Christian Behavior

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 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

26 thoughts on “Christian Behavior

  1. Well said Bother Mike. Too many people revel in their personal liberty in the faith and do not think of others more highly than themselves. The worship wars are an example. This is why I believe that most of our predecessors in the faith tended to make worship music sound different than the world’s or to take the initiative in creating music. It made for a separateness . When one heard “church” music it could not be denied of what it was.
    Just my opinion and observation from looking at history.


  2. “… the picture of Dr. Horton and Rick Warren with the little statue of John Calvin between them.”

    The problem is obvious to me… both men have a ‘little idol’ between them… ‘the admiration of men’ is plainly the idol.


  3. Sir, your points are well taken. The aim of building up and encouraging does not, and never will, exclude criticism, biblically grounded criticism that is, admonishment, or calling someone out.

    While I personally squirm at “living hero”, it is of course your liberty to do so, and I full well understand your reason for using the term. In these days, even “Christian Leadership” can be fraught with multiple meaning, requiring unpacking as it were.

    Horton, Piper, and all of us are not separate one from another in the body of Christ. We can all “fall” as some have called Piper at present. But God is true, so if we fall, we are to be questioned, not God.

    At this point, it is Warren who is the Cerenthius to be run from, not Horton. One has clearly departed, rejected, and denied nearly every facet of Christianity. The other has at worst shown an instance of lack of judgement. One should be prayed for as a pagan, an unbeliever. The other prayed for as a brother in the fold who worships the risen Lord as we do.

    As a last note, regarding the Calvin statue, it is a weary and worn Warren tactic. When plopped next to someone at a “conference” he will brag that “I read all of John Edwards this week”. or when speaking to Jews “I read so and so’s commentary”. It’s as if the leopard really thinks he can change his spots but thinks everyone around his thinks his spots have changed but they somberly note they are still spots.

    Thanks for the post.


  4. Interesting observation Brent… I think I have an admiration the faithfulness of men like John MacArthur, but I certainly do not worship them or elevate them idol staus. Of course, as you said, that is easy for us to do so we must be very careful NOT TO.


  5. 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.

    Mike, this isn’t exactly eating meat sacrificed to idols here. This is more like going into a brothel or exotic dance bar to witness to the prostitutes/dancers. (I feel we can make that comparison since false teaching/idolatry is often equated to adultery in Scripture)

    Also, who called Mike Horton a heretic or apostate for this? I appreciate your stance on Horton here Mike and I agree, he should show more wisdom about dealing with wolves like Warren. I just think it’s a little bit of a stretch to suggest that anyone might be calling Horton a heretic or apostate. I’ve heard some people trying to put words in other people’s mouths like that lately, which is completely irrational.

    Something I posted on my facebook wall today, something I’ve been thinking about for weeks, in reaction to cries of “that’s guilt by association!” whenever someone brings up the foolishness of openly hanging around with and lending credibility to heretics and compromisers.

    They will not put up with sound doctrine” means wolves do not invite sound teachers to their venues because they want or desire to be challenged by sound doctrine.

    If they invite a sound teacher, it is because they are taking a calculated risk, counting on the teacher to follow the natural human urge to go along with the group and not make noticeable waves. They do this in hopes that they will gain credibility from the teacher and because of the social grace phenomenon, to not be confronted on their errors. Sound teachers who receive such invitation, and if they are not ashamed of the gospel, should call their bluff on stage in no uncertain terms. In high relief, blaze orange, and giant bold font.

    And they will find they receive fewer and fewer speaking engagements from the compromisers, which could be a problem, if your ministry is suffering for funds, or your priorities are with men and not God.

    end of what I had posted.

    Now hopefully no one is going to say that I said Mike Horton fears men more than God or he’s all about money (I’ll set my stopwatch for the cannons to be pointed my way for ‘saying’ that about Horton).

    I am not saying that. Yet. Horton hasn’t given me enough of a radar signature to say anything like that. However, if there are more of these sorts of appearances, yes I will say that eventually. I pray it will never come to that.

    However I’ve seen too many men who I thought, and who I had been assured by others would never compromise suddenly turn mealymouthed when the rubber hits the road. I don’t fully trust any of them, just as I don’t fully trust myself.


  6. I totally understand your point Paula and Michael Horton did tell his listeners that Rick Warren would not allow him to attend the event unless he agreed to not talk about their differences. Also, Warren asked him not to talk about the Church needing a New Reformation meaning a move back to the Theology of the Reformers and away from the watered down mess it is now. Well, I would not have agreed to that would you? That should have been the red flag for Dr. Horton to say, okay, then, I will back out.

