Recently, Saddleback Church issued a statement (link now removed) in response to criticism it has received regarding the use of Dr. Oz, Dr. Hyman, and Dr. Amen for their highly popularized Daniel Plan. All three doctors have helped Rick Warren create a health plan that will not only be used by Saddleback but by Purpose Driven churches worldwide. Potentially, millions of people across the globe could be introduced to this New Age-inspired health plan through Saddleback Church. Rick Warren says that some major grocery chains may begin to carry Daniel Plan foods (please see links below for our coverage on this topic).
Many reading Saddleback’s response may feel that Saddleback has addressed the important issues satisfactorily surrounding this situation. But Lighthouse Trails finds the response seriously lacking. Below is a point by point synopsis of Saddleback’s response and our commentary.
1.Saddleback response states that “there are uncertainties about our association with Doctors who may not share our own strong theological convictions about the nature of salvation and about the truthfulness of Scripture.” As far as Lighthouse Trails is concerned, there are no uncertainties about Saddleback’s association with these three doctors. It is actually very certain as to the connection. These three doctors are playing major roles in the Daniel Plan, and it is fair to say that without them, there would be no Daniel Plan taking place at Saddleback, at least not one that thousands of people are rallying around presently. What’s more, Saddleback is saying that the doctors differ in their views in the areas of salvation and the Bible; what is not stated anywhere in the response is that these doctors each embrace New Age mystical practices; typically the beliefs intertwined with those practices are panentheism, universalism, and interspirituality. The very nature of New Age spirituality and practices actually opposesthe evangelical view of salvation and the authority of Scripture. But that is not mentioned in the Saddleback response.
2.The Saddleback response states that Rick Warren “has the utmost trust in [the doctors’] ability to advise” his congregants on “physical” health issues. The implication is that even though these doctors’ spiritual beliefs may differ from orthodox Christianity, their beliefs on physical health can be trusted. However, by their own admission, as with most New Age type health doctors, they do not separate physical health from spiritual health. This is what the term holistic means. These doctors would never claim that you can compartmentalize physical health from spiritual health. They simply do advise just on the physical aspects of health; as we have already seen in video clips of the seminar and interviews on the health plan (see links below), these doctors are advising on spiritual matters too.
3.The Saddleback response states: “Saddleback in no way endorses any teaching outside of Scripture.” This simply isn’t true. Lighthouse Trails has documented for several years now that Rick Warren and Saddleback Church do indeed endorse teachings outside of Scripture, namely contemplative spirituality, which has its roots in panentheism, universalism, and interspirituality. Read chapter 8 of A Time of Departing and our article “Saddleback IS a Contemplative Church” for documentation on this. The evidence is irrefutable. Even today, books written by contemplative mysticism proponents sit on Saddleback’s website resource center: (example 1, example 2, example 3, example 4, example 5, example 6, example 7, example 8).
4. The Saddleback response says that the beliefs of Saddleback are “carefully guarded.” That may be true, but what beliefs are being guarded? They say they will never compromise their belief that Jesus is the only way to heaven and that the Bible is God’s true word, but consistently they have compromised such essentials of the Christian faith via their ongoing promotion of contemplative/emerging figures, many of whom do not adhere to these essential doctrines, but actually deny them. So, either directly or inadvertently, compromise has taken place for a long time. As an example of what we are talking about, for many years Henri Nouwen has been emphasized at Saddleback. (And Rick Warren has admitted that Nouwen is a favorite author of his wife’s.) Yet, near the end of Nouwen’s life he made a statement showing that he did not believe Jesus was the only way to heaven:
Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.”—From Sabbatical Journey, page 51, 1998 Hardcover Edition (emphasis added)
Is promoting Nouwen not a compromise of the essential beliefs of biblical Christianity? Undoubtedly, yes. And is Nouwen’s spiritual beliefs part of what is “guarded” at Saddleback? It appears so.
