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I Stand with John Piper

posted by Scot McKnight
Just in case you haven’t heard, there’s a big dustup right now over John Piper, author of the spiritual classic Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist
, and this dustup is coming from those who normally defend him. John Piper has invited Rick Warren to his Desiring God Conference, and he’s explained some of his reasons, not the least of which is to get Warren to lay on the table how he combines his “pragmatism” (which is not a positive word in this discussion) and his theology. I like the invitation; I like the plan; I’m interested to hear what Warren says; and I suspect many critics will be delighted. But I could be wrong on that. [A link leading to the appropriate sites a few paragraphs below.]
One thing I like about John Piper is that he’s willing to think the best of someone. He was with Rick Warren when Warren told Piper that he was reading through the works of Jonathan Edwards. That, I suppose, struck a vibrating chord with Piper and now we find Warren being invited. This is an example of Big Tent Evangelicalism. We need more to learn to cooperate on the basis of what unites us: The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys (History of Evangelicalism)
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What do you think of this controversy? What would you do if you were Piper or Warren?
I’ve enclosed some clips of how the Reformed crowd is responding to this invitation by Piper after the jump, but I want first to offer a bit of my perspective on this. It begins with this: I’m glad Piper invited Warren; his audience needs to hear this man personally; Warren needs to experience the rigorous theology of the Desiring God folks. But there’s some very disappointing dimensions to this dustup and I want to offer some perspective on it:


1. There’s a Reformed culture, and not all Reformed are like this, that evaluates everyone and everything by a particular Reformed framing of all things theological. Sometimes this works; but what doesn’t work often enough is the inability to see the call of the gospel and the blessing of God on those who are not Reformed.
2. Clearly Reformed theology has a way of framing not only theology (Calvinism) but also the gospel itself, and their theology enables them to frame the gospel in certain ways. There’s an indicator of this in one of the comments after the jump.
3. These two points leads to a third: it means those who can be judged rightly to preach the gospel are only those who frame the gospel in Reformed categories. Yes, I have full appreciation for their belief that their gospel is the biblical gospel. I’m not suggesting one bit that their gospel is simply a 16th Century gospel. I’m Protestant through and through; I think the Reformation was a movement of God; in that Reformation the focus on Scripture and grace and faith and personal redemption came to the fore. But the gospel and Reformed theology go hand in hand with these folks, and you’re going to have a hard time showing that anyone in the NT who is actually gospeling (see the Book of Acts) actually preaches that Reformed gospel when they are “gospeling.” 
4. Piper’s stance seems to have been that those invited to the Desiring God conference are Reformed or accepted by that crowd. Therefore, the invitation to invite Rick Warren surprised. Why? Because one would be surprised to discover that Warren’s Reformed; in fact, many would say the seeker-sensitive approach of Warren and other megachurches is bereft of a robust theology, let alone bereft of a Reformed theology and gospel, and that putting him on the platform minimizes the importance of fidelity to the gospel.
It’s John’s decsion; it’s Desiring God’s decision. If some don’t like it, they don’t have to attend; they can voice their protest; they can blog away; they can preach about it … and they are … which you can see after the jump.
All these comments are from Justin Taylor’s blog, Between Two Worlds.

How does one water down the Gospel? How can one water down something as simple as “We are all sinners, Christ died to take the punishment for our sins, if we make Christ the Lord of our life, we will not fall under condemnation for our sin and will have everlasting life.”

This is incredibly sad. I am broken hearted. Pastor Piper made a terrible choice. Terrible choice. Several have said it already. If you want to get to know the guy then call him, but don’t make him look like an gospel-centered pastor by having him speak at your conference. I am so disapointed. This is a very sad day in Evangelicalism. I was really hoping it was an April Fools Day joke. It’s not.

Just want to say I am proud of Piper for inviting a brother in Christ like Rick Warren, who has done tons of good around the world in Jesus’ name, to speak at his conference. I echo the words of Ed Stetzer when he tweeted yesterday:

“Proud of @johnpiper & wish other Calvinists would learn from him how to build bridges #GrowingWearyofAngryCalvinists”

I am going to write out a well thought out email to Piper, but also to Mohler and Sproul to plead with them to step down from speaking along side Warren. This mars the reputation of all the speakers, not just Piper. If Warren is not removed, and the conference happens, I hope one of the speakers has the boldness and faithfulness to openly rebuke Warren (not for what he claims to believe, but for what he has actually written in his books and preached from the pulpit).

