Rick Warren's comments on Roman Catholicism

by Matt Slick

In a video published by the Catholic news service1 senior pastor Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, failed to properly assess the critical differences between biblical theology and Roman Catholic theology regarding the doctrine of salvation and added credibility to the Catholic Church. In the video, he appealed to sentiment and not scripture and said, "the most important thing is if you love Jesus, we’re on the same team." His statement is, of course, problematic.

Following is a full transcript of the two minute video.  I've underlined comments that I'll be addressing after the quote.

"We have far more in common than what divides us. When you talk about Pentecostals, charismatics, evangelicals, uh, fundamentalists, Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, on and on and on and  on.
    "Well they would all say we believe in the trinity, we believe in the Bible, we believe in the resurrection, we believe salvation is through Jesus Christ. These are the big issues. Sometimes Protestants think that Catholics worship Mary like she’s another god. But that’s not exactly catholic doctrine. There’s the understanding, and, and people say well what are the saints all about? Why are you praying to the saints? And when you understand what they mean by what they’re saying there’s a whole lot more commonality. Now there’s still real differences, no doubt about that. But the most important thing is if you love Jesus, we’re on the same team.
    "The unity that I think we would see realistically is not a structural unity but a unity of mission. And so, when it comes to the family we are co-workers in the field on this for the protection of what we call the sanctity of life, the sanctity of sex, and the sanctity of marriage. So there’s a great commonality and there’s no division on any of those three.
    "Many times people have been beaten down for taking a Biblical stance. And they start to feel, “well maybe I’m, I'm out here all by yourself.” No you’re not.
    "The church is growing in Latin America. The church is growing in Asia. The church is growing in Africa. It’s not growing in North America or Europe. But it is growing everywhere else, so we kind of have this feeling that maybe we’re not, uh, uh, as- as influential; but we’re far more influential than people realize." (emphasis added)

Catholic Bible

First of all, Pastor Rick Warren says both the Catholics and the Protestants believe in the Bible.  But, there is a significant difference between the Bible of the Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church which has added seven books: Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (also known as Ecclesiasticus), and Baruch.  The Jews never recognized these books as being inspired of God.  In addition, neither Jesus or the apostles ever quoted from them.  If that weren't enough, there are numerous problems in the apocryphal books such as the teaching of salvation by works (Tobit 4:11; 12:9), the offering of money for the sins of the dead (2 Maccabees 12:43), etc.

Catholic Salvation

Second, Rev. Warren implies that both Protestants and Catholics have the same view of salvation when he says that both, "...believe salvation is through Jesus Christ".  Though it's technically correct to say that Catholics believe in salvation through Jesus Christ, they reject justification by faith alone in Christ alone. Instead, it teaches that good works of various kinds are necessary for salvation.  Such teaching clearly contradicts biblical theology.  Please consider the following Scripture references before we get into official Catholic theology regarding salvation.

  • "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law," (Rom. 3:28). 
  • "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness," (Rom. 4:5).
  • "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace," (Rom. 11:6).
  • "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast," (Ephesians 2:8-9).
  • "For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them," (Galatians 3:10).
  • "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all," (James 2:10).

As you can see, justification is by faith alone without works (Rom. 3:28; 4:5) and that the two verses listed Galatians 3:10 and James 2:10 clearly reject any hope of salvation through faith and any of our works (See also Gal. 5:1-5).  The above verses contradict Roman Catholic theology. Please consider the following quotes from official Roman Catholic sources.

  • "...the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments," (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2068).
  • "The specific precepts of the natural law, because their observance, demanded by the creator, is necessary for salvation," (CCC 2036).  "The Decalogue contains a privileged expression of the natural law. It is made known to us by divine revelation and by human reason," (CCC 2080).
  • In Roman Catholicism that which is necessary for salvation includes the church (CCC 846), baptism (CCC 1257), penance (CCC 980), sacraments (CCC 1129), service and witness to the faith (CCC 1816), keeping the ten commandments (CCC 2036 and 2070), and detachment from riches (CCC 2556).
  • "If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema" (Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9).

As a Protestant pastor Rick Warren should be able to properly teach biblical theology and refute error. This is one of the requirements of being an elder (Titus 1:5-9) and since he is a pastor, he is an elder (1 Timothy 5:17).  But, he has failed the biblical requirement found in Titus 1:9, "holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict."  Therefore, he is disqualified from being a pastor since his failed the test of elder regarding being able to "exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict."

Catholic Mary

Rick Warren said, "Sometimes Protestants think that Catholics worship Mary like she’s another god. But that’s not exactly catholic doctrine." We could talk a great deal about the differences between the biblical view of Mary and the Roman Catholic one. But, without going into great depth, I will simply provide a few references from Catholic sources regarding the person and work of Mary. You decide for yourself if a kind of worship and adoration is given to her that should be given only to God.

  • Mary is the all holy one:  "By asking Mary to pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor sinners and we address ourselves to the 'Mother of Mercy,' the All-Holy One," (CCC 2677).
  • Devotion to Mary:  "The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an "epitome of the whole Gospel," express this devotion to the Virgin Mary," (CCC. 971).
  • Pray to Mary:  "Mary is the perfect Orans (pray-er), a figure of the Church. When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father," (CCC 2679).
  • Mary is worshipped:  "...when she [Mary] is the subject of preaching and worship she prompts the faithful to come to her Son..." (Vatican Council II, p. 420). See quote in Context
  • No Better way than to look to Mary:  "After speaking of the Church, her origin, mission, and destiny, we can find no better way to conclude than by looking to Mary," (CCC 972).
  • "so no man goeth to Christ but by His Mother," (Vatican Website:  Encyclical of Pope Leo 13th on the Rosary, Octobri Mense, Pope Leo 13th, 1903-1914).
  • Mary brings us the gifts of Eternal Life:  Mary, "...by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation...(CCC par. 969).
  • Mary made atonement for the sins of man:  "...Mary, by her spiritual entering into the sacrifice of her divine son for men, made atonement for the sins of man and (de congruon) merited the application of the redemptive grace of Christ.  In this manner she cooperates in the subjective redemption of mankind."  (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ott, page 213).

Obviously, the qualities and works attributed to Mary by the Roman Catholic Church far exceed what is revealed to us in Scripture. In fact, the Bible says not to exceed what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6). But, through Catholic tradition a whole host of un-biblical teachings concerning her have been proclaimed.

If you love Jesus, we’re on the same team

Warren said, "if you love Jesus, we’re on the same team".  If it's true that whoever loves Jesus is all on the same team, then true love for him should manifest itself in dedication and obedience to his word as revealed in Scripture. It's one thing to say that a group of people loves Jesus. It's another thing to demonstrate that it is true. When we see the many un-biblical teachings of the Catholic Church listed above (and there are many more), how can anyone say that they truly love Jesus? Sure, there are Catholics who love the real Christ, the one who died on the cross for our sins. That is not the problem. The problem is the Roman Catholic Church's false teachings concerning Mary and salvation.

Pastor Rick Warren has not only failed to recognize the problems in these serious areas, but he has lent his credibility as a Protestant pastor in support of the Roman Catholic Church. This should never be done by any Protestant pastor who takes the Bible seriously. I must conclude that Mr. Warren does not take the word of God seriously and/or he does not understand the damnable teachings of Roman Catholicism regarding salvation.  Rick Warren needs to repent.



  • 1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7ukO7ENRMw, video is by Robert  Duncan, interview by Francis S. Roccca, copyright Catholic news service.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.