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      Hangin' with Mr. Piper (Some Observations on the Piper-Warren Interview)

      Thursday, June 23, 2011




           Before I begin, I need to let a few things out.  First, this is probably going to be a little harsher than most of the commentary you've read or heard about the interview.  Certain things need to be said, and I usually trip all over myself when I try to be "PC" instead of forthright.  That said, I really do appreciate the commentary coming from all fronts.  For example, I liked Challies' take on the situation.  Understand, though, Challies and I are different people.  Where he can answer something with a little more grace, I tend to answer a little more candidly.  Secondly, I understand this is a sensitive issue for some.  I have to divulge that I never really took great time listening to Piper's preaching even before all this. Sure I've heard and read my fair share from him in my years, but if he was on my iPod, it was only in the form of a sermon or three.  In other words, I don't have the fondness for Piper that I do for someone like Michael Horton or James White simply because I don't have the time invested in the man that others do so I don't have the same adoration that develops as a result.  The reason I say this is so you have a context to read this.  If my comments seem impersonal, this may be the reason.  There is also benefit in this, though. It allows me to speak more freely and not let my emotional attachment to his past contributions (and they are great contributions) get in the way.  Third, my commentary is primarily directed towards the audience who actually has knowledge of Warren's failures as a Christian minister (ie. him teaching Jews how to grow their synagogues, his affinity for Mother Theresa, his teaching that prayer and preaching doesn't grow a church, etc.).  This post is not written to document Warren's past errors, but comment on Piper's endorsement of Warren with these past errors in mind.  Finally, I must say that I do have somewhat of a respect for Piper based on his past contributions alone.  I must be frank, though, I don't have a respect for him at this present time.  The Piper who wrote all those books and gave all those great sermons is the same Piper who approves of someone who tells others that God loves you when you be you.  I respect people who stand strong for the faith once delivered to all the saints, and just because someone is in ministry for years and even make great contributions, they don't automatically get my "eternal-security-respect."  Like Paul told Timothy to not let others despise him because of his youth, I don't give people automatic respect just because of their experience and age.  I respect the missionary in Asia who is getting their head blown off today and watching his family killed because they won't compromise on the Gospel regardless of how it may benefit them personally to do so in this present life.  I don't respect a pastor who gives softballs to a known Bible-twister and even answer for him from the safety of the camera and the comfort of popular evangelicalism just because the interviewee has a good resume in man's estimation.  Keep all this in mind for context when you read the following.

      Several things I've noticed are:

      1. Surprisingly, I've heard a lot of leaders in evangelicalism abroad not buying the interview with Warren.  I fully expected Piper's rubber stamp to get the nod from most people, but just the opposite has happened.  Sure there are still some I see who are praising Piper and Warren for coming together (mostly Southern Baptist types), but for the most part the response has not been favorable.

      2.  There has been a lot of talk of what John Piper's motives are for trying to convince us that Rick Warren is sound despite all the evidence contrary. In other words, many people are now suspicious of John Piper who were not otherwise before all this happened.  Being suspicious of a pastor is usually reserved for the likes of Creflo Dollar and Kenneth Copeland, but alas, we've seen the day where people are now suspicious of John Piper albeit for different motives than the previously mentioned two individuals.

      3.  People who are fans of Piper have been speaking of Piper in a past tense.  I'm not sure if you've picked up on this much, but in the reviews, critiques, and general comments I've been hearing and reading, "fans" have spoken of Piper regarding his good work in a past tense instead of a present tense a good bit.  In other words, people are saying, "Piper has contributed a lot in the past." but not really saying, "He's contributing a lot now with this interview."  There's no doubt this interview has divided people and some are thinking that we may have to take Piper like some people do certain bands:  "Yes, I loved their music and it was good until they signed with a major label and sold out.  I guess I'm just left admiring their old stuff now."

      4.  I also realize that there has been a lot of talk with Warren being called a chameleon, and I certainly appreciate this commentary.  There is abundant evidence for this conclusion.  However, make no mistake, "chameleon" is just a nicer way of saying, "hypocrite" or "deceiver."  The interesting part is that the "chameleon" label is not just being applied by wing-nut discernment folk who also believe aliens give them Smucker's for their toast every morning.  It is also being applied by significant leaders in evangelicalism abroad to characterize Warren. I find this encouraging.  A true leader stands up in the face of adversity, and it's refreshing to see so many leaders not capitulating to Piper's endorsement even though it may, no doubt, cost them something temporal whether that be status, income from books, advertising, etc. 

