that we were going to be sent home “yeah, we were hoping we’d get passed by without having to come here” and so that stood out to me that the annoyances I mentioned before didn’t even factor in. There seemed to be a collective sigh of relief when we were all dismissed and people were talking about how “sweet” it was for the trial to be canceled.

It’s strange to think about, considering that the people on the jury aren’t in trouble somehow, yet everyone wants to avoid jury duty as if they were going to be the ones put on trial. It was even going to be a civil trial, so it’s not like we were going to have to sit through a murder trial or something. I mean, I could understand being a bit nervous if the case were going to be something we might classify as “high moral” judging. Basically, all I mean by that is where we have to decide if someone is guilty of committing murder, or perhaps rape or a large case of theft (grand theft, I suppose). However, I think in that statement lies the answer. It’s not the case that makes us hate jury duty, it’s our role in deciding or making a judgment.

Thoughts come to mind such as “what if I misjudge?” , “what if I decide someone is guilty when they are innocent? or innocent when they are guilty?” and you start to realize that maybe you’re not cut out for this. After all, don’t you become a lawyer or judge to deal with this sort of thing? I’m unqualified! I’m ignorant of all the facts or nuance that people who are educated in the judicial system know! However, that is countered by the fact that the main point of the orientation video is to tell us that it is our duty, both a moral and legal obligation, to serve on jury if we are able. Now why would there have to be a video to tell us that doing this is our duty, and it’s the right thing to do, and it is actually just? I don’t know enough about the history to know if there has always been something like that in place, but I imagine that there has been. It would be easy enough to just pass this one off on postmodernism and all its many problems, but I think this actually strikes a bit more to the core of the human condition than that.

I think the reason why we feel uncomfortable on jury duty, the reason why we will do just about anything to get out of it is because we know that we ourselves are guilty. Oh sure, we might not be guilty in the sense that we won’t appear before a court and have a judge and jury panel officially decide we are guilty, but we seem to intuitively know it just the same. Somehow, being in that building brings a sense of justice to mind, even without the video mentioning it, and suddenly every little thing comes to mind. What about that internet I’ve been stealing? What about that piece of gum I stole when I was seven? Everything from the trivial to perhaps the serious suddenly comes to mind and makes us uneasy. After all, if I’ve done ___, then why should I have the right to judge someone else. I’m already guilty, so there’s no objective vantage point from which I can judge someone else to be innocent or guilty.

Why do we feel this way? What exactly is it that everyone, regardless of background and upbringing, seems to feel guilty for? The Bible gives us this answer in Romans when Paul writes “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 2:15-16) We are guilty of breaking the law of God. This is a sobering thought considering that God is an authority higher than any we have here on Earth. He is higher than the local court, the supreme court, the international court, or any other court that we have. We understand the concept of a punishment being put in proportion to the crime, such that we can feel ok with sentencing someone to a punishment that they deserve. We also realize that crimes are related to the authority or law that they break. For example, if an acquaintance tells you they are going to do something and then don’t there is rarely much cause for justice to be had because there was a low degree of authority or commitment. If someone commits a crime against the state, the stakes are raised. There are several layers of this throughout our civilization and so we understand that the higher the authority the crime was committed, the higher the offense. However, what happens when we break God’s law?

Again in Romans, Paul writes that “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:22) so there is really no way around this. We understand the concepts of a punishment being proportionate to the crime, and a punishment being relative to the authority which gives the laws, so what happens when the authority whose laws we break is infinite and perfect? That would mean that we deserve an infinite punishment. We all have this inward cry out for justice, especially when we see the “bad guys” on tv and we hate them and want them to get what’s coming to them, and we rejoice when the “good guys” finally give them what they deserve. However, when it comes time to judge, we realize that we aren’t qualified because we are already breaking God’s law. If we are all guilty, and in so being we deserve an infinite punishment, then where does that leave us?

