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
You know Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales, after his business hit the skids, wrote a very interesting piece where he said “Where I made the mistake was I thought I was talking to God and it was actually my own ego, or I confused the two.” Not that he wasn’t also talking to God but that “I confused the two.” How do you know?
I think that’s why we have the Bible. I do accept the Bible as a standard of authority and I judge my experience by it not vice versa. So if the Bible says something and I’ve had an experience that counters that, I doubt the experience because we know experience can lie. You can have a virtual experience. I could create, I could stimulate certain things in your mind and you’d think you were an elephant. And so, experiences could be a bad burrito you ate the night before or things like that. Feelings often lie.
But going back to this thing about heaven and getting into a perfect place. Let’s say we got a scale of 1 to 100. Let’s put Hitler at zero and Mother Teresa at 100 OK. And Steve you’re at 85 and Larry’s at 65 and I’m at 45. The truth is, some people are better than others, there’s no doubt about it. Some people are more moral than others, they’re nicer, they’re less selfish, less self-centered, things like that. But the truth is, nobody makes [it] to perfection… And so somebody’s got to make up that difference. And that’s the gift I believe Jesus came to – to make up the difference between my zero and my 100 or my 45 and 100 -- somebody’s got to make up that difference.
And you write in the Purpose of Christmas, that God came to earth at Christmas to remind you that he is always with you. And you have spent time, so much time, with the absolute most destitute and struggling people in the world. When you’re with, say, a child who has lost both parents and has AIDS and has a very, very hard life and you’re looking at that person, holding that person, are you sure that they’re feeling the presence of God’s love?
No I’m not. In fact I’m convinced that that’s what I’m supposed to bring to them. I think when a lot of times we say, “God why don’t you do something about all the suffering in the world” and he’s saying “I’m asking you the same question. Why aren’t you doing something about it? You think I put you on earth just to live for yourself? Do you think I put you on earth just to be a fat cat? You know get all you can, can all you get sit on the can and spoil the rest?”
You know, life is not about the acquisition of things. The greatest things in life are not things. I do struggle. of course. One of the things I wish somebody had taught me is that I could put my faith in Christ, or I could develop my relationship with Christ and still have doubts. I didn’t know that. For a long time, I thought I had to figure out every answer to every question before I stepped across the line and said, I’d like to develop a relationship with God. Well, now I’ve been a pastor for 30years. I’ve been walking with Jesus Christ for over 40 years. And I still have doubts. I mean, I read the Bible and go “whoa, why did God say that? “ If I had been God I wouldn’t have done that.” And, and, you should be glad I’m not God.
Can you give me an example?
Well yea, I mean there’s a lot of times of slaughters in the Bible and rules that don’t seem to make sense and things that just don’t seem to me, to be logical. But on the other hand, there’s a sense of humility in me that says, me trying to understand God is like an ant trying to understand the internet. I don’t have the brain capacity. If I could understand why God does what he does, he wouldn’t be God. I’d be God.
Mother Teresa, who is thought of as one of the most pious, deeply Christian people who’s lived, had what she called a “dark night of the soul” too. Have you ever had that?
Oh absolutely. All the time.
What do you mean ‘all the time’?
Well I’ve never doubted God. But I’ve doubted why God does certain things. To me, it takes more faith to be an atheist. Sorry, I don’t have enough faith to believe in atheism….
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|The Purpose of Christmas|
By Rick Warren