Rick Warren's Second Reformation
(Deeds, Not Creeds)



In July 2005, while speaking in front of the Baptist World Alliance, Rick Warren declared: "I am praying for a second reformation of the church that will focus more on deeds than words. The first Reformation was about beliefs. This one needs to be about behavior."

He has elsewhere stated: "I'm looking for a Second Reformation. The First Reformation of the church 500 years ago was about beliefs. This one's going to be about behavior. The first one was about creeds. This one's going to be about deeds. It's going to be about, not what the church believes. But what is the church is doing?" (listen to audio clip).


And on February 5, 2008, in a Washington Post article titled "Megachurch Pastor Warren Calls for a Second Reformation," the following text appeared: "Rick Warren, a megachurch pastor and philanthropist who is courted by political leaders worldwide, says he thinks Christianity needs a 'second Reformation' that would steer the church away from divisive politics and be 'about deeds, not creeds.'"


The fallout of such remarks has been nothing less than a deluge of violent, vicious, and vehement denunciations of Warren, accusing him of all manner of heresy, traitorous acts against scripture, and denials of God! Consider the small sampling taken from the literal torrent of attacks that have been launched against Warren because of his stated desire to have a Second Reformation of deeds, not creeds:

"The 'Deeds Not Creeds' Challenge - Are J[ehovah's]W[itnesse]'s Now Christians? . . . If you attend a church where the lead pastor believes in "Deeds NOT Creeds" (like Rick Warren) . . . then you are forbidden from pointing to any doctrine or creeds as a means of distinguishing 'True Christians' from 'False Christians'. If your pastor does not value sound doctrine and creeds enough to promote them and teach them from the pulpit and you keep attending a church like that, then you haven't earned the right to use doctrine and creeds as a means of distinguishing your version of Christianity from the JW's version. . . . You can't treat doctrine and creeds with contempt one minute then use them to help you the next minute" (A Little Leaven).

"IT’S OFFICIAL: AMERICA’S PASTOR RICK WARREN OF THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE MAY NOT EVEN BE A CHRISTIAN! . . . [A]long with the Curator of A Little Leaven, we point out that this 'interview on beliefnet.com was about Warren’s Second Reformation. (That’s Warren’s own personal reformation of Deeds NOT Creeds.)' Still however, I find myself in agreement as the Curator then goes on to say: 'We admit that Jesus’ death and resurrection sure do sound creedal and mentioning them in an interview about Warren’s Second Reformation would probably confuse people. But here is something to think about. . . since Warren isn't willing to affirm Jesus’ death and resurrection as part of his Second Reformation we probably shouldn’t even call it a 'Christian’ Reformation.' . . . And as we look at all of this one might now have very good reason to conclude that America's Purpose Driven Pastor Rick Warren is an amazingly immature 'Christ-Follower' at best and indeed he just might not even be a Christian at all. . ." (Apprising Ministries).

"The Deeds Not Creeds HeresyRick Warren may be thrilled with his good deeds but unfortunately he is claiming that his effort 'is' Christianity. It is not. Atheists do as many good deeds towards their fellow man as Christians do. 'Deeds not creeds' is not a new mantra. The compromised, self-congratulatory, self-absorbed teachings of Rick Warren and the Church Growth Movement have delivered a bankrupt Christianity that is filled with 'Christians' that are 'pleased' with themselves and their activities. (Christianity does not teach self satisfaction; the Pharisees of Jesus day were pleased with themselves, but stood condemned since no one can keep God's law" (TSF Protests blog)

"A Little Leaven has an exhibit that brilliantly demonstrates the deceit and shallowness of Rick Warren’s Deeds NOT Creeds mantra. The exhibit shows how Jehovah's Witnesses have adopted the EXACT same type of seeker-sensitive messages that we find in today’s modern mega-churches" (Christian Research Net).

"You’ve probably heard it a million times, but it is worth reminding you that Rick Warren wants a 'Second-Reformation' of deeds instead of creeds, of behavior instead of belief. In Warren’s way of thinking, it shouldn’t matter what you believe, the only thing that should matter is what you do" (Extreme Theology).

"What’s Plaguing the ChurchLack of Deeds, or Creeds? . . . I agree with the White Horse Inn guys that employing a motto such as ‘Deeds, not Creeds’, is a terrible thing to do, and does nothing to unite the church or further the kingdom. I would say that true good works flow from correct doctrine…and not apart from it" (Voice of the Sheep).

It is almost impossible for me to comprehend how such a simple statement by Warren could be so twisted, perverted, and warped.  These individuals are not listening. In my opinion, they are not apologist (discerning defenders of the faith), but are
"heresy-hunters" who have set themselves up as watchdogs of orthodoxy and arbiters of what is, and what is not, biblical based on prejudice and an agenda to prove that Warren is a false teacher (for whatever reason). They have thrown both caution and care to the wind, and have ceased to be concerned about truth. Instead, they have fixated on finding error/heresy—even where none exists.


