Saddleback Church will welcome presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on August 16 at their Civil Forum on Leadership and Compassion. The intent of the forum is to provide an opportunity for the candidates to discuss how they will lead through certain issues while avoiding the partisian political conversations that generally lead to each candidate chastising the other’s political positions without really engaging how their positions will impact the way that they lead as they interpret and understand the nature and principles of the Constitution that they sworn to protect.

Warren says:

“In addition to my primary calling to proclaim the Gospel truth of salvation in Jesus Christ, these Civil Forums further three other life goals: helping individuals accept responsibility, helping the Church regain credibility and encouraging our society to return to civility.”

Without being critical of Warren I think dialogue such as what he is promoting is an important part of the political process, particularly within a cultural context where so much misinformation is being transmitted about each Presidential candidate. So, I can only applaud a forum that will present Christian Americans with the opportunity for our future leaders to speak passionately about how they intend to lead.

I do, however, have questions about how Warren understands his other “life goals” (helping individuals accept responsibility, helping the Church regain credibility and encouraging societal civility) – which Rick has made “political” to some measure by endorsing and sponsoring these political forums – are meant to compliment the primary calling of the Gospel. I would argue that the mission of the Church is meant to image God in such a way that as the Kingdom of God goes forth, making all that it leaves in its wake new, redeemed humanity should act more responsibly (love your neighor as yourself). When this happens the Church instantly gains credibility. But the spiritual forces at work within this world, the forces behind the kingdom of this world as ruled by Satan, will never allow the sons and daughters of God to live within a “civil” society as long as the domain of darkness as ruled by the prince of the power of the air remains in the shadows hidden from the light. The gods of this war are at odds, even waging war, against the Kingdom of God. Civility in society can only be accomplished when creation is made new through the Gospel. Does this mean we shouldnt’ pursue it? No. It simply means that our means of pursuit must be explicitly Gospel-centered. This is why any kind of interfaith dialogue or forum that excludes the message of the Gospel and centrality of Jesus Christ, the Son of God – which is that which makes¬†Christians different from Jews, Muslims and people of other religious faiths – will fail to accomplish permanent civility. I mention this because after Obama and McCain leave Saddleback, Warren will be sponsoring an interfaith meeting with Jewish and Muslim leaders to promote “cooperation in projects for the common good of all Americans.” I don’t think redemptive cooperation can happen apart from Jesus and His Gospel. I hope that Warren believes the same.