An Honest and Heartfelt Assessment of Piper and Warren

Posted on March 31, 2010


 When I heard that John Piper was inviting Rick Warren to his Desiring God Conference 2010, I thought it had to be some sort of cruel April Fools Joke. There is no way, I thought, that a man like John Piper, a man who promotes the true Gospel, a man who I look up to as a model of discernment, and a very theologically and studious individual, how could he? No way, I thought to myself.

But the reports kept pouring in.

I have to question some of Piper’s decisions of late, with inviting the cussing Pastors and all, but I cannot under any circumstances accuse him of anything deceptive or devious regarding his decisions about bringing people in, so when he says that he wants to ask tough questions about his apparent pragmatism, I must take John Piper at his word. Here is the announcement, right from his own lips:

About 35 minutes in…. John Piper’s confirmation that Rick Warren will be at Desiring God:

Well I put my cards totally on the table here, um I have invited Rick Warren to come to the Desiring God National Conference this fall. And he’s coming. Now I will get a lot of criticism for this from my Reformed brothers, because… not because Rick Warren is openly non calvinistic or non reformed. I don’t think he wears his theological distinctives on his sleeve, but would be probably theologically more at home with where I am than where an arminian is. I believe that. What makes Warren a problem, and I’m gonna… well, when I wrote him, here’s what I said. And he’ll probably watch this video too. I said the conference is called “THINK: The life of the Mind and the Love of God.” I want you to come. You are the most well known pragmatist pastor in the world. I don’t think you are a pragmatist at root. Come and tell us why thinking Biblically matters to you in your amazingly pragmatic approach to ministry.”

“I want him to lay his cards on the table. I want him to tell us what makes him tick. Because he does come across in much of what he says and does as very results-oriented and pragmatic and not theologically driven, and yet, I met him for the first time last year at Ralph Winter’s funeral in Pasadena. And we sat beside each other on the platform for three hours. I like him because he sings. He sings badly. And anybody who’s willing to sing when they sing badly, I like em. And we were talking beforehand and he said to me ‘I’m reading all the works of Jonathan Edwards this year. I pick a great theologian every year and I read all of his collected works. I’m on volume 17 of the Yale series of Jonathan Edwards’ works.’”

“‘You’ve gotta be kidding me. Nothing you’ve ever said would incline me to think …’ (laughter)
“So these guys are gonna go interview him tomorrow I think so you can quote some of these things. I do think he’s deeply theological. He’s a brilliant man. He wouldn’t have the church he does or the Peace Plan, or all the influence he does and of course the greatest sentence in the Purpose Driven life is the first one isn’t it? It’s not about you, it’s about God. The Glory of God. So I don’t think he’s emergent. At root I think he is theological and doctrinal and sound. And what makes him tick? Actively and doing church? I intend to find out. So. I like him and I’m frustrated by some of his stuff.”

I have to question some of Piper’s decisions of late, but I cannot under any circumstances accuse him of anything deceptive or devious regarding his decisions about bringing people in, so when he says that he wants to ask tough questions about his apparent pragmatism, I must take John Piper at his word.

But I have to question it, simply because of what John Piper says later on the same tape:

“What are the boundaries of ecumenical involvement and interaction?…The principle that I work with is this: To the degree that hanging out with, or interacting with, or praying with, or walking with a person that holds a defective view of the Gospel would appear reasonable to endorse that defect- to that degree you shouldn’t do it.

So I have to question why is he joining together with the king of eccumenicals Rick Warren, and giving him your pulpit for a time during the conference, are you not in some measure endorsing him?
I think we are right to criticize, but only because we care and we love and support Dr. Piper, and his fruitful ministry. But I will criticize, and I believe rightly so, if Rick Warren is not seriously questioned about his pragmatic approach to the faith. Questions should include:

  • What is the Gospel? Be as complete as possible with your answer.
  • How do you feel now that health care has been passed, and thus abortion is supported by tax dollars, your inaugural prayer and thus tacit approval of the President?
  • Do you believe that Muslims really worship the same Jesus? (Praying in the name of Isa is praying to the name of the Muslim Jesus, who was not God, and did not die on the cross for our sins)?
  • Do you feel that God could not accomplish through Christians your PEACE plan, or do you just join hands with others because it is your vision and you don’t see any other human way possible of accomplishing it?
  • Do you really believe that practicing Catholics are Christians and worship the same Jesus?
  • Do you really believe that the way God intended to build the Church was through relevant entertainment, good music, media to get a bunch of people through the door, and then watering down the gospel to keep them there?
  • What is your view on church discipline? Are you really Rupert Murdoch’s pastor? Is he really a member of your church?
  • What do you really believe about homosexuality?
  • Why do you present Purpose and PEACE at conferences like Davos and Ted, and not the Biblical Gospel?

This is not an exhaustive list, but if the questions cover pragmatism, the true Gospel, and ecumenism, I think I will be happy and satisfied as to why he was invited. If they are not, I think that those who hold to the Doctrines of Grace will have every right to be upset, and critical of this decision.

Here’s praying that the works of Jonathan Edwards expose Pastor Warren to the doctrines of grace, and he repents of his man-centered pragmatic ways and turns to Jesus, and begins to use his HUGE pulpit to preach a Christ-centered Gospel. Only God can save anybody; and I pray that is Pastor Warren is not saved that he comes to a knowledge of the truth and turns to Christ.

By the way, Dr. Piper, I am praying for you on this sabbatical. I do love you, and your ministry, and I pray that you are refreshed and restored in only ways that God can do it.

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