In an unsurprising display of theological ineptitude, Rick Warren, the former pastor of Saddleback Church, published an open letter to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Baptist News Global, a publication notorious for its pro-homosexual, pro-abortion stance. This alone, by all accounts, should cause the alarms of discernment to clang loudly within the hearts of every God-fearing Southern Baptist as such an alignment with an outlet that thrives on a progressive, permissive agenda, is blatantly contrary to Scripture, showcases Warren’s seeming willingness to rub shoulders with those endorsing a distorted version of the Christian faith. As if we needed anything more, this clearly demonstrates the abject liberalism of Warren’s theology and indicates an alarming ineptitude in discerning and upholding core biblical values.
In grappling with the words of Pastor Rick Warren, it becomes increasingly clear that an enduring and essential tension exists in the heart of Baptist theology. It’s a tension that separates Biblical fidelity from cultural adaptation. Warren’s open letter, while claiming to bring unity to the SBC, displays a profound misunderstanding of both theology and the essence of freedom that Christian believers are called to embody.
To be clear, we’re not speaking of churches that disagree even on mundane things such as music style, how often the Lord’s supper is served, and whether or not these churches have nurseries for infants during worship service. No. We’re talking about churches that abandon the clear biblical directives on how to operate—churches that are in open, clear rebellion to God—by placing women in the pulpit or in pastoral roles. A church that disobeys a clear biblical command is a church that is in rebellion to God. And as the Scriptures further clearly command us, we are not to have fellowship with them: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (1 Corinthians 6:14)
Warren declares, “Our appeal to reverse the Executive Committee ruling is not asking any Baptist to change their theology. Not at all.” At first glance, this appears to be a benign, even commendable, plea for understanding and tolerance. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes strikingly apparent that his claim is not only patently erroneous but extremely pernicious.
This is not simply a call for change; it’s a damning siren’s song luring Southern Baptists further away from solid, biblical grounding. It’s a reckless invitation to discard the unequivocal Biblical instruction about the role of women in church leadership, as explicitly prescribed in 1 Timothy 2:12: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”
Join Us and Get These Perks:
✅ No Ads in Articles
✅ Access to Comments and Discussions
✅ Community Chats
✅ Full Article and Podcast Archive
✅ The Joy of Supporting Our Work 😉
This isn’t a quaint, outdated cultural norm or an artifact of patriarchal domination, rather, it is a foundational, divine directive from the Apostle Paul, directly inspired by the Holy Spirit, an authority that sits loftily above and beyond any worldly convention, committee, or human whim. That Rick Warren or other Southern Baptists would dare to brush off such a clear biblical mandate is to flirt dangerously with apostasy, to wilfully cast aside God’s revealed will for His Church. This is not a matter of personal preference or cultural interpretation—it is a matter of obedience to the God who calls us to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Warren suggests, “This is a vote to affirm the God-given freedom of every Baptist to interpret Scripture as a Baptist — by saying no to those who deny that freedom.” This statement reveals an astonishing degree of distortion and misunderstanding about the nature of scriptural freedom, carrying with it the pungent odor of post-modern relativism infiltrating the sacred precincts of the Church.
Freedom in the Christian life, as illuminated by Scripture, is not a wild, unfettered license to whimsically reinterpret and manipulate God’s Word to comply with our fleeting desires or cultural trends. Instead, it’s a divine emancipation from the shackles of sin and the capacity to live in alignment with God’s revealed will.
Paul’s words to the Galatians, in 5:13, are profoundly instructive here: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” This isn’t a freedom that emboldens us to sin, to deliberately contravene clear Biblical teachings under the deceptive guise of progressive reinterpretation. Rather, it’s a freedom from sin, a liberation from the crippling consequences of the Fall. It’s the opportunity to wholeheartedly submit to God’s Word and to live in joyful obedience to His commands.
In essence, Warren’s notion of “God-given freedom” is a subtle and seductive corruption of the glorious biblical concept of freedom. It’s a dangerous perversion that threatens to undermine the foundations of our ecclesiology and it must be vigorously countered with unyielding fidelity to the truths of Scripture.
The SBC, Warren asserts, thrived for 80 years without a statement of faith, arguing this is a testament to its unity based not on confession, but a common mission. Yet, this undermines the inherent Biblical call for Christians to be in unity of belief, to hold fast to sound doctrine. Ephesians 4:14 admonishes us so we “may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” Unity in mission is meaningless if there is no unity in belief, in sound doctrine. The true mission of the Church, the Great Commission, necessitates a unified, Biblically grounded faith, not a buffet-style selection of doctrines.
To be quite blunt, the stakes are high, the very integrity of the Baptist tradition. Warren’s destructive pleas for superficial unity and mission must be challenged since they run counter to the clear teaching of Scripture. The departure of Saddleback Church from the SBC would not be a cause for lament but a necessary pruning. To quote the Apostle John, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:19). To uphold the fidelity of the SBC to Scripture, it may be that the greatest act of love we can demonstrate is to let go. This act, difficult as it is, could be the clarifying moment that restores the SBC to a profound reverence for God’s Word and an unyielding commitment to sound doctrine.