Last weekend Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church in California and author of bestseller The Purpose Drive Life was granted the opportunity to speak to one of the most influential Islamic organizations in America.
“America’s pastor”, as many have dubbed him, addressed the Islamic Society of North America on the subject of Christian-Muslim cooperation in solving global problems.
While he had a golden opportunity to point out the real difference between biblical Christianity and Islam’s approach to solving problems, he opted to urge the two largest religions in the world to work together to fight poverty, war, corruption, disease, and illiteracy.
According to the AP report, “he also urged Muslims and Christians to speak out against stereotyping and to respect each other even while disagreeing.”
I found it interesting and instructive to read three different accounts of this speaking engagement from the “Abrahamic” world religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The Jewish Journal says that
it seems Rick Warren has officially joined the Abrahamic speaking circuit.
A few years ago he showed up at Sinai Temple in Westwood and shared the secrets of evangelism, without mentioning Jesus. Then in December he spoke at the annual convention of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Long Beach. And now this past weekend Warren popped up in Washington at the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America.
Greenburg is right on when he concludes that
While [...] the basics are the same of the foundation-the Abrahamic foundation-of Christian and Islam and Judaism, the stories dramatically differ from there.
If only Warren and other Christian leaders would publicly acknowledge that and tell people why they are different, exalting the uniqueness of Christ.
Meanwhile the Islamic Center of North America’s (ISNA) website, at whose convention Warren was speaking, noted that
the convention’s theme “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” was a call for pluralism and bridge-building between different faith communities in the US, symbolized by ISNA’s selection of perhaps America’s top Christian leader as the keynote speaker.
In his speech in a cavernous hall Warren appealed for Muslims and Christians to work together to solve common problems which he said was possible without “compromising my convictions or your convictions.”
Finally, the Christian Post opens their article on the event with Warren’s statement that
“I will tell you that I am not interested in interfaith dialogue. I am interested in interfaith project. There is a big difference.”
“Talk is very cheap. You can talk and talk and talk and never get anything done. Love is something you do,” Warren maintained. “It is something we do together.”
He casts the vision for a harmonious relationship between Christianity and Islam in which individuals don’t compromise their convictions, but at the same time don’t allow their convictions to drive them apart.
This quotation captures the essence of Warren’s call not necessarily for Muslims to convert to the good news (i.e. gospel), but to strive together for the common good.
“You know as an evangelical pastor, my deepest faith is in Jesus Christ,” Warren stated. “But you also need to know that I am committed not just to what I call the good news, but I am committed to the common good.”
This quote smells of ecumenism. In essence Warren’s saying “We don’t have to convert each other. Let’s just work together on solving the world’s problems.”
Warren did deal with Islam in his July 4 address, offering a pat on the back, not a confrontational gospel.