    Also, I disagree with your take on what Horton did. I think the passage I used about Christian Liberty was EXACTLY what was going on here. I don’t think the anaology of a brothel or exotic dance bar really fits because Dr. Horton went there and exposed himself to that environment for totally different reasons than to witness to those people. If you watched the video of the event then you would have seen how small a part he actually played in it. Also, do you really think of that event in those terms? Again, I suggest you watch the video.


  7. Mike,

    Great post. Great thoughts regarding an issue that is not that easy to navigate.

    I can’t imagine that this would have been an issue 15 years ago before the internet really took off. In fact, 15 years ago a photo like that would have been framed and hung in Dr. Horton’s study rather than being sent across the world in and instant via a blog post. It seems to me that we’re still coming to grips with the fact that the new media is creating controversies that we’ve never had to face before because we’ve never been socially connected to this extent.

    It’s as if we need to think up a new set of protocols that address the new realities of the new media.


  8. Michael Horton did tell his listeners that Rick Warren would not allow him to attend the event unless he agreed to not talk about their differences

    Oh, good grief. I don’t remember hearing that. That makes it even worse if you ask me.

    I’m also befuddled why you’re getting praise from certain corners for basically saying Horton is unwise to associate with and lend credibility to Rick Warren. huh. Curiouser and Curiouser.


  9. Also, do you really think of that event in those terms? Again, I suggest you watch the video.

    Yes, I do. I did. I watched it when it came out and again just now. Spiritually, that’s what I see.


  10. If you understand that Paula then I don’t understand why you are confused, but I am not after praise from anyone. I am simply trying to nail down the truth.


  11. Mike, I appreciated that you re-directed the argument away from an attention-getting headline and the reaction of a podcaster who seems to have a grudge against Ingrid Schleuter.

    I recall reading that Billy Graham has a picture of Finney in his headquarters. So I spose that got little attention due to absence of the internet?

    I am disappointed that Horton would agree to appear at programs sponsored by Warren. I’m disappointed that Piper has invited Warren to his conferences. It supports Schleuter’s contention that Warren has infiltrated the reform platform.

    When I got driven from my seeker, driven church, I tried to share my concerns about Warren’s teachings. Now they can point to Horton and Piper and say what are you talking about?


  12. Gayle, I know exactly what you are talking about. I went through the same thing. The key for me though was that I did not point to Piper and Reformation Theology as being right and Warren being wrong when I left. I simply pointed out the theological errors in the Purpose Driven paradigm. Anytime we use discernment to reveal theological errors we must use God’s Word as the comparison not other people’s ministries or other denominations or whether Reformation Theology is superior to Lutheriansim or Arminiamism, et cetera. No, the standard must be God’s Word. I was pretty upset with Dr. Horton for going to that event, and I listened to all of his reasoning for going, but I must admit that all through it he did not compromise at all. What was wrong was what we have been pointing out. His relationship with Warren has caused confusion and doubt and now look at we are dealing with in our own discernment camp. Well, let us pray for God to mature us and grow all of us in wisdom and discernment so we can stand firm and do it right no matter how deviously our enemy attacks the truth.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  13. I agree that you need to look to scripture. Part of the reaction I got from church leaders . I was asked and where did you get your theological training? did you go to seminary? It was very difficult to be heard and the pastor got extremely angry.

    That’s why I pointed to respected preachers who were saying the same thing I was trying to explain. When these guys appear at each other’s conferences with their arms around each other, it is hard to explain that you need to look further to see that they disagree.


  14. Gayle, yep, that is difficult. I had the advantage of being a Deacon, and Bible teacher who knew the original languages better than my pastor or any other Bible teacher in my church. I had also been through another PDC takeover in another church prior to this one. I had been writing for a couple of years and had two books published by the time this happened so they had no choice, but either to listen or use the silent treatment, which they did. They could not argue with the Biblical facts I gave them.

    I have people who come to this blog all the time with very similar experiences to yours and mine. It is so devastating to have your church home ripped away and those people responsible treat you like the enemy because you resist it. Then when you look for a new church home you find that the apostasy is all around you in various forms. It can be quite discouraging. That is why men like Frank Turk are so dangerous who counsel people to stay in those churches regardless of their bad doctrine and practices. No, we are called to come out of them, to be separate. We live in a unique time in Church history. I think it is similar to the that period just as the Protestant Reformation was getting started, but was not yet everywhere and its leaders were mostly scattered and doing the best they could do to get the truth to those who would listen. That is what we are doing here. I don’t know what is going to happen Gayle. Either our Lord is coming back very soon or we are going to have a lot more persecution followed by another Refomation/Revival. Either way, let’s get ready.


  15. Thank Mike. I’m looking forward to the Lord’s return. I was blessed by separating from my church and feel sorry for those who refused to hear. It has been very painful especially to the older folks, those with mental or physical issues that made leaving the church more challenging.