The theological police-state mentality is a poor witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ. The culture of mistrust and insecurity betrays a glaring lack of confidence in the power of the gospel. Why are we so busy trying to vindicate ourselves by placing our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ under judgment? Judgment most certainly has been taken out of our hands by Jesus Christ, thank God! We were horrible judges and our incapacity was killing us-trying to vindicate ourselves by judging others. Let us follow the lead of Jesus and go hang out with the sinners (which as we know is pretty much every one of us!-including Piper, Warren, and the et al of the conference, and don’t forget N.T. Wright as God loves him too).



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Luke

posted April 5, 2010 at 1:07 am


Thanks for your thoughts on this Scot. I’m glad Piper invited him too. The neo-reformed crowd never ceases to amaze me. I honestly think the leaders of the crowd are who contribute to the spirit of the crowd. They only blurb one anothers’ books, only invite one another to speak at their conferences, constantly agree and with one another on everything, etc. I think it’s kind of funny. Because of that, it’s good to see Piper go against the grain a bit.
I have a lot of respect for Piper as a person and a pastor. I pray I can be half the man he is some day. I respect this decision of his as well. What I didn’t appreciate necessarily was his 12 minute response on his “Ask Pastor John” segment for why he invited Warren. Listen to that response, and you will see the primary things Piper believe are important in Christianity. This includes penal substitution, Calvinism, no women pastors, inerrancy, people are going to hell, and being anti-emergent church.
Really? These are that important? Is it any wonder that we see the same zeal about these things in the neo-reformed movement? These things are what they get excited about and think are “essential”? That’s unfortunate to me. If somebody asked me what I thought the most important aspects of Christianity were, and what a person would have to believe for them to speak at my conference, I would include none of the above. Perhaps this is where I part ways with my neo-reformed brothers and sisters. I just have a tough time seeing why those things are as important as they claim, so important one should break fellowship if they don’t subscribe to all of them.



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Josh Mueller

posted April 5, 2010 at 1:41 am


John Piper justified Warren’s invitation basically by saying he has more things going for him than against him. I thought it was a bit arrogant of him to suggest that if he had 30 minutes he definitely could convince Rick about limited atonement.
But at least it’s a step in the right direction and the reformed crowd would do well to step outside of the box of their perception of reformed theology as the only true infallible interpretation of the gospel.



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Joseph

posted April 5, 2010 at 5:30 am


I agree that it is Desiring God’s conference not ours, and John Piper has the freedom to invite whoever he likes, and equally people have the freedom to criticise his decision.
I greatly admire John Piper’s writings on Christian hedonism, but this is more than simply a question of whether Rick Warren could fit into the Reformed theology crowd. This is also a question of honesty and integrity before the watching world.
John Piper claims that Rick Warren has no faith in politics, and stays out of it. Yet Warren has hosted in Saddleback Church an unrepentant Rwandan war criminal and terrorist, presenting him instead as a heroic liberator. Warren sanitised Kagame, and in turn Piper is now sanitising Warren.
John Piper sounds reasonable defending Rick Warren, but when you analyse what Piper says and compare it with the evidence, there are suddenly lots of inconsistencies.
Whilst I’d like to see Piper go toe-to-toe with Warren in a debate, but the Desiring God 2010 conference is not just about this. Piper has invited Warren to teach others, and for this reason many people are understandably concerned.



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Andrew

posted April 5, 2010 at 5:46 am


Sir
I am one of those who would almost be classified as a Piper fan-boy. I have found his preaching and writing to be among the most helpful (a word that Piper uses a lot) and uplifting in showing a love for the bible and a love for God that comes through in his work.
I first came across Rick Warren when our church did the “purpose driven life”. At that time, I was probably notionally an Arminian (to stick a label on myself). I certainly didn’t hold to the five points of calvinism (or had heard of John Calvin, John Piper, the five points or Arminianism). What turned me off Rick Warren was that he used so many (15 apparently) translations in that book to proof text whatever point he was making. That felt like the sort of thing you would do if you were trying to do a con-job, and were playing fast and loose with the bible. I haven’t been convinced since then that his approach in that book wasn’t in line with his true beliefs.
It surprised me that Piper considered it necessary to justify the invitation, and even more so that Warren had to provide statements of his “reformed orthodoxy”. Whatever you make of Warren’s theology, it should have been evident in his preaching and writing and not needed clarification via personal correspondence.
You are right in saying that it is Piper’s party and he can invite who he likes. The invitation may be interpreted as a blanket approval of Warren’s ministry by a leader of the reformed movement, and that he effectively can be put on the “safe reading” list. In reading that, it does seem as though Piper has become to some extent a mini-pope in setting standards of orthodoxy and acceptability.
Thank you for putting your position. It was good to read a piece on the decision that was well put, even if I don’t agree wholeheartedly with it.
All the best.
Andrew