      5.  There has been a lot of talk about "separation." Even Piper in his initial Desiring God Conference video speaks of what we should do with him now that he's decided to "hang out" with Rick Warren (his words).  He even goes on to call it "secondary separation issues."  I've meant to comment on this for a while.  This is one of the things that I truly find to be disrespectful and somewhat condescending because I believe it assumes we are just mindless and don't think things through.  If Piper wants to go see the next Twilight with Warren and get a cheeseburger, that's called "Hanging out."  When Piper asks Rick Warren to come and instruct the sheep of God at a conference then endorses the man wholeheartedly as "sound," that's called "Ministry."  If Piper wants to go "hang out" with Warren, I have no problem with that.  I have friends I hang out with who are "questionable" at best.  However, in no way would I allow one of them to start putting videos on my Youtube channel instructing you all about spiritual things in the name of "hanging out," and yet this is primarily what Piper has done in trying to sell this bill of goods to us.  I find it disrespectful and even to an extent an example of taking advantage of a position. 

           In conclusion, one of the primary things this whole situation can teach us is how we make decisions regarding what is sound.  In paying attention to comments on this topic (disregarding those who may be ignorant of Warren's failures), I believe the crux of the issue comes to this:  1)  Does the Gospel ultimately influence me? or 2) Do popular leaders with good resumes ultimately influence me in deciding what is right and wrong?  I know that's blunt, but for those who are aware of Warren's double-talk, his false Gospel presentations, and chameleon like way of telling pretty much any religion what they want to hear, this is where the line is drawn.  You can either ignore it or deal with it, and I can assure you that those struggling with accepting Warren v. accepting the evidence have also struggled with having popular preachers as their authority or the Bible as their authority for some time now.  On the other hand, for the rest who land on either end, the decision is easy.  If you hold fast to the Gospel, you can easily dismiss the interview.  If you hold fast to popular preachers' opinions, the subculture it brings, and how endorsing it can potentially benefit you in this temporal life, you can easily embrace Warren now that he has Piper's stamp of approval.  I said on Twitter the other day, " 'Influential' has replaced 'faithful' as a standard in the modern church." I can't think of a better illustration of that than this whole ordeal. Blunt, I know, but think it through.

      For a different perspective on The Purpose Driven Life and this interview, see the following links and weigh the evidence.

      Rick Warren and the Purpose Driven Life:  A Discussion (White Horse Inn)



      Phil Johnson and Chris Rosebrough on the Interview:
      Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3


      Tim Challies' Take:  Here


      10 comments:

      J.T. said...

      Very good! The Biblical Gospel is the basis of all truth. When we follow personalities and popular preachers, and that takes precedence over the standard of God's word, we can be easily led astray by men who are fallible at best and outright anti-Christ deceivers at worst. If the Gospel is our guide, then any misstep from the truth is evident. As the old saying goes, you learn to spot deceptions by being intimately knowledgeable of what is real.

      One thing that I think is missed in these discussions is that Piper often looks at what Warren says and agrees. Let us not look at the words of his mouth only. We should also include the weight of his actions. A man's actions will tell you what he believes far more than his words. We posted a blog on that subject here: http://realtruthmatters.com/blog/index.php?title=john-piper-invites-rick-warren-to-speak-at-conference&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1

      Jon Cardwell said...

      Thanks for posting your thoughts on this, Lane. I guess I said enough when I wrote my four articles last year on the "Piper-Warren Kerfuffle." I didn't see what you wrote as harsh at all. It was candid, truthful, and uncompromising. Thank you, again, dear brother.

      Jon said...

      Good points Lane. It saddened me when I heard that Warren was invited to Piper's conference.

      It may sound arrogant of me, but where's Piper's discernment? Where did speaking the truth in love go? Every time I've seen Warren on TV it's a constant facepalm!

      As Todd Friel said on his radio program, we must now turn up our discernment radar on Piper.

      Rubén Sarrión said...

      There seems to be a strange insistence on behalf of John Piper to keep on associating with, drawing attention to and dilly-dallying with Rick Warren. What is Piper trying to prove? What is his goal? To all intensive purposes it looks like the more clout he receives from well meaning brethren, the closer he draws to Warren. John Piper has said a lot of good things in the past, but he shouldn’t be surprised if many who were casual or indeed close followers of his ministry practice secondary separation and stop listening, web linking and recommending his material, due to his extraordinary persistence in “hanging out” with this false teacher. Let us take heed and always allow the Word of God to be our guide, and not famous or renowned speakers or pastors.

