Prof. Johan Malan, Middelburg, South Africa (Oct. 2006)
This article contains a short summary of James Sundquist’s book, Rick Warren’s PEACE Plan versus Scriptural Teachings on Peace (published in 2006 by Rock Salt Publishing; printed book version published by Bible Belt Publishing, Southwest Radio Church, http://www.swrc.com/offers/internet_0205.htm#h001 ). The entire text of the book can be read by opening the following link: http://www.abrahamic-faith.com/James/Global%20PEACE%20Plan.pdf. The author kindly gave permission for the posting of this summary, which was compiled by Prof. Johan Malan of www.bibleguidance.co.za in South Africa. The information is vitally important in the light of the millions of believers in Africa who, like those elsewhere in the world, are deceived by Warren’s unscriptural Purpose Driven Life and his global PEACE Plan. Page numbers in the article refer to the above-mentioned book by James Sundquist. The summary is offered after an introductory discussion on the dangers of the humanistic ideology of positive thinking. Conclusions by the reviewer have been added at the end.
When reading Rick Warren’s material on the purpose-driven life and his global PEACE plan, it soon becomes evident that the secret of his success in influencing millions of believers and unbelievers in the world is his clever mix of humanitarian and biblical objectives, and their presentation within the framework of positive thinking. It appeals to governments, businessmen, churches and communities at large, whether secular or religiously oriented, to uplift society, eradicate poverty, treat the sick, educate the illiterate, and promote peace and reconciliation among all factions of society. His 40-day purpose-driven program is presented as a tool towards unlocking and developing the potential of all people, thereby enabling them to lead a fulfilling life and enjoying the full measure of God’s blessings.
In this regard, Warren follows an approach that was refined and used very successfully by Norman Vincent Peale (cf. The Power of Positive Thinking) and Robert Schuller (cf. Self-Esteem: The New Reformation). The approach of positive thinking, by its very nature, excludes all negative thoughts, e.g. sin, judgment, deception, false prophets, false religions, the Antichrist, the False Prophet, Satan, suffering, tribulation, etc. It refrains from giving offense to anybody – not even to the sinner in his natural (sinful) state. All people must be made to feel welcome just as they are, and to accept Christianity for the sake of the advantages and blessings that are in store for them. No warnings are issued to any people on the basis of God’s impending judgments upon the wicked.
An approach of this nature is far removed from the message of the Bible, which is always presented to us in an antithetic way. Spiritually and morally, we are consistently confronted by two realties which force us to make fundamental choices. There are many expressions of these opposites, e.g. the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan, the narrow way and the broad way, truth and deception, light and darkness, righteousness and sin, the only true religion and all the false religions. All people are born as sinners with a fallen, sinful nature; consequently, they need to repent and make a transition from spiritual and moral darkness to the light and righteousness of God’s kingdom.
However, to be born again into a new life, atonement needs to be done for our sins. That was done by the Lord Jesus when He shed His blood on the cross for the sins of the whole world. “The chastisement [God’s judgment] for our peace was upon Him” (Isa. 53:5). There is no way in which we can truthfully present the Christian soteriology (doctrine of salvation) without referring to the consequences of Satan’s deception, God’s judgment upon sin and Christ’s atoning death.
But these connotations are willfully avoided by the exponents of positive thinking as they simply do not dwell on “negative” thoughts. They can hardly account for evil and find it difficult to define the concept. They would still entertain the idea of sin with reference to general “human weaknesses” but not outright wickedness. They would, for instance, describe a wicked ruler only as an egocentric ruler – as if he/she has a psychological rather than a spiritual problem.
Christian leaders who subscribe to the principles of positive thinking will refrain from calling lost people sinners who are under the judgments of God, they will not see evil in depraved, worldly practices such as rock music, they will hardly condemn the evil practices of people, they will disregard the devil and his evil devices in deceiving people, they will keep quiet about the widely prevalent phenomenon of religious deception, and they will not proclaim the judgments of God that will be poured out during the coming Day of the Lord. They prefer to say, “Peace and safety...” They even shy away from the idea of “fear” in our relationship with God, as it sounds too negative. Rick Warren rejects the notion of fearing the Lord and says that our relationship with Him is only governed by love. But fear refers to respect for God and His ordinances. In this regard it has a positive meaning. The demands of positive thinking are also to be blamed for the fact that no mention is made of the cross, of sin and of repentance.
