Is it Ever Right to Rebuke? The Cases of Rick Warren and Notre Dame

Living the Christian life is often a balancing act. It is easy to get into unhelpful extremes, and seeking to find the biblical balance is often a difficult job. Take for example the issue of public censure. On the one hand, Christians are to strive for unity and edification. On the other hand, we are instructed to at times publically rebuke wayward brothers.

Getting the right mix here is not always easy. I have written before on these matters but there is need to write more. We should strive to love one another, encourage one another, build each other up, and show humility and respect, preferring one another in love. A truckload of texts can be adduced here on such themes.

But we are also told to not allow one another to get off the path. We are instructed to rebuke and correct when necessary, and commanded to uphold both sound teaching and right conduct. Sometimes when a brother does something or says something in public that is very much out of sync with the faith, there may be a need for a public reply, rebuff, correction or rebuke.

While we all know about and rightly affirm the first set of concerns, we tend to shy away from the second. But this is also a part of our calling. And there are plenty of examples and admonitions of this found in the Bible.

A classic case is Paul publically confronting Peter. In Galatians 2:11 Paul says this: “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.” You can read the first two chapters to get the context of this rebuke, but suffice it to say that sometimes public words and actions need to be publically challenged.

Paul makes it clear that there is a place for public rebuke: “Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning” (1 Timothy 5:20). “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Indeed, this theme is found throughout Scripture. As we are told in the Psalms: “Let a righteous man strike me – it is a kindness; let him rebuke me – it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it. Yet my prayer is ever against the deeds of evildoers” (Psalm 141:5).

Or as we are instructed in Proverbs, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:5-6).

Two contemporary examples

I write all this because I have in my mind two recent episodes which bear on this very issue. One concerns some public comments by megachurch Pastor Rick Warren made on the Larry King show this past Monday. This is how one account records the interview:

“King asked Warren, ‘Do you therefore criticize or not comment on the Iowa court decision to permit gay marriage.’ Warren replied, ‘Yeah, I’m totally uh oblivious to, to what’s, that’s not even my agenda.’ He went on to say, ‘My agenda is two things’ and spoke of the 15th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide and what the recession is doing to the spiritual climate of the nation.”

“‘I am not an anti-gay or an anti-gay marriage activist. Never have been, never will be,’ Warren told King at the outset of the interview. ‘During the whole Proposition 8 thing, I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement, never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Prop 8 was going.’ Pressed by King on whether he told his congregation to support Prop 8, Warren conceded to having ‘just simply made a note in a newsletter’ about it. He also stated that he continues to believe that the definition of marriage should not be changed.”

“Nonetheless, he stated that his note to his congregation telling them to support Prop 8 was blown out of proportion. ‘I sent a note to my own members, and then all of a sudden out of it they made me something that I really wasn’t.’ He added: ‘I wrote to all my gay friends, the leaders that I knew and apologized to them.’”

Not only is this backtracking on homosexuality of real concern, but it seems he has been bending the truth a little as well. It was not just a note he wrote on proposition 8. He had “in fact videotaped a message of over 2 minutes length in support of Prop 8. That video was featured on the Prop 8 website and is still available on Warren’s own Saddleback Church website.”

So I guess the question is, Will the real Rick Warren please stand up? If he has in fact changed his views on the importance of marriage and family, then he should plainly say so. And he should do so without equivocation or misleading remarks, as he apparently has done on the King interview.

The second example has to do with what had been known as a strong Catholic university, Notre Dame in America, and its decision to have Barack Hussein Obama deliver the commencement address on May 17, and receive an honorary law degree.

Being the most pro-abortion President ever, outraged Catholics around America – and elsewhere – are demanding that Notre Dame back down and not go through with this act of villainy. To date, over 30 US Bishops have publically condemned the decision.

But the president of the university refuses to back down, despite the fact that in June 2004, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement declaring that Catholic colleges should not allow those who are pro-abortion to have a platform to speak to students or be honoured with special awards and degrees.

Many Catholic leaders have publically blasted the decision. For example Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, ND wrote, “Even though President Obama is not Catholic, he clearly rejects the truth about human dignity through his constant support of a so called ‘right’ to abortion. Inviting President Obama to award him a degree and to speak at a Catholic University implicitly extends legitimacy to his views on these issues in the minds of the average onlooker. Your actions and that of the Board of Trustees of Notre Dame do real harm to the mission of Catholic education in this country and further splinters Catholic witness in the public square.”

