by Mike Ratliff
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (Romans 14:10-19 ESV)
I find it unfortunate that in our day Christian leaders are so public that they almost have “super star” status and their persona is so visible that it is as if they are the very presence of God on earth, which if you think about it, is ridiculous. None of us, no matter how mature we become as Christians or how far we go in ministry are anything more than sinners saved by grace. We make a large mistake if we look up to these people and expect them to always be perfect or infallible, et cetera. No, but what the Word of God does teach is that those God saves and grows up in Christ will take on the Character of the Son over time through the Sanctification process. That being said, we still have our heroes, but as Christians, it is a mistake to put any of them on pedestals of any kind. Instead, we should serve and obey our Lord Jesus Christ alone as we follow the men whom He has placed over us as leaders. We follow them, but we worship and serve Him alone.
One of my living heroes in the Christian faith is Dr. Michael Horton of The White Horse Inn. His unyielding stance on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is an example for all of us. He stands firm and not only teaches it, but uses his ministry to help the rest of us know the truth, that is, What we believe and why we believe it. I have learned much from listening to the WhiteHorseInn.org podcasts. However, last year Dr. Horton did something that caused me and many others to be taken aback. He agreed to participate in the Lausanne Global Conversation event called The Saddleback Conversation Gathering held at Rick Warren’s church at Saddleback Valley Baptist Church on June 10, 2010. Here is the link to the video of that. I watched it just a few days after the event and I thought that Dr. Horton was the one bright spot in it, but I still was puzzled why he was there at all.
A photo has surfaced that was taken of Dr. Horton and Rick Warren after the event. It can be seen here. I will not comment on the accusations and such that have been taking place over that particular post. What I want you to focus on is the picture of Dr. Horton and Rick Warren with the little statue of John Calvin between them. Here is my comment that I made on that blog about that picture.
While I doubt if Michael Horton has compromised the Gospel through his association with Rick Warren, I think this relationship shows a decided lack of discernment and wisdom on his part. Why? It causes confusion in the Church. Rick Warren is obviously using this relationship with Horton to gain credibility within the Reformed part of the Church. I do not know what is motivating Dr. Horton to maintain this relationship other than a desire to be salt and light wherever he goes, and that is good, but we do have to draw the line in these types of things when it involves RELATIONSHIPS and photo ops like this one. While most of us can see through this, I know many who will become very confused and may even fall into doubt. I think we should call for Dr. Horton to reconsider this sort of thing.
What I want to focus on here is WHY this was a bad decision on Michael Horton’s part to do this and why other visible leaders in the Church to do such thinks to publicly associate like this with men who are known to have questionable theology and whose teachings and church methods have and are causing much damage in the visible church. In my comment I said that this sort of thing, while not violating any command in scripture of theological separation, it most definitely is a Christian liberty issues that, when taken to extremes, as here, can cause weaker brethren to stumble and doubt.
Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post (Romans 14:10-19). Paul is not rebuking the weaker brethren for judging the stronger brethren for expressing the liberty, but for the stronger brethren for judging the weaker brethren for doubting and stumbling because of seeing the stronger brethren doing things that they see as not right.
I think it is right to practice Biblical separation as we are commanded in Scripture. However, what Dr. Horton did by going to that event did not violate that, but what he did was cause some weaker brethren to doubt or even stumble and that is where the problem is. I can remember when I was a much younger believer getting upset with those who were younger in the faith than I who kept me from practicing my Christian liberty. Well, that is exactly what Paul is talking about here. We are told to not judge them, but deny ourselves that liberty. This is wise and prudent and a healthy thing for the Body of Christ.
Instead of calling someone like Dr. Horton an apostate or heretic because he has his arms around Rick Warren, we need to ask him to practice more wisdom than that and show him why. I still appreciate his teachings and I still listen to the White Horse Inn.
Are you in Christian leadership of any kind? Do younger Christians look up to you as a more mature Christian? Then this admonition is for you as well. We must be very careful with our Christian liberty. It is not something we can flaunt in everyone’s face “and they just have to like it.” No, we must humble ourselves and do what is best for the Body of Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria