Christianity,  Culture,  Entertainment

Rick Warren on the “Colbert Report”

Pastor Rick Warren appeared on Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report” last night (see video below). I have to say that the show is not the best forum for discussing things eternal. The show is too light, and the gospel is too heavy to sustain any meaningful interaction about the things of God. Nevertheless, Warren made a go at it.


  • GLW Johnson

    You can’t be surprised by this can you? Warren’s ‘soft’ approach to such things is very much like the one that surfaces whenever Joel Osteen fines himself being interviewed by Larry King. This kind of approach always reminds me of the well-known words of Richard Niebuhr’s assessment of religious modernism, where “a God without wrath brough men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

  • david

    I wish that someone who wasn’t saved would ask me questions like Colbert asked Warren. He had several opprotunities to share the Gospel, but he choose to laugh when our Lord was compared to Jimmy Buffet and Heaven was compared to Margaritaville!

  • jeremy zach


    Interesting review. Denny write a post about Rick Warren. It is negative. Weird.

    There mere fact that Rick was invited to a comedy central show, in my eyes, is considered a success.

    What about that verse that states: We be in the world, but not of the world.

    Also one needs to ask the question to why Colbert wants to make the joke out of the gospel?

    Unlike, Denny’s perspective I think having Christians on these types of shows is a brilliant idea. In a way it helps the public see a different “brand” of Christianity that is not judgmental, but willing to take themselves not that seriously.

  • Paul


    The only problem I see with Warren being on the Colbert report was that it was Rick Warren. He’s a guy who seems compassionate enough, and he’s obviously a smart guy, but he’s not a brilliant guy. And he’s definitely in the Osteen camp of making people feel good instead of making them feel the need for the gospel.

    I think someone like Ravi Zaccharias could have done a wonderful job in the same scenario, especially given the fact that Ravi is both brilliant and occasionally hilarious. He could have played mental judo with Colbert for a straight ten minutes and still gotten the gospel message out there.

    Now, as for this…”At the end of the day, I think that going on a show like this to talk about “Christianity” is probably a bad idea. Jesus said to beware of casting your pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). In this case, wouldn’t it be better to hold back the pearls since the conversation partner is determined to make a public joke out of the Gospel?”

    What, are all the viewers of the Colbert Report heathens or something? I would like to hope not. I think it just takes the right person to present the gospel, and Rick Warren aint that guy.

  • Jim Basinger

    I must confess that I like the Colbert Report – however, you may be right about it being a forum for discussing the gospel. There have been a few occasions when Colbert was unable to ‘lighten’ the conversation with jokes.

  • Mike Leake

    Thank you for “breaking this story”. I watched this a couple nights ago and was utterly repulsed. My wife and I discussed it for about an hour (kind of pathetic of me I think). I had to filter whether my take on the show was incorrect and too strong or not. I was waiting for someone else to post on this before I did, just to make sure I wasn’t being blinded by my dislike of Warren’s ministry. But since you posted it, I now have posted my thoughts here.

  • Paul


    I read your take on the Colbert/Warren thing, and this is what I come away with…

    1) You’re right, Colbert (who is a Christian) opened the door for Warren, who slammed it shut again.

    2) on fundamentalism, Warren’s right, and you’re wrong. It’s obvious that everyone is talking about modern fundamentalists, in the popular notion of that word, at that. And, I’m sorry, but when you start dealing with the King James Only bunch, and the all modern music is of the devil bunch, you’re talking to people that have done just that: stopped listening.

  • Mike Leake

    Paul, I certainly have no problem admiting that Warren is right and I am wrong. But I think I failed to articulate my point well. I agree with Warren that modern fundamentalism is just that, people that have stopped listening. My only beef was that he should have added a word to that statement, so as to make a distinction. I believe that I would consider myself a fundamentalist by the older definition of that word, and I would certainly like to think that I have not stopped listening. I know Mark Dever refers to himself as fundamnetalist. Rick Warren’s statement as it stands would have been synoymous with saying Mark Dever has stopped listening. Had he added the word “modern” to his statement then he would not have said such. Again, only a minor beef…so if I’m wrong no big deal. Just wanted to clarify and thanks for reading the article.

