Baking Thoughts on Warren

Here is a transcript of Rick Warren’s prayer from the inauguration. Hasty, preliminary, and half-baked comments follow.

Let us pray.

Almighty God, our Father, everything we see and everything we can’t see exists because of you alone. It all comes from you. It all belongs to you. It all exists for your glory.

History is your story. The Scripture tells us, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is One.” And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made.

Now, today, we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time. We celebrate a hingepoint of history with the inauguration of our first African American president of the United States. We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where the son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven.

Give to our new President, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity. Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.

Help us, O God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race, or religion, or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all. When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us. And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes, even when we differ.

Help us to share, to serve and to seek the common good of all. May all people of goodwill today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day all nations and all people will stand accountable before you. We now commit our new president and his wife, Michelle and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.

I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus [Spanish pronunciation], Jesus, who taught us to pray:

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

1. The prayer was prayed in the name of Jesus. Whatever else was spoken, it was a Christian prayer. Warren was being a faithful minister of the gospel.

2. I think it is quite significant that he led the assembled company in the Lord’s Prayer. Frankly, I was surprised. It added a connection to Scripture, to liturgy, to tradition, that rooted the prayer in the historic Christian faith and the Christian church.

3. Warren delighted in the fact that “we are Americans, united not by race, or religion, or blood.” Not united by race or blood? Certainly. Not united by religion? Is this a good and acceptable thing? Is it a descriptive statement or a prescriptive statement? What if he had prayed: “we are Americans united not by race or blood and though not bound by religion, yet we must repent, yet there is but one Lord of our nation, Jesus Christ the crucified and risen one.” Would he have been roundly drummed out of Washington … by other Christian ministers?

4. The tired rhetoric of “a peaceful planet” makes me want to vomit. The knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. That is the only peace.

5. “And may we never forget that one day all nations and all people will stand accountable before you.” Psalm 2. Yes.

6. It lacked poetry. It leaves me feeling dry. Whatever we might say about Rev. Lowery’s benediction (see #7), it had a certain rhythm and poetic texture to it, with rich biblical imagery and powerful metaphors. Warren’s prayer felt like a Baptist preacher — now, let me finish — giving an invitation prayer. I know what he’s going to say before he says it.

7. Compared to Lowery (“Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around — (laughter) — when yellow will be mellow — (laughter) — when the red man can get ahead, man — (laughter) — and when white will embrace what is right.”), Warren was positively dignified and sober.

You have any half-baked thoughts of your own?


26 responses to “Baking Thoughts on Warren

  1. I was neither over nor underwhelmed with Warren’s prayer. The fact that he did invoke Jesus’ name was a little surprising, and bold. I agree that his was more bland, run of the mill.

    But I was particularly bothered that he invoked Jesus in the Muslim way (Isa). Why? What was the point of that?

    As for Lowery, his slap (I called it a “Head Slap” on whites on my blog) against whites in that poetic color montage was racist and offensive. But dare anyone of prominence point that out?

  2. David, it seems that Warren did what Warren does. He tried to maintain integrity while reaching out as broadly as possible – good intentions that end up achieving neither.

    The whole thing is a show, in my view. One I didn’t bother to tune in to.

    To quote Wilson: “The West is dead. Long live the West.”

  3. Should we analyze the prayers of our brothers? Should we criticize Warren for being a Baptist preacher? Should we group all Baptist preachers in the same group? Does Scripture require prayer to be poetic? Forgive me, but I am trying to understand the point of this.

    As for his reference to Isa, that was completely appropriate, I think. That is what anyone from an Arabic or Muslim nation would call Jesus. And if you are calling Muslims to repentance you would call the to repent in the name of Isa. That is what they are familiar with. And when in a Muslim nation and asked if you are a Christian it is better received to reply, “I am a follower of Isa.” They know exactly what that means. Saying you are a Christian envokes thoughts of the west and Brittany Spears.

  4. “and when white will embrace what is right.”

    Indeed racist, but wasn’t Warren? He maintained the PC position by making the inauguration about race by mentioning it. And after all, Obama was not elected based upon his qualifications, but his race.