Catholic commentator Patrick Buchanan is so incensed he has asked if Notre Dame is still even a Catholic institution: “Is Notre Dame still a repository, teacher and exemplar of eternal truths about God and Man, right and wrong, whose mission is to convey and defend those truths in a hostile world? Or has Notre Dame joined the secularists in their endless scavenger hunt to seek and find truth in the marketplace of ideas?”

In both these cases, public words and actions by Christians have resulted in public rebuke. I think that in both cases this public rebuke has been warranted (no pun intended). Sometimes we must be willing to stand up for biblical truth, even if that means sharing our concerns in public, especially if what we are responding to was originally done publically.

At the end of the day we all need to pray for Rick Warren and the President of Notre Dame, the Rev. John Jenkins. As major Christian leaders they clearly need our prayer and support. But as major Christian leaders, they can have tremendous influence, for good or for ill. When they use their powerful positions of leadership to do and say things which are at the least, biblically questionable, and at the worst, quite damaging, then fellow believers have an obligation to lovingly yet firmly share their concerns.

So pray for these two men, that they will do that which is pleasing to God, and not just that which is pleasing to men.

[1327 words]

14 Replies to “Is it Ever Right to Rebuke? The Cases of Rick Warren and Notre Dame”

  1. For the gainsayers, the deniers, those who wish only to think the best and those who just want to stick their heads in the sand, the unavoidable truth is that gay marriage is sweeping in like a tidal wave and I can see nothing that will stop it. It will soon be in a registry or church near you:

    Until recently I used to think that what was at stake here were our freedoms to speech, our freedoms to think, our freedoms to conscience – all very abstract, philosophical and noble issues. But within the last week, for me at least, the unavoidable issue is none of these; it is our children.

    1. No one dares to point out the link between paedophilia and homosexuality, that this 1-2% of the population is responsible for at least 30% of such crimes. No one politician or churchman seems to prepared to talk about the way homosexuals continue to take advantage of equality, diversity and human rights laws to abuse children in foster homes and in care, even though there are high profile cases and investigations still being carried out:

    2.No one dares to mention that homosexuals in proportion to their number commit the worst serial murders: Five out of the ten mentioned here are homosexual. Only recently there has been this case: And this too that might have ended in tragedy:

    3. No one wants to talk about the mass grooming of our children, being made ready for the homosexual predator, through compulsory state sex education:

    4. And finally no one want to talk of children being forcibly taken from their natural parents and family and given as “goods and services” to gays, who are not even in a civil partnerships:

    Is it ever right to rebuke? Rebuke!!! We should be filled with a holy and volcanic hatred for this evil.
    “But you have this in your favour: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, (who practised unrestrained sexual perversions) which I also hate.” Revelation 2: 6
    “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.“ Proverbs 6:16
    “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12
    “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.“ 1 Corinthians 6:9 ff

    Forget the phobia bit. Why have we become so craven, like the coward, Rick Warren, when the homosexual lobby have become so bold, confident, arrogant, hate-filled and violent? Perhaps folks should bone up on their history and see how cowed and compliant the German public became under homosexual beasts like Ernst Roehm just prior to the Second World War:

    It is time to deflect the absurd, fiery darts and accusations of being homophobic and declare with as loud a voice as possible our implacable rejection of homosexuality and our pride in the righteousness of Jesus Christ and all that he has done for us in setting us free from death, Satan and bondage to our old sinful natures.

    David Skinner, UK

  2. I recently witnessed the backdown by Rick Warren on the Larry King Show and have been following the debacle at Notre Dame. Warren lost all credibility, with what was obviously a direct about-turn on what everyone thought were his principles. We had Larry King sitting up there, with his mask like expression and those ridiculous 1920s style braces supporting his trousers. Warren would not have won a friend in King, with his remarks. Also, King and the Left would have lost all respect for him. Concerning Notre Dame, Fr Jenkins has come out of the woodwork as a trendy. He obviously does not think abortion support is a serious enough sin, or he wouldn’t be inviting President B.O. to receive an honorary law degree, or be allowed to speak. Either Jensen should be dismissed from his post, or Notre Dame, should be declared outside the Church as a university. Some indication of the arrogance of Jensen, one financial supporter ($100,000 p/a) has withdrawn his support and Jensen has decided to press on, full steam ahead with President B.O. He is not fit to hold any position at the university.
    Frank Bellet, Petrie Qld

  3. “The Lord has risen, Alleluiah!”