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JoanieD

posted April 5, 2010 at 7:10 am


http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,461685,00.html
I read the transcript of his interview by the Fox News guys. I haven’t read anything Warren has written, but I have read the various opinions that people have of him. Though I don’t think his methods are ones that I would always feel comfortable with, I think he DOES present the Gospel message to people. In that interview with the Fox News guys, it’s obvious that he is getting “into the spirit” in which the guys are talking, joking around and whatnot. So, like the Apostle Paul, he talks to them in ways he thinks will resonate with him. So though people at that Gospel Coalition website are blasting him for treating Jesus like a “product” by saying “try him for 60 days” I think Warren is just saying something in the spirit of the interview. Besides, someone may take him up on that offer and encounter the grace of God. Who knows.



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Tim Gombis

posted April 5, 2010 at 7:38 am


The Gospel Coalition folks are showing themselves to be just like every other group that forms a group. You identify ?insiders? and ?outsiders? and develop a range of implicitly approved ?insider? behavior and talk. Then you demonize ?outsiders? and label them as the problem and attribute to them all the problems with the wider group that you historically are part of.
When you form an exclusive group and you begin to tell yourself that you are the group that is faithful to ?the truth? and develop a subtle martyr complex, all of this is inevitable. You begin to think badly of others (?can anything good come out of Saddleback!??) and begin to approve of everything that the ?insiders? say.
All of this leads to cultivating a very small heart and a very small vision, since you no longer embrace ?others? (broader evangelicals, Christians from other traditions), taking your place alongside them, learning from them, dialoging as brothers and sisters.
Whereas Piper had been a seriously big-hearted person and had a forward-looking and exciting ministry in the 80?s and 90?s, it seemed that he had developed this same attitude and ministry style over the last decade or so. GOOD FOR HIM to sort of change course and embrace a brother in Christ!
By the way, lots of those folks who build huge ministries have lots more pragmatism and lots less theology than they realize!! There?s lots less Reformed theology among the neo-Calvinist crowd than they realize, and there?s lots more pragmatism than they want to acknowledge. Their ministry style largely resembles Marsden?s account of Whitfield?s pragmatism, as he describes it in his bio of Edwards (and that?s not a compliment!).



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tscott

posted April 5, 2010 at 7:51 am


Andrew(April 5 5:46AM)- well put.
What is the Protestant principle? Wikianswers- “Stated philosophically, it warns against absolutizing the relative. Stated theologically, it warns against idolatry. Human allegiance belongs to God”.
In many quarters rigid forms of ecclesiastical orthodoxy have ignored the original Protestant protest. They have, in principle, maintained the traditional authoritarian outlook. They have merely substituted for the authority of tradition some new absolute, a Catholicism of the word or theology. And they all act it out as mini-pope in some form or other.



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andyandbeyond

posted April 5, 2010 at 8:13 am


I stand with you Scot McKnight.
@Tim: You identify ?insiders? and ?outsiders”
I don’t think this is really the issue. The Apostles practiced this; there is some measure of which we should be doing this too.
@Joseph: Piper has invited Warren to teach others, and for this reason many people are understandably concerned.
I think the topic which Warren will be addressing (as Piper has made clear) concerning turning theology practical for discipleship needn’t worry those circles.
From time to time every institution needs a shake-up. Maybe this will help those who adhere to the reformed tradition work through some important issues finally. My thought is that coupling good bible preaching with practical ministry would be highly effective. Why are we so afraid of this? Most attacks on Warren have been issued by people who are hardly familiar with his work and/or those like on @Joseph’s site which are rather insignificant and amount to no real problem at all.