    Iit can hardly be called a prayer in Jesus name, if by that we mean by the authority that is remarked by that name as the name of the Truth. For one thing Warren doesn’t believe that the benefits of Christ are conferred by His authority, but by the deeds that men do, as is well reflected in his prayer.

    I have written about why this prayer was racist at Treasures. You can follow the link.

  5. Theresa,
    Please don’t misunderstand the purpose or tenor of this post.
    First, I don’t routinely criticize the prayers of brothers (of course you know that).
    Also, I hope you don’t hear me criticizing Warren for being Baptist. Some of my best friends are Baptists. 🙂
    Neither was I trying to say that prayers must meet some poetic threshold in order to pass Pharisaical muster.
    My point is this: this was a very public prayer. Very public. It was all the more in the spotlight because the President-Elect’s controversial choice was Warren, who has publicly opposed many of the policies that Obama will push. Here is the face of the evangelical church before the nation.
    The post was meant to be reflections about the prayer of a brother (a brother in Christ indeed), a minister, who is putting on display the faith through his prayer. I think it is fair to do some charitable analysis, given the “public square” nature of the occasion, the content of the prayer, and the historic stature of the situation.

  6. Hey, Theresa! This is twice in one week; very glad you are here.

    But listen sister-friend – We have a hard enough time getting David to post here without you beating him up…

    al sends

  7. Hmmm, interesting. I know your heart, Pastor. I do think we ought to be careful with how we use our words. And you know mine, and how I get a wee bit testy when things get politcal. (Lest we forget our Walmart conversation at Ted’s in Atlanta. Best lunch ever. Waiter even spilled tea on me and my lunch.) I just didn’t understand where you were coming from. Thanks for clarifying. I am not sure I agree but that is ok.

    Your Favorite Baptist, 😉

  8. Theresa,
    Ha! I remember that lunch well — it took about an hour to get our food, then the waitress spilled tea in your lap, and then when the she changed my $50 bill, she gave me about 15 $2 bills. Huh? Do they still make those?

    But the bison was great. Best lunch ever.

  9. David,

    I agree that “it is fair to do some charitable analysis, given the “public square” nature of the occasion, the content of the prayer, and the historic stature of the situation.” But I don’t see how your 4th and 6th points could be considered “charitable.”

    I did appreciate the post though, and your other “half-baked thoughts” helped to expand my thinking beyond just “that was lovely.”


  10. In the scriptures, a name is a very important item. It stood for the person. It was to be a description of that person; ie, Abram to Abraham – Jacob to Israel and so on. When you pray in that person’s name it becomes even more important. “Isa” is the bastardized expression by which the Muslims who deny that Jesus is the “only begotten son of God” call Him. I would never want any of the spirits confused about whose name it is I am praying in when I say the name “Jesus.” “Isa IS NOT just a language translation of the name Jesus.
    Just more of the “watered down-ecumenical-go-along-to-get-along-PC rubbish. To me, Warren is just another Beige Preacher. Truth is a very narrow path. …few there are that find it……. something about a “broad” way and it leads somewhere……


  11. Ed,
    With all due respect brother… I think you are wrong on this issue. If you were doing Bible translation work in Arabic and you came to the Greek equivalent of “… and you shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins…” how would you translate that name so that the Arab man you are trying to reach with the gospel might understand?

    In Tagalog to translate the name Jesus you use Si Hesus. In the Southern Islands of the Philippines Si Hesus is used by both the Muslims and the Christians to describe the man born to Mary.

    If a man is a follower of Islam he says that Si Hesus was the last prophet before Muhammad and that he did not die on the cross, but escaped before death. If that man converts from Islam to Christianity he abandons those teachings and clings to the truth, but he prays in the name of Si Hesus. No change whatsoever.

    Just some thoughts that might lead to more charity on this topic.

    Al sends

  12. Al and Ed, et al:

    I do not know who is correct here. And I am no linguist or such.
    But one source, critical of Warren of course, says,

    `Isa´ is strictly Koranic and used by Arab Muslims. Even Arab Christians don´t refer to Isa,´ but to `Yesua.´ I´ve lived and studied Arabic in one of the same Muslim countries that Warren has visited, and I think he probably knows that the Arab Christian communities only refer to Jesus as `Yesua´ and not `Isa´ as the Muslims.

