Richard Abanes defends Rick Warren AND the emerging church

UPDATE: Previous post exceeded 500 comments and closed. Go to Abanes Answers Warren’s Critics II to continue reading.

UPDATE: Check out Richard Abanes, kicking butt on a single PP blog post nearing 500 comments, making it the blog post of the year or at least the thread of the year so far. Richard Abanes, dear fellow bloggers, Richard Abanes ruling the blogosphere, becoming Lord of the Pings. Very impressive.

Any response from the opposition?

ORIGINAL: “If Oakland desires to tell the truth, then he should start telling the truth. To date, he has not done so regarding Warren”. Richard Abanes

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Lots of action on Phoenix Preacher Michael’s blog (400+ comments) and some idiotic reflection regarding his post on Richard Abanes answering critics of Rick Warren. Some of it concerns the emerging church and recent criticisms from Roger Oakland, in particular his criticism of the emerging church and Rick Warren’s endorsement of it. I am pasting a part of that below for you to read and comment on.

From An In-House Conflict:Roger Oakland and Dave Hunt, by Richard Abanes

“OAKLAND: “Pastor Chuck has been very outspoken regarding his concerns about the Emerging Church. . . . On the other hand, it can be documented that Rick Warren’s view of the Emergent Church is different than Chuck Smith’s view. Warren has endorsed the Emerging Church movement. He wrote a foreword for a book written by Dan Kimball titled The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations (Kimball is a leader in the movement).”

RESPONSE:Oakland seems to hold a magnificently simplistic view of the Emerging Church—i.e., it is a single, monolithic, centralized, institution that has an all-encompassing set of doctrinal beliefs (and church practices) applicable to every church calling itself an Emergent Church, and every leader calling themselves a leader in the movement. But Oakland is wrong.

The Emerging Church movement is an extremely vast, non-regulated, de-centralized and disparate collection of multi-hued churches/people/teachings. Some aspects of the movement are good. Some aspects of it are resoundingly bad/unbiblical. Warren has never “endorsed the Emerging Church movement” as a whole. He believes that it is a very important part of what is happening across the Christian landscape, and that it is something everyone needs to watch, both the good parts of it and the bad parts of it.

It is true that Warren wrote the forward to Kimball’s book. And it is also true that Kimball is “a” leader on the movement. But writing the foreword to Kimball’s book is a far cry from endorsing everything that is done/taught by everyone in the Emerging Church everywhere. Warren understands full-well the various problems cropping up within the Emerging Church movement, and discussed some of these issues with me during my 2005 interview with him (see following transcript, excerpted from my book (Rick Warren and the Purpose that Drives Him):

Clearly, Warren has reservations about various aspects of the Emerging Church. This is why he has never fully endorsed everything found within it. Oakland, however, has completely dismissed: 1) the actual nature of the Emerging Church as a widely diverse movement; and 2) the actual views of Rick Warren regarding the movement.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Dan says:

    I have emailed Roger Oakland in the past in attempting to correct his often very extreme and often incorrect summaries and how he uses pull-quotes from books to make points – I even sent a detailed email about one of his posts on the emerging church going through it line by line to offer some perspective. But multiple times he doesn’t respond. I wish he would. So I have made attempts! Maybe someone else will have better luck. Roger, if you read this – please email me! I’d love to correspond.

  • centorian says:

    Andrew, I don’t have the time to address this as I would like, so I’ll just make a comment and move on.
    Abanes kicks butt?? That’s BS!!!
    He accused Pastor Chuck Smith based on hearsay. He has re-written the article three times because he was not accurate in some what he was reporting and could not verify his information. In the last rewrite, he split the article into two separate reports. I will give him credit for his tenaciousness, but the single important element here is accuracy and reliability of information, not the ability to host a debate.