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Allan R. Bevere

posted April 5, 2010 at 8:20 am


Growing up in the evangelical tradition but spending the last thirty years as a “Mainline” Protestant, this conversation really looks different to me, I suppose. I have my agreements and disagreements with both Warren and Piper, but neither man hardly stands outside the Christian faith. And as a committed Wesleyan I can say that both men, from my vantage point anyway, stand within the Reformed tradition. I agree, Piper is to be commended for his invitation to Warren.
Of course, there are some Reformed evangelicals who would question my evangelical credentials simply because I am not Reformed. That’s their problem; they have to deal with it.



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Taylor George

posted April 5, 2010 at 8:34 am


Scot, You first affirm the reformation gospel but then say it isn’t used in the NT for gospeling. Are you helping Warren out here by explaining that penal substituionary atonement may come a few months after conversion?



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Scot McKnight

posted April 5, 2010 at 8:39 am


Taylor, thanks. I’m not entirely sure what you are asking because some things are brought in that I didn’t say in my post, but I think you are asking this: Scot, you say you are Protestant and that you affirm the Protestant gospel but now you are saying you’re sure the Reformed gospel is in the Acts.
If that is what you are asking, I’d put it this way: the Book of Acts has seven gospel sermons. None of them proceed through the lens of a soteriological scheme, but instead the soteriology emerges from a narrative declaration of what God is doing in Jesus Christ as Messiah and Lord. So, a sola scriptura approach to gospel will want to lean on these texts as how gospel is framed. (More of that in a later publication of mine.)



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Ed Gentry

posted April 5, 2010 at 8:41 am


The “dustup” makes me very sad. I’m not a huge fan of either Warren or Piper – though I have a good deal of respect for them both. But the controversy from the neo-reformed world reminds me of the church in Corinth – perhaps because I lectured on it two weeks ago.
One of the most sobering verses in entire the Bible for me is I Cor 3:16. “Do you not know that you are God?s temple and that God?s Spirit dwells in you?? If anyone destroys God?s temple, God will destroy that person. For God?s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”
God’s Temple in this context is not the individual but the entire church (in Corinth in this case). Destroying God’s temple in this context is clearly about causing divisions in the Church – especially over leaders (cf. 3:1-9). I stand on good exegetical ground when apply this text to those cause division in the larger Church.
If you destroy God’s temple by creating divisions – GOD WILL DESTROY YOU.
This scares me. I have my own difficulties, concerns and controversies with my local church as well as the larger Church. But I MUST work these through without creating division.
Since I happen to think that the neo-Reformed movement is in general actively resisting the very purposes of God in this age, I could see this kind of behavior as a sign of their demise. This may be true but it is not for me to judge and in any case God’s mercy and desire to redeem are much wider than I often give Him credit for.
Also there are many people in the neo-reformed movement that have a much deeper relationship with God than I do – TULIP Calvinists though the be. So perhaps God can redeems us all?



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Tim Gombis

posted April 5, 2010 at 8:50 am


I agree, Andy (#8), that the Apostles identified “insiders” and “outsiders,” but the lines were different. Insiders are those who make the claim that “Jesus is Lord,” and outsiders are those who deny the resurrection, that God sent Jesus and raised him from the dead, who refuse to love their sisters/brothers, and who continually pursue the destruction of the body (their own and the corporate gathering), among other practices.
My concern with the G.C. folks is that they identify fellow evangelicals as the “other” with whom one cannot fellowship, and they impute to them all the problems in culture and within evangelicalism. This is actually a very pragmatic move in order to shore up their own constituencies. Same move as was made in Corinth, which Paul addressed in 1 Cor. 1-2. His answer — “all teachers are God’s gifts to his church.”
Good to see Piper embodying 1 Cor. 1-2!!!!



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Tim Gombis

posted April 5, 2010 at 8:51 am


Sorry, Ed (#12). Just read your comment. I should have just said, “AMEN!!!” 1 Cor. has loads to say to contemporary evangelicals who divide, become “fans” of their favorite preachers, and then hold their identities over-against others.



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Taylor George

posted April 5, 2010 at 8:56 am


Okay Scot, so the framing of the gospel to new believers, say in Acts, is not always with the deep theology of say Romans 2-9? Thus justifying guys like Warren in their seeker sensitive ways.



