Interview With Rick Warren
Nov. 22, 2004
Larry King Live
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Tuesday November 23, 2004
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE,” Rick Warren.
Long time no see, it’s good to have him back. The founding pastor of the Saddle Back Church in California. Author of the number one “New York Times” best seller “The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth am I Here For?”
Publisher’s Weekly, by the way there you see it’s cover, reports that “The Purpose Driven Life,” get this, is the best-selling hard cover non-fiction book in American history. It’s been translated into 30 languages.
Does that shock you?
REV. RICK WARREN, AUTHOR: Yes. Nobody’s more surprised than me, Larry.
KING: What led to writing it?
WARREN: I just think, as I speak with people, there’s a fundamental need. It’s like, this is the basic question of life. Why am I here? Why am I here?
Actually it comes out in three questions. Existence, why am I alive? It comes out in purpose, what is my purpose? And it comes out in significance, does my life matter?
I think everybody at some point kind of lays their head down on the pillow and goes, what’s this all about?
KING: Did it take off right away?
WARREN: Yes, it did. It actually — we actually pre-sold half a million copies before it hit the market.
KING: Was it originally considered the Christian book sales?
WARREN: Yes, that’s a big surprise too, is that — is I — you know, I’m a pastor. And so I thought I was writing for church members, Christians, things like that.
This book has enormous cross-over and everybody’s reading it.
KING: Like the country hit that becomes pop.
WARREN: Yes, exactly. Like those rock or pop or something like that.
KING: Does that mean that a Jew, a Muslim, an agnostic, an atheist could benefit from this book?
WARREN: If that’s the question, sure. Anybody can benefit from it. In fact, the other day, I heard about a story of a lady who was at a little league, she was Jewish and the lady sitting next to her was Muslim. The Jewish lady was reading “Purpose Driven Life,” and the other lady next to her said, what are you reading? She said, I’m reading “Purpose Driven Life,” She said, I’d like to read it to. She said, well, take mine, I’ll get another copy. And I thought, OK, here’s a Christian pastor writing a book that a Jewish lady is passing on to a Muslim lady. OK.
KING: It is not, you have said, a how-to book this, right. What is it?
WARREN: Well, it’s not self-help. Self-help…
KING: It’s lessons, though.
WARREN: It is lessons. It’s helpful. The bottom line, if I were to hold up an invention and I were to say, what’s the purpose of this? You’d never seen it before. You wouldn’t know what its purpose is. The only way you’d know the purpose is to either ask the inventor, who made it, the creator or you read an owner’s manual. And I think the same thing’s true with us. I think everybody wants to know their purpose in life. If you read most self-help books they fundamentally will say things like, make up your purpose. Figure out your purpose. Look for your purpose. And the big one is, look within. It’s kind of like, trust the force, Luke. You know, look within. When I looked within, I didn’t like what I saw. You know, I just got confused. The truth is, I didn’t create me, so I can’t tell me what my purpose is.
KING: How do you know who created you?
WARREN: Well, I believe God created me. KING: You believe that. How do you know it?
WARREN: Well, you know, I have to say that I first accepted it on faith. And then I went through a doubting period where I really doubted, do I really believe in God? And then now, first my own personal relationship, the experiences I’ve had, and then seeing it happen in literally tens of thousands of other lives.
KING: Why do you believe that God is a Christian God?
WARREN: Well, the question, the bottom line is this — every religion is mutually exclusive. The problem today, Larry, is not unbelief. The problem is today everyone wants to believe everything. They want to believe it all. I want to believe in reincarnation and heaven. Those are mutually exclusive things. I want to believe in Elvis, and I want to believe in Jesus, those are mutually exclusive. And the truth is, it is all matter of faith. At some point you have to step.
KING: There’s a leap.
