March 5, 2015

Rick Warren: “Thank Baptists for Religious Liberty”

Baptists have long been champions of religious freedom, recounted mega church pastor Rick Warren and Southern Baptist spokesman Russell Moore, in a panel moderated by Judge Ken Starr, president of Baptist affiliated Baylor University.

Yesterday’s symposium on “Proselytism and Development” was hosted by Georgetown University’s Berkley Center, whose Religious Freedom Project is directed by IRD board member Thomas Farr.

Early champions of religious liberty included Rhode Island colony founder Roger Williams and Baptist clergy like John Leland who influenced Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

Religious liberty scholar Paul Marshall, an IRD board member, once noted that ironically the most ardent advocates of religious liberty have been strict theological exclusivists, like Roger Williams, who barely thought anyone but himself was saved.

Russell Moore, in his panel with Warren and Starr, made a similar point. “We have a history of being irritants,” he said. “Baptists weren’t interested in being a mascot. Thomas Jefferson was not qualified to teach in any Baptist Sunday school.” Yet Baptists encouraged and supported Jefferson’s exertions for religious liberty.

If Caesar has the power to regulate religion then Caesar has power over the soul, Moore said of the Baptist perspective. Moore’s Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has been prominent in defending domestic and international religious liberty.

Echoing similar sentiments, Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in California that is one of America’s largest churches, observed that countries with the greatest religious freedom have a Christian background.

“Thank the Baptists for religious liberty,” urged Warren, who also participated in an earlier panel with a Jewish relief group chief. “What Jefferson meant by separation of church and state is the exact opposite of what is thought today,” recalling Jefferson’s famous letter to Danbury, Connecticut Baptists extolling a “wall of separation” between church and state, which Jefferson meant as protection for, not limits on, the church and faith.

Warren sardonically noted that the number of atheists and agnostics is quite small outside Europe and Manhattan. “The future of the world is not secularism but pluralism,” he surmised, saying he has no objection to countries recognizing their respective religion’s culture shaping role, whether with Buddha statues or Islamic iconography, so long as they affirm religious liberty in the present.

“Coercion is not conversion,” Warren said. “God gave me the right to accept or reject Him so I must give others the same right. But I do believe in sharing in what I deeply hold.” He noted religious freedom is America’s first freedom, and the Constitution doesn’t just guarantee freedom of worship a a private exercise but full freedom of religion in every sphere.

Warren warned against double standards. “Proselytizing has become a negative word only used against Christians. But everybody does it. Everybody does it but it’s bad only for [Christian] believers.” He lamented the pervasive social attitude that, “If you don’t agree with me you hate me or you’re phobic. It’s not hate speech to disagree with somebody.”

Agreeing with Warren that Evangelicals seek “commonality” with others for the public good, Moore urged finding “Evangelicals who are the most genuinely Evangelical and not the ones who don’t believe anything. Don’t assume that because an Evangelical is wary [on some issues] or has strong positions that they won’t cooperate” on other issues for the common good.

18 Responses to Rick Warren: “Thank Baptists for Religious Liberty”

  1. motherartist says:

    I am 68 and was raised a Baptist minister’s daughter. In the city and entire area where I live in Santa Cruz, California, all the Baptist churches have changed their names from …something…”…Baptist Church” to …. something..”…Community Church” as if Baptist was a shameful thing! I notice Rich Warren’s church doesn’t have the word Baptist in its name. What is the problem? Please try to explain this Mark Tooley. My Dad was raised Methodist, there used to be little to no difference in Methodists and Baptists. What is going on?

    • motherartist says:

      I’m thinking (even though I always lived in the north and was/is a Northern Baptist, changed to American Baptist) that the reason “Baptist” is so toxic is that there are Baptists in the South, but the slave-owners were Episcopal. Poor southern whites were Baptists. It is more against the dreaded “white trash” as in “taking out the trash” that has tainted America for far too long.

      • motherartist says:

        this might be linked to Methodist “liberalism” because there always were Methodists among poor whites, too

        • motherartist says:

          the more I think about it, that more I honestly think the prejudice against the simple faith of poor white Americans is at the bottom of the rush to “liberalize” American Protestant Churches

    • mbarber says:

      Methodists in my area also leaving out the name of the Church and becoming a “Community” Church. I am proud to be a
      United Methodist

      • motherartist says:

        Someone honestly believes “the faith of our fathers” is to be hidden in a failed attempt to be “hip” but it is likely that people who dress up and get to church WANT a traditional church. Where are our simple, straitforward hymns? It is likely that people WANT to hold an old-fashioned hymnal and sing together hymns like “Faith of our Fathers” Trying too hard to be “hip” never works, it just looks and feels dorky

    • Anneke9 says:

      I live in the ultra-liberal San Francisco Bay Area. In my opinion, churches are leaving off their denominational affiliations because they’re worried about bias. Say the word “Baptist” in the Bay Area and whomever you’re talking to will think “ignorant,” “rigid,” and “backward.” Say “Southern Baptist” and “racist” will be added to the mix. That’s the stereotype and the lie they’ve been exposed to over and over and over in the liberal culture, the media, etc.

