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b. Divine Authority. 

The question of authority is one of the great challenges for every theologian and that includes Warren.  The answer to this question of divine authority is the main building block for any ecclesiology.  Its importance cannot be overstated; every area of belief, doctrine, experience, teaching and preaching is governed by an understanding of divine authority. There are different forms of authority so therefore the development of an ecclesiology can be affected. There is a complexity of meaning to be faced when “authority” is defined.

Forsythe comments: “As soon as the problem of authority really lifts its head, all others fall to the rear…… the principle of authority is ultimately the whole religious question”.[1][1] Many classical theologians would emphasize that the first cause of all theological development is God and that his revelation of himself to humankind constitutes supreme authority. 

Church history to some degree allows the theologian to be classified or characterized or placed in one or other theological camp. Warren is placed in the evangelical camp because he asserts that Scripture is the supreme authority reflecting the divine intent for creation.

Warren has already explained that the Bible to which he returned to find his principles for church development is comprehensive in its revelation and totally authoritative in its understanding of the way of salvation and the purposes of God for the saved and for his church. J.I Packer suggests that “the Bible is the inspired Word of God, it is a true record of what God has to say to mankind”.[2]

Criswell has commented that “Warren’s ministry is grounded and rooted in the infallible and inerrant word of God”.[3]Warren acknowledges the idea of authority which in his understanding gives God the right to impose his will over all that He has created and all that belongs to the work of His hands. That authority always expresses itself in all that He does, through his righteous, holy and just nature.

Warren’s understanding of authority would be seen in his interpretation of sovereignty as foreordination and that nothing in the universe is outside of God's purpose.  The apostle Paul writing to the church at Ephesus suggests: “In him we were also chosen having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will”.[4]

In Warren’s understanding of foreordination it does not mean that the Sovereign God is the author of sin, but what it does say is that God can overrule it and bring good from evil.We also see in Warren’s interpretation of foreordination the idea that God does not violate or overrule the will of his creatures. 

The gift of choice given to humankind is neither destroyed nor taken away but retained within humankind’s ability to accept or reject the purpose of God prepared for humankind in Christ Jesus. While the Sovereign God foreordains all things and is the specific cause behind many of these things, it must be remembered that he is not the author of all things. 

Humankind's unbelief finds its source within himself, and that unbelief cannot be attributed to God. God is not to be considered as omni causality as expressed in the theological claims of Islam. But God’s divine authority is clearly recognised as an integral part of the nature of the Sovereign God.

The outworking of that authority deals justly with all disobedience and sin, without discrimination, and justly rewards all righteousness. Divine authority in Warren’s estimation leads to absolute control by God.

c. Absolute Control.

Finally, God is seen as being in control of all things and although he has to cope with humankind’s sin, he is never threatened or frustrated by it. The ultimate outworking of this central doctrine for Warren[5]is that God is Sovereign in foreordination, creation, revelation, redemption and evangelism.

As he comes to the development of his ecclesiology, which is governed by this understanding of the Sovereignty of God, one can see how confident he is in believing that all things will work out to the glory of God if he lives, ministers and develops his ecclesiology in line with biblical revealed principles of worship, discipleship, fellowship, ministry and evangelism.For Warren God’s sovereignty is so pervasive and integral to the heart of scripture that it gives scripture its authority in meaning and purpose.

Arthur Pink suggests that Sovereignty of God is “the foundations of Christian theology… the centre of gravity in the system of Christian truth”. [6]For Pink it was the one doctrine around which all other doctrines emanate and ultimately have their existence and being. . In Warren’s interpretation of sovereignty we see this deep acknowledgement of God’s power but a very restrictive understanding of its inherent meaning.

His recognition that God is the cause behind “purpose” reminds his readers that in revealing Himself to his world He uses the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, to deliver His word through revelation to those chosen to receive it.                   