  • Jesica

    All I could think of when I watched that was the saint that went before us, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and how he wrote over 70 years ago about how mankind had come to think of the grace of God as “cheap grace”, when in fact it is “costly grace”.

    It breaks my heart that in many churches today we are so focused on being relative that we have in essence created a place for the lost that looks no different than the dungeon of the world that they live in every day.

    We forget that all of us are slaves. Every person walking the earth..either to sin leading to death, or to obedience leading to righteouness. (Romans 6)

    Unless our righteousness surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees, and that includes every one who lives, we will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

    The only way that our righteousness can do that is when it is imparted to us from Christ, after we repent and receive the reconciliation that He completed for all mankind on the cross, and the life that He provided for us through His resurrection.

    If even Jesus Himself didn’t shrink back from telling the world to “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”…who are we, mere man, to do so?

    Last Sunday, my son and I went to a local church for service. The pastor was teaching on Matthew 5, and he was covering “Blessed are they that mourn, for that shall be comforted”.

    He basically was making that verse out to mean that if you hurt, Jesus is going to comfort you.

    He even said, “Maybe you’ve lost your pride. Jesus wants to restore it for you.”

    To which, my 7 year old son snapped his little head at me and stuck out his tongue. (“Put that thing AWAY!!!!” I said.)

    But, I realized that even my 7 year old understood..because he has learned it from the truth of God’s Word. He understands that pride has no place in God’s economy. He gets that we don’t come to Christ in our pride and self-esteem.

    We come realizing our need for a Savior. Realizing our depravity before God because of our sin.

    How very, very sad to allow the King of Kings, the Lord of Hosts, the Most High God to be equated to Jimmy Buffet.

    Yet, if we aren’t careful, any one of us could do the same thing…just this week, I had a conversation with my brother, an unbeliever, and shared some good news in my life that is there only because of God’s hand.

    Yet, I let the fear of man get in the way, and I didn’t proclaim the glory of the Lord in this situation. I allowed him to give ME the credit, when it all belongs to God.

    It’s a slippery slope, and one that all of us need God’s courage to stand firm on…and that includes me.

  • Robby

    For many years I resisted God’s tug on my heart to accept Christ. The reason is I was terrified of becoming “one of them”. The sad truth is that the attitudes and behaviors of many Christians today is a huge barrier to people accepting the Gospel. I have since meet scores of people who feel the same way.

    Lighten up people. I thought Rick Warren on Colbert was kind of funny. He was asked to go on the show and went. No big deal.

  • Bryan L

    I hear what you’re saying Robby. I was having lunch with some friends today and one of them said “Christians are the most judgmental people!” (she was not a Christian herself), and I couldn’t really disagree, especially after reading this thread (and other similar ones) and seeing so many Christians ready and willing to eat one of their own.

    Of course we don’t call it that, it’s standing up for truth and the gospel and all kind of other righteous indignation language but it all looks the same to me.


  • Matt Svoboda


    I believe you are right. “Christians’ feel so courageous for ‘standing up for the gospel’ as they chew up people like Rick Warren! Rick Warren does have a few things wrong and he is soft on occasion, but I do believe him to be authentic. We should commend Rick Warren greatly on some of the things that he has done. Yet, we tear him apart and pick him apart, right in front of unbelievers. Yeah, we miss the point, a lot!

  • Matt Svoboda


    I believe you are right. “Christians’ feel so courageous for ‘standing up for the gospel’ as they chew up people like Rick Warren! Rick Warren does have a few things wrong and he is soft on occasion, but I do believe him to be authentic. We should commend Rick Warren greatly on some of the things that he has done. Yet, we tear him apart and pick him apart, right in front of unbelievers. Yeah, we miss the point, a lot!

  • Brett

    I second what Bryan L and Robby say. You people really need to lighten up. Everybody makes jokes at times about Christianity to get a laugh. It’s not like by joking we are slandering or demeaning the Gospel in any way. I thought Rick did a terrific job. I mean, what do you all expect him to do? With the 5 minutes he has give a Gospel presentation. We have to contextualize to where we are at and Christians who do something like that (whether it be a talk show or do an interview or something) and present their spiritual laws or Way of the Master evangelism methods just look like complete idiots.