  • A new thread has had to be made to continue the discussion at Phoenix. PART 2 –
    DAN: Abanes kicks butt?? That’s BS!!! He accused Pastor Chuck Smith based on hearsay. He has re-written the article three times because he was not accurate in some what he was reporting and could not verify his information.
    RA: Speaking of accuracy, let us actually start being just a bit more accurate here, shall we?
    1. People didn’t like the title of the first article because it had the word “conspiracy” in it. So, I changed that so as not to offend anyone. My explanation for using that particular word to begin with can be found in the original thread.
    2. People felt that I was using guilt by association in the first article, so I added: a) some qualifiers that would make it VERY clear that I was not attributing Oakland’s views to Smith; and b) what the statements I had made were not even guilt by association to begin with.
    3. I found even more evidence regarding Smith’s apparent views of Warren, and they were so important that I gave him his own separate article “Chuck Smith: A Pastor’s Perspective.” I ADDED to the material in Smith that I already had, I did not withdraw or change any of that material.
    This is not re-writing the article due to errors, it is seeking to take out anything overly offensive and add remarks for clarity. (Then, of course, once additional information was obtained, I just put together an entirely new article on Smith – it has been written once).
    So, bottom line, you have material to deal with in two separate articles: One of Oakland/Hunt, and one on Smith alone. Now, deal with it using information and evidence, don’t ignore it or seek to discredit it through accusations and innuendos.
    Interestingly, the reply you gave here is virtually the same kind of response given by many Mormons who didn’t like my book about Mormonism called One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormons Church. When I revised and updated it in a few places where minor alterations made things clearer, they began spreading the rumor that I had admitted the whole book was in error. Hmm, interesting.
    R. Abanes
    Hello bloggers. Spread the truth.

  • andrew says:

    thats what i liked about the thread. it shows the processing behind the scenes and the reasons for the little updates and edits, each one responding to accountability and correction, each one pushing further to a fuller truth.
    to me its not really about one side being right or wrong, but more about truth emerging and being established for future generations.
    very cool to see it happening in real time.

  • Regarding the comment made above: “[Rick] Warren has reservations about various aspects of the Emerging Church. This is why he has never fully endorsed everything found within it.” If Rick Warren has reservations about some things in the emerging church, those reservations are not about the mystical components of this movement. Case in point: He has had an ongoing working relationship with mysticism advocate Leonard Sweet for many years, and in fact, invited Sweet to teach at the recent Small Groups Conference at Saddleback. Sweet represents the exact same spirituality as Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, and Doug Pagitt. Sweet represents the epitome of emerging spirituality: mysticism, panentheism, interspirituality, etc.
    In a Christianity Today article on the emerging church, Richard Foster was portrayed as the source of many of the practices in emerging spirituality (i.e., mystical practices). In Warren’s book, the Purpose Driven Church, he makes it clear that he draws on this same well that God has raised up Richard Foster to bring the church to full maturity. (p. 126). Therefore, Lighthouse Trails is very comfortable with proclaiming the fact that the emerging church movement and the Purpose Driven movement have links to the same authors and embrace the same methods. This is why Warren resonates with Gary Thomas who tells his followers to repeat a word in mantra-like style (i.e., centering prayer) for 20 minutes to enter the silence (Sacred Pathways, p. 185). Of Thomas’ book, Warren says: “Gary has spoken at Saddleback, and I think highly of his work … he tells [readers] how they can make the most of their spiritual journeys. He places an emphasis on practical spiritual exercises” (Warren’s Toolbox, Issue 40).
    For those who may not realize the significance of Warren’s close ties with Leonard Sweet, taking a look at Sweet’s two books Quantum Spirituality and Soul Tsunami will be most revealing. In Soul Tsunami (endorsed by Warren), Sweet tells readers to visit meditation rooms and labyrinths, and in Quantum Spirituality he talks about the christ consciousness and thanks New Agers like Matthew Fox and Ken Wilber for helping him to find the “New Light” (i.e., the new spirituality).
    In 1995, Rick Warren and Leonard Sweet partnered together on an audio series called The Tides of Change. In it, they talk about “a new spirituality.” If Warren had any reservations about Sweet’s “new spirituality,” he wouldn’t be inviting Sweet to help lead small groups.
    To sum this up, major emerging leader Rob Bell tells his readers (in Velvet Elvis) to take several months to read Ken Wilber. In essence, Sweet and Bell pay homage to the same spiritual mentor. And yet if one goes to Ken Wilber’s website, he will see that Wilber promotes hard-core mysticism: yoga, Zen, centering prayer, kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), TM, tantra (Hindu-based sexuality), and kundalini yoga.

  • andrew jones says:

    Thanks Deborah. Always nice to have you touch base here.
    Pray for us that we all keep our eyes on Jesus and away from idols.