There are two places where the infinitely perfect justice of God is carried out: in hell, for eternity, and on the cross. We cannot outdo these because there is no possible way to do so. Hell is the infinite punishment that we deserve for breaking the law of an infinite God. However, God loves, and therefore decided to save His elect. There could only be one way to do this. There would need to be someone to take our place, but in order to do that, this person would need to be perfect because if they were not, then they wouldn’t be taking anyone’s place but only getting what they deserve. The issue is that only God is perfect, but in order to take the place of the punishment of men, this person also needs to be a man. That is why God sent Jesus to take on human form, and to live a sinless life, so that He and He alone could be the one who could take our place. In so doing, He turned God’s wrath away from His children so that they could be reconciled to Him. Our sins were imputed onto Christ, who was sinless, and His righteousness was imputed to us, so that we could be reconciled to God.

That is good news. That is love. That is justice. Soli Deo Gloria

John Piper Interviews Rick Warren

At the last DG national conference, there was a lot of controversy surrounding the fact that John Piper invited Rick Warren to be there as a speaker. Personally, I didn’t find anything too terribly helpful about the session (it was a video session, due to personal emergency on the part of Warren) but there was also going to be a promised interview between Piper and Warren. Since Warren couldn’t make it, they promised that they would do the interview at a later date. This interview took place on May 1st, and I didn’t hear anything about it until today, May 18th. I figured that was strange just because of how much attention Warren receives both negatively and positively. Originally, this video and pdf transcription were hosted on blog.pastors.com, but right after I finished watching it, the video disappeared. Now, whether that’s a simple technological error or some sort of huge conspiracy I don’t really care about. It is unfortunate though because I know this interview was eagerly anticipated by many. Should the video go back up by the time you read this, it should be here, or at least that’s where I found it. I apologize for the fact that this will probably jump around a lot but that’s just the way it’s going to work for my memory working with almost 90 minutes of interview.

I was hoping to have the transcript or video to cross reference as I was writing this blog, but since that’s unavailable to me currently, I’m just going to have to go off memory. One of the very first things Piper asks him is if he would change anything about the book if he were to rewrite it now, and Warren responded by saying that he would change a lot because when he was writing it, it was meant to be a study guide for his church to go with a program they were doing (I forget which program). Therefore, the book was made with Christians, specifically his church, in mind and not for the unbeliever. As he was finishing, he realized that the unbeliever might read it and therefore added something about salvation as an afterthought. He said if he were to write it again, he would want to more clearly define salvation.

Piper had taken 20 pages of notes on the Purpose Driven Life (the subject of the interview) and they went through several different things, including the 5 Points. Some of the first things that stuck out to me was the fact that he kept saying that he views himself as an evangelist and that his evangelistic method was  to “build a bridge between my heart and theirs so that Jesus can walk across” and truthfully, I don’t really understand what he means by that. Perhaps my biggest issue with the interview was what he referred to as his hermeneutic when dealing with Scripture. He repeated a few times that when he sees passages in Scripture that appear contradictory, he just believes them both and is able to hold them in tension in his mind. He stated that he believes these are not actual contradictions, but rather, his mind simply isn’t able to comprehend how they fit together. Now this is a fine approach in the sense that you don’t overemphasize one or the other if there is an apparent contradiction, but it seems to me that he seems to forcibly hold them apart in his mind. There doesn’t appear to be any attempt to try and work them out or to actually feel the tension. For example, he claims that he believes in the doctrine of Unconditional Election, but that he is a “John 3:16 Christian”. Now, divine sovereignty and human freedom has been something that has been discussed for a very long time, and people have written extensively on how they work together. Warren seems to just say he believes them both and let it be. However, throughout the course of the interview, he seems to stress one side over the other.

He says that he believes the 5 Solas, but he wouldn’t call himself a Calvinist due to the connotation that term carries. He says he is a monergist and does believe in the doctrines of grace. He would say he’s a John 3:16 Christian and an evangelical. To me that’s a very strange string of statements. If I were to tell someone I’m a Calvinist, they could rightly assume that I’m a monergist, that I believe in the 5 Solas, that I’m an evangelical, and that I believe in the whole Bible. I’m not entirely sure what he means by being a “John 3:16 Christian”. Perhaps that means that he simply believes the verse…but that would mean what, saying “I believe ‘”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’”? I don’t really know if that’s helpful. Do you mean that you’re stressing the fact that God loves the whole world? What does that love mean? What does it entail for the whole world? Does that mean that you’re stressing the –whomever believes- aspect of that verse? There are so many questions that sort of a statement brings up that I don’t think it’s very helpful, especially without going into what he means by it and what its implications are.