WARREN: There is a leap of faith. And I just wish somebody had told me when I was younger that I could have doubts and still believe. This is a big deal. That I didn’t have to have all my doubts resolved to believe. I have to say there’s a story in the Bible where Jesus is walking down the street, and a guy comes up to him, he’s got a daughter who’s sick. And Jesus goes — he goes, I need you to heal my daughter. And Jesus said, do you believe I can heal her? And he goes, I want to believe. Help me with my doubt. And Jesus goes, that’s good enough, and he heals his girl. So, to even say to God, OK, God I want to believe. You know what, I’ve been a pastor now, Larry, for 25 years. There’s still things in the bible I can’t figure out. I look at them and go, why in the world did God do that? You know, it doesn’t make sense.
KING: The question (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Why do you believe that bible, why not that bible or that bible?
WARREN: Well, first, there are historical evidences for the text. The bible itself is the most historically attested book in history. This is true. You can take this in any encyclopedia. For instance, you know, we base a lot of our things — we read Shakespeare today. Did you know that there’s not a single original manuscript of Shakespeare in exist, not one. They’re all copies of copies of copies, same thing with Plato, same thing with Socrates. But when the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1948, they found that the text that we had been using and the text they found in the Dead Sea Scrolls were a thousand years older, and they were identical. And so I believe in that. I believe it because it’s textually — there’s historical records. Like when the bible says there was a Jericho, well, they find it.
KING: Let me get a break, then we’ll find out what to do with the “Purpose Driven Life.” How you can attain it. We’ll be right back with Rick Warren on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don’t go away.
KING: We’re back with Rick Warren, who worked with Billy Graham this weekend.
KING: What did you do?
WARREN: An amazing thing. He’s been in the Rose Bowl for four days, about 350,000 people came out to see him.
KING: I had a lovely letter from him. He’s a great guy.
WARREN: Oh, he’s — you know, it just shows, Larry, people are still — there’s a hunger for meaning. There’s a hunger for meaning in our nation. And I saw people of all religious backgrounds and no religious backgrounds coming, filling that stadium.
KING: What did you do?
WARREN: Well, I just helped behind the scenes. Pretty much just helped behind the scenes. Billy Graham’s been a mentor for me for a long time. He’s taught me a lot. He would be one of my spiritual fathers. Peter Drucker (ph) is a mentor, and Billy Graham has been a mentor, both of them to me for years.
And I just wanted to be there at this historic time and help him out.
KING: All right, you have — there are some critics of you.
KING: One accused you of commercializing Christianity. “Time” magazine article quoted fundamental Bible church pastor Dennis Costello (ph) who said, “the purpose-driven ministry is a marketing strategy. We believe the Bible tells us to present the word of God without packaging it for contemporary cultural context.”
WARREN: Yeah, yeah.
KING: How do you respond to that?
WARREN: Well, first place, I don’t even know this church. I mean, you know, you can find a critic anywhere. But I liked what “The New York Times” said about me. It said, you know, marketers create a message in order to market. Warren creates tools in order to create a message, in order to propel a message. And that’s it.
If you talked about getting the message out, I’m going to use every way possible. Because I really do believe that we have a positive message. There’s a lot of negativity in the world. I mean, we’ve been through this election, the nation’s divided. And I just think that the positive message that you’re not an accident. I don’t believe anybody’s an accident. I believe that everything on this Earth has a purpose. Every rock, every tree, and every human being. If your heart’s beating, you’ve got a purpose.
Now, there may be accidental parents. OK? But I don’t think there are accidental kids. I think that there is a God. And I think that that God even takes into account our mistakes, our errors.
KING: Is he judging you too?
WARREN: Even our sins. God sets the rules. But God also forgives. And that’s what the whole good news is about. The good news is that heaven is a perfect place. And that means only perfect people get to go there. Well, I stopped batting 1,000 a long time ago. Like, year one.
KING: That means nobody’s there.
WARREN: Nobody’s going to make it on their own effort. It’s kind of like — a lot of people think God grades on a curve. That if, you know, your good things on this side, and your bad things — well, you know, you kind of — but the truth is, God is perfect. And if you’ve got the Titanic and you got a criminal and you’ve got Mother Teresa, they’re both going to sink with it, because the Titanic’s sinking. And the human predicament is nobody’s perfect. Not me, not you, not the pope.
