Much has been said about John Piper’s invitation of Rick Warren to his pastor’s conference.
Should I add to it? Sure, why not …
First, why the surprise? If you thought Piper was a raving fundamentalist separatist who would never do something like this, you need to get out more. He isn’t. He never was. He’s never going to be. Now, to be sure it is strange that Piper invites a man with Warren’s soteriology and methodology, both of which seem contrary to Piper’s. Warren claims to be a monergist. Fine, I suppose. He claims anyone can be brought to Christ so long as you find the key to their heart, which seems rather unmonergistic to me. But I digress … The point is that Piper’s association with a wide range of people is hardly surprising. I think it is wrong because it is too broad, and I think I can make that argument from Scripture. But this should hardly be a surprise.
Second, it’s not any worse than other things Piper has done. This is not an aberration in his ministry. He is a charismatic who has had a Christian rapper and Doug Wilson, who endorsed the Toronto Blessing, who thinks that a Baptist church should accept into membership unbaptized believers, and a lot of other things. Quite frankly, this invitation is less concerning to me than some other things he has done, partly because his conferences are places where he has invited “contrary” viewpoints on various things, and I think a conference is a good place for that. Invite someone to argue for their position, and then discuss it. I don’t think we should be afraid of that. If you can’t answer Warren biblically, keeping him away from a conference won’t change that. Now, I think this invitation is a bad idea, a wrong association. I think it violates the biblical command.
But truth be told, Piper’s belief that it’s okay for a believer to be in good standing in a Baptist church while being disobedient to the command to be baptized is more concerning to me because that is an ecclesiological issue. I don’t think even Rick Warren believes that. I am a lot more concerned by Piper’s non-cessationism than by listening to Rick Warren say why he thinks the way he does. I am interested in the idea of a “no holds barred” interview. That would be worth the price of admission, if you were inclined to go. I’m not going, and I don’t recommend that you go. But this is not really an aberration.
Third, this doesn’t make Piper’s beneficial things any less beneficial. Anyone who follows Piper wholeheartedly and without discernment needs to repent. Anyone who thinks that Piper is infallible needs to repent. But Piper has some very helpful things. Just yesterday, I was encouraged by listening to Part 1 of his message “Let the Nations Be Glad” from Advance 09. Excellent stuff. If something is beneficial, then it’s beneficial.
Fourth, why do people think this is somehow a great danger to fundamentalism and fundamentalists? Is there really this large group of people trained in our fundamentalist churches and institutions who are in danger here? If so, doesn’t that say a lot about what is going on in our fundamentalists churches and institutions? If, by the time someone has spent several years in fundamentalism, they can’t rightly judge this thing, watch-bloggers with bad attitudes aren’t going to help them. I have long been concerned that fundamentalism is too unconcerned with teaching people how to think about these things, and is too concerned with giving people lists of people that are acceptable.
Why is it that we think Piper can have more influence through a book or a downloaded sermon than we can through weekly teaching and preaching in our churches? Do we really think our preaching and teaching is that bad?
Fifth, where are all these fundamentalists who are endorsing and encouraging fellowship with John Piper? Does anyone actually know one? I see these people mentioned, but no one (to my knowledge) has actually produced an endorsement by these fundamentalist leaders that actually quotes a fundamentalist saying this. As always, feel free to correct me. Perhaps I just don’t get out enough. I just haven’t seen it.
Some are demanding that fundamentalists leaders come out and issue a great big warning. Why? The truth is that they have been doing this for years. Kevin Bauder, by most people’s standards, is radical on his approach to ministry, preaching, and worship. Were he not a man of upstanding character, I would say his thoughts about Rick Warren couldn’t be published on this blog. But they probably could be because he surely doesn’t think things like that. Dave Doran has an excellent booklet on Market-Driven Ministry that pretty soundly deals with the issue. It was written more than ten years ago. He has spoken out on this for years, long before Rick Warren and John Piper showed up in this conference. Why do not these previous teachings and warnings stand for themselves? What more can he say than he already has said?
Lastly, (there’s more I could say, but I will stop here), who cares? If you are tempted to follow the bad parts of the ministries of Rick Warren or John Piper, then repent. But why do you think that John Piper answers to you for who he invites to his conferences? If you don’t like it, then don’t go, and don’t invite him to yours. Rick Warren has some helpful things about church ministry. He has some atrocious things about church ministry. Learn to tell the difference and feel free to teach people about the biblical issues. Don’t judge Warren by what conferences he gets invited to. Judge him by what he says compared to the Scriptures. Warren and Piper both had significant problems long before this became public back in February. This invitation hasn’t changed any of that. If you think it has, then you aren’t thinking clearly.
Perhaps the greatest failure in evangelicalism and fundamentalism is the failure to teach discernment, or perhaps the failure to believe that other people have discernment.
So let’s get on with life and ministry. I admire Rick Warren for his passion for ministry. I disagree with most of how he goes about it. I admire John Piper for a lot of things. I disagree with a lot of things. Why should I feel bad about that?