john piper invites rick warren to desiring god 2010 :: what are we supposed to do now?

April 25, 2010

I’ll give you a heads up here… I write a lot of my posts with unbelievers in mind.  If you are still undecided about what you think of Jesus Christ, I hope this is a place that you can come and read and think and interact with His followers.  Most days, I write with you in mind.  But today, I’m aiming at the church crowd.  There will be a bunch of doctrine and “church-eze” thrown around.  If you’re not interested in digging into the inner workings of the politics and inner conflicts tangling up the Church in America, you get a free pass today to check out now.  // end disclaimer.

Now to the meat of it… I have posted a few times now about my desire to see the various factions within the larger Church stop shooting at each other and instead focus their energy, resources, and time on loving lost souls.  You can read my post about why I love Rob Bell, even though we disagree…  My post about excellence in art used for Kingdom purposes (which somehow became a long, aggressive discussion about church methodology)… or my post called Rick Warren is not the Anti-Christ… In other words, I’ve been here before.  I know that the name “Rick Warren” tends bring out the fangs of some Christians – like chum in the water.  I do not mean to denigrate those who lovingly but firmly keep the church grounded on solid biblical truth.  We do need watchers – Spirit-led, mature, loving, wise, discernment filled brothers and sisters who keep the Church on the straight and narrow.

However, there is a particularly strident stripe within the church who has no hesitation calling out the grievous errors of other brothers, but they do it with seemingly no sense of responsibility to maintain civility, to say nothing of a loving and gentle spirit.  If my words are chafing you right now, and you feel a righteous anger rising up, then I probably am challenging you to some self-examination.  I am wary of posting another argument-inducing post today.  I don’t want to incite contention merely by bringing up Rick Warren, so if you would like to comment, I’m just asking in advance that we all keep the dialog respectful.  Even in disagreement.  Perhaps especially in disagreement.

The issues at hand are these:

(1) John Piper, Senior Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church and founder of Desiring God Ministries, whom MANY within the Church in America hold in high regard for his commitment to the doctrinal purity of the Gospel message, his integrity as a biblical scholar and teacher, and his passion for the supremacy of God in all things…  John Piper has invited Saddleback Church Senior Pastor and Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren to speak at the 2010 Desiring God Conference coming up this October in Minneapolis, MN.

(2) There are a wide range of opinions about the scriptural integrity and efficacy of Warren’s teaching on the Church.  Therefore, there are a number of vocal critics of Warren who normally would support Piper and are now in a quandary.  John Piper invites Rick Warren to have a platform at the Desiring God Conference?  How can he do that?  How can he give a false teacher/dangerous heretic like Warren any platform at all?  And this leads us to…

(3) The issue of “Secondary Separation.”  In other words, although “Person A” normally would align himself with John Piper, Person A is at odds with Rick Warren, but now that Piper has seemingly aligned in some way with Warren, Person A therefore must now be at odds with John Piper.  This is secondary separation. And it is not always necessary.  And it is not always healthy.

The best possible way for me to address the issues raised above is to allow John Piper to speak for himself.  I think there is so much discussion about this raging under the surface of the Church in America right now, and the stakes (Christian unity and the advance of the Gospel!) are so high, it is important to sort it all out.  Think it through for yourself.  At what point do we decide not to associate with another brother or sister in Christ?  At what point do our disagreements become barriers that cannot be crossed? Here’s what John Piper has to say:

For the record, I’m a huge John Piper fan.  I’m not a Baptist nor a Calvinist, but we agree on the majors.  Likewise, I believe I have made my feelings about Rick Warren clear in earlier posts and the comments that followed.  I don’t agree with either man on every point. But I do see the value in shouldering the Gospel TOGETHER – as brothers, who may not always see eye to eye.  After some of the other interactions I’ve had in this forum (and so much heated rhetoric I’ve read and experienced in other forums) I’m not under any illusions that I will change a Warren-opponent into a Warren-supporter.  That would have to be a supernatural work of God, because my words do not carry enough weight, nor is my logic advanced enough to argue anyone into a change of heart.  Rather, I just long for more unity. Not tolerance of a false gospel.  But God-ordained unity around the core tenets of the Christian faith.  (See John 17)

I see John Piper actively pursuing this unity, as well.  So I’ll stand with him.  Where do YOU stand on all of this?


