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.]
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.
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).