      A church probably has a fighting chance to win someone over if they walk in the door. Those folks might never walk in the door if their opinion is prejudiced by the buzzwords on the sign out front.

      • motherartist says:

        Still it is Sad and so wrong! baptists endured terrible persecution even before Luther those who accepted Christ and were baptized as an adult (meaning a personal decision not just imposed from birth) were persecuted and killed, Yet it is that freedom of choice that led to the Revolutionary War era evangelists whose revivals civilized the New World with the message that every hard living frontiersman could be saved and become born again as a civilized family man

        • Anneke9 says:

          I’m sorry, but what do either of your following posts have to do with my comment?

          • motherartist says:

            I thought I was expressing how absurd the predjudice is here the Bay Area is against conservatives

          • Anneke9 says:

            Ok. It wasn’t clear. The People’s Temple is a nice example of what can happen when a church focuses on being a social/political movement intent on changing human systems versus pursuing the commands of the Lord.

      • motherartist says:

        Yet it was San Francisco’s own Ultra-LIBERAL Disciples of Christ Christian Church that caused the deaths of over 900 San Francisco area members of the Ultra-LIBERAL Church: People’s Temple (Disciples of Christ minister Jim Jones)

  2. Byrom says:

    Pluralism may be the immediate future of the world, but it is certainly not the long-term future of the world according to God in the Bible!
    At one time, my wife and I had left the UMC and visited other churches. One was a local Southern Baptist church near our home. As part of his sermon, the pastor said that to join their church, one had to be baptized in the Baptist church. As a couple who had already been baptized as adults, you can imagine what our reaction was!
    After the recent death of my wife, I rejoined the Methodist church, associating myself with the First United Methodist Church in Houston, TX.

    • motherartist says:

      Each Baptist Church votes among members for its own individual regulations or lack thereof. Sorry you found a closed Baptist Church, all I’ve heard of were open. With each making its own decisions it is always possible that there could be one that tries something wrong, the individual States as different experimental places was taken after this individualist form of individual churches governing themselves independently.

    • ken says:

      I had the same experience – however, I DID choose to be baptized (for the 2nd time) when I joined a Baptist church. I was already a Christian, but for me the baptism by immersion symbolized my break with the the apostate denomination I left behind (and, I might add, my first baptism was by a clergyman who turned out to be a totally reprehensible character, who, thankfully, ended up leaving the ministry). We all have different paths to walk.

  3. ken says:

    I’m sensing some hostility in a lot of the posts so far. Could we all take a deep breath and remember what “agape” means?
    I am totally opposed to the “Christian” left and its compromises with the world. Compromising is a failing strategy both demographically (it shrinks churches instead of enlarging them) and spiritually (if we are ashamed of Christ, he will be ashamed of us, as He himself told us). However, while we should not compromise on Christian beliefs and ethics, there is nothing in Scripture mandating that we must hang on to denominational labels. We’re going to heaven as Christians, not as Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics, or whatever, and if we value our denominational tag more than the Christian tag, something is amiss. We should celebrate the fact that millions of people have left the mainline/liberal churches, due to realizing that “Episcopal” churches were Christian a century ago, but not necessarily so today, ditto for “Methodist” or “Lutheran” or “Presbyterian.” Who can blame people for leaving a sinking ship? One of the most vibrant churches in my area is a Church of God (Cleveland, TN) congregation, very conservative and very Pentecostal. They made the decision a few years ago not to use the CofG name on the church building or their home page. They’re not ashamed of being CofG, they just decided that many people, especially the young, are no longer shopping for a denomination, they’re shopping for an individual congregation where the full gospel is preached. So who are we to judge if a CofG or a Baptist or Methodist congregation decides to downplay their denominational connection? The important thing is, Christ is preached, fully, no compromises with the secular culture.

  4. Is Russell Moore, Southern Baptist leader and Ken Starr appearing with Rick Warren (Southern Baptist) “common good” or is it a matter of “light having no fellowship with darkness” and “NOTHING in common with Belial?” Proof:

    Also see:
    Rick Warren’s Global Peace Plan (which includes Muslims) vs. Scripture:

  5. nelson_keener says:

    Mark Tooley….The comment you attribute to Russell Moore “…most genuinely Evangelical and not the ones who don’t believe anything” is not in quotes. Is this what Moore said or is this how you interpreted and phrased it? Did Moore really say there are Evangelicals who “Don’t believe anything.”? It is such a sweeping statement that I have a hard time believing he would say that. Did he give examples in his speech of who he was referring to? If not, where you able to ask him for specific examples of who he was referencing?

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