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Travis Greene

posted April 5, 2010 at 9:15 am


Taylor @ 15,
Romans is written to a community of already-believers. Acts is written about how the early church preached the good news of Jesus to a world that was alternately resistant, indifferent, and curious. Which one do you think should be guiding us more in terms of evangelism?



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Dave Moore

posted April 5, 2010 at 9:20 am


The gospel is clearly articulated in I Cor. 15. No theological system is affixed to it. Both Arminians and Calvinists embrace the truth of I Cor. 15, so unity is possible and should be pursued.



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Taylor George

posted April 5, 2010 at 9:27 am


Travis, That’s obvious-Acts.



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Taylor George

posted April 5, 2010 at 9:29 am


As someone who has struggled in the faith over the last couple years it sure is nice to have preachers like Warren who can nurse you back to life again.



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Rob Willmann

posted April 5, 2010 at 9:38 am


I transcribed the video that John Piper made where he defends choosing Rick Warren for the DG2010 conference. It’s at:
http://www.vibist.com/2010/04/transcript-of-john-pipers-video-re-rick-warren/
I would be interested to know if you guys have read the transcript or listened to Piper’s video. Knowing HOW and WHY Piper made his decision is also an important point to consider in current dustup in the blogosphere.
Blessings!
Rob



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John W Frye

posted April 5, 2010 at 9:50 am


After watching the video of why Piper invited Warren, I now see that we have a new standard by which to judge and accept or reject a brother in Christ: “what makes him tick.” What a crock. This so Junior High. What makes Piper tick? Or what makes John Ortberg, R.C. Sproul, or Mark Driscoll or Tony Evans tick? What if the Holy Spirit makes Warren tick? What will the neo-Reformed groupies do then?



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Richard

posted April 5, 2010 at 9:56 am


It’s ironic that the early church was accused of being cannibalistic and the contemporary church often takes that to heart in cannibalizing those that don’t agree with every jot and tittle and their theological system.



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Corey

posted April 5, 2010 at 10:03 am


These are the fundamentalists I have always known: secondary separation, potshot theologies, and maddening circular logic. I think the new reformed resurgence has so many young, hip preachers and methods that they overshadowed the fact that the entire movement is based on focusing on one aspect of Christian theology above others. Focusing on the trees instead of the forest is the definition of fundamentalism. So, of course, such a movement is going to descend into silly fundamentalist debates and castigations.



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russ

posted April 5, 2010 at 10:11 am


Yesterday, I watched Piper’s video defending his invitation of Warren. This whole thing strikes my as remarkably petty and juvenile. Which is ironic. This ‘dustup’ says more about the neo-Reformed crowd than it does about Warren.



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Bill

posted April 5, 2010 at 10:15 am


I thought Piper was taking time off.
I think I can agree in principle with Piper’s idea. But I am not sure this is as innocent as it appears. I am the suspisious kind and I am wondering about Piper’s real agenda. What’s not being said? So I am guarded. He’s had all kinds of time to “think the best” of Warren. Why now and why this?
Which kind of gets me back the Piper taking time off. I thought he had agreed to step down and do nothing for awhile so he can refocus and perhaps regain some composure. Was there a time frame? I don’t recall. This is one heck of way to take a break.



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Jim Martin

posted April 5, 2010 at 10:22 am


Just read the post and also watched the video in which Piper explains his reasoning for his choice.
So much of this reflects an either/or thinking which is one reason we often fail to learn from one another. Either you see things from my theological vantage point or you have nothing to offer. Consequently, some of us do not take the opportunity to learn from other good people (like Rick Warren, or John Piper, or N.T. Wright) because that person differs with me on something that I believe to be important. As a result, we would rather surround ourselves with people who mirror our commitments than hear from others from whom we might learn.



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Scot McKnight

posted April 5, 2010 at 10:37 am


Ben,
1. I commented because I like what Piper has done here.
2. I’m not trying to convince the opponents of this decision of anything.
3. The post was on the GC site but I’ve changed that too Justin Taylor’s blog.



