Yesterday, Rick Warren posted a tweet urging Christians to pray and fast for Roman Catholic leaders who are in the process of selecting the new Pope. It’s a rather odd tweet for a man who not too long ago claimed to be a Reformed Christian and a fan of Reformed Theology. Maybe this self-proclaimed Reformed Theologian is an admirer of the type of reformed theology that Robert Schuller was teaching (Schuller was part of a reformed denomination). By the way, Schuller was one of Warren’s mentors so maybe Warren is about as confused about Reformed Theology as Schuller is. It seems that the only thing that Warren really wants to reform is the Reformation.
Can you imagine real reformers such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, or John Hus asking Christians in their time to pray and fast for the selection of a new Pope? More likely they would ask these Roman Catholic leaders to repent in dust and ashes of their sin of unbelief and promotion of false doctrine. The majority of the Reformers and their successors didn’t have too many nice things to say about the Pope either. Calling the Pope “the anti-Christ” was probably the nicest thing they said about him. Just read their writings some time and find out because obviously Rick Warren hasn’t.
Now this incident begs the question. Are Christians supposed to pray and fast for those who promote false religion to continue promoting their false religion? This is what Warren’s tweet is advocating whether he realizes it or not. The obvious answer is no, but before we look at the Bible to see how it treats those who promote false religion, lets first find out if Roman Catholicism is a false religion.
Why Roman Catholicism Is a False Religion
This is the McDonald’s version of why Roman Catholicism is a false religion. If you want a more extensive treatment, please go to John MacArthur’s recent series over at the Grace to You blog site.
1) Roman Catholicism is a false religion since it promotes a works based synergistic man-centered methodology for salvation where in contrast Biblical Christianity promotes salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone which is a monergistic form of salvation (Eph. 2: 8-10, Gal. 2:16, 2 Tim. 1:8 -9). According to the Bible, salvation is based solely on what God did for His own glory. Salvation is not based on merit or any good works which sinful man contributes due to his sinful condition (Eph. 2: 1-2, Rom. 3:10–11, 23).
2) Roman Catholicism is a false religion since it promotes Mary, the mother of Jesus, and other Catholic saints as co-redeemers. Praying and asking for the forgiveness of your sins whether it be from Mary, Catholic saints or a priest is not Scriptural. Only God alone can forgive sins (Mark 2:7). That is why Jesus is the only Mediator between God and man (1Tim. 2:5).
3) Roman Catholicism is a false religion since it promotes idolatry. Anyone who prays to Mary and other dead saints assumes that they are omniscient (all knowing), omnipresence (everywhere at one time), and omnipotent (powerful enough to answer all prayers). It is a form of idolatry (Exodus 20: 4-6, Deut. 5:8-10). The aforementioned attributes are the revealed attributes of God which are uniquely His alone, and if people pray to these dead saints they would have to possess these attributes in order to listen and answer all those prayers.
I can keep on going (Pope as the “Vicar of Christ”, deny sola scriptura, etc.), but you get the picture that Roman Catholicism is a false religion. Now let’s find out how the Bible treats those that promote false religion.
What Does the Bible Say About False Religion?
Let’s take some examples and see how the Bible treats the promoters of false religion.
1) Elijah and the Priests of Baal
This is the well-known contest between Elijah and the Priests of Baal on Mount Carmel where Elijah challenges these false prophets and promoters of false religion.
“So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel. Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” And all the people said, “That is a good idea.” So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.” Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, “O Baal, answer us.” But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made. It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.” So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.” (1 Kings 11: 20-29)
In verse 27, Elijah uses sarcasm and mocks these false prophets by exposing their false god and worship. Elijah wasn’t much for political correctness was he.
2) John the Baptist and the Pharisees
Here is an incident early in John the Baptist’s ministry where he encounters the Pharisees.
“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matt. 3: 7-10)
John the Baptist after calling them a name (v.7), he then proceeds to tell these false teachers to repent from their false teaching because of the bad fruit they are producing (v.10). John is basically telling them that they are going to hell because of their false teaching (v. 10). You would think that John the Baptist would be more tolerant of these guys.
3) Jesus and the Pharisees
Let’s now take a look and see how Jesus treated false teachers.
“Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. 4 They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. 5 But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.” (Matt. 23: 1-7)
Wow! Jesus wasn’t fasting and praying for these guys was He. Not a very tolerant, loving, or “purpose driven” response toward these false teachers. If you continue in Matthew 23, it just gets worse. Here is what Jesus calls them: a) “hypocrites” (v.14), b) “devourers of widows homes” (v. 14), c) “sons of hell” (v. 15), d) “blind guides” (v. 16), e) “fools and blind men” (v. 17), f) “blind men” (v. 19), g) “hypocrites” (v. 23), h) “blind guides” (v. 24), i) “full of robbery and self-indulgence” (v. 25), j) “hypocrites and white-washed tombs” (v. 27), k) “full of dead men’s bones and uncleanness”, l) “hypocrisy and lawlessness” (v. 28), m) “sons of murderers” (v. 31), m) “serpents and brood of vipers” (v.33), and n) murderers, persecutors and crucifiers (vv. 34-35)
As you can conclude by the previous points, the Bible does not tolerate false teachers or false religion in any way. It also doesn’t adocate the promotion of false religion by Believers.
Rick Warren’s tweet implies the continued promotion of the false religion of Roman Catholicism and Christians should not pray for this at all. It also confuses the average Christian into thinking that Roman Catholicism is a legitimate form of Christianity when it isn’t. Mike Gendron of Proclaiming the Gospel Ministries, a ministry dedicated to evangelizing Roman Catholics, stated that:
“I’m very concerned because what this does is it confuses the average evangelical,” he said. “Right now, the Body of Christ doesn’t know whether to evangelize Roman Catholics or to join hands with them to go out and evangelize the world, [and] it’s because of people like Rick Warrren who either don’t know how exclusive the Gospel of grace is, or he’s not aware of the false and fatal Gospel of the Roman Catholic religion.” 1
What Christians should be praying for is that these false teachers will repent of their sin of unbelief and put their trust and faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Now that’s the kind of tweet Rick Warren should be sending.
(Tony Zabala is currently the Evangelism Coordinator for the Santa Monica Church)
1. Heather Clark quoting Mike Gendron, “Warren’s Ecumenical Call to Fast, Pray for Cardinals Seeking New Pope Called ‘Real Tragedy’”, Christian News Network)