    This is the epitome of a right-wing ultra-conservative blog. I honestly can’t believe people filled with the Holy Spirit can sit here and do this to a brother. I guess it all starts with the leadership huh? Amazing

  • j razz

    How would you (you being those who find Warren’s interview to be good) say that a Christian who is in the spotlight publicly be confronted by other believers who are not?

    And, as it relates to the above, how does one inform others publicly (since Warren is a public figure) of the “dangers” concerning such areas where Warren is apparently wrong without it coming across as judgmental?

    I know that confrontation is necessary along with rebukes and teaching so that those who have ears to hear will not fall for false teaching. How do we do this in an arena such as a blog and concerning public figures that are of our fold: namely Christians?

    j razz

  • Brett

    I think it’s foolish to think that every time an evangelical gets some “air time”, we think he or she should present the Gospel and try to get people “saved”. We look like fools when we do that in those contexts. It’s better for the world to see us as real people who can joke and laugh and have fun (like Rick Warren demonstrated) instead of people preaching hell, fire, and brimstone every chance we get and talking about penal substitution and original sin. I’m absolutely astonished that Denny would say these things b/c it is the height of arrogance to do so when Warren is not a false prophet.

    I guarantee you if John Piper or Al Mohler went on that show and said the EXACT same things Warren did, he would be saying positive things about it and commending them for showing their humor and love. It’s only because Warren is not an ultra-conservative right-wing Calvinist, and that’s the bottom line. I’m just so astonished right now, it makes me want to not be a Christian when I see you guys saying and criticizing petty things like this.

    So how do you confront it publicly? You either don’t (and in this case it didn’t need to be), or you mention many positives you saw along with some opportunities you thought he missed, always giving him the benefit of the doubt.

    False gospels need to be denounced, and Warren is not preaching a false gospel. The sad thing is that many people on here truly think that judging, criticizing, and demeaning Warren (like Denny did) is the “Christian” thing to do and he was right to speak up about it. How sad.

  • Bryan L

    J Razz,

    Warren was on the Colbert Report, not Larry King live or in some public debate against an atheist. In fact Colbert often invokes God and is portrayed as some type of Christian (fundamentalists?) on the show. Plus he’s too witty to let the conversation get that serious. It doesn’t matter who he’s interviewing he’s going to try and keep it light hearted and about himself because that’s his thing.

    Remember Warren was there talking about his book and trying to dispel a few popular myths about God. You don’t always have to preach about God’s judgment and vengeance every time you get on tv. That’s a very narrow view of God in the sense that there is much more to him than just his judgment, such as his love and his purpose (which Warren specializes in talking about and was actually talking about on the show). Not only that but to only speak about God’s judgment confirms outsiders’ suspicions that that’s basically what sums up Christianity in a nut shell, God wants to send you to hell and he will unless you become a Christian.

    Cut the guy some slack. Everyone here would want the same mercy from the church if they went on nationally tv to be interviewed and grilled in a humorous way.


  • Pete

    Perhaps Rick Warren wasn’t the best fit for the Colbert report, but he did stay true to his message: God has a purpose for us, and we find fulfillment (as well as please God) when we live out that purpose. Rick was consistent, and he did not embarass himself or his cause.

  • mike

    You wrote-“I guarantee you if John Piper or Al Mohler went on that show and said the EXACT same things Warren did…”
    The difference between Piper and Mohler, or any other “ultra-conservative right-wing Calvinist”, and Warren is, Piper and Mohler or any other “ultra-conservative right-wing Calvinist” WOULD NOT HAVE “went on that show and said the EXACT same things Warren did”.