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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

10 responses to john piper invites rick warren to desiring god 2010 :: what are we supposed to do now?

  1. I think it’s a great idea to invite Rick Warren to the Desiring God conference! I’ve been to several worship conferences at Saddleback and have always appreciated Rick’s passion for the lost. I have not been to a Desiring God conference yet, but my senior pastor has mentioned we should go this year. I think it will be great!!

    • Hi Barry! Thanks for checking in here. I agree – I think it will be a fantastic conference. I’ve never been to DG either, which is a little surprising considering how much I appreciate John Piper’s teaching. This might be the year! If I get tickets I’ll drop you a line – I’d love to meet you there! God bless, brother.

  2. So, even though you basically gave the likes of me a free pass on reading this entry, I did anyway because, well, I did. I hadn’t left any comments after I told you I would, but I have been reading, I promise 🙂 So, here are my entirely unhelpful comments, since inner church conflicts are hardly my strong suit.

    My aunt and uncle live in California and they and their family attends Saddleback as their home church. Fascinated by the celebrity of Rick Warren, I go to church with them almost every time I visit. Based on this experience, I don’t really think of Rick Warren as a pastor, even though that obviously is his profession. But he (and Joel Osteen to an even greater degree) seem more just like motivational speakers to me. I even had a friend in grad school who was an outspoken atheist and she didn’t even find Rick Warren offensive because (in her words) “it’s not like he really ever talks about God”.

    John Piper, on the other hand, drives me nuts. He advocates a very Calvinist theology, which makes my blood pressure rise to even say or think about. The most aggressive, most condemning, most difficult Christian people I have personally encountered in community activism work (in college and since) have been Calvinist. One person in particular who was a constant adversary of mine in college works for DGM now, so I (admittedly immaturely) refuse to read their literature or find out about their organization. Understanding where people are coming from is a vital part of communicating with them and understanding their values, beliefs, and voting, but I just take a pass here. This particular group stresses me out too much and makes my life too difficult.

    I can actually see that the fact that I think Rick Warren is basically harmless, whereas John Piper makes my blood boil is probably fuel for the John Piper should have nothing to do with Rick Warren crowd. Consider that my contribution to the discussion.

    • Hey there Ashley. I love it that you’ve stuck around and added your viewpoint to the discussion. Your perspective is extremely valuable, so THANK YOU.

      Yes – you are right. I would say that your perspective does fuel the “Piper should stay the heck away from Warren” camp. I am surprised, though, that Warren seems so tame to you. I’ve heard him speak a few times now, and I’ve always heard him speak clearly about God, and about Jesus specifically. Quite different from Joel Osteen. This has always been in a conference setting, though. I’ve never been to Saddleback, so your experience there is very interesting to me.

      Regarding Piper making your blood boil, I have a question for you… Is it Piper who drives you nuts, or is it the bad experiences with other Calvinists that drive you nuts? I understand why you would avoid DGM is your arch-nemesis from college works for them. I totally get that. However, my life and ministry is basically based on their core understanding of God and man – that we were created to worship and enjoy our creator, and that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied with Him. Piper’s messages about God’s sovereignty have clarified the Biblical construct for me in a literally life-changing way. Of course, I’m coming at this from a believer’s perspective, so you and I are looking through different lenses. I get that, too. While I see Piper as a champion and clear spokesman/teacher for my faith, you may hear his Gospel message as too pointed or accusatory. I don’t know, but my point is this:

      Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water on Piper if your major inner turmoil regarding DGM and Calvinism in general has to do primarily with other people. I don’t buy Calvanist theology wholesale, either, but John Piper is a very clear intellectual Bible teacher. For me, he has clarified some otherwise complex theology into what has become my primary life philosophy. The brief articles on the desiringgod.org website regarding “Christian Hedonism” [http://www.desiringgod.org/AboutUs/OurDistinctives/ChristianHedonism/] and the introduction to DGM called “Light and Heat” [http://www.desiringgod.org/AboutUs/OurDistinctives/LightAndHeat/] are both only 1 page long, and they are excellent, simple distillations of Piper’s heart (and mine, for that matter).

