By Richard Haas
By now I am sure you have heard about Rick Warren’s son, Matthew Warren’s death. The only way one would not have heard about this tragic event is you have been hiding under a rock somewhere, or you have been hiding in your mother’s basement. This last Friday at approximately 10 AM Matthew Warren tragically died from a self-inflicted gunshot at his home in Mission Viejo.
As a father of two boys age, 10 and 18 let me say that no parent ever should have to go through the pain of having to bury their child. This event can be life altering in many respects for anyone including those who are close to God, even a person such as Rick and Kay Warren. Our prayers from the Empowered by Christ team go out to the Warren family. May God show mercy on the Warren family and give them peace that surpasses all understanding.
As you may know we here at Empowered by Christ, do not agree with much that Rick Warren or Saddle Back Church teaches. In the past, we have criticized his watered-down theology and his aberrant disregard for the Word of God. However, this does not mean that we believe Rick Warren or anyone for that matter should have to endure the suffering that the Warren’s are engaged in right now. A person can have a theological tiff while still showing concern for another. A person does not have to take a theological disagreement to the level of an ad hominem attack (against the man). With that said the very out pouring of an ad hominem attack seems to be at the root of some Christian thinking towards the Warren’s at this tragic period in their lives. The hearts of some have grown cold and compassionless.
It seems that this lack of empathy can best be seen on, not shocking at all, Facebook posts and walls. While this is not an enormous surprise being that it is Facebook, it does indicate a growing trend within the confines of Christianity towards the inability to distinguish theological arguments from ad hominem attacks. I have seen a plethora of statements indicating that Matthew Warren’s death is a result of Rick Warren’s faulty theology and negligent parenting. These two statements are inaccurate because Matthew Warren’s death has nothing to do with Rick Warren’s ability or inability to teach proper biblical theology, nor his ability to be a good parent. People that engage in such foolish statements practice what is known as the logical fallacy of a Category Mistake. In essence, they are taking the category that belongs to the ability of Rick Warren’s theological composition and mixing it with the unknown factors pertaining to Matthew Warren’s mental conditions and relating the two as one.
As far as his ability to parent or not parent this also has nothing to do with Rick Warren being a good or negligent pastor considering that Matthew Warren has been dealing with mental illness and depression for some time. Again people that are holding to this hypothesis are guilty of committing a category mistake. Regardless of what you think of Rick Warren and his theology, good or inferior, his theological position does not have a direct consequence on what happened with Matthew Warren. Matthew Warren was an adult and his own person.
Another more disturbing statement that I have observed both on Facebook and in the blogosphere goes something like this;
"because Matthew Warren committed suicide he is in hell."
To say this is unsympathetic to begin with, secondly it shows a lack of the proper biblical understanding of theology and more over of Christ and His mercy. This statement usually comes from those who have a Roman Catholic background or are a practicing Roman Catholic. This belief is just one of the reasons why Roman Catholicism is a false theological position. Nowhere in the bible does it state that those who commit suicide go automatically to hell. Matter of fact the opposite is the case because of the atoning work of Christ.
To say that because someone has committed suicide that person is automatically going to hell undermines the atoning work of Christ on the cross. If a person is a true believer and follower of Jesus Christ and he commits suicide while suicide is a sin, it is not a sin that is not forgivable. When a person becomes a follower of Christ all their sins are forgiven; past, present, and future the sin of suicide is included in this, as well. On Friday morning when Matthew Warren committed suicide, God was not shocked or surprised. God knew that Matthew Warren was going to commit suicide. God was aware of this tragic event before it even came into light in the mind of Matthew Warren. Instead because of the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross and Christ's blood washing the sins away of Matthew Warren, providing he was a true believer, the sin of suicide was already forgiven at the time of Matthew’s acceptance of Christ as his savior. As we follow the Word of God, we know that in Acts 13:48 we have been appointed to salvation if that is true then no one can be taken from that salvation not even by the act of suicide.
If anything can be learned from the death of Matthew Warren it is this; We as the body of Christ can have our theological differences and call out those whom we believe are teaching falsehoods or distorting the Word of God. However, we must understand our own theology and the Word of God enough to realize that we must still have compassion and understanding towards those whom we disagree with. While we can speak the truth of God’s Word, which we always must do, we must do it with love and compassion towards others.
Ephesians 4:2~ “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.”
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