    Brett, cool your jets. This is what Denny said, “Pastor Rick Warren appeared on Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report” last night (see video below). I have to say that the show is not the best forum for discussing things eternal. The show is too light, and the gospel is too heavy to sustain any meaningful interaction about the things of God. Nevertheless, Warren made a go at it.”
    Denny was not “judging, criticizing, and demeaning Warren”. He was also not displaying any “arrogance”.
    Brother Brett, you are the one who needs to stop “judging, criticizing, and demeaning” your brothers. For instance, I could be easily offended by your statement that those (which includes me) who “present their spiritual laws or Way of the Master evangelism methods just look like COMPLETE IDIOTS.” Of course I am not offended because I am considering the source ;).
    I desperatly care about the salvation of those who are seperated from our LORD and Savior. I desire to pull them from their bodies of death. Yes, I would like to say if I am ever given the Opportunity to present the Gospel before tens of thousands of people, like Warren had, I pray that I would do so and not fold like Warren did. The reason is that for some, it will be the only Opportunity to hear the Gospel because there are some who claim Christ that are not willing to tell the masses that they may be utterly seperated from God and that they have no hope outside the saving grace of Jesus Christ. These people want to soft pedal the Gospel…which is no Gospel at all.

    You might want to check out the following…

  • Daniel Davis

    Christians should expect to look like fools – the Gospel message we proclaim is foolishness and a stumbling block to the world. our winsomeness and ability to be funny/laugh does not “win” someone to salvation or a belief in God. sure, we may “look” better and nicer, but does that translate to people looking to God? or people looking to us?

    Christians should be marked by love – and the most loving thing that we can do for a person is proclaim the Gospel (which involves a recognition of our sin and our need for a Savior, Jesus Christ). otherwise, we aren’t proclaiming “Good News” and we aren’t bearing out God’s love to the world…

  • Bryan L

    “our winsomeness and ability to be funny/laugh does not “win” someone to salvation or a belief in God. sure, we may “look” better and nicer, but does that translate to people looking to God? or people looking to us?”

    Maybe, but being the opposite can sure push people away. Let’s not act like people are that simplistic that we can just pretend one particular way of “evangelism” or talking about God is the right way and all others are an affront to God.
    he medium is definitely important.


  • Daniel Davis

    bryan l, i did not mean to be overly simplistic. medium is important, and our attitude is important. we never want to detract by our “mannerisms” (for lack of a better word) from the message, but it is the message that is of supreme importance. when persecuted (and i think at all times is not a stretch) and asked for the reason of our hope, we are to give an answer (the Gospel) with gentleness and with respect (winsomeness). both are important.

    – message with detracting personality is still proclaiming the powerful Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    – good personality without message is pointless.

    he did speak to who God is accurately, but i would have liked to hear warren say more, specifically about the Gospel and Jesus. still, i’m not antagonistic toward him for his appearance on the show.

    my comment above is in response to brett saying that a certain style of evangelism makes Christians look like idiots, but that is what we are in the eyes of the world, but to us who are being saved, the foolishness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power and wisdom of God.

    a person street preaching the Gospel is an evangelist, not an idiot, at least in the eyes of the only One who counts: God.

  • Todd Pruitt


    Calm down my brother. For one who is decrying the judgmentalism of “right-wing” Calvinists you sound a little, well, judgmental.

    I don’t understand the obsession with certain folks within “evangelicalism” to not appear foolish to the world. Have we completely forgotten what Jesus and Paul promised?

    My problem with purpose-drivenism is that it seems to confuse categories all the time. Most supremely it seems to confuse the gospel with purpose. In fact Warren uses the terms interchangably. They are not the same thing. How can we ignore it when the most influential pastor in the world (a member of my denomination) regularly misrepresents the gospel? Is it a small matter for ministers of the gospel to get the gospel wrong?

    I don’t think Christians have to say “Jesus” or “the cross” after every question they are asked. However, Colbert gave pastor Rick some WONDERFUL opportunities to point people to Jesus. Are Warren’s apologists bothered at all that it was Colbert and not Rick Warren that actually invoked THE NAME?

  • Matt Svoboda

    A few of you believers on here need to get a life. You have too much time on your hands. Spend your time exposing heresy and preaching the gospel, not slamming brothers who do things differently from you. I love the reformed faith, but I see why some people have a bitter taste in there mouth about it.