5. The Saddleback response says that the Daniel Plan with Drs. Oz, Hyman, and Amen provide an “enormous opportunity to enlarge the influence of the gospel within our community and our nation.” Years ago, Rick Warren told a coliseum full of people at an anniversary event that he would do “whatever it takes” to accomplish his goals and his “new reformation.” Essentially, he has embraced a view of “the end justifies the means.” That is, if we can get a lot more people to come to our church, then it is ok if we use means that may be questionable at best, outright wrong and harmful at worst. Scripture and history are filled with examples of men and women of God who refused to compromise truth, often resulting in not drawing large crowds to hear them but drawing persecution and demise to themselves for their uncompromising message. While Jesus Himself did draw large crowds for a time being, it was never done through compromising efforts but rather through His complete and perfect submission to and trust in the Father.
This puts to question the very premise of Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven plan where deeds take more precedence than creeds or doctrines; such a mindset upsets the whole foundation of Christianity, which is based on the Cross and salvation through grace.
Where did this idea of the “end justifies the means” come from? It is attributed to a man named Niccolò Machiavelli, an Italian man who wrote The Prince, who said that a leader or king must rule his people with power, fear, and oppression and that he must use whatever means necessary to subdue and control the people. Machiavelli believed that the end justifies the means (i.e., do whatever it takes) and even using evil means was ok as long as your end goal was noble.
6. The Saddleback response tells readers that others cannot question their motives. But this is only true if one does not know the motive; Saddleback has revealed their motive; they say so even in the response. They say that by having these top name New Age doctors it will draw many people to their church who might not otherwise attend. A motive can be judged or questioned if it is known. It is only when a motive is unknown that it cannot be judged or questioned. Ask any lawyer about this regarding motive in a courtroom case. Saddleback has stated its motive, and we not only question it, but we say it does not have a Scriptural basis.
One may say, in defense, that the apostle Paul said he became all things to all men in order that some may be saved. In fact, this is one of the prime arguments by emerging leaders to justify integrating the ways of the world with their own lives and churches. But let’s take a look at that section of Scripture to determine just what Paul was saying.
In 1 Corinthians 9, which the Saddleback response uses as its premise, Paul says “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (verse 22). But does Paul put boundaries on this statement, or is this a license for a free-for-all to sin and anything is ok mentality (i.e., the end justifies the means)? Paul does indeed place boundaries on his “all things to all men.” Paul finishes this chapter by likening his calling to athletic competition – be it boxing or running a race. He points out that in such athletic events the athlete must abide by the rules, or he will be disqualified. In verse 27, Paul ends the chapter by saying that in like manner, if he does not abide by the rules of Christian conduct, though he preaches the gospel, he himself would be disqualified.
A prime example of how Paul conducted himself is given in Acts chapter 17. There he encounters the Greek Epicurean and Stoic philosophers on Mars’ hill. In his encounter with them Paul never compromised himself while addressing the issues of salvation and repentance from their frame of reference. In referring to their altar to an unknown god he says, “Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you” (Acts 17: 23). Then in verse 30, Paul says, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.” After this, Paul spoke of God’s judgment. There was no hint of compromise in his words. And nowhere in his teachings does he infer or suggest that to be all things to all men means to willfully put people in harm’s way.
In the “Book of Daniel” (which the Daniel Plan is supposedly inspired from), Daniel, along with his young friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refused to eat the king’s food because to do so would mean compromise and defilement. It was a moral choice rather than a health choice, and Daniel believed that God would honor his decision to put God before man. The main point of this story about Daniel wasn’t about diet or physical health; it was about not compromising and serving the Lord wholeheartedly. Can you imagine Daniel incorporating New Age or pagan teachers to implement a new dietary plan that incorporates their teachings when in Daniel chapter 1 Daniel refused to eat the king’s food – not for dietary reasons but rather because of his convictions from God! In other words, Daniel’s goal was the opposite of what Rick Warren’s Daniel Plan is.
What a paradox! Saddleback is using the Daniel story as a foundation of their Daniel Plan, but the young men in the Book of Daniel consistently, be it the lion’s den or the fiery furnace, showed an unwillingness to compromise their faith no matter what. For Rick Warren and Saddleback to suggest that they have Scriptural grounds to bring in New Age teachers (no questions asked), regardless if it is right or wrong, in order to get more people to come to their church is a misuse and manipulation of the Word of God.