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T

posted April 5, 2010 at 10:38 am


The thoughts in Scot’s 3rd point (and the irony of the last sentence) have long fascinated me concerning those with strong reformed loyalties. And Scot, you only mention Acts, but it gets more severe if we include the gospels themselves along with Luke’s multiple suggestions in Acts that the apostles, including Paul, routinely announced the same “gospel” as we see in the gospels even after the resurrection.
On the one hand, the gospel of the reign of God through Christ has become much more welcome and familiar in evangelical circles in the last 10 years and is gaining ground daily, but on the other, I still see dust ups like these and they remind me of how old habits die hard. Integration work is still needed. I still hear, for instance, that I Cor. 15 or the Romans road are “the” gospel, as if all the other gospel articulations of the NT are just meaningless window dressing, no matter how numerous or thematic.
I hope that this dust up will cause many of the reasonable and respected folks in reformed camps take a step back and ask some larger questions about the movement and all the gospel articulations in the NT. Warren isn’t the issue. The narrowness and rigidity of the (neo)reformed movement re: the gospel (relative to the NT itself) is. Having their favorite version of the gospel is fine (even if never or rarely employed in NT sermons). It’s still biblically grounded. But they only discredit themselves and, more importantly, the larger body and name of Christ, when they act like their favorite articulation is “the” gospel when Jesus and the apostles repeatedly use others.



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Your Name

posted April 5, 2010 at 10:53 am


Scot-John Piper is right on in this! I am a huge fan of Piper, and I am a fan of Rick Warren as well. I have followed Rick’s ministry since he graduated from the same seminary I did–Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His heart for the lost is HUGE. His love of the word is just as big. His world impact at this point is close to being unparalleled, and as we all know, that generates both jealousy and the rage of Satan. (I don’t imagine Satan is especially fond of Rick putting EVERY dollar from the sales of The Purpose Driven Life back into ministry use!) I have seen my Southern Baptist brethren fight nobly for the inerrancy of Scripture in the past, and rightfully so. I now see pharisaism rampant among some reformed brethren and it is sad. Rick may confuse us at times by the way he seeks to be all things to all people, that he might by all means win some, but we need to remember what the essentials of the faith are and stop being ridiculous. I guarantee you that 90% of Rick’s critics, were they to spend a few days on Saddleback’s campus, would, if they were humble and honest, be asking God what it blocking them from having a more effective ministry.



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Clay Knick

posted April 5, 2010 at 10:54 am


If Wesley and Whitfield could love and respect one another, why can’t we? They had their theological differences, but cared for one another deeply. I’m for the big tent.



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Edward Fudge

posted April 5, 2010 at 11:04 am


Although they share far more than they sometimes admit (http://www.edwardfudge.com/written/article1.html),Calvinists and non-Calvinists have real and serious differences. Nevertheless, for the sake of the gospel and in the interest of a unified witness, surely disputants on both sides can soften their tones, lower their voices, credit with good faith those with whom they disagree, and sit down together as brothers and sisters around the table of the Lord.



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MatthewS

posted April 5, 2010 at 11:10 am


I like:
1) Looking for the positive in someone with whom you disagree. I tend to have a negative reaction to Piper in general. But could I sit down and do for him what he did for Warren? Could I defend his positive points with enthusiasm against people who may think less of me for it?
2) Letting someone speak for him/herself without assigning motives and reasoning for them. It’s a good pattern, inviting people to speak for themselves.
3) Standing up against your friends. In one of the Harry Potter stories, a kid receives an award because he stood against his friends. He is told that it takes courage to stand against an enemy but sometimes greater courage to oppose a friend.



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Scott Leonard

posted April 5, 2010 at 11:19 am


Scot-John Piper is right on in this! I am a huge fan of Piper, and I am a fan of Rick Warren as well. I have followed Rick’s ministry since he graduated from the same seminary I did–Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His heart for the lost is HUGE. His love of the word is just as big. His world impact at this point is close to being unparalleled, and as we all know, that generates both jealousy and the rage of Satan. (I don’t imagine Satan is especially fond of Rick putting EVERY dollar from the sales of The Purpose Driven Life back into ministry use!) I have seen my Southern Baptist brethren fight nobly for the inerrancy of Scripture in the past, and rightfully so. I now see pharisaism rampant among some reformed brethren and it is sad. Rick may confuse us at times by the way he seeks to be all things to all people, that he might by all means win some, but we need to remember what the essentials of the faith are and stop being ridiculous. I guarantee you that 90% of Rick’s critics, were they to spend a few days on Saddleback’s campus, would, if they were humble and honest, be asking God what it blocking them from having a more effective ministry.