      Rubén Sarrión

      DMG said...

      Thank you, Lane. I appreciate your scripturally sound comments very much at a time where "if possible" elect may be deceived. Thank you for your stance here. I'm in agreement with you. Praying for truth to be revealed in Jesus' name, amen.

      Denise said...

      I appreciate your thoughts Lane. I agree with just about everything you said. You weren't brash at all, so have no fear.

      Here's a couple of my own observations based on what you said:

      Definitions: here we go again.

      As you pointed out "ministry" is now labeled as "hanging out" and justified by Piper. Like "Christian hedonism", it seems like he is redefining words for his own purposes. I find this not only dishonest, but its quite a Post-Modern tactic. Btw, "hanging out" is very casual--is this how he sees DGC and preaching in general?

      Giving a platform to a false teacher is condemned by God. To do so is not not only endorse the false teacher, but is actually participating in his wicked acts. Fellowship with a known false teacher (which is what Piper really is doing--remember he constantly and defiantly defends Warren), goes to a personal level which is a step furthur than giving him the pulpit because it is built on like-mindedness and is there is personal investment and emotion invovled. Both fellowship and welcoming a false teacher to your pulpit are condemned by God. So why would Piper violate these commands of God with Warren?

      Scripture however states this:

      2Jo 1:9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

      I believe Piper has stepped into this catagory at the very least:

      Rom 16:17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.

      Do not be deceived: "Bad company ruins good morals." (1Co 15:33)

      People who violate these verses are enemies of God and we are in fact to avoid them, not justify their actions, not give excuses for them and certainly not continue endorsing their ministry. They are for all intents and purposes, guilty of treason against the King. There are far better, far more faithful teachers that God has given for us to listen to. Why go to that which is treacherous and carnal?

      Reformation said...

      Lane, glad you brought this forward on FB where the update--by you--coordinated with my musings last week. This musings will continue.

      There are many, many, many large questions here.

      My sense of the whole affair thus far: John thinks he is effecting, functionally speaking, episcopal oversight of Rick. Related to that, John views himself (??) as an archbishop of sorts, giving guidance to the "larger evangelical" world. Something is up, amiss, and--in the musings--something is "just not right."

      Thanks for raising the subject again.

      Philip

      Victoria said...

      Thanks Lane-very good points. I have benefited greatly from Piper in the past but am genuinely confused by his recent wholehearted approval of a man like Warren. My 2 favorite teaching "Johns" have been John MacArthur and John Piper. I would say that I can't keep Piper in MacArthur's class anymore.

      What does bother me very much is that John Piper will not listen to men like John MacArthur and Michael Horton on the issue of Warren. I am especially confused about this in connection with MacArthur who has so publicly dealt with Warren and the seeker sensitive gospel. I know that Piper and MacArthur have been good friends-and I can't understand why Piper would not take the warning of a seasoned fellow Pastor. He may well have reason to not listen to a band of bloggers and laypeople-but I find it very troubling that he will not consider the reasoned critique of his peers.

      Anonymous said...

      I think Piper has lost his edge in the area of pastoral practice. Normally he is very sharp theologically, but he contradicts himself pastorally. I once visited his church back in the late nineties. I had always really admired his superb exegetical work on Romans 9:11-24 The Justification of God which is based on his doctoral dissertation in Germany. And yet when I visited him, I got a chance to query him about a statement he made. In some ways God died for all men and in some ways he died for the elect. Now this is theology: the extent of the atonement. It was not about the idea involving the efficacy of the Cross work of Christ (and the medieval debate on the efficacy of Christ's shed blood) but it was about our understanding of For whom did Christ die. So my question to him was in what way did Christ die for all? He could not answer my question and I did not press him. I find him strangely ambivalent when he is playing the part of pastor - he tends to fudge his theology. This is just my opinion based on my study of the theology and the books that Piper has written. Frankly, I prefer Francis Turretin and before that Peter Martyr Vermigli and John Calvin.

      Anonymous said...

      I mean can't you guys tell that this guy is the modern version of John Wesley. He says one thing but believes in another. I dun think it's a matter of discernment. I think he is part of the Rick Warren flock. He just uses Reformed Theology as a mask for himself. I mean even the idea of new calvinism is heretical in nature. Why do we need new calvinism when the fact is that God never changes. He is just a typical evangelical mascarading as a reformed preacher. Even from his sermons, he always preaches about current affairs rather then the bible. I really do not understand why people cannot see through his mask.

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