THE NEW REFORMATION: WHAT IT ISWHAT IT ISN'T

Warren's so-called "New Reformation" has nothing to do with incorporating "all religions" into Christianity (which is the implication being made by Warren's critics). It is a Second Reformation that is meant to bring life to the social-related commands of of scripture found in James 1:27 ("Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world") and James 2:14-17 ("What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead").

It is to be a reformation of deeds, rather than creeds. Why? Because the First Reformation was about creeds/doctrine. It is Warren's hope to now match up the right beliefs of Christianity in the heart with the right actions of Christianity in the world. He is NOT saying that we need to get rid of the creeds and replace them with deeds.  Warren is directly talking about a NEW Reformation that must occur as a follow up to the old reformation, and this new reformation is about deeds, not creeds (established through the First Reformation). Anyone should be able to discern this (especially if they are a discernment ministry, for example Lighthouse Trails Research Project). Warren's intentions might best be put in an basic Q&A format for us to consider:

QUESTION: Why would a Second Reformation be about deeds, but not about creeds?

ANSWER: Because the First Reformation, begun by Martin Luther, was about the creeds (doctrine). Our doctrines were established by the First Reformation. Our deeds must be established by a Second Reformation.


Warren is not saying we should replace or abandon the First Reformation. He is merely stating the obvious: we have been woefully negligent, in his opinion, when it comes to alleviating human suffering on a large scale. So, he feels we need a Second Reformation of deeds. That is what the P.E.A.C.E. Plan is about, and that is why he is calling it a Second Reformation. Other religions come into play only insofar as they are willing to assist and join with Christians in helping alleviate the suffering of the masses. His explanation of this issue was laid out very clearly during my interview with him, which appeared 
interview with him, which appeared in my book Rick Warren and the Purpose that Dives Him:




What has happened is that for some reason Warren seems to be rather hated among a certain segment of the church, and in their rush to continually find something negative about him, they are unendingly misinterpreting just about everything he says in the worst possible way. In this instance, they are rearranging his words/intent to mean that he advocating a rejection of the creeds in favor of deeds. But that is not what he is announcing at all.

Note in the first quote by one Warren critic (A Little Leaven), the individual states: "If you attend a church where the lead pastor believes in "Deeds NOT Creeds" (like Rick Warren). But this not what Warren declared. Warren, in fact, believes in the main Christian Creeds and all of the essentials of the faith that they express (see "The Doctrinal Essentials of Christianityand Rick Warren").  And in the above excerpt from my interview, we see Warren perfectly fine with the doctrines that came from the First Reformation. This is why they do not need to be re-visited (or REFORMED). They are just fine as they are. The church needs help now only in the area of deeds, not creeds.

The third critic above rails, "The Deeds Not Creeds Heresy—Rick Warren may be thrilled with his good deeds but unfortunately he is claiming that his effort 'is' Christianity. It is not."  But truth be told, it IS Christianity, according to James 1:27 and James 2:14-17. Good deeds, of course, are NOT the Gospel, nor the way of salvation. But Warren is not saying that good deeds are the way of salvation. This critic has invented in his mind what Warren is saying about good deeds, asserting that he is equating good deeds with salvation. But that is a false charge (for information/documentation on the way of salvation taught by Warren, see
"Saddleback Church: The Cross, Sin, and Hell").

In the quote from Extreme Theology, we have this lie: "In Warren’s way of thinking, it shouldn’t matter what you believe, the only thing that should matter is what you do." The truth, of course, is that Warren's "deeds, not creeds" remark has nothing to do with one's beliefs with regard to their spiritual connectedness to God. And Warren is certainly not saying that the only thing that really matters is what you do! During my interview with Warren in 2005, he made this very plain when we discussed doctrine (excerpt taken from
Rick Warren and the Purpose that Dives Him):

"Let me tell you what I do believe. The message must never change, but the methods must change. If you change the message you are a heretic. Here's a direct quote 'YOU ARE A HERETIC IF YOU CHANGE THE MESSAGE. THE BIBLE SAYS IN JUDE, IT IS THE FAITH ‘ONCE FOR ALL DELIVERED TO THE SAINTS.’ IT CANNOT BE TAMPERED WITH."

Anyone can see that Warren has held true to his word by talking a look at Warren's teachings on salvation, grace, the cross, sin, hell, and repentance (see "Saddleback Church: The Cross, Sin, and Hell").


BEING UNEQUALLY YOKED?

Before conclusing this article, a word must be said here about one of the most common objections being raised by Warren's critics against his P.E.A.C.E. Plan and New Reformation. It revolves around the biblical mandate for Christians to not be unequally yoked to unbelievers
( 2 Cor. 6:14-15).

Tragically, this
has become one of the most abused and misused verses in the Bible. It has been used to condemn the enjoyment of secular friends, dating an unbeliever, celebrating Christmas/Easter, working for social betterment with non-Christians, and even continuing to have contact with a family member who hasn’t accepted Christ. The follow up verse (2 Cor. 6:17-18) has been abused in the same way, and worse, often being used by cults/aberrant groups to not live within society (e.g., isolationist sects like the Branch Davidians, the Jim Jones cult, and others), or not dress in colors/use modern machinery (e.g. the Amish).