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craig

posted April 5, 2010 at 11:36 am


As someone who comes out of the evangelical tradition this is just a reminder to me of what a small, petty world it can be, and why I no longer call it my tribe. I’m no big fan of either Piper’s neo-fundamentalism or Warren’s pragmatism but my reaction to this “brewing controversy” is to say, who cares? I can see it matters dearly to the sub-culture of people involved, but it really does seem petty to make a big deal about it.



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K. Rex Butts

posted April 5, 2010 at 11:44 am


Sadly, this does not sound unfamiliar to me…except that this time it is coming from Reformed circles and not Restoration circles. I am a preacher/evangelist within the Restoration tradition and too often I have witnessed the gospel be reduced to the Restoration framework of theology and subsequently resulting in a withdraw from any Christian who is not “restoration” and a protest against any seemingly shared platform with those who are not “restoration.” Fortunately, this sort of subtle yet rank secterianism is slowly disappearing among many Restorationist. Unfortunately, it seems to be having a revival among some other Christians.
Grace and peace,
Rex



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Daniel

posted April 5, 2010 at 11:51 am


Scot,
I think this blog post finally helped me clarify what I have been feeling intuitively for a long time. There has been a lot of “gospel-centered/driven” emphasis lately and much of this I have benefited from tremendously. For example, Keller is coming out with a series on the gospel for life and it looks fantastic! I appreciate much of what together for the gospel and the gospel coalition stands for. In fact, I probably am more of a Calvinist than I care to admit.
However, what I see happening really troubles me, and your comments helped me see what I have been wrestling with. The gospel has been redefined in terms of Reformed theology, and thus, anyone who disagrees with “the gospel” (i.e. reformed theology) is suspect at best and condemned at worst. Although I probably lean in a reformed direction, I’m not okay with limiting the glorious good news of the Messiah to a limited theological framework. The gospel is too big for such a small box. Thanks for your thoughts.



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Michelle

posted April 5, 2010 at 12:26 pm


After reading the Loser Letter posts this weekend, including atheist comments, and now reading this Christian squabble, I think Peter Hitchens may have right after all, The Arts may be the thing that turns a God-resistant heart back toward God.
If we are to be seen as fools it should be over the glory of a cross and the declaration of a Risen Lord, not this…not this.



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Brian

posted April 5, 2010 at 12:28 pm


I had a prof in seminary who, in a private email to me, said essentially that he stopped being a “Piper disciple” in large measure due to all the fights Piper started.
Isn’t it fair to say that the controversy surrounding Warren is a result of the fruit of Reformed theology and the culture it creates? In other words, hasn’t Piper made the bed he’s lying in right now?



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Aaron

posted April 5, 2010 at 1:04 pm


Brian “hasn’t Piper made the bed he’s lying in right now?” Absolutely!



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Robert

posted April 5, 2010 at 4:49 pm


The whole “dust up” just went a little further to show that some people have both way too much free time and are concerned far too much with others.
Didn’t make much sense to me. It’s Dr. Piper’s conference, you don’t like it do go and try to start your own. Why throw coals of fire on your enemies…particularly when your enemies don’t care about your coals.
You are the Church!
R.A.



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Ed

posted April 5, 2010 at 8:19 pm


Wow! People say the silliest things. One argues that you can’t put the gospel in a small box like reformed theology. I have news for you, your gospel is in a box too. And isn’t the size of the box that matters; it is the correlation of that box with what is revealed in Scripture.
For those who think this fighting is just wrong “no matter what!” Apparently you haven’t read the New Testament, the church fathers, controversies around the councils which led to the great creeds, the writings of the reformers, and post-reformers. From Paul, to John of Chrysostom, to Augustine, to Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Warfield, Hodge, Van Til, Sproul and MacArthur, truth has always required defending if for no other reason than Satan is a liar and the father of liars and he, along with his ministers are transformed in ministers of light. The self-defeating nature of this uncritical, post-modern thinking is frankly mind-numbing to me.