  • marvin

    I thought Rick did a great job. Why are we soI quick to point out the faults of sincere, righteous men? Have any of you ever been asked to go on the Colbert report or CNN for that matter? Maybe you would have a different perspective on something like this if you did. And to say that Al Mohler or John Piper wouldn’t do something like this– well, who are they — two men out of thousands? Are there any other evangelical leaders out there who would– pleeaase everyone– the world is much bigger than that. Yes, we must take the opportunity to witness when we can, but that doesn’t mean we must do it in a specific way every single time we speak publicly. If that were true we’d all look like loons! How do you know that Rick didn’t discuss things prior to the show and they both agreed Colbert would be the one to bring up the issues? Just food dor thought. Rick does a lot of public speaking and has done a lot of appearances where he laid out the gospel very clearly. Give him a break. Alot of times when I hear this criticism on these blogs I think its more like, “He can’t do that because I’m just jealous!”

    When Rick refers to the Fundamentalists I believe he was trying to separate himself from groups like the “fanatical” seperatists who are a fringe group with very few followers. They sound very similar to some of the groups like what the Church of God used to be. I believe the “fringe” group of our day would be connected to Bob Jones College and if you look on the net they have some serious issues (the KKK, racism, sexual perversions, etc.) and I would say they blight the name of Christ–so Kudos to Warren for speaking up about the fanatical groups who do soo much damage to the gospel by their fighting and warfare!

    So everyone on this blog stop getting everything knotted up in a wad! Yes, we must preach Christ crucified, live honestly and purely, but lets not follow the pattern of the Pharisees. Let’s remember who the real enemy is and keep our focus on the cross.

  • Steve Hayes

    Geez, this is irritating. Have you ever had a conversation with a person or a group of people who weren’t believers? If you have, you know that there is a fine balance between bombarding them with the truth and engaging in the kind of banter that such a conversation may require in order to win their ear. There is a dance that occurs, and anyone with any kind of social sense who desires to have an effective conversation will be hesitant to come into this conversation stomping on the toes of the others involved. If one comes to the dance stomping, there will be no dance.

    So, because I engage in these kinds of conversations, I know that it is difficult in five minutes to get to the point where you can find a rythm that enables you to begin to speak the truth effectively. The problem with Warren is not that he was on the Colbert Report, and it certainly wasn’t that he didn’t speak the truth. The problem is that he couldn’t find his rythm, and he was therefore rendered ineffective.

    I’m glad he, as Denny pointed out, “gave it a shot.” Sometimes you get opportunities to speak about God, and you don’t find your rythm. Does that mean that you’re just supposed to sit it out? Other times you get a shot to speak about God and it works out perfectly. This wasn’t Warren’s night, but I’m glad he gave it a shot.

    What do you guys want? He said he believed the Bible was inerrant! He was baited into answering a no win question about homosexuality, and he didn’t take the bait. The things he did say were true. He didn’t find the rythm to say the things he should have. Next time you guys get the chance to have one of these conversations I’d like for you to record it, put it on Denny’s blog, and we’ll all gather round and beat you with a shoe for the things you said poorly or failed to say at all.

  • Daniel Davis

    i beat myself up well enough on my own when i leave conversations and later have things i wish i had said. thus grace is called for, but we can still encourage one other, strengthening for next time. key words: grace / encourage / strengthen.

  • Steve Hayes

    My key words were: gather / beat / shoe.

    Seriously, I wonder how many folks on here with such hot opinions about how Warren “blew it” have shared the gospel with anyone lately? I wonder how many have even had a spiritual conversation with anyone other than a Christian in the last month or two?

    Next time you guys have the chance, please record it. Please let Denny post it. Just be prepared to take a beating from the “faithful.”

  • mike

    Steve I agree with you on post 34. There is a fine balance and there is a rhythm. Obvioulsy Warren didnt find it. I also agree that a lot of that had to do with the type of show that he was on.
    Yes I believe that Warren brings a lot to the table of Christianity. I would much rather attend his church and sit under his teaching than I had the majority of the pastors who are out there because he does claim inerrancy etc… In fact I personally know a young man whos life was changed by God through the very first sentance of The Purpose Driven Life.