      In any case, Ashley, thanks again for your feedback. I love it. Someday, of course, I hope you find faith in Jesus that brings you deep joy and peace. But that is between you and God, and I’m grateful to learn from your point of view in the mean time. Hope you have a great day. 🙂

  3. I don’t like John Piper for the same reason your average conservatives don’t like Barack Obama. It’s not because I know him or even that I’m familiar with what he stands for and follow what he does, and I disagree. It’s because the people I regularly interact with who profess to be on his side annoy me to no end. But I digress….. I read both the articles you linked, and admittedly they weren’t offensive. Which makes me understand the John Piper invites Rick Warren controversy less, but I’m not surprised I don’t understand.

    My opinion of Rick Warren is shaped by hearing him preach at Saddleback on the order of a half dozen times and (even more so) reading Purpose Driven Life. In my experience, Rick Warren talks about God the way AA talks about God. He’s a higher power, he helps you, you need him in your life, etc., etc. There’s no real theology there to me. Which is really why I’m ok with him. The self-improvement, social ministry, community improvement part of Christianity is the part I was always ok with. It’s the part I try to capitalize on now and is the very reason I try so hard to find out how Christians want to relate to the larger world. That’s why I was interested in the whole Piper/Warren thing to begin with, as a micro-example of unity and division. Is there a subset of the Christian population that is seeking more unity? What causes breaches that make them unwilling to associate with other people? What are the sufficiently unifying causes that promote this, both within in church and between the church and society?

    • Hey Ashley. Thanks again. I’m honestly surprised by your take on Rick Warren as “Jesus-light” and ambiguity-heavy. I mentioned your comment to my wife (also a passionate Christ-follower) and she was surprised as well. When we read the Purpose Driven Life, I thought Christ was central. But I’m not discounting your experience in any way – your critique of Warren is basically verbatim the CRITICISM of Warren that the conservative finger-pointers leverage. That’s he’s more about self-help and social justice than a “Christ and Christ alone” gospel based ministry. Hmmmm. Very interesting.

      I admire Warren for his emphasis on the P.E.A.C.E. plan, which I’m assuming you are familiar with? [See more here if you need >> http://www.thepeaceplan.com/%5D To me, these goals of making huge changes for the better here on earth in the here and now, serving the poor and ministering to the sick and marginalized… all of that seems like “Jesus with skin on” ministry. This is where service actually becomes WORSHIP when we are motivated by God’s love. And yet, Warren has been skewered by conservatives who see that as a replacement for Christ-centered theology in Warren’s ministry.

      How does the PEACE plan resonnate with you? And am I right in assuming that you see much more emphasis in Warren’s ministry in the “serving” side of the equasion and less emphasis on the clear message of Jesus Christ as our only hope of forgiveness and new life?

      Bless you Ashley. Your input in invaluable to me. Have a great day.

  4. I think it’s a great idea to invite Rick Warren to the Desiring God conference! I’ve been to several worship conferences at Saddleback and have always appreciated Rick’s passion for the lost. I have not been to a Desiring God conference yet, but my senior pastor has mentioned we should go this year. I think it will be great!!

  5. If my words are chafing you right now, and you feel a righteous anger rising up, then I probably am challenging you to some self-examination.

    Or not. 🙂

    • Hey Paula. 🙂 Good to see you dropped by. God bless you guys. I love the new profile shot on FB, by the way. There’s really nothing much cooler than a compound bow. Except maybe a crossbow… Those are cool, too.

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