  • Tim Wirth says:

    Andrew: I’ve never posted here but I wanted to add something here. I’ve never regected The Emergent Church because of its sense of style. Your hat, Dan Kimbal’s hair or what color Rob Bell’s hair is this week.
    I do however regect what the Emergent Church is bringing forth as a whole in the form of a new age spirituality.
    My mom (and Im 51) dabbled into much of what is promoted such as lectio divina,labyrinth’s, contemplative and centering prayer all the recyled Catholic Church stuff the Emergent Church is bringing back into vogue. And I know this may be deemed as a general statement but I look at what your leadership is into and I think therefore its a fair statement.
    Its not fun being a discernemnt ministry and yeah sometimes some of us get in the flesh (at least I know I have) because of the passion we have for the Body of Christ.
    Again I cant see why people crack on your sense of style and they really hurt their credability when they get this petty.
    I’d have a hard time listening to someone crack on the way I dress or wear my hair.
    But consider-
    Look at the price Steve Camp paid when he spoke the truth about the CCM.
    I know I cant gig with most of the people I have played with because they are tied to the people I speak out against.
    Tough choice to make but I do have a passion for the Body of Christ and see the ditch ahead.
    Some have to decide whether they step in the ditch or not.
    I do believe its a very big ditch though.
    When I see new age teachers such as Len Sweet and those who promote new agers such as Ken Blanchard ie Rick Warren I cant help but think of 2 Tim 3:7.
    Bell And Pagitt with the Dali Lama have you guys really checked out the Seeds of Compassion website and checked out what they are promoting as a whole?
    And whats being promoted there wto our children and youth.
    How come your neck hairs are’nt standing up?
    What does Eph 5:11 mean to you?
    I would really like to know.
    I do hope you let the Holy Spirit lead you into truth and you avoid the ditch.
    Tim Wirth

  • Tim Wirth says:

    Just to add to my thoughts. I see through my mom dabbeling with the new spirtuality what this can do to your walk long term. My mom messed with this stuff in the 60’s. It has the same spirit and same fruit now.

  • andrew jones says:

    tim. thanks for commenting. i sense much sincerity in your comment and i have read it twice. i will give thought to it and if i get a chance i will check out the seeds of compassion website – i havent heard of it, and nor have i read a rob bell book – but if you think it is connected to what i am doing and you honestly recommend looking deeper then i will give it a shot in the near future.
    not this week – too busy.
    and i can relate: many of us in the emerging missional church scene, for lack of a better word, also get in the flesh because of the passion we have for the Body of Christ. my fleshiness comes out through sarcasm and flippancy.
    watch out for it when you read my blog.
    quick story. when the emerging church was getting going here in Uk about 20 years ago, (called alt. worship here) one church was heavily influenced by Matthew Fox’s creation spirituality right before it blew up, but there were leaders here (friends of mine) who spoke strongly against pan-entheism and new age spirituality.
    we still do. its not the way of Jesus.
    glad you like my hats . . .

  • Tim Wirth says:

    Andrew: Just thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m sure your probably a busy guy.
    Thanks for the civil discourse.
    I really do care about people families, most of all their children (I have four teens 2 boys 2 girls-yikes) so I pray you take the time to check out the Seeds of Compassion website.
    I would like to know your thoughts on what you think they are up to.
    Peace and have a good weekend

  • andrew jones says:

    Hi Tim. I took a look at that website and read about the conference and the sponsors etc, – unicef, dali lama . . . but i cant see any connection with the emerging church. if you knw of one, please enlighten me.
    Eph 5:11 in context seems to be about “fornication and all impurity or covetousness” and “idolatry” and we should avoid these things if we are to walk in the light.
    why? are you seeing more fornication in the emerging church than in the traditional church? I would be interested to know.
    Do you see more coveting in the emerging church than in the traditional church? I see less but then maybe younger people on mission don’t get trapped into materialism and greed as much as older people with lots of stuff.
    What do you think?

  • Tim Wirth says:

    Hey Andrew: Both Rob Bell and Doug Pagitt are attending. Do you consider these folks not to be Emergent leadership?
    I may be wrong here.
    And I see Eph 5:11 taking place often in all of the Body of Christ alike not just in the Emergent Church.
    I take the verse to say we are not to team up with unbelievers.
    I do not believe that verse pertains to materialism.
    Again thanks for your comments


  • brambonius says:

    @diane: if so then why didn’t the antichrist come somewhere in the time before the great east/west-schizm of 1054. There was a world unity church for the whole first millenium…

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