Rick Warren, John Calvin and Quoting Heretics

What ever your theological position you will find other positions that just make you squirm. And the people that make statements supporting those other position might make you squirm even more.

I get that.

For example, I get nervous when Protestants quote Chesterton, a man who championed the Papacy. In my mind the reader of such quotes is already on their way down the slippery slope. Everyone who reads such quotes automatically swallows all the questionable or heretical doctrine by the person being quoted. OK, not really. But the red flags go up. Like one of my favorite superheros my Spider-sense starts tingling.

Is that the right approach? While we are to be discerning, am I over-reacting?

This brings me to Rick Warren. As if he did not have enough cross-hairs on him. We have our disagreements, but I’m not ready to pull the trigger. Warren quotes a variety of people on twitter from a variety of theological backgrounds. Warren has some great quotes and some from people that make me uneasy.

Well, I’ve said stupid and wrong things and I’m sure I’m not finished in that department. And I’d like some grace, please. Although, regardless of what I’ve said, I still see a divide when it comes to Christian doctrine. So while I’m asking others to pass the grace shaker, how might I offer grace myself?

One idea comes from Michael Patton who recently said – Give Rick Warren A Break! Patton offers an interesting perspective that gives much to think about. Of critic Patton points out what he calls ‘the gift of parochialism’.

1) The ability of Christians to target and focus only on the bad in others; 2) The chronic display of other people’s shortcomings; 3) The gift of the Holy Spirit to be excessively narrow in our findings; 4) The uncanny ability of being indignant of other people’s theological shortcomings and indulgent of our own.

Rick Warren or not, that’s convicting in it’s own right. Patton goes on to explain that he’s been impressed and encouraged by Rick Warren. Patton certainly offers some food for thought in this area.

John Calvin also offers some food for thought. I was pointed to a place in Calvin’s writings where he speaks of truth from those he called “profane authors.”

Therefore, in reading profane authors, the admirable light of truth displayed in them should remind us, that the human mind, however much fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is still adorned and invested with admirable gifts from its Creator. If we reflect that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we will be careful, as we would avoid offering insult to him, not to reject or condemn truth wherever it appears. In despising the gifts, we insult the Giver. How, then, can we deny that truth must have beamed on those ancient lawgivers who arranged civil order and discipline with so much equity? Shall we say that the philosophers, in their exquisite researches and skilful description of nature, were blind? Shall we deny the possession of intellect to those who drew up rules for discourse, and taught us to speak in accordance with reason? Shall we say that those who, by the cultivation of the medical art, expended their industry in our behalf were only raving? What shall we say of the mathematical sciences? Shall we deem them to be the dreams of madmen? Nay, we cannot read the writings of the ancients on these subjects without the highest admiration; an admiration which their excellence will not allow us to withhold. But shall we deem anything to be noble and praiseworthy, without tracing it to the hand of God? Far from us be such ingratitude; an ingratitude not chargeable even on heathen poets, who acknowledged that philosophy and laws, and all useful arts were the inventions of the gods. Therefore, since it is manifest that men whom the Scriptures term carnal, are so acute and clear-sighted in the investigation of inferior things, their example should teach us how many gifts the Lord has left in possession of human nature, notwithstanding of its having been despoiled of the true good. (emphasis mine)
– John Calvin. The Institutes of the Christian Religion 2.2.15. (HT: Seth)

That’s a lot to reflect on, but then again so is my own sin. While I won’t be shutting off my Spider-sense as we are called to be discerning, I will certainly seek clearer pathways of grace on such issues.

How about yourself?

Let's connect!

tagged as , , in Church Issues,heresy,theology

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dennis Thurman September 17, 2010 at 11:20 am

Speaking of “cross hairs” : bull’s eye with this! You hit the mark!

2 Barry Wallace September 17, 2010 at 11:23 am

I agree with Calvin. All truth is God’s truth. That fact also makes me scratch my head at those who seem intent on pitting scientific truth against biblical truth.

3 Matt Svoboda September 17, 2010 at 11:28 am

I love the Calvin quote… I love quoting Chesterton when what he says is rock solid. We need to remember we can learn from everyone. I have quoted Christopher Hitchens before. He is a brilliant man and IMHO when an atheist gets something right that reveals the common grace of God.

Especially when it comes to Christians we agree on the essentials, therefore, we should be willing to quote them when they say something we agree with. I think it is elitist to only quote and be comfortable with people who agree with you in almost every area. Will I ever quote Chesterton on the Pope of Calvinism- heck no- but I will happily quote when he says things I agree with, especially because he says things 1 million times better than I can.

4 selahV September 17, 2010 at 11:46 am

Mark…great post! Point well-received…and this is what I’m talking about. So much to learn from one another, if we’d only stop talking past one another. If we didn’t presuppose what another is thinking before we even read what they say. If we allow for another’s clumsy expressions to be worthy of seeing the heart of what they are saying. If we’d stop putting words in the other’s mouth, and analyzing them in light of something another has said or thought of them. Of being sensitive, kind-hearted, respectful of the other as a human being–made in the image of God–and at least speak kindly when in disagreement.

Praying for Dawn. Trusting God to see you both through this agonizing trial. I just know by her spirit in her post last week, that God has great things in store for her. What a might voice we have when we’ve been through the deep waters, the fires, the storms and stand rooted on the Solid Rock, anchored by His sovereign hand.

Blessings, my brother, selahV

5 Mark September 17, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Dennis, thanks. Nice turn of phrase. 🙂

Barry, I don’t know why so many are pitting science against biblical truth. I have a hunch though since it is normally the Bible that must give ground.

Matt, I agree that we can learn from everyone, both positively and negatively. What is interesting about Hitchens is that there is exactly no doubt about where he stands. I think this actually makes him easier to quote. I still shiver with Chesterton.

SelahV, it would certainly help if we took time to understand each other a bit better. Thanks again for all of your prayers.

6 St. Andrew's Church Lawrenceburg TN September 17, 2010 at 11:11 pm

I just wondered should I discount your post because you spoke approvingly and without disclaimer TWICE about “SPIDEY SENSE”? Just asking… 🙂

7 Mark September 18, 2010 at 10:02 am

Chuck, weird, huh? It almost sounds like your Spider-sense went off. 😉

8 James September 18, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Words worth heeding, my friend!

9 Mark September 18, 2010 at 8:19 pm

James, thanks, brother!

10 Mark Bahr October 21, 2010 at 5:32 pm

I agree–quotiing someone us not an endorsement of the entirety of someone’s system of thinking or behavior. I get frustrated when critiques of books come down to the fact that certain people are quoted favorably. That is just irresponsible critiquing, writing and thinking to do that. I even sometimes give a disclaimer that just because I quote so done favorably is not necessarily an endorsement of everything that person stands for.


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