4.2.2 The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is another key doctrine for Warren; his commitment to the Holy Spirit’s role in the divine action in creation permeates his ministry and writings. While Warren faced the challenge of this very contentious and crucial doctrine he began with the basic belief that the Holy Spirit was active in creation,[7]inspired the writing of the scriptures,[8] governed the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ,[9] gave spiritual life to God’s people,[10] and calls forth and directs the church. [11] 

In the light of that, he believed that the Holy Spirit had a sovereign role in his life and in the development of Saddleback.[12]Criswell[13]assesses Warren’s ministry as “Spirit anointed” and Spirit led. In the New Testament text where Warren did much of his research,[14]the Holy Spirit’s ministry role is translated from the Greek word “pneuma” which in many ways is similar to the Old Testament Hebrew word “ruah”.

The Holy Spirit’s power is witnessed to by the events of Pentecost.[15] Acts identifies the Holy Spirit with the Spirit of God (Yahweh) in the Old Testament.[16] In the New Testament the Holy Spirit has a clear ministry of His own. Warren expresses clearly in his writings that “God’s Spirit is moving mightily in waves around the world”.[17] He comes to make experiencially real all that Christ achieved through His life, death, resurrection and ascension.

His understanding of the moving of the Holy Spirit in the world is such that he confidently suggests: “I can teach you how to recognise what he is doing, how to cooperate with what God is doing and how to become more skilled in riding the wave of God’s blessing”.[18] Warren recognises that God the Spirit becomes the counsellor, helper, supporter, adviser, and comforter for all believers and the church.[19]

He is seen as a person who teaches, prompts, guides, helps and intercede. He has immediate knowledge of Jesus the Risen Saviour and specifically reveals the reality of Christ to the seeking soul, He unites believers,[21]He brings assurance to the repentant heart, [22]mediates fellowship,[23]transforms believers’ lives,[24] gives spiritual gifts,[25] prays effectively[26]and prompts missionary activity.

Pneumatology is the work of the Holy Spirit in all of His manifestations, and in Warren’s[28] quest to explain the existence of the church, he guides his readers to the place where he acknowledges the work and role of the Holy Spirit in a theologically definitive and engagingly practical way.

Warren through his biblical study reflected in his books[29] indicates the prominence of the moving of the Holy Spirit in the development of the modern church.In Warren’s understanding the Holy Spirit is sovereign in the same way that the Father and the Son are sovereign. In returning to the New Testament scriptures to get the answers to his questions, he believed that the Sovereign Holy Spirit would meet his need through the written word of God. Connecting with the first century church and its teachings was vital because it was there that the explosive power of the Holy Spirit was realized.           

[1]Ferguson & Wright, The New Dictionary of Theology, Downers Grove, Illinois, 1988, 654-656.

[2] J.I.Packer, Fundamentalism and the Word of God, London, IVP, 1958.

[3] Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 11.

[4] Ephesians 1:11.

[5] Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 13-17.

[6] A.W. Pink,  The Sovereignty of God, London, SGM, 1961. Included, Ferguson & Wright, The New Dictionary of Theology, Leicester, England, IVP, 1988, 656.

[7]Genesis 1:2.

[8]2 Peter 2:21.

[9] Luke 4:18.

[10] John 3:6.

[11] Acts 13:2, 16:6-7, 20.

[12] Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 13-17.

[13] Warren, TPDC, 11.

[14] Warren, TPDC, 96-97. (Warren Lists Matt, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Cor., 2 Cor., Gal., Eph., Col., 1 Thess., 1 Peter, 1 John. Research Texts.)

[15] Acts 1:2

[16] Acts, 2:16-21.

[17]Warren, TPDC, 15.

[18]Warren, TPDC, 15.

[19] Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, 145-151.

[20]John 14: 15, 16.

[21] John 14:26, Romans 14:17.

[22]Romans 8:12.[23][23] Romans 5:5.

[24]Galatians 5:16.

[25]Romans 12:3f.

[26]Romans 8:26f.

[27]Acts 8:29.

[28]Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 13-14. 

[29]Warren, TPDC & TPDL.

[30]Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, 145.


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©2008 Church Education Trust