So God sent a savior to be perfect for us. I tell a story of a guy who took his three kids to a carnival for his birthday, took his son and three sons — three kids. And at every carnival ride, he’d give his son a ticket, and he’d give his three friends a ticket. And he’d go to the next ride, give his son a ticket, give his three friends a ticket.
On about the fourth little ride, he looks down and he sees a fourth hand, a little kid out there he’s never seen before. He said, “who are you?” And the guy goes, “I’m your son’s new friend.” And he said, “this kid said that if I was his friend, his dad would give me a ticket.”
And I was actually in China, had a state dinner in Tiananmen Square in Peoples’ Hall, and was there with a well-known communist official who has been in the government for over 50 years. And I was telling this story to him. And I said, you know — he’d told me, he said, he had a brain tumor and he was dying of cancer.
And I said, you know, my father is dying of cancer right now. He’s passed away now, he said, but he’s not afraid to die, because he knows he’s made his sense. He got his ticket. I said, God has a ticket for you, you heavenly father’s ticket for you. You can’t buy it. You can’t earn it. You can’t pay for it. The only way you get it is by being a friend of his son. He said, “I want one of those tickets,” by the way, he said, “I want one of those tickets.” And he became a believer.
KING: Let’s talk about the — are you concerned about the evangelical right, which is very politically motivated?
KING: One example we might give of it, Bob Jones’ letter to President Bush after the election. “God has graciously granted America, though she doesn’t deserve it, a reprieve from the agenda of paganism. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ.” Isn’t that bad for the nation?
WARREN: Yeah, there’s a lot of things that are said in the name of Christianity, not just in the past but right now, that I’d like to totally disavow. And I would just say, that’s not me.
In the first place, a lot of the people don’t understand, there’s a difference between the religious right and evangelicals. And between evangelicals and main-line believers and Catholics. In this election, Catholics and evangelicals found that they had a lot more in common than not in common. And a lot of those are the things about, they don’t want the society going vulgarized, you know, where it’s getting coarser and coarser.
But evangelicals, the word evangelical comes from the Greek word that means good news. That’s what it means. So when you hear bad news, that’s not really evangelical. Good news is — it comes from uvengelia (ph), the Greek word means good news.
Evangelicals basically believe three things. They believe the Bible is the word of God. They believe that Jesus Christ was who he claimed to be, that he was the son of God, and that he proved it by being raised from the dead. And they believe that it is our job to spread the good news to other people.
Now, we do not believe in coercion. We do believe in persuasion. And that’s why I’m a pastor. In other words, I believe that everybody ought to hear the good news, that your past can be forgiven, God has a purpose for living, and you can have a home in heaven. That’s good news.
KING: You believe in sin?
WARREN: Of course I do. I do it all the time.
KING: Is a gay person a sinner?
WARREN: I think a gay person is a sinner just like I’m a sinner. I don’t think…
KING: No different from your sin?
WARREN: Oh, I think the worst sin is pride. In fact, the Bible says it. The Bible says that pride is the worst sin. It is, as the Bible says, it’s the sin that got Satan kicked out of heaven. It’s the sin that caused Nebuchadnezzar to lose his kingdom, and King Herod and a bunch of others. Pride goes before destruction.
Because pride is basically saying, I. I’m in charge. The middle letter of pride is I, and the middle letter of sin is I. And the bottom line is, you know, we’ve been seeing this stuff about the basketball, you know, all that thing…
KING: I wanted to ask you about that.
WARREN: OK, well, one of the things about that is we’re in a narcissistic culture, that basically says, it’s all about me. I need to do what I want to do, I want to have what I want to have, I want to be what I want to be. It’s very self-centered culture. And that’s why I think one of the things about the took that took off, it’s kind of a slap in the face, because the first line of the book says, “it’s not about you.”
Now, I don’t know a self-help book in the world that starts with, “it’s not about you.” But every other book on self-help will basically say, it’s all about you. It’s all about your needs, your dreams, your desires.
And kids who are acting out like in these brawls and stuff like that, they’re just portraying the value of our society, which says, I have to think of me first.
KING: Is organized religion part of the problem?