Flowing from that somewhat, he was quite clear about what he believes about hell and that his not a universalist, and that hell is real and that there is no possibility about salvation after death, and that purgatory doesn’t exist. He also mentioned abortion and homosexuality, however when referring to an interview with Larry King, he said that on the question of homosexuality his response was “Look Larry, let’s not even talk about the Bible. Look at it this way, biologically, we have men and women and certain parts were meant to go together. I rest my case.” and while there is truth to making an argument from biology, why would you go simply with that and purposefully not mention the Bible?

Overall, I thought he was a bit squirrelly on the doctrines of grace. He was very quick to point out that he believes in them, but then also quick to then emphasize only the passages which are often alleged against reformed theology. The one interesting aspect about the doctrines of grace that was discussed was Limited Atonement. Warren admitted that that was the one point of the traditional TULIP acrostic that he had issues with. Piper explained what his view was on the subject and how Christ died for all men in one way and how he died for the elect in another. Warren said that their views were closer than he thought they were and that he liked what Piper said and would like to hear more about it. Unfortunately that’s all that happened at that point. There was no discussion on what Warren thought about the doctrine or where he disagreed or anything.

Within the context of this interview, Rick Warren was speaking quite doctrinally, but it seems that much of the rest of his ministry whether that be preaching or writing etc. simply doesn’t reflect that emphasis. The question of “deep preaching” came up and he said that what most people mean by deep preaching is the use of theological terminology and how he taught several-week long series on sanctification and justification (I think those were the two he mentioned) but never mentioned the words. Now hold on there Ricky…I understand the point he’s trying to make in that using big words simply to sound smart or esoteric or theological is wrong. That is akin to the old “JPMs” in music back when Christian music was getting attacked. However, to then take that and preach entire sermon series on such important, and Biblical, concepts as sanctification and justification without mentioning the words?!? These are not simply big words for the reasons mentioned above. These are terms that are mentioned in the Bible, and are terms that are essential and foundational to Christianity as a whole. What happens when the congregants of Warren’s church are reading the Bible and run into these terms? Now, I’m sure he could easily counter this with another point he brought up in the interview; that is, that his church has a course (I forget the length) on systematic theology that is taught and that all members/small group leaders etc. are required to take it, and that they would learn the meaning of the terms there. Ok, that’s great but it’s not simply the having of a required course in systematic theology that is the issue here. Bart Ehrman could (and probably does?) teach a class on systematic theology and use the same terminology and have completely different meanings for them.

There is a critique on Rick Warren that suggests that he’s a chameleon, and actually I’m likely to agree with that, though not in the strongest sense. For example, within the context of this interview, he was speaking doctrinally quite a lot. Now, he didn’t expand on several things and even seemed to drift off topic quickly a lot, but he was at least talking about foundational Christian doctrine honestly. Yes, I understand that’s not the issue, but the point is that if you took this interview by itself you could probably paint a different picture of Warren than you would from taking a look at other aspects of his ministry. Does that mean that he is purposefully and maliciously a sheep in wolf’s clothing? I don’t think so. Does that mean that he is simply doing as Paul does in 1 Corinthians 9:19-13? Again, I don’t think so. I’m sure people could argue for one side or the other on that one but I’m guessing it more stems from a desire to not get into conflict “within the fold”. He stated a couple situations where he confronted confrontation with Larry King or a Jewish woman attending a lecture/sermon (I forget) about hell, so he’s clearly willing to have confrontation. However, once you get into the sphere of Christianity, he seems to not want to rock the boat much. Which is why, I think, in this interview, he talked doctrinally and about the doctrines of grace. Why? Because he was being interviewed by John Piper, who is one of the leading spokespeople for Calvinism. He does seem to tailor his messages or his approach to his audience. I wouldn’t say that I’m throwing him under the buss, but I’m also not recommending anything of his to anyone. At best, I find him to be mostly unhelpful.

Keep in mind that this is dealing solely with the content of this interview. For a more thorough dealing of Rick Warren, his theology/ministry/thought, I would encourage you to read what Michael Horton wrote here. Also, I apologize for any discrepancy in what I wrote and what was actually said in the interview and would appreciate it if you would bring any to my attention. Hopefully this interview/transcription will be back up soon so that people can take a look at it, and so that I can go back and cross-check and dig more into it.