Warren-Obama: A Threat to What?

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There is so much irony wrapped up in Rick Warren's invitation to invoke God's blessing on the inauguration of Barak Obama that I am astonished that Carl Trueman has not written more about it.  The news is that the gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender (can they really say this with a straight face?) community is incensed that an anti-GLBST evangelical is participating in such a meaningful way.  But can anyone really believe that Rick Warren is a serious threat to neo-pagan sensualism?  By far the greater threat is that which Warren will pose to the gospel, especially at an event that is bound to take state-as-savior idolatry to a new stratosphere.  In my view, this is what will really be interesting: how far will the Obama-Messiah pageantry and rhetoric be taken?  With this in mind, I am not excited that an "evangelical" "leader" will be invoking God's blessing.  Here's why I am more worried for the gospel than for the GLBST agenda:

1.  Evangelicals are always thrilled simply to be included in secular ceremonies of national importance.  Meanwhile, we fail to notice that the purpose of our invitation is to coopt us into compliance.  Compliance with what, you ask (since Warren is permitted to retain his anti-gay-marriage / pro-life positions)?  The answer is compliance with the politician-as-Messiah idolatry.  Obama may be the present master of the "I am your Savior" candidacy," but he is by no means the first.  This is now such a standard feature of American politics that one may no longer be able to be elected to the presidency unless convincingly evoking "Caesar is Lord" devotion.  It used to be a Christian tradition not to bend the knee at such events, but apparently we are all too contemporary now to remember.

2. But shouldn't a Christian minister be willing to pray at such an event, given Romans 13?  It depends, of course, on the prayer.  If Warren were to pray: a) for God to have mercy on a wicked nation like ours; b) to grant the grace of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, so that we might be restored to God through his atoning blood; and c) for God to show mercy by giving the new President faith to establish true (i.e. biblical) standards of justice and righteousness -- then that would be a Christian prayer.  But is anything like this remotely likely?  Instead, is it not entirely more likely that Warren will pray something entirely contrary to Christian truth, and that he will do so on the most public national stage in his capacity as a Christian minister -- thus grossly misrepresenting (whoring might be more accurate) Christ and Christianity before the world?  Really, isn't it almost certain that Warren will invoke something blandly pious about God blessing us because of our good intentions and God's desire for everyone to have purpose, with no reference to the Lordship of God the Son or the preciousness of his atoning blood?  And here is my point: in so doing Warren will be doing damage to Christianity while posing no threat to the neo-pagan idolatry.  For all his good intentions and many virtues, Warren will end up providing only a slightly more sobering version of Joel Osteen, providing a nice religious veneer to help the idolatry better to shine.  Therefore, in my view, Christians should disavow Warren as representing our religion at the inauguration.

3.  With all this in mind, I have come to the position that evangelical Christian ministers should simply shun all such situations as the presidential inauguration (whether a Democrat or a Republican is being sworn in).  We almost never represent Christian truth well in such situations.  I remember reading a sermon by the great Baptist evangelical Alexander Maclaren, preached at a railway station as British boys marched off to die on Flanders Fields in World War I.  Sure enough, Maclaren was strongly suggesting -- contrary to everything he really believed -- that every young man who died for King and Country could be sure of a welcome with God in heaven.  It seems that the pressure was simply too great for Maclaren to say anything else.  Or think of Billy Graham being so easily coopted by the Richard Nixons of the world (see Colson's "Born Again" for a description).  Whatever one might think of Graham now, in his time he preached the gospel boldly before the world, but when the president had him over for lunch Graham was so easily coopted.  My point is that I really don't think we gospel preachers do well in these situations.  And unless we are willing to give gross offense and receive huge amounts of public scorn for our Christian proclamation, then we should just avoid state functions altogether.  I did this myself during last year's primary.  Invited to give the invocation for a major Republican candidate, I just didn't know how I could pull it off with any gospel integrity, so I declined.  For my part, I wish Warren had done the same, explaining that while he will pray for the president, his duty to the Lord Jesus Christ does not permit him to compromise with the present idolatry of the presidency.


P.S.  I keep hearing people talk about America becoming socialist.  But it seems to me that all signs are pointing in the direction of fascism.  Any thoughts, Carl?

Posted December 24, 2008 @ 11:51 AM by Rick Phillips

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