Steven Waldman Interviews Rick Warren

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and author of "The Purpose of Christmas," spoke with Beliefnet Editor-in-Chief Steven Waldman at the offices of our partner, The Wall Street Journal.

BY: Steven Waldman

 

See what Rick Warren has to say about....

The purpose of Christmas
Who goes to heaven
Talking with God
His own doubts
His questions for God
How prayer works
The economy and faith
Abortion
Torture
Gay marriage and divorce
Evangelicals and poverty
Christianity's negative image

What is the purpose of Christmas?

I go back to, Steve, the three things angels said in the very first Christmas. They said, “I bring you good news of great joy, for unto you is born today a savior who is Christ the Lord and peace on earth, good will toward men. “ I say that’s celebration, salvation and reconciliation.

These are the things, of course, that are the central components of Christianity, that God invaded earth. I believe that Jesus Christ was who he claimed to be; that he was the son of God. That God came in human form. That if God wanted to…, communicate to ants, he would have become an ant. If he’d wanted to communicate with cows, he would have become a cow. But he wanted to communicate to human beings so he became one of us. It’s hard for me to relate to “the force.” You know, ‘may the force be with you.’ I need a God with skin on it. So my God looks like Jesus Christ -- that when I see him, I see God in human form and I can go “oh that’s what he’s like.” And I can get to know him. And of course, it split history into A.D and B.C. And even people who don’t accept the way I see it, every time they write a date, 2008, 2009 they’re using Jesus Christ as a focal point, as the reference point.

And what is ‘The Gift’?

That’s a good question. You know, I talk about in the book that we often celebrate Christmas year after year after year without receiving God’s gift to us. And if you were to give me a Christmas gift, or any kind of gift, and later, a year later, you go “Hey Rick, how did you like my gift” and I go, “well actually I’m really glad you gave it to me, Steve, but I didn’t have a chance to open it, I was really busy.” Well you’d be offended and I would miss the benefit of the gift. I wouldn’t even know.

The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ came to do three things. He came to have my past forgiven, you get a purpose for living and a home in Heaven. It’s almost like 3D: past, present, future. Past forgiven, purpose for living, home in Heaven. And all these things are available as a gift.

That’s the big difference between Christianity and other religions. The difference between Works and Grace or Do and Done. Before I became a believer I lived in Japan, one of the times while I was there and I studied all of the different religions. And they have to do with the idea of truth. The Japanese call it ShinJitSu. You know, Mohammad said I’m a prophet of the truth. The Vedas, the Hindu scripture, says Truth is very elusive, it’s like a butterfly, you have to search for it here or there. Buddha made a very famous statement at the end of his life, “I’m still searching for the truth.”

And then Jesus comes along, and he says, “I am the truth.” You know, that’s quite a dividing statement. It really forces you to say, “Is he who he says he is or is he a nutcase?” Is he, as the famous CS Lewis thing, liar, lord or lunatic…?

Many people say, “I believe Jesus was a great person.” Well actually, that’s the one thing he couldn’t be. If I were to come to you and say “Steve, I’m a good moral teacher,” you would say “yea, I can buy that, I think Rick is a pretty good moral teacher.” If I said, “I’m a man of God,” you’d say, “well, maybe, ok maybe he’s a man of God.” If I said, “I’m a prophet of God,” you say, “well that might be a stretch, I don’t know if I accept that or not.” But if I came to you and said “ Hey Steve, I’m the Son of God and you don’t have a snowballs chance in hell of getting into Heaven except thru me. I am the way”-- you would feel very differently about me. All of a sudden, that forces some type of decision. Is he who he says he is or is he a nut or conman?

And to me, Jesus Christ came to say, “I have done it all for you.” One of the most famous words of Jesus are, on the cross when he’s dying--he says “it is finished.” He doesn’t say, “I’m finished,” ‘cause I don’t believe he was. I do believe that he resurrected three days later. He said “IT is finished.”

“I’ve paid for everything you need to get into Heaven. I’ve paid your ticket.” And so rather of this list of “Do’s” to get into heaven, it’s a matter of done. That’s the gift…

We don’t handle grace very well. We want salvation the old fashioned way-we want to earn it.

Continued on page 2: Next Page »

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