    Totally agree, Bill, and happy Easter to you and all!

    Notre Dame in the US has had its problems for a while.

    It and other Catholic educational institutions over seas and here will be given the rebukes that really are mercy as well as justice, and this will happen with greater frequency because of a revival of courage typified by Cardinal Pell.

    Michael Casanova

  4. I suspect Mr Warren is no different to our current Prime Minister, Barack Obama and many others who call themselves Christians, happy to say they don’t support same-sex marriage but ready to give ground to homosexuals on everything else.
    Only trouble is, when the fire really gets hot they will turn their backs on anyone, even their mates, in order to try and put the fire out!
    Peter Stokes

  5. It is incredible that the Catholic Education Office is not subject to the authority of the Catholic Bishops.
    We find a Catholic State MP who voted in favour of abortion in Victoria last year, and should have been rebuked by the Church, has now been honoured by a Catholic Primary School in western Melbourne [St. Bernard’s] which has made him [Justin Madden] a Member of the school Hall of Fame!
    I hope the parishoners will treat this as a deliberate insult to all those couageous people who have fought against abortion for almost 40 years, and cease their financial support. It is also an insult to the Holy Father who has specifically laid it on the line that Catholic politicians cannot support abortion. Stop funding this school!

    The same applies to Notre Dame University in the US, which should cease claiming to be Catholic and have all Catholic financial support withdrawn.

    Alan A. Hoysted

  6. I left a Uniting Church in 2004 because of the manner in which Warren’s PURPOSE DRIVEN CHURCH booklet was being promoted-“you will be allocated to study groups” and I felt that it was relying upon man and not upon the Holy Spirit.
    I feel vindicated but also sad that Warren has back-pedalled and brought shame to the Name of Jesus.
    Wayne Pelling

  7. David Skinner makes a good point re the Nazis. Many on the left compare supporters of traditional marriage with the Hitler regime. Yet Hitler would never have risen to power without the support of the SA (Sturmabteilung) or Blackshirts, led by Ernst Röhm (1887–1934). Yet in his huge volume on Nazi history, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, journalist and historian William Shirer (1904–1993) describes Röhm as ‘a stocky, bull-necked, piggish-eyed, scar-faced professional soldier…[and] like so many of the early Nazis, a homosexual.’ Of course, it is not politically correct to mention this connection.

    See also Lively Scott, Homosexuality and the Nazi Party, Leadership University, 13 July 2002; see also The Pink Swastika as Holocaust Revisionist History by Dr Judith Reisman.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  8. Thanks Jonathan

    Speaking of the Nazis, and referring back to the topic of Obama speaking at a Catholic University: Obama has now been invited to address another Catholic school, Georgetown University. Pro-lifer Randall Terry made a neat comment about this yesterday, reminding us of those Christians who voted for Obama despite his horrible pro-abortion record:

    “Georgetown’s attitude seems to be: Germany’s leaders built great roads in the 1930s, they helped save the banks, and they rebuilt the economy. Let’s focus on their economy – not that whole genocide thing.”

    Many believers take the same attitude with Obama: yeah, he is not very pro-life, but he is trying to reach out to others, and bring change, and be tolerant, and…

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  9. Wayne what you describe in the way of your whole church being mobilised (forced) to buy the books, “A Purpose Driven Life,” “A Purpose Driven Church” and finally 40 Days of Purpose – at great expense – must be something that many of us have experienced by churches, large and small, from the north pole to the south pole. I too have “shaken the dust of my sandals,” but over the issue of women in leadership and preaching roles.

    However, though you and I might feel some sense of self righteousness over this, the possibility remains that we will all have a Rick Warren moment. Maybe we have not yet come under the kind of pressure that he has come under. This reminds me of Thomas Cranmer, let’s pray that Rick Warren is convicted, boldly repudiates homosexuality and all else in his teaching that up till now has led people astray.

    Bill, Randall Terry forgot to mention the VW Beetle car.

    David Skinner

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *