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Rick Warren at the Vatican: “We’re More Effective and Better Together Than We Are Apart”



Diane Montagna - published on 11/24/14

Saddleback Church founder speaks at Vatican-hosted Humanum Colloquium.

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Pastor Rick Warren, Founder and Senior Pastor of Saddleback Church—an evangelical megachurch located in Lake Forest, California—was among the featured presenters at last week’s Vatican-hosted Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman. Also known as the Humanum Colloquium, the conference gathered leaders and scholars from various Christian and non-Christian religions across the globe November 17-19 to examine and propose anew the beauty of the relationship between man and woman in marriage. 

Warren, one of the most prominent evangelical leaders in the world, is perhaps best known as the author of the bestselling books The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life, which has sold over 30 million copies. 

Aleteia’s Rome correspondent sat down with Pastor Warren at the conclusion of the Humanum Colloquium to discuss his experience at the interreligious event; the six points of what he calls "The Purpose Driven Marriage"; and his first trip across the Tiber.

Pastor Warren, what has been your impression of this week’s colloquium on the complementarity of man and woman in marriage?

I think it was great because you heard people not only from the streams of Christianity but also non-Christian religions showing solidarity with us about what we call the biblical definition of marriage: one man and one woman for life. 

That’s a good thing. Right now in the world, the minority view is getting the majority of press, and you just don’t hear the fact that the vast majority of people believe that marriage is what it’s always been since the Creation: one man and one woman for life.

What have been some of the highlights of the Humanum Colloquium?

Rabbi [Jonathan] Sacks is a friend of mine, and his message was outstanding. [Jacqueline] Rivers’ message was just outstanding. Sr. Prudence was just fantastic. She is so brilliant. She’s at such a high level of intellect, and she has an ability to take very complex subjects and summarize them. We benefited from all that she has researched and studied on gender in one single message. After she spoke, I told her: “I’m having you come and teach a seminar at Saddleback Church.”

Your bestselling books include The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life. At this week’s colloqium you spoke about The Purpose Driven Marriage. Tell us what you mean by this.

In Genesis and elsewhere in the Scriptures, we are given six purposes of marriage. The first purpose of marriage is to eliminate loneliness. The very first thing that God said—and he had created a perfect world, there’s no sin yet—is that it’s not good for men to be alone. God hates loneliness. And it’s interesting because whether you marry or not, you need the opposite sex in our life. Because the Bible tells us in Corinthians 7 that men are not independent of women and women are not independent of men, because they both carry the image of God and nobody has the whole thing. So women express certain characteristics of God’s character, and men express certain characteristics of God’s character, and that’s why we need each other. Even if you have the gift of singleness, you still need the opposite sex in your life for growth. 

So there’s the elimination of loneliness. Then there’s the connection between a man and a woman; the Bible says the two will become one flesh. And there’s also the multiplication of the human race. God said, “Be fruitful and multiply,” and I jokingly announced, “That’s the only commandment that human beings have been able to keep!” There are 7 billion of us to prove that we’re fruitful and multiple. We’ve got that one down. We may not have the other ones down, but we’ve got that one down. So when God says, “Go get married, have sex and babies” we did that one.

But the Bible also also says that marriage is for the perfection of our character. The Bible says that the husband sanctifies his wife and the wife sanctifies her husband. Really, what this means is that the greatest tool for spiritual growth in your life is typically your spouse, because they won’t let you get away with stuff, and they keep you honest, and the things you don’t want to admit about yourself, your spouse sees. 

Marriage is not just to make us happy, but to make us holy, and that’s an important thing. 

Another purpose of marriage is the protection of children. What I mean by that is that human beings are born completely helpless. You can’t do anything. You can’t feed yourself; you can’t dress yourself. Shoot, you can’t even turn over when you’re first born. And God knew that human babies were going to need support. And that’s why he created families. That’s why he created moms and dads — for protection. The Bible tells us, “Fathers, bring your children up in the nurture and instruction of the Lord”. That’s in Ephesians, and it means protection and education.

The last point, which was mentioned [at the colloquium] is that marriage is a metaphor. It is for the reflection of Christ’s union with the Church. It’s a reflection of God’s love for us. Marriage is to be a model, a metaphor, a visual lesson of how God loves us. When you look at a genuine love, an unconditional love, that’s what God wants for us.

Marriage has those six purposes. So I said, “That’s a Purpose Driven Marriage.”

Is this your first time at the Vatican?

Yes, it is.

What would you say is the significance of this colloquium being held inside the Vatican, so close to the tomb and to the very bones of St. Peter?

Yes. In the first place, it is so historic as the center of one billion Catholics. Even for non-Catholics, our roots are all the same. For 1000 years, there wasn’t any other kind of Christian.

The point is that we all have these same great saints in our lives. I think the beauty is that we have far more in common than we have that separates us. When you think about it, what is a Christian? They believe in the Trinity Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They believe in the Resurrection. They believe in the Bible. They believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins. If you believe those things, we’re on the same team. We may have different disagreements on other issues, but if you love Jesus Christ, you’re my brother, my sister. 

That unity was shown here. The sanctity of sex, the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage—every true Christian will agree on those. They may disagree on other things, but they will agree on that. And they’ll say that we have to work together because we’re more effective and better together than we are apart. 

There were representatives from so many different religions and cultures present at this week’s colloquium. How do you think they felt in coming to the Vatican?

I think they felt welcome and wanted by the Vatican. I thought that was a very good move.

And they were treated with respect. As Christians we are called to love everybody. I’m not allowed to hate anybody. My Savior demands that I love everybody, even people who have a totally different worldview than I do. I can’t not love them. 

Because this colloquium was led by cardinals, because they were here and showed up in force, it said to them, “We love you.”

Diane Montagna is the Rome correspondent for Aleteia.

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