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Chris Ridgeway

posted April 5, 2010 at 10:09 pm


Ed/41-
Defending Truth.
If we capitalize Truth and personify it as Jesus Christ himself, the argument looks a bit different. I’m just not as convinced the Lion of Judah needs our meager defense.
Another way to look at history (even with a Reformed eye) is to see the consistently faithful sovereign God who has ensured his Word will stand, despite consistent disgraceful in-fighting of his Church.
I’m all for faithful discipleship and for seeking strong convictions on a robust gospel. But it’s not all “post-modern” to wonder if *both Zwingli and Luther might have had something right, despite their desperate inability to agree (or maybe even a few of the Anabaptists that Zwingli ordered to death?).
Is it at all fair to say that Jesus’ plea that “they may be one” sometimes feel shouted over?



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RJS

posted April 5, 2010 at 10:17 pm


Ed,
Everyone you list has fought on the side of God for things that turned out to be wrong. Paul persecuted the church, Peter was definitely wrong in his separation from Gentile Christians and we can go from there down the list. Augustine succumbed to human weakness in much of his rhetoric and was driven to move to indefensible extremes to make his point – and don’t get me started on Calvin and Luther. If you follow Piper or Mohler – then Calvin fought bitterly over a false doctrine in infant baptism.
I think there is a lesson here – and while we must stand for truth, we must also be very sure that we interact with love for each other and take a strong stand only for the bare essentials. With humility, we all are guaranteed to have many things wrong.



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Steve D

posted April 5, 2010 at 10:19 pm


“truth has always required defending if for no other reason than Satan is a liar and the father of liars and he, along with his ministers are transformed in ministers of light. The self-defeating nature of this uncritical, post-modern thinking is frankly mind-numbing to me.”
Ed
The simple fact is that all of the dust up is over Rick Warren being invited to speak at John Piper’s Desiring God Conference. People may not like Warren or some of his techniques. However, he is not apostate, heretical, or the Anti-Christ. He certainly isn’t Christopher Hitchens. So, let’s get some perspective. The world isn’t coming to an end and neither Piper nor Warren need to be bashed to the extent that they have.



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Scot McKnight

posted April 5, 2010 at 10:50 pm


Chris, I really like that comment. Thanks.



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fred

posted April 6, 2010 at 3:27 am


Ed (41) and Chris (42) – I think the lessons of history are that men of God don’t always agree. Luther, Calvin and Zwingli all had different ideas and couldn’t work together. Later, Wesley and Whitefield had an acrimonious split. Sixty years ago, Billy Graham left fundamentalism behind and some condemn him for it to this day. The problem we have to contend with is that the Bible (and therefore the gospel) can be interpreted in multiple ways. So deciding what is “revealed in Scripture” always requires a degree of personal subjectivity.



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Shona Laie

posted April 7, 2010 at 1:47 am


After reading the first dozen or so comments, one realises that once again, Christ is thrown under the bus and we end up dealing with ‘I like Piper/Warren’ vs ‘I don’t.’
The preservation of truth is a fight. Jesus alone, Who is Truth Himself, fought for the preservation of it and so did all true believers in both the OT and NT…by His Grace.
So the merging of ‘theologies’ eg Piper and Warren is biblically demonic…and those of us who believe in a Sovereign God recognises it for what it is.(1 king 22 and the repercussions of that allegiance).
It’s not up to Piper to bridge the gap. In fact, this whole scenario reminds me of the King Amaziah account in 2 Chron 25. A King who fought half-heartedly for the gospel and ended up being ensnared by the very gods of the enemy. Nothing is new under the sun.
May God have mercy and grant us grace to believe in His truth and may not lean on our own understanding…2Co 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you…
Christ Alone…not Piper nor Warren.
Shona.



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Rob Boss

posted April 24, 2010 at 10:30 am


Stephen Nichols posted his thoughts on the ecumenical force of Jonathan Edwards’s thought at http://www.jesociety.org/2010/04/20/edwards-brings-them-together-or-john-piper-rick-warren-and-the-powdered-wig/
Edwards has the ability to bring all sorts together.



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Pat

posted September 1, 2010 at 1:57 pm


I don’t like all this polarizing. Neoreformed=bad and rude, and others = innocent. Just read and listen to messages by the so called neo-reformed, whether it be Tim Keller, John Piper, etc..Even Piper said not to self-group yourself. Even John Piper’s son calls any reformed people to be gracious as a result of Scot McKight’s post.
Before you judge, get to know them, even if they’re not being gracious. Get to know Piper’s heart and I guarantee you’ll fall in love with him.
I pray that there be more unity and that we don’t blame each other as the cause of any disunity within evangelicalism because that brings more disunity.



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