Because of these factors, such preachers succeed in even deceiving true believers who do not always have good discernment on religious matters. Most people react in a very positive way when they read about the blessings that God wants to bestow upon them. They would indeed like to live in a world in which society can be transformed in such a way that conflicts and suffering are overcome and eradicated. It is an appealing idea that all human beings can live together peacefully by joining hands and stop condemning one another because of their differences. In this frame of mind, they fix their thoughts on an unreal utopia on earth – something that they nevertheless try to achieve through concerted human efforts. To them, that will be the realization of God’s kingdom on earth before the second coming of Christ. For this reason, they regard the Purpose Driven campaign as highly divine and God-given.
But what about the reality of evil which they blatantly disregard in their paradigm? How can a person appreciate God’s way of salvation for sinners without explicitly relating Christ’s death to divine wrath upon all sinners? How will believers be able to stand against the wiles of the devil if they are uninformed on his plans to attack and oppose them? Will they ever be able to discern the devil when he approaches them as an angel of light in the guise of a (false) prophet to deceive them spiritually? How will they come to realize their responsibility to watch and pray always that they may be worthy to escape God’s wrath during the coming tribulation period? (cf. Luke 21:36). When there is nothing negative to focus on, then even the positive aspects of the Bible cannot be fully understood and appreciated in their right context.
The contrasting situation must always be taken account of because we live in a world that lies under the sway of the Wicked One (1 John 5:19). We are engaged in a spiritual battle and must put on the full armor of God if we wish to stand against the wiles of the devil (Eph. 6:10-11). Paul says we must “fight the good fight of faith,” while laying hold on eternal life (1 Tim. 6:12). The full blessings of God’s kingdom will only be imparted to us after Christ has come. To demand these blessings now, amounts to human efforts to take dominion of “the present evil world” (Gal. 1:4) and to establish the kingdom now. That is exactly what Rick Warren is intent on doing.
Rick’s global strategy of social engineering is explained by the acronym PEACE: Plant churches (P), Equip leaders (E), Assist the poor (A), Care for the sick (C), and Educate the next generation (E). He intends to mobilize hundreds of thousands of small groups that have done the 40 days of purpose in their churches. Within this strategy, no reference is made to counter negative, evil forces that are at work in society. The reason for this serious omission is his personal commitment to positive thinking, which was also used to filter out statements about negative topics from the Bible by simply ignoring them as if they do not exist. He also jumps around between various Bible translations until he finds the emphasis that he is looking for.
In the book under review, James Sundquist says, “Warren’s PEACE plan is not so much what it contains, but what it does not contain. There is no mention of our spiritual adversary in spiritual warfare. There is no mention of the Holy Spirit in his global PEACE plan... Where is the prince of the power of the air from Scripture, which any biblical peace plan must take into account? ... ‘For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places’... Warren’s plan implies we can simply restore the earth to its Garden of Eden status before Christ returns, but no temporal worldwide peace plan can ultimately succeed until these principalities are conquered and defeated. This will be done by Jesus Christ Himself on the Day of the Lord, when His enemies will be destroyed at the brightness of His second coming. Where are the principalities in Rick Warren’s PEACE plan?” (p. 19-20).
The most serious consequence of Rick Warren’s narrow thinking is the omission of the significance of Christ’s blood as the atonement for our sins – it is not mentioned in his PEACE plan (p. 22). Paul says, “Without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:22).
The book by James Sundquist makes it very clear that Warren pursues a form of peace that is essentially of this world: “Rick Warren’s global PEACE plan is peace as the world knows it. The world loves his PEACE plan because it prescribes a peaceful kingdom now for the earth rather than ‘Thy kingdom come’ (when Christ returns). Warren seeks to prepare a place for us that where we are, Jesus may be also. But Jesus has gone to heaven to prepare a place for us that where He is, we may be also” (p. 23).
The peace of Christ is not of this world (John 14:27). As for the present dispensation, He gives us a sword to contend for the truth (Matt. 10:34; cf. Luke 12:51). We should actively oppose the spirit of error that works through this evil world (1 John 4:5-6). The world is heading for sudden destruction under the rule of the Antichrist, rather than lasting peace (1 Thess. 5:3). The world hates true Christians because worldly-minded people flatly refuse to comply with all the demands of God’s Word (p. 23).