WARREN: Well, it certainly can be. I think anything organized can get — at our church, we have disorganized religion. I’m not that organized.
But a lot of things, again, are done in the name of religion…
KING: You’re damn right.
WARREN: … that are not — have — don’t have anything to do with Jesus Christ. OK? And don’t have anything to do with faith, or forgiveness, or all these other things in life.
You know, everybody’s life is driven by something. That’s why I called this book “The Purpose-Driven Life.” Some people are driven by fear. You know people like this. They are driven by the opinions of others. They live for the expectations of their parent, or husband, or boyfriend, or something like that.
Some people are driven by worry. They’re driven by guilt. They’re driven by shame. Some people are driven by loneliness. And I don’t think God wants any of our lives to be driven by these things. I think the bottom line is that we were put on Earth for a purpose.
Part of that purpose is to know God, and then part of that purpose is to help other people.
KING: We’re going to take a break and come back, take some calls for Rick Warren. The book, “The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?” — publisher’s weekly reports, it’s the best-selling hard-cover non-fiction book in American history. Don’t go away.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Before we take some calls for Rick Warren, last time he was with us was when Pat Boone was on talking about praying for his grandson.
WARREN: For Ryan Corbin, yes. He’s a member of my church.
KING: Give me an update.
WARREN: Actually, Ryan is going to get to come home for Thanksgiving. And I’m happy to announce he’ll be home for Christmas too. He’s been in a special facility, working on physical therapy. He’s making progress. I talked to Pat and Shirley yesterday, actually saw them at the Billy Graham Crusade. And they were giving me an update. And I just would like to thank all of the viewers who said their prayers and sent their wishes and condolences or encouragement, notes, to the Corbins and to the Boones.
KING: Will he ever be all right, all right?
WARREN: You know, I don’t know. I don’t know, Larry. That’s our desire. That’s our hope. But again, it goes back to this: There is a purpose in everything. Even behind our pain, there is a purpose. And God’s purpose for our life is always greater than the pain we go through.
One of the things that happens is, I don’t believe God ever wastes a hurt. That God doesn’t create bad. OK? I don’t think God created — caused Ryan’s problem at all. I think we live in a fallen world where we make choices, and most of the problems I bring on myself. They’re not God’s. God didn’t cause them.
KING: What about a typhoon?
WARREN: Well, there are natural disasters, there is no doubt about that.
KING: It has to be God, then.
WARREN: Well, God set up the universe that creates both light and dark. I mean, we could have all sunshine, but all sunshine and no rain makes a desert. And so there has to be storms. And so there have to be different things.
And yes, people get hurt. And you know what, I don’t know that there’s an answer to the why question. That’s the one that we all ask. OK? When something happens like a typhoon or a hurricane, why did this happen? Some of those things I think it’s kind of like an ant trying to understand the Internet. I don’t have the brain capacity to understand why God does the things he does.
KING: Isn’t it though a cop-out? To say — it’s easy to say, I believe in God, I firmly believe he is my lord, he is my master, I believe — and when a typhoon comes out, it’s too — it’s beyond me. Well, if that’s beyond you, why can you believe in him?
WARREN: Well, I don’t think — that’s a great question, by the way. I don’t think it’s a cop-out to say, I believe that God is in control in that he has also given us free will. The first question I was asked after 9/11 was, OK, where was God? And my answer, where was God when all this happened? He’s where he’s always been — and that is in the hearts of the people who were there doing the rescuing, doing the caring. It was a great opportunity. Even good came out of that terrible, terrible tragedy, in that there was heroism, and character grew.
KING: Does it annoy you that the people flying the plane also believed in him?
WARREN: Well, yeah, and obviously, I don’t believe in that God. In fact, a lot of times people say…
KING: But they did.
WARREN: Yeah. A lot of times people say to me, well, I don’t believe in God. And whenever I hear that, I always have two immediate questions. First, it doesn’t shock me. OK? My first question is, OK, tell me the kind of God you don’t believe in. Because I may not believe in him either. And they’ll say, well, I don’t believe in a God who, you know, sins, da da da. And I say, well, I don’t either.
