There are many issues Christians believe that are also believed by the world. For example, many unbelievers, even atheists, agree that abortion is murder and is therefore wrong. Most unbelievers even agree that marriage is only between a man and a woman. It’s a good thing when people believe what Scripture teaches. However, we are not called to have unity with the world; rather, Jesus calls us to have unity in the church.
An obvious question for the church is unity in what? Scripture makes clear what this unity is. In John 17, Jesus prayed to our Father for the unity of believers:
“9 I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; 10 and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. 12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled….20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”
There are several things to notice here. First, Jesus is praying for unity of believers, not unity with the world. Second, Jesus is praying for a unity so close that He compares it to the unity Jesus has with the Father – they are one, and there is no disagreement in the Trinity. Finally, Jesus prays for this unity so that the world may believe that the Father sent the Son into the world, and loved believers even as He loved His Son.
Ephesians 4 gives us more insight into the unity of believers:
“1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all….11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”
While much could be said about this, at a minimum our unity is in the Spirit, a unity of faith, and unity in the knowledge of the Son of God. Much of the above is learned (God provided pastors and teachers), and if learned, it must be from Scripture. Therefore, if believers are to have unity, this unity must be defined by the word of God.
So where am I going with all this? Well, recently, Rick Warren went to the Vatican to speak at a conference, entitled, “An International Interreligious Colloquium on The Complementarity of Man and Woman.” While there, Warren was interviewed by Catholic News Service, and made some very disturbing comments about Christian unity with the Catholic church (see video below).
In particular, Warren said that Christians have much more in common with Catholics than they have differences: “Well they would all say we believe in the Trinity, we believe in the Bible, we believe in the resurrection, we believe salvation is through Jesus Christ. These are the big issues."
While this sounds good, and it’s true that the Catholic church does believe some of what Scripture teaches, it’s what Warren doesn’t say that’s much more important. Let’s look at the false teaching of the Catholic church that Warren glosses over.
SALVATION AND THE TRUE GOSPEL
Warren says that both Catholics and Christians believe that salvation is through Jesus Christ, but that’s not really true. In fact, you could say he left out one very important word, a word that drives a chasm larger than the Grand Canyon between Catholics and Christians: alone. Scripture is clear that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
The Catholic church does not believe this. They believe that salvation is by faith and by works. This was officially (and “infallibly”) declared at the Council of Trent in the 1500s:
CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.
CANON XI.-If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.
CANON XXIV.-If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.
CANON XXVI.-If any one saith, that the just ought not, for their good works done in God, to expect and hope for an eternal recompense from God, through His mercy and the merit of Jesus Christ, if so be that they persevere to the end in well doing and in keeping the divine commandments; let him be anathema.
As you can see, the Catholic church rejects the imputation of Christ’s righteousness (Canons IX and XI). Instead, they teach that a person’s works makes one righteous (“increases justification” - Canons XXIV and XXVI). This is in direct contradiction to Scripture, as Ephesians 2 makes clear:
“8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
Scripture is plain: salvation is by faith, which comes as a gift from God, not of works so no one may boast. This faith in is Christ, who is our righteousness, our justification. Just as Adam’s sin made us sinners, Christ’s obedience justifies us and makes us righteous: “19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5) Our good works do not make us righteous, but Jesus’ do. Furthermore, we are born again for good works, not for our salvation, but so that we would walk in them, living holy lives to the glory of God.
Comparing Catholicism’s official teaching to Scripture, we can see that the Catholic church has a false gospel. As a result, it is a false church. Rick Warren should know that this is official Catholic teaching, and should therefore have nothing to do with the Catholic church, much less claim unity. We can never have unity with those who have a false gospel.
Warren said this about Catholicism’s view of Mary: “Sometimes Protestants think that Catholics worship Mary like she’s another god. But that’s not exactly Catholic doctrine.” While I generally try not to discuss Mary with Catholics (as this only takes us away from a discussion of the gospel), it’s helpful for Christians to know what the Catholic church does teach about Mary.
The Catholic church does state that they do not “worship” Mary in the same way they worship God. They claim they have dulia (veneration) for the saints, and hyperdulia (special veneration) for Mary, but reserve latria (worship) for God alone. Practically speaking, there is no real difference. Indeed and ironically, New Advent, a Catholic online encyclopedia, says this about dulia and latria:
“Latria (latreia) in classical Greek originally meant "the state of a hired servant" (Aesch., "Prom.", 966), and so service generally. It is used especially for Divine service (Plato, "Apol.", 23 B). In Christian literature it came to have a technical sense for the supreme honour due to His servants, the angels and saints. This latter was styled "dulia". Etymologically, however, there is no reason why latria should be preferred to designate supreme honour; and indeed the two words were often used indiscriminately. The distinction is due to St. Augustine, who says: "Latria . . . ea dicitur servitus quae pertinet ad colendum Deum" (City of God X.1).” (my emphasis added)
Having grown up Catholic, I can personally attest to Mary worship. The false distinction the Catholic church claims between veneration and worship simply does not exist. I have seen Mary worship firsthand.
