Friday, April 9, 2010
Certain people believe that my lack of endorsement for Piper now that it has been revealed that Warren will be teaching God’s sheep at Desiring God 2010 is that I no longer consider Piper a brother (ie. I don’t endorse Piper therefore I no longer consider him a brother.) This, however, isn’t the case. I do consider Piper a brother, and, while I don’t wish to speculate on the reasons for his sabbatical, this endorsement of the false Gospel Warren presents certainly leads me to believe there are some things in Piper’s life that he needs prayer for (as we all do, but I’m speaking cause/particular). Prayer, as I stated in the first post where I spoke on this, is what he has from me as I pray for God to help him through whichever struggles he may be going through and come out on top. Rather, my lack of endorsement is about Piper’s discernment. While I do believe Piper has many great things to say and I greatly respect him as someone who has a record of standing up for Biblical truth, nowhere do I believe we need John Piper. In other words, if I don’t send someone to John Piper that does not equate to I don’t send them to God. R.C. Sproul has said something to the effect that when you build a bridge, you can count on traffic coming from both sides. There are plenty of other preachers and teachers out there who do not see the need to receive traffic from the seeker-sensitive/Purpose Driven movement, and, if you agree that John Piper does not have the monopoly on Biblical truth, I can’t understand why you wouldn’t direct brothers and sisters to someone who refuses to receive that traffic and put it on your brother’s plate. Many people know my affinity for Dr. James White. I endorse his ministry. I send brothers and sisters there often. But I tell you this: If Dr. White opened up the traffic from the PDL movement this afternoon, my conscience would no longer allow me to promote him, either. And the thing is, at this moment, I’m pretty confident that he’d tell me not to promote him if he went down that street, as well. That’s one of the main reasons I’m comfortable directing people his way: He’s reliable. Sure, Dr. White has written many good books as has Dr. Piper, but if Dr. White were to go this course, I couldn’t help but believe that 1) He believed what he said in those books, but he's going through something deep spiritually and needs our prayer 2) He didn’t really believe the good things he said in those books and it was all just talk or 3) He believed it at that time, but now he sees Warren’s theology as doctrinally sound instead.
Now, I’d like to remark on a few of the thought processes I’ve seen around the net concerning this situation.
People have said that they’re giving Piper the benefit of the doubt in this situation because they don’t know what he’s bringing Warren to the conference for exactly.
The people who employ this rationale have adopted, in my estimation, “the apologetic of unsubstantiated optimism.” In this view, it doesn’t matter what a person has already said regarding the issue, what matters is what you hope happens in the future. That’s what determines this person’s train of thought. "The apologetic of substantiated fact" is irrelevant and is very often completely omitted from even a comment unless it's some passing comment dealing with things the person has done favorably in the past. I’m wondering if the people who are endorsing the former apologetic have seen the two videos where Piper explains why he’s inviting Warren. Here is maybe my most discomforting concern regarding this issue: Piper says that he invited Warren to the conference because John Piper believes (as he states) that Rick Warren is a sound teacher. This is the truly mind boggling thing for me. Before I tell you why, I’d like to tell you a short story. In my Jurisprudence class in law school, we’re presently going over essays written that advocate homosexual marriage, etc. (which I welcome so I can know how to answer homosexuals effectively persuading them that it’s sin). The professor often opens up the floor for discussion on various issues. Of course, he opened up the floor to the issue of homosexual marriage. Even though it’s a Christian law school, people both agreed and disagreed with it. However, regardless of all the arguments both pro and con, the one thing that was clearly the distinguishing mark between the two groups was this: One group viewed homosexuality as immoral and saw it as a big deal. The other side didn’t see homosexuality as immoral and couldn’t really see what all the fuss was about regarding two guys getting together in matrimony and thought that those who were against homosexuality were blowing things out of proportion. They thought this was merely a “taste issue.” Why do I bring this up? I believe that this is the exact problem that is occurring on this issue of Warren/Piper. Many people have told me that I’m making too big of a deal about this subject. They have told me that I need to move on and let this play its course. My question to these people is: “Is preaching a false Gospel immoral?” I’m sure that groups on both sides will come down on this by saying, “Well, yes. Of course it is.” Then my next question (and the one that I believe is the breaker in this Warren/Piper situation) is, “Does Rick Warren preach a false Gospel?” Where you come down on this latter question will determine if you believe this is a situation worth fighting for or if the people who do decide to fight for it are blowing it out of proportion "over a mere issue of taste."
To help you determine which side you come down on, I’d like to present you with some evidence of why I believe that Rick Warren preaches a false Gospel. After you read these reasons, I’d encourage you to go back and read the previous paragraph. I think it will then make more sense to you.
Regardless of what he tells Piper, Rick Warren believes that the Gospel is a do-over in which we get a chance to do the Gospel right because God was gracious enough to give us a second chance, you know… like a mulligan in golf. Here’s the evidence of that:
(Note: Warren also confirmed this view of the Gospel being a do-over several weeks ago in a promotional video for his Saddleback Celebration on Easter weekend.)
Folks, if the Gospel is something that we do, if it’s something that God has given us the opportunity to redo to earn justification because we messed up the first time, why would a Roman Catholic object to Rick Warren’s definition? At this point, ask yourself: Why would John Piper call this man and the Gospel he presents sound (link)? I have tried to answer the latter question myself, and I can only come up logically with three possibilities:
a) Piper is ignorant of what Warren preaches. Piper is sincere in thinking that Warren preaches a true Gospel because, from all Piper knows, Warren believes just like Piper does. Perhaps Piper is relying on a source he trusts outside of Warren to validate what Warren believes. Regardless, if this is the case, Piper did something like invite a person he is not very familiar with theologically to speak theologically at a conference that affects many people.
b) Piper knows what Warren preaches, and is willingly bearing falsehood saying that Warren preaches a sound Gospel to try and justify having him at the conference.
c) Piper believes that the Gospel is God’s second chance to us to earn our own justification and all his books about salvation only being by faith alone were either not sincere or he’s changed his view of justification recently to agree with what Warren teaches.
Folks, not one of those three possibilities is appealing for showing Piper in a positive light. This is perhaps my greatest concern.
I have no doubt that Warren will give a great sermon at Desiring God 2010, and will say many things that I agree with. The problem is not with that, though. The problem is that the Jews he’s preached to on how to grow their synagogues without repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, and the Muslims that he’s refrained from mentioning Jesus to will be able to have a coffee with me and say, “Wow, you know, Rick Warren gave a great sermon at the our respective religion’s conference, and he also said a lot of things that I agree with.” Does anyone else see a problem with this? We all know the jokes about certain, definitely not all, used car salesmen telling you whatever you want to hear to make a sale. For him, for the most part, it doesn’t matter how he gets the sale, it just matters that he gets one. The same can be said of the random 40 year old drunk at the bar looking for a young girl to take home with him for the night. It doesn’t matter how he gets her there, it just matters that she gets there. This is exactly why pragmatism as an ideology is dangerous. It doesn’t matter how Warren works his way to the “Young, Restless, and Reformed” (which I’m tempted to start calling the “Young, Naïve, and Impressionable” if the discernment level I've seen of late among many of them remains consistent), what matters is that he works his way in. He’ll tell you whatever you want to hear to make sure that happens. …And so will the 40 year old guy at the bar who wants to get what he wants. There is no difference here. If you don’t stand for something (and I’m advocating standing for the Gospel), you’ll fall for anything as that country song rings true.
I can just imagine being around the table that night that Peter was dining with the Judaizers. Today, the same people who are saying “Let’s see what Piper has up his sleeve here and not overreact,” now were the same people telling Paul, “Let’s see what Peter has up his sleeve and not overreact,” then. It’s the same voice from the same view, it’s just a different time period. In this case, either Paul was in error and stopped a major witnessing encounter in which the Lord was going to make many people into true believers or Paul stopped the bridge being built between Peter and the Judaizers because Paul knew that, with heresy, there is no bridge. Traffic can’t come from both sides and both sides not be effected, it’s true. Like J.I. Packer says, “A half truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth.” Two sides full of half truth because of a bridge built even if it's built with good intentions doesn’t leave anyone healthy. It makes both people sick instead of one side sick and one side well. In the latter, you have a chance that both sides can get well. In the former, both are just sick.
So there are some of my main concerns regarding this issue. I can’t help but be reminded of a superstar basketball player who does something that would cause any normal person to be discredited from the eyes of the public, but, because he has a track record of making some good plays, producing some good stats, and making a few notable appearances, he’s given the go ahead because public opinion as a whole accepts him. I’m afraid that many are dealing with this Piper situation in the same way. I am the first to admit that Piper has written some wonderful stuff, I enjoy many of his sermons, and I think he’s made some key appearances on the social realm for things like anti-abortion and the like, but I also come from the camp that believes that the player shouldn’t be dictating the coach. In other words, if the player (even if he’s a superstar) messes up big time (and I do mean big time), you discipline him for the time being with hopes that he’ll come back from his mistake better than before instead of carrying on like nothing has happened because there's a chance your fan base will decrease and, hey, you've had some good times watching the guy. Folks, Christianity is not about superstars. It’s about Jesus Christ who is interceding for the sin of everyone who believes on Him at this very moment. If you need a certain pastor and his notoriety to substantiate your relationship with God, I’m afraid you have two options: 1) Go to Rome where you’ll fit right in. or 2) Get right with the Lord, confess your sins, and trust on Him for your spiritual edification. He’ll send you the teachers you need, but it may not always be the teachers you want.
Here is some more reading/listening for you on this situation from what I consider balanced critiques.:
1. Phil Johnson "On the Warren/Piper Connection"
2. Phil Johnson Radio Interview on this subject ( Iron Sharpens Iron: Part 1 || Part 2 (audio))
3. Dr. James White Radio Commentary (1st 15 Minutes audio)
4. Michael Horton on Rick Warren, Modern Reformation, and Desiring God
5. Crosstalk America John Piper Invites Rick Warren to Desiring God 2010 (audio)
6. Chris Rosebrough "Analysis of John Piper's Invitation to Rick Warren (audio)"
7. Tim Challies "Why John Piper Should not have Invited Rick Warren" (However, I don't believe this issue isn't a big deal, and, given Challies' critique, I don't believe that he believes it isn't a big deal, either.)