Then the second question I ask is, what interests me is not why you don’t — that you don’t believe in God, but why you don’t believe in God? And I’ll often ask — I was just with a university student from Brazil recently. And he said, I don’t believe in God. And I said, OK. You know, that’s, you know, we’re all basing our life on something.
But let me ask you this. I said, would you have to make changes in your lifestyle if you believed in the God of the Bible that Jewish people and Christians worship, Jehova God? Would you have to make some lifestyle changes? He said, yeah. I said, well, then really the question is not, do you believe in God, but are you willing to make the changes?
KING: Let’s take a call. Victoria, British Columbia, for Rick Warren, hello.
CALLER: Hello, good evening. Mr. — Reverend Warren, I’m enjoying your show. If you live your life in kindness and goodness and in consideration — I’m an agnostic, by the way, not an atheist, agnostic — and you know when you’re being good and you know when you’re being bad, why do you need to recognize a book that I think was written by men thousands of years ago to control? But that’s beside the point. I really would like to hear your opinion on…
WARREN: That’s a great question. Let me ask you a question. What do you do — you said you know when you’re doing right and you know when you’re doing wrong. Is that what you said?
WARREN: OK, let me ask you, what do you do with your guilt when you know you’re doing wrong? CALLER: If I really know that — if I’ve been really bad to somebody, I will actually try and go back and apologize to them. Unless I’m in a car, of course, which is a little difficult when you get angry with somebody. I try not to judge. But I always — I like to treat others as I want to be treated myself.
WARREN: Yeah, that’s a…
CALLER: I was brought up with my mother…
KING: How about not being judgmental?
WARREN: Yeah. Well, obviously, Jesus said, judge not lest you be judged. And of course, you know, Larry, it’s kind of like on a continuum. Let’s say Hitler is at a zero, and Mother Teresa is at 100. OK? Where am I going to put myself? OK, I might put myself, OK, I’m at a 20. OK? I’m not as good as some people. In fact, I am certain there are a lot of people who are better than me. You know, more moral, or more kind, more loving than I am. And there are a lot of people who are worse than me, I would say, OK?
But as it goes back to — I don’t believe God grades on a curve. It’s like the bottom line is, even Mother Teresa has done things wrong. And so we all need a savior.
KING: All you need is one law, right, do unto others? You don’t need another law.
WARREN: Jesus summarized — this is a good question. Jesus — a guy came to Jesus one time and said, what’s the most important commandment? And he said, OK, I’m going to summarize the whole thing in two sentences. Here’s the whole Bible. Old Testament, New Testament. All the law and the prophets, this is cliff notes on the Bible. Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.
Now, that’s it. That’s what Jesus said. Which is, OK, first I’ve got to get to know and love God, and second, I’ve got to get to know and love other people. If I do that, you’ve got it made.
KING: Russell Springs — Russell Springs, Kentucky, hello.
CALLER: Yes, first of all, I would just like to say that Rick, you had an outstanding book. And my question to you is, are you going to write another one? And if so, when?
WARREN: $60,000 question.
KING: “Purpose-Driven Life II.”
WARREN: I am going to write another book. I’m not going to write it this year. It’s actually going to be — well, this book is on what on Earth are we here for? This next book is going to be on asking — dealing with the question, what are you doing with what you’ve been given? Because I believe that we all fundamentally — everything we have is a gift. I believe, because I believe in God, I believe that everything I have — my life is a gift.
KING: It’s very Eastern philosophy.
WARREN: It’s all a gift. And so we’re stewards. We’re stewards.
And by the way, there’s truth in every religion. Christians believe that there’s truth in every religion. But we just believe that there’s one savior. We believe we can learn truth — I’ve learned a lot of truth from different religions. Because they all have a portion of the truth. I just believe there is one savior, Jesus Christ.
KING: We’ll be back with more of Rick Warren. The book is “The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?” More after this.
KING: We’re back with extraordinary, Rick Warren. Toronto, hello.
CALLER: Yes, I would like to ask the reverend if he believes that non-Christians can get into heaven and be with God when they die.
WARREN: My question would be this, who gets to make the rules?
Does god have a right to decide who gets into his place?
And I would say, my opinion really doesn’t matter. I would say this, and I would say this humbly. Jesus said this — he said, I am the way and the truth and the life. And nobody comes to the father except through me. Now, you know what, that’s a pretty radical statement when you think about it.
KING: A little pompous too.
WARREN: It is if it’s not true. The bottom line is, I’m betting my life on that verse. See this, Larry, is the fundamental issue.
KING: So, what you’re saying the jew is not going to heaven?
WARREN: I’m saying nobody’s going to heaven, except people who go to heaven God’s way. And I don’t get to make the rules. I don’t go to heaven, you don’t go to heaven.
KING: What if John leads a perfect life. He adopts the golden rule all the days of his life. Except he doesn’t accept Christ.
WARREN: First, I object to the premise. He can’t lead a perfect life.
KING: He leads a 99 percent. Phil, he’s a 30 percent life, except he believes in Christ.
WARREN: And I live a 10 percent life.
KING: Phil goes to heaven and John doesn’t, under those rules? Bad rule then.
WARREN: The rule is grace. You have to do the almost impossible to go to hell. You have to reject the love of Jesus Christ.
And why would anybody reject that?
KING: Why is it so crowded down there?
WARREN: Why would anybody reject the love of Jesus? He’s done everything possible. You saw the Mel Gibson movie. Jesus stretches out his hands out on the cross, I love you this much. It’s like, I’m doing everything possible. I’m doing everything possible so that you don’t have to go to hell. So that you don’t have to depend on your own efforts. Because it is my grace. The message of the evangelical, the message of the bible is not judgment. The message is grace. Is that, I don’t deserve it, but I get to go if I trust him.
KING: New Market, Ontario, last call. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, Reverend Warren. I just wanted to ask what inspired you to write the book, and how long did it take you to write it?
WARREN: Well, I’d have to say, God and the needs of people inspired me to write the book. It took me about seven months. And between December of 19 — excuse me 2001 and July of 2002, I spent 12 hours a day in a little room writing. I’d get up at about 4:30 in the morning and work to 5:00 the next day. And I only spoke twice in my church, I did Christmas and Easter, and really focused on the book.
KING: Did you have a publisher?
WARREN: Yes. Yes, I did.
KING: You had that set before?
WARREN: Had it all set. Because I’d written books before. I wrote a book called “The Purpose Driven Church,” which was well known among pastors. It sold a million copies.
KING: This one certainly…
WARREN: This went international. Thank you, Larry. You’re great.
KING: Rick Warren, the founding pastor, Saddle Back Church, that’s in Orange County. Finally, a thought — our thoughts and prayers with the great Doris Day on the passing of her Terry Melcher. He lost a long battle with cancer on Friday at age 62. He was a force in music since the early 1960s, recording surf rock hits with the Ripcords. Producing the folk rock classics, “Turn, Turn, Turn” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds. And co-writing the Beach Boy’s last no. 1 hit, “Cocomo,” in the late ’80s. He produced TV series for his mom and he oversaw businesses and charities for her, including the Doris Day Animal Foundation. Where donations are being accepted in Terry Melcher’s name. Back in a moment to talk about tomorrow night. We’ll miss you Terry. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
Tomorrow night, Bill Maher makes his, I guess, semiannual — he’s here twice a year. With his comments on the passing scene. It’s always great to see him. Bill Maher, will be with us tomorrow night.
And Wednesday night, Thanksgiving eve, the Donald arrives. Donald Trump on Thanksgiving eve. That’s Bill Maher tomorrow and Donald Trump Thanksgiving eve. We hope if you’re out early travels, that you have a very safe and — holiday weekend and a wonderful Thanksgiving.
We give thanks at CNN for many things. Thanks for the blessings of working at a terrific network. You know where I’m going. Thanks for being able to — there he is. Thanks for having Aaron Brown as one of our people. Thanks for knowing on the masthead of life, when they write down “health benefits” Aaron Brown and Larry King are on the same page. Just — oh, Aaron, I’m caught up. I’m touched. Go ahead take it.
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