The blessings of the future kingdom of God that will be revealed on earth are wrongly applied to the present dispensation by Rick Warren. That accounts for his distorted ideas that Christianity has the potential, the capacity and a mandate to establish God’s kingdom on earth. He completely lost sight of the fact that the King of kings has not yet come and that His enemies under the leadership of Satan have not yet been defeated and removed from their positions of power. Despite the humanly insurmountable problems caused by evil strongholds in society, he disregards biblical prophecies on the coming tribulation period under the leadership of the Antichrist and still attempts to establish God’s kingdom of righteousness, peace, prosperity, and harmony on earth:
“Rick Warren’s global PEACE plan is a dominionist, ‘Kingdom Now’ peace plan. He completely turns eschatology upside down... His PEACE plan contains no plan for destroying the Antichrist and the False Prophet, and for binding Satan... If Warren’s plan succeeds, it will leave most of the population on earth intact, without the wrath of the Lamb... When the Lord returns, He will first make a global war before He inaugurates His global peace plan, better known as the millennial thousand-year reign of Christ” (p. 24-25).
After the destruction of the enemy forces by Christ during His coming (Rev. 19:19-21) Israel will also be fully restored when God’s kingdom is revealed: “We are instructed in the Lord’s Prayer to pray, ‘Thy kingdom come.’ Rick Warren promises us kingdom now. Jesus Christ told us that the time when He will set up His kingdom on earth is determined by the Father. Jesus Christ’s global kingdom of peace cannot be set up until He restores the kingdom of Israel when He returns. Jerusalem will be the capital of the world, and Israel will be the preeminent nation on earth. It will not be determined by Rick Warren” (p. 27).
The introduction of Warren’s PEACE plan is based upon an ecumenical alliance with all Christian churches, despite the fact that many of them may only be nominally Christian with no clear doctrine of salvation. Catholics, for instance, are equally welcome in his purpose-driven army that will be mandated to implement his PEACE plan all over the world:
“Rick Warren expects to train and lead a billion-man Christian army” (p. 36). But there are not that many true Christians on earth. Furthermore, Warren’s global PEACE plan contains no enforcement clause or declaration of who will enforce it, whereas in Jesus Christ’s worldwide peace plan, Jesus Himself will rule with a rod of iron (Rev. 19:15). Only then, and not before the time, His glorified church will be empowered to rule with Him (Rev. 2:25-27).
Through his PEACE plan, Rick plans to confront and obliterate the five giants of spiritual emptiness, egocentric leadership, extreme poverty, pandemic diseases, and illiteracy. He calls his campaign a New Reformation (p. 37).
“In promoting his plan, Warren is redefining the mission of the church. His idea is that we are to wipe out world problems and make the world a better place to live before Christ returns. His program screams of dominionist theology which teaches that Christ can’t return until the church takes over the earth. And his billion-man army reminds me of two other ‘army’ movements in the name of Jesus: the Army of Joel and the Manifest Sons of God, both of which promote false teachings; they think the Lord has given them a mandate to take over the earth for Jesus so that He can return” (p. 38).
This book also has a chapter on Rick Warren’s finances, in which the author indicates that Rick would need vast financial resources to implement his plan. Big sums of money are already changing hands within his organization, but that is a drop in the bucket compared to what will be needed for global transformation (p. 41-45).
In a chapter on Israel, Rick Warren’s intentions are described to sign a covenant with Israel and convert them into a purpose-driven country. His book will be published in Hebrew by MAOZ (p. 46-48).
Rick Warren made the startling statement that the participants in his PEACE plan could also be Muslims if they are leaders of villages that need to be transformed. This dangerous form of compromise is evidently derived from the fact that Jesus is also recognized by the Koran. But that is not the Jesus that we as Christians believe in: “The fact remains, Islam has a different Jesus, a different Gabriel, a different comforter, and a different peace plan. Yet Rick Warren is willing to form alliances with Muslims to implement his global PEACE plan.” The author presents a long list of comparisons between the Jesus of the Bible and the false Jesus of the Koran (p. 49-55).
