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Way of Life Literature
Publisher of Bible Study Materials
Way of Life Bible College
Rick Warren’s Ignorance About Fundamentalism
October 25, 2005
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
Rick Warren, of Purpose Drive Church fame, knows a lot about megachurches but almost nothing about fundamentalism. In his appearance before the Pew Forum in May 2005 he made the following comments:

“Today there really aren’t that many Fundamentalists left; I don’t know if you know that or not, but they are such a minority; there aren’t that many Fundamentalists left in America. ... Bob Jones is not a mega-church. That's right exactly, it's not, and that group is shrinking more and more and more. On the other hand, Pentecostalism and charismatic evangelicalism is growing by leaps and bounds. It’s growing huge all over the world. ... Now the word ‘fundamentalist’ actually comes from a document in the 1920s called the Five Fundamentals of the Faith. And it is a very legalistic, narrow view of Christianity, and when I say there are very few fundamentalists, I mean in the sense that they are all actually called fundamentalist churches, and those would be quite small. There are no large ones. ... that group is shrinking more and more and more” (“Myths of the Modern Mega-Church,” May 23, 2005, transcript of the Pew Forum’s biannual Faith Angle conference on religion, politics and public life).

To set the record straight, though certainly not as large as the charismatic and evangelical movements, fundamentalist churches are growing both in size and in number and many of them run in the thousands. Consider Lancaster Baptist Church north of Los Angeles, in Warren’s native California, with a membership of 4,000. The fundamental Baptist movement has tens of thousands of churches in America alone, many of them with a membership of a thousand and more, and it has a large and aggressive missionary arm that probably exceeds that of the Southern Baptist Convention. And fundamental Baptists form only one segment of fundamentalism. Even one small, insignificant fundamentalist ministry like mine touches tens of thousands of people. For example, my sermons have been downloaded 80,000 times from just one site, and that is only one aspect of my ministry.

As for the origin of the fundamentalist movement, Rick Warren gave false information to the Pew Forum. There was no document called “the Five Fundamentals of the Faith.” Most books on the history of fundamentalism claim that the name “fundamentalist” probably derived from a series of books called “The Fundamentals” that was published from 1910-1915. With the financial backing of two wealthy Christian businessmen, some three million copies of the 12 volumes of
The Fundamentals were distributed to Christian workers in the United States and 21 foreign countries. The series, composed of 90 articles written by 64 authors, did not promote “five fundamentals” but rather dozens of fundamentals. (For more about the history of fundamentalism see

As for fundamentalism being a “narrow view of Christianity” Warren is correct. It seeks to be as narrow as the Bible, and if that is a sin, the apostles and early churches didn’t know about it. As for Warren’s idea that fundamentalism is a form of “legalism,” this only exposes his anti-biblicist perspective. What kind of “legalism” is it for a blood-washed, saved-by-grace saint to aim to preach all of the truths of God’s Word and to be faithful to God’s Word in all matters? Though we are saved by grace without works, we are saved unto good works (Eph. 2:8-10). If that is legalism, Paul was a great legalist, for he testified, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). By my count, there are 88 specific duties that Christians are instructed to follow in the book of Ephesians alone, the very book that emphasizes salvation without works!

Rick Warren is a very dangerous man, the blind leading the blind. His books are accepted by the world (e.g., his “40 Days of Purpose” has been used by Coco-Cola, Ford, Wal-Mart, the NBA, LPGA, NASCAR, professional baseball teams, etc.), because he is of the world.

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