Both of these passages in Corinthians have a variety of interpretations (some more plausible than others). We certainly have room for disagreement on the passages, however, since they have nothing to do with the doctrinal essentials of the faith (see my article "The Doctrinal Essentials of the Faith"). When it comes to Warren and his P.E.A.C.E. Plan, it seems that these passages would not apply.

The context, per the Eerdman’s Commentary, the main thrust of Paul's warning is to keep clear of worldly attachments—i.e, getting bound up in a way that would divert us from a spiritual, fruitful, doctrinally sound walk with Christ. According to the Eerdman’s Commentary, Paul is apparently making a sharp reference to some incident/topic present at the Corinth church, undefined to us, but apparently understood by them: "In this passage, Paul prohibits some particular though unspecified relationship with unbelievers (v. 14). The veto somehow concerns heathen sacrifices; and certainly any association with heathen worship [in Corinth] involved immorality of the worst kind' (Eerdman's, p. 1081).

The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries adds to this thought by explaining, "One of the great problems of the Christians in a pagan city such as Corinth was to know how far they ought to segregate themselves from those who were outside their fellowship. In the first Epistle the apostle had advised them on the subject, and advocated that , while every care must be taken to avoid idolatry, complete separation was unnecessary" (p. 98). We then read the Tyndale  conclusion, which speaks of the contents of v. 17-18: "Paul continues what is, in effect, a chain of Old Testament quotations, but inserts the word 'wherefore' to show that he is now drawing practical implications from the great truth that the Christians are the temple of the living God. The older shrines were separated off from the world around them; so the Christians must be SPIRITUALLY and MORALLY withdrawn from the pagan society in which they have to live" (p. 99).

Notice—NOT SOCIAL. This is not a social issue.

A Christian should certainly be able to remain spiritually and morally separated from others (no matter what their religions might be), if they are  working with them SOCIALLY to build an orphanage, feed a starving child, or pass out clothes to people who are wearing rags. In fact, that would be a golden opportunity to share Jesus with that person. Nevertheless, some Christians feel that this is wrong. And that Christians should only work with other Christians in the social realm. But, as we see, working only with Christians is not mandated by scripture. It must be viewed as more of a personal preference issue.

On a personal level, I cannot understand an unwillingness to help others
with those of differing beliefs. In a recent blog, I addressed this very issue when responding to a Christians who felt it was improper/unbiblical to work with non-Christians in the social arena. Consider my following comments, originally posted at simplemindedpreacher:

 
Are you telling me that on 9/11 if you were in NYC, you would NOT have helped survivors of the terrorist attacks if your search/rescue team was being coordinated by a Buddhist? Or that you would NOT pull debris off an area where there might have been survivors if your team consisted of 3 atheists, a Hindu, and 4 Jews (a very possible mix in New York)?
What about Katrina in New Orleans? You would NOT have gotten in a boat to rescue stranded people unless your whole boat was full of Christians? What if you found out that one of those "Christians" was a liberal from a United Methodist Church in New Orleans? Would you turn the boat while people were drowning?

I remind you that we are to be in the world, but not of it (John 17:14-15). And also, in Romans 10:15, Paul declares, "And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!" I am thrilled that ambassadors of Christ will be walking on those beautiful feet in all parts of the world thanks to the P.E.A.C.E. Plan.

Nothing the Bible forbids us from helping out in the world socially with people who do not happen to be Christian.If you or anyone else does not want to help alleviate the suffering in the world unless you're working with other Christians, then fine. But please, allow others who feel differently to respond to James 1:27 and James 2:14-17 without fear of being labeled a compromiser, a New Ager, a pluralist, a false teacher, a deceiver, and all manner of other names.


CONCLUSION

In conclusion, all Warren is saying is that it is time for our good deeds as Christians to be just as uppermost in our minds as our beliefs. He sees the church lacking in this area, just as the church was lacking in doctrine (creeds) in Martin Luther's day. Consequently, Warren feels like we need to have a SECOND reformation, but this one needs to be about deeds, rather than creeds. Christians, according to Warren, must be equally as concerned about deeds as they are about creeds. Only by having balance in these two areas can believers live in obedience to not only the Great Commission 
(Matthew 28:19-20), but also the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40), coupled with James 1:27 and James 2:14-17.

To use another quote by Warren—a quote that I have NEVER seen mentioned by even one of Warren's critics—"The Christian life is far more than creeds and convictions; it includes conduct and character. Our deeds must be consistent with our creeds, and our beliefs must be backed up with Christlike behavior" (
The Purpose Driven Life, p. 183).

This quote fully, clearly, and directly explains precisely what Warren means when he talks about a New Reformation about deeds, not creeds. So why is no one bothering to quote either it, or permutations of it, which are readily available at Warren's pastors .com? (see "Discipleship: how we grow" (Ministry Toolbox, #59, 7/17/2002 and "Helping your members mature little by little" (Ministry Toolbox, #161, 6/30/2004, under "Saddleback Sayings"). My personal belief is that far too many of Warren's critics are looking to condemn him, no matter what he says or does. And that is a tragedy.