What’s worse, the Catholic church also teaches that Mary is a “co-redemptrix”, a “mediatrix” along with Jesus: “Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked by the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix, and Mediatrix.(16*) This, however, is to be so understood that it neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficaciousness of Christ the one Mediator.(17*)” (source: Lumen Gentium, paragraph 62)
Although the Catholic church is quick to say Mary does not replace Jesus as the one Mediator between God and man, it is again a distinction without a practical difference, similar to hyperdulia and latria. Catholics are taught to come to Jesus through Mary. Indeed, Lumen Gentium states, “Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation.” Thus, the practical view of Mary by Catholics results in Catholics praying to Mary for salvation, who then prays to her Son.
This is completely unbiblical and is idolatrous. Even worse, it robs the glory due to God alone in the work of salvation. It is the Father who elects (John 6:37), it is the Son who forgives sins and makes us righteous (Romans 5), and it is the Holy Spirit who causes us to be born again and sanctifies us (John 3, Romans 15:16). No person, even Mary, has any part in our salvation. Salvation is from the Lord (Jonah 2:9), and from Him alone. As a pastor and teacher, Warren should know better.
Warren also said, “…we believe in the Bible.” Yet, the Catholic church has a Bible that includes seven additional books in the Old Testament that was never part of the Jewish Old Testament (known as the Apocrypha, which includes the books Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, and Baruch).
There are several problems with these books. Unlike the Old Testament, no prophet wrote any of these books. In the New Testament, neither Jesus nor any of the apostles quote from any of these books. Some of these books contain historical and geographical errors. Some even contradict Scripture (e.g., Tobit teaches magic, and says almsgiving purges sins; 2 Maccabees teaches salvation by works and prayers for the dead). For these and other reasons, the church historically never fully accepted the Apocrypha as divinely inspired until the Council of Trent “infallibly” declared them to be Scripture. To this day, Christians reject these books. The Catholic church says that anyone who rejects these books as part of Holy Scripture is to be accursed. This begs the question, does Rick Warren accept these books? If not, how can he possibly say we believe in the same Bible? Warren should know better.
UNITY FOR WARREN EQUATES TO “IF YOU LOVE JESUS”
Given the extremely serious differences noted above, how does Warren ultimately determine unity? He says, “But the most important thing is if you love Jesus, we’re on the same team.” Given this is Warren’s ultimate test for unity, he would logically also have to claim unity with Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses. They both claim to love Jesus, so he must embrace them as well.
Of course, the question becomes “what Jesus do we love?” This takes us back to Jesus’ prayer for unity, and Paul’s appeal for the church’s unity. As a necessity, our unity is based in Scripture. As such, the Jesus we love must be the Jesus of the Bible. As we saw above, the Catholic church denies this Jesus. They do not believe His very words. They deny the true gospel. They add books to God’s closed book of Scripture (Revelation 22:18). They worship a creature rather than the Creator. Friends, this is not unity, nor can it ever be.
Some people may read this and think, “Should you really be calling out Warren by name? Aren’t you being pretty harsh? Shouldn’t you speak in generalities?” No. If I knew there was a dangerous, large pothole in the road near your house, should I tell you to watch out for potholes, or should I tell you about the specific pothole that I know you’ll have to drive by?
Paul calls out Hymenaeus and Alexander as two who rejected the faith and made a shipwreck of it (1 Timothy 1:20). In 2 Timothy 4, Paul warned about a specific person who opposed his teaching: “14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching.” Likewise, we should be on guard against those who oppose Scripture, including those who promote false teachers. Naming names makes sense, to ensure we know who to avoid.
Moreover, some of Scripture’s harshest words are reserved for false teachers, especially where the gospel is concerned. Galatians 1 says, “6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” Rick Warren should know better than to claim unity with a church that has a false gospel.
Unfortunately, Warren is not concerned with unity based on the gospel or Scripture. Rather, his focus on unity is based on “the church” doing things. He said, “The unity that I think we would see realistically is not a structural unity but a unity of mission. And so, when it comes to the family we are co-workers in the field on this for the protection of what we call the sanctity of life, the sanctity of sex, and the sanctity of marriage. So there’s a great commonality and there’s no division on any of those three.”
It’s admirable to desire a Biblical view of the family, abortion, and marriage. But we are never to try to achieve unity in anything at the expense of the gospel. We never, ever see anything like that in Scripture. In fact, just the opposite. 2 Corinthians 6 says, “14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 17 “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. 18 “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.”
Based on his comments about Catholicism, Warren knows that the Catholic church has a false gospel. Rather than calling for unity with unbelievers, Warren needs to recant. He is the pastor of one of the largest churches in the country, and has national influence through his books, television appearances and speaking engagements. His comments about unity with the Catholic church could lead believers astray, and he needs to take this seriously, especially as a teacher and pastor. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” (Luke 12:48)