    I think that I speak for many of those who have been, as you said, beating Warren with their shoes, that the frustrations are not a direct result of this one particular show but of a culmination of soft pedaling that has taken place. So, if we take things out of context and view this one isolated incident, it can be easily said that Warren is the victim. In the big picture, in my opinion, when we view things from afar, I think that we can see that Warren has not presented a clear Gospel and that is what has served to fuel this conversation.

  • Lance

    Whether or not I agree with Warren, I respect him for doing this. Any invitation to speak about Jesus in front of so many is a good thing, and agreeing to answer stupid questions on the fly takes courage and dependence upon the Spirit.

    Main problem I saw was that the first thing Warren said about God was that He loved Colbert.

    Colbert’s self-centered response may shed some light on why the apostles in Acts never confused unbelievers by telling them that God loved them (whether it is true or not).

  • Jacob

    Haha, wow, interesting conversation. Well to those of you who believe you are criticizing Rick Warren out of the GOODNESS-of-your-hearts and are sticking up for the Christian faith, I will respectfully say that I completely disagree.

    Mike, it would be very interesting to hear about the “culmination” of ungodly characteristics Rick has been revealing to the public. As someone who seems to be more familiar with Rick than others on this blog, let me share some godly characteristics that I know to be true of Rick Warren and his Church.

    Saddleback Church is one of the most ‘driven’ Churches in almost any sense of the word, with more people going on Mission’s trip recently then arguably any Church ever in the same amount of time. To give you a number, it is expected that within the next ten months, 10,000 people will go on a PEACE mission trip. Rick is the leader of the P.E.A.C.E. plan which focuses on partnering with local churches to Promote reconciliation, Equip humble leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation. Saddleback is a host of the Global Initiative on Aids where many members of Congress have talked about the crisis to make believers and non-believers alike, aware of the 40 million people with AIDS worldwide (including 900,000 people in the US). Saddleback Church has been formally invited to the country of Rwanda by the government to help restore the country; they participated in a nation-wide global purpose-driven month.The Purpose-Driven-Life has reached out to millions, changed hundred of thousands of peoples lives, and saved at least thousands of lives. There are, if I can remember the number correctly, around 30,000 people in the community of Saddleback Church that attend one of Saddleback’s Small Group weekly Bible Studies.

    Having said all that, statistics are not the sole goal of a Church — YET can you deny the amazing gifts God has given Rick Warren, and the astonishingly great impact he has had on the world? Well I guess you can either consider him an amazing man of faith or an evil false prophet inspired by Satan that’s deceiving the world.

    But can he really be considered a “soft” Christian? I find this hard to believe. I guess it is his style of preaching that makes him appear soft to some. In the case that you find that Rick is not a false prophet and that he has done an amazing amount of good in the world (I repeat, if you don’t believe he’s a false prophet, then I would like to hear how what he has done is not amazing) well then I find some of these posts to be a bit disrespectful. If you don’t like the way Rick handles himself, his style, then why don’t you consider the fact that maybe you and Rick have two different ways of spreading the Gospel, but I guarantee that I know whose way is more productive. It is our characters, not our words that will be the most effective minister to the world, says The Word, and that message is of LOVE, not hate, of LIFE not death. It is a message of HOPE not condemnation.

    I believe Rick did an excellent job of portraying this through his example and do not think he should of tried to shove a 5-minute gospel summary down the throats of the young Americans watching the show. I believe the door to Christianity was shown by an inspiring leader of the Christian faith.

    God Bless

  • Richard Abanes

    hey guys,

    just a thought, can any of you imagine what it might have been like to sit there as a Christian on a show like The Colbert Report and say just the right, perfect thing to be truthful, but not be a turn off to a lot of people who probably hate God was watching that show. As someone who does interviews a lot, such things are in themselves tough, not to mention an interview like that. Anyway, it was one of those, meh, whatever moments. I really doubt anyone is going to accept or reject God from that 2 minute clip.

    BTW< if any of you are interested in getting some very in-depth counter articles to some of terrifically flawed research and reasoning that is coming from far too many of Warren’s critics, stop by my web site. I now have dozens of articles up covering I don’t know how many issues.

    Go to:

    And scroll down to the Rick Warren articles.

    Enjoy and peace. I’ll try to be open here for questions.

    R. Abaens

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