    Does anyone know if this person is correct? If so, Al, the Philippines parallel would not be the same.

    Not at all wanting to be uncharitable, FYI. Just wondering…

  13. I think Warren’s point was that he was praying in the name of Jesus, singling him out as the One through whom only prayer can be offered – whether you say Jesus, Yeshua, or Isa. It was singularity. Now, how well he pulled that off is another question, perhaps. But I do think that Warren is a Trinitarian Christian who affirms the sufficiency of Christ alone for salvation.

  14. Rob I agree in that I believe that Warren is a Trinitarian Christian trusting in the sufficiency of Christ alone.

    I am wondering if anyone knows if this other brother is correct about the use of “Isa.” i.e. do Arab people who have been converted to Christianity also use that name ref. to Jesus?

  15. I have sent an emal to a friend currently living in the Middle East and if answers I will post the response here or in a seperate post.

    Thanks for the discussion.

    al sends

  16. My point was that if you are speaking to Muslims you would refer to Jesus as Isa. They (the ones I encountered in Indonesia anyway) know that Jesus and Isa are the same person. They also know that who we believe him to be is vastly different. You start where people are. You have to show them the truth of who Isa is. It’s the same person. They just don’t know the truth about Him.

  17. I’m only pointing to the truth of God’s word. If it’s not charitable, it’s not my fault.
    This is research from July 2005. (I bought and reviewed His book) I put him in the same catalog as Promise keepers. All may be well advised to look at this guy again.

    “No one has epitomized the market-driven approach better than Rick Warren, pastor of the huge Saddleback Church in southern California and author of The Purpose-Driven Church and The Purpose-Driven Life. While Warren is open and up-front about his philosophy, strategy and methods, nevertheless things are not always as they appear. For example, “purpose-driven” sounds better than “market-driven” but it is essentially the same thing. In his book The Purpose-Driven Life, his opening statement is, “It is not about you,” then turns around and writes a whole book about “you.” What is this all about? He demeans pop-psychology then repeatedly promotes it by naming it something else. He publicly cuts ties with Robert Schuller, then reiterates some of the most loathsome things that Schuller has been teaching for thirty years. He claims commitment to the Scriptures then emasculates them at almost every turn. He says that he is not tampering with the message but only reengineering the methods, when in fact he has so altered the message as to make it all but unrecognizable.”

    This is, of course, just my opinion, but it is based on critical research and comparison to Scripture.


    P.S. I won’t post the whole article here.

  18. Ed,
    It is possible to speak the truth without charity. When Paul said that the Ephesians should speak the truth in love as they worked through doctrinal matters, working their way to unity in the faith, do you think he would come down hard on you here? Is your goal unity in the faith here?

    al sends

  19. Brother Al;
    I am not trying to be divisive with this. I’m not about anything but the truth in my old slow unlearned way. My Bible says, “Buy the truth and sell it not….” (Pr. 23:23) I was not told to “purchase Unity”… As for what Brother Paul would say to me, ???????? I’m not sure, but please allow me to share a couple of things I think he might say;
    “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew,……” (Gal. 2:11-14) ”While Paul did not slam Peter, he did correct him publicly (before all) on his “pretence.””
    And while we should all speak the truth in love, Paul also wrote, “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” (I Tim. 5:19&20) Paul seems to make it clear that public rebuke for public behavior is acceptable as speaking the truth in love.
    If I have left the impression that I am hostile or uncharitable towards Rick Warren, that was never my intent. Please forgive my limited ability to express my thought clearly. I just find his “stew” a bit thin and for years now, I have tried to put his teachings in the same box with the doctrines of grace, and his stuff keeps falling out.
    I am grateful for your reminder to not be destructive of anyone else.


  20. I appreciate the efforts to wrestle not only with the issues of doctrine, but the issue of how to critique/correct/debate as Christians. I just printed out the entire thread to read again carefully. I certainly have much to learn on the topic. – Beckie

  21. Truth without love doesn’t continue to be truth for very long. Love without truth doesn’t continue to be love for very long.

    -Rich Lusk

  22. As D. Wilson’s father says… “There is a greater right than being right.” or something like that.

    Of course, I would just rather be right… all the time. God forgive me.

    al sends

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