As you may know, Richard Abanes was in town on Friday on a whirlwind promotional tour for his new book, Harry Potter, Narnia, And The Lord Of The Rings. The book, which I have not read, is a comparison and examination of the magic (and magick) in the Harry Potter, Narnia and Lord of the Rings series of books. I caught a few minutes of Abanes’ interview on the local Christian television station and quite agreed with his conclusions about the difference between the magic used by Rowling and that used by Lewis and Tolkien. But perhaps I’ll discuss that another day.
Abanes had a couple of hours of free time in the middle of the day so asked if I’d be interested in having lunch with him. Of course I’m always happy to meet new people (and especially if I know I’ll get some stimulating discussion out of the deal) so I agreed and went to meet him at his hotel. We found a restaurant close by and, well, ate lunch. Of course our primary topic of discussion was Rick Warren and all things Purpose Driven.
First off, as I’m sure you’d expect, Richard is a friendly and personable guy, so we had no trouble getting along just fine. What surprised me a little bit more was that on the whole he agrees, at least on some level, with many of my criticisms of Rick Warren and The Purpose Driven Life. I told him my top three concerns which I hope will form a topic of discussion on this site later this week and he did not reject them out-of-hand as I might have expected based on his reaction in the various forums and web sites where we have interacted. The difference between us is not so much in our understanding or interpretation of the facts but in what we do with those facts. In the end I feel that the bad begins to outweigh the good and that we need to be particularly suspicious or wary of Rick Warren and his teachings. Richard feels the good by far outweighs the bad.
One excellent point Richard raised, which in my mind does little to exonerate Warren, but which does make some sense, is that much of what comes out under the name of Rick Warren is not from the mind or pen of Rick Warren. In other words, Warren has become so big, so popular, that much of what comes out under the banner of Rick Warren and Purpose Driven is written by other people. Thus it becomes difficult to know what Warren actually believes. I guess it is may be best to rely more fully on those things that we know come directly from Rick, things such as The Purpose Driven Life than those that could be ghost-written. Having said that, if Warren really does disagree with much of what comes out under his name, he should take the obvious and necessary prevantive steps to protect his name and reputation. That he has not done this would seem to indicate that he is not actually concerned about this.
So while Richard and I found much common ground in our disagreements, particularly in the area of Bible translations, we departed amiably, but still disagreeing about the real effects of Warren’s ministry. It was a useful and profitable discussion and one I’m glad I made time for. It is always easy to hide behind a keyboard and discuss this type of disagreement, but it is helpful to put a real face and a real person in place of that computer screen. It was good to meet Richard and see a more personable and (I suppose) rational side of him than I’ve seen online. I am particularly glad to see that he is generally moving on from his defense of Rick Warren and is writing about other topics where more people are bound to agree with him and where he will do more good than harm. Unlike a guy like Dave Hunt, whom I feel made a terrible mistake in his attacks on Calvinism, and who has since done nothing but renew those attacks time and again, Richard is at least moving on from Warren. I hope and trust that his future ministry will be more useful to the body of Christ than it was last year when he released Rick Warren and the Purpose that Drives Him. I believe Abanes has a lot to offer the church – just not in the area of Rick Warren.