In a long chapter, the characteristics of the purpose-driven country are discussed, from which it is very clear that Rick Warren’s principles and objectives are at variance with the Bible (p. 65-104). In a following chapter, Alliances, his strange companions, also from the New Age Movement, are mentioned (p. 105-112).
The purpose-driven movement and its congruent global PEACE plan constitute one of the biggest dangers to the end-time church of Jesus Christ. In a calculated way, the truth of God’s Word is sacrificed on the altar of unity, peace and prosperity in a problem-ridden world. The objectives of unity in communities divided by bitter conflicts, peace on earth in the midst of widespread animosity, and prosperity for all those who suffer in various ways, appear to be so noble and Bible-based that they enjoy the blind support of millions of naive believers. They are seen as a much needed strategy for survival amid rising fears of a major global conflict which is in the offing.
What most people don’t realize is that the biggest threat to the truth is distorted ideas and principles that are so close to the truth that most believers would not recognize their deceptive influence and be easily led astray by them. The biggest single problem with Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life is not what he said in the book but what he didn’t say. Because of his commitment to positive thinking he omitted everything that has a negative connotation – including sin, judgment, the cross and blood of Christ, Satan, false prophets, religious deception, etc. The result is a positivistic discussion of the great blessings that God has in store for every believer while fulfilling his/her full human potential. This might be a winning recipe for popularity, fame and rapid church growth but, sadly, it ends up in lives being built upon the sand of human reforms that are social and psychological in nature rather than spiritual. These man-made reforms are not be confused with the spiritual blessings of God.
Rick Warren’s global PEACE plan is also presented as part and parcel of God’s kingdom on earth, but it has socio-economic rather than spiritual objectives, it is clearly not driven by the Holy Spirit but by human efforts, and it is dispensationally completely out of place. The very first objective of his plan, i.e. Plant churches, seems to have been substituted by Participation. The Participation of local religious leaders, whether Protestant, Catholic, independent or Muslim, is secured for the purpose of social transformation. The rest of the plan is devoid of religious content. That is the reason why human skills are employed, rather than trusting the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts and minds of people.
As far as the revelation of God’s kingdom is concerned, the PEACE plan completely ignores biblical eschatology which teaches that the kingdom of God which is at present hidden (i.e. not of this world) will only be revealed when Christ the King comes to finally defeat His enemies, have Satan bound in a bottomless pit, and rule the world from the restored throne of David in Jerusalem (Acts 15:16-17; Jer. 3:17).
The only world empire that will be established before this time will be that of the Antichrist. During his reign, the world will be united. John says, “...and all the world wondered after the beast... and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues and nations” (Rev. 13:3,7). He will also unite the world’s religions so that they will accept and worship him as their common messiah: “And... they worshipped the beast, saying, who is like unto the beast?” (Rev. 13:4). For a short while this false, man-made unity will give the impression that peace has been achieved on earth and the safety of all people is secured. But then, this ideology and its structures will suddenly collapse and make way for a great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time (Matt. 24:21). Paul says, “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them... and they shall not escape” (1 Thess. 5:3).
At present, all true believers only have one course of action, and that is to stand firm for the Lord and His kingdom in a time of great falling away around us. We must shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (Phil. 2:15). Jesus Christ said, with specific reference to this time, “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Matt. 24:4). Paul says that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
The popular (and well paid) preachers of the end-time are often those who proclaim fables (i.e false statements, or things not based on facts). Positive thinking in a religious context, which entertains a doctrine of salvation without specific reference to the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross, is one of these fables which people would like to hear. It renders salvation very easy, without emphasizing repentance and counting the cost of dying to the world. Another fable is that the kingdom of God may be realized now by human efforts. That means that man can determine his own destiny here on earth. Distorted views of this nature account for a widespread falling away from the truth of the Bible.
The apostatizing of our time does not only occur in the moral sphere but also in the socio-political and religious spheres. Global structures are prepared for a new world order of political, economic and religious unity. When these structures are in place and Christ has removed His true church, the Antichrist will gain control over these structures and rule the entire world from them. He will be a false prince of peace before becoming a military dictator in the middle of the tribulation period.
We are either contending for the faith against the rising tide of deception and antichristian reforms, or we are fellow builders of the emerging new word order, which will be a modern tower of Babel erected by a deceived and united humanity.