    I’m dismayed that some are giving legitimacy to these empty cisterns. I disagree with it vehemently.


  16. Chris,

    Why is it you sound so rational and reasonable in public forums, but come off like a threatening, raving lunatic in private emails? I beg you brother, get guidance for your issues.



  17. @ Chris R
    I believe Jim’s question deserves an answer.

    I had never heard of the “Reform Camp” or” Calvininism” until I came out of the Charismatic Movement, (WOF/NAR)
    God lead meand my friend Deb to the Doctrines of Grace and so forth.

    I will say this… I was never a John Piper fans because of his Charismatic flare, which makes sense why I discerned that because of the “Reform Charismatic” or “New Calvinism”

    Mike, this is concerning to me and somewhat confusing. More concerning to be truthful.
    Who can I listen to and who can I trust. God forbid let God be true and all man a liar, I guess.

    I listen to Paul Washer, John MacArthur, I read Bob Dewaay articles and do not get those anymore. I get Dr. Orrel Steincamp and talk to him on occasion. I talk to Justin Peter’s once in a while, but it has been a while.

    I am not in a reform church but it is real close. My Pastor just does not agree with the “Limited Atonement” other than that he teaches the other part of TULIP//

    Mike I do like your article and they do bless me. Please pray for me because of my lack of trust toward man.

    The apostate church is thriving and is active. LORD I pray for Grace.

    Any suggestion would be helpful


  18. Thanks Teresa, I know where you are coming from… I was the same way. Paul Washier and John MacArthur and Bob Dewaay are all good. The standard is very clear. Those men you are listening to all stand firm on one thing. God’s Word is His Truth, the only source of His Truth, for the Church. The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is clearly given to us from His Word and we cannot modify it in any way. Instead, we are are to preach it and in doing so make disciples from all over the world. That is what we are to be about. Those who are doing that are the ones you listen to. Those who are man-focused, man-pleasing, chasing after fads, et cetera, we need to run away from them for they are only muddying the waters causing confusion and through this prove that they are not of God. Why? Because God is not the author of confusion. If we will keep our focus on the Lord Jesus Christ and serve Him as His slaves, staying in the Word, then we will be fine. There are a lot of attacks from every direction out there right now designed to distract us from these things. I find it distressing when Christians focus way too much on religiosity and not enough on being good disciples.


  19. Mike,
    I did not finish my sentence I receive Dr. Steinkamp Plumline newletters……………….

    I grew up in a Baptist Church, went my own way for a while until the LORD brought me back to to him, but before he brought me back to his truth, I was in grave deception, by God grace he opened my eyes 3 years ago. I am still learning the truth of God word. I do not follow no man, however I like good preaching and great articles.

    Mike, I know what you are saying is true. I do trust you and what you write is truth

    Having come out of the WOF/NAR, I am a bit leary right now.
    I will give you a run down of who I was exposed to at my old church and you will understand why I am leary. Joni and Marcus Lamb, Perry Stone, Paula White, Juanita Bynam, Tommey Tinney, Tommy Bates, Morris and David Cerrulo, Cindy Jacobs, Mike Murdock, Steve Munsey, Miles Monroe, Benny Hinn, Bill Hamon, John Bevere, and we must not forget Jesse Duplantis. There are more but we will stop there. Heresy and deception in full force. Some I saw and meet at my old church and the rest I saw and met at Morris Cerrulo world conferences. I was in the choir at my old church and we were in big demand and traveled. I am not bragging and please do not think I am.

    I came out of that mess and now this.

    Mike, please pray for me and that the LORD will help me to sort this out.

    One thing I would like to say is that no man of God is above reproach. Dr Horton and others should be careful who they are sharing their platform with.
    I believe Jesus Christ would rebuke Rick Warren, John Piper and many more today if he were here on Earth, just like he did during the his day on Earth.

    Hope I am making sense……………


  20. Sometimes it gets so confusing for Christ’s disciples….even in Christ’s Day. The religious leaders were hounding them and trying to trap them, watching them, arguing, belittling. Some days Christ would take his disciples apart, to a quiet place.

    The Word is so simple. So straight forward. Men will have to give account for what they did to the Word. Putting wrong emphasis on certain passages while purposely neglecting others, taking it out of context, using it for their own agendas, twisting it and discrediting it.

    In following Christ’s example, we come away from all the “teachings” and we get with the Word, or we listen to someone who rightly divides the Word of Truth. How do we know who is rightly dividing the Truth? They are those who always exalt God, they give his Word its rightful place in our lives and plant our faith firmly in God’s grace, not our own merits or good works.

    Those who distort the Word, bring God down to their level, exalt man and often lead others into denying the very One who bought them…the inevitable result of the path of doubt.

    Sometimes we just need to come away….from all the babblings and pressures….. to the Word, to be renewed.


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