01 June 2011

[another] Open Letter to John Piper

by Frank Turk

UPDATED: I have received a couple of e-mails about this letter, and they are making the case that Rick Warren did not mean "Edwards influenced PDL" when he answered the question posed to him on page 4 of the transcript. This is an interesting position. I have opened a poll at the top of the page here to canvass the readers of this blog. Please take the pol only after you have either read the transcript or watched the first 15 minutes of the video. Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

Dear Dr. Piper --

First of all, I am personally still grateful that you are back in public ministry. I am personally still edified by you, and am grateful for your spirit and your mission to make Christ known. I would in no way retract my original open letter to you as I believe that you have been mightily used by God for his work to make Christ known in the English-speaking world, and I credit you for it.

I am also on-record to say that you were right, back when Rick Warren spoke by video at the DG conference, to point out that we allegedly-reformed people have something to learn from Warren when it comes to being intentional about people and not just about doctrine. I wouldn't retract one word of that post either.


While I can't speak for my fellow bloggers here at PyroManiacs, I can say that I am probably the least-unimpressed with Pastor Warren. Without naming names or trying to line out who would say what about whom, it's enough to say that the consensus here is that Rick Warren harms the church in general. His books have done more of a dis-service for local churches than they have served to improve them, and his own methods and writings are frankly a bad example for others.

[Note to readers: after Phil returns to the US from his trip to Europe, he's going to do a full review of the interview with Chris Rosebrough on Fighting for the Faith]

Personally, I'm not a fan of Rick Warren. I can't get excited about his approach to Scripture and Ministry because I see all his writing and sermons as glib, simplistic, mediocre, and often muddled in his broad endorsements of people in interfaith settings -- something I know you disagree with. This was the major stunner from last year's conference: you see Pastor Warren as a great communicator -- which I think is startling because you are yourself a great communicator, and I would think you personally would know better than this. From my perspective, Pastor Warren has done what so many Southern Baptist pastors have done: he has created a local civic institution which has come into national prominence because so many people have come to it. And on that platform his shortcomings are simply magnified, so that the kinds of criticisms he receives are at least warranted because they have such a wide-reaching effect.

But at the same time, I also cannot bring myself to brand Rick Warren, as Chris Rosebrough would say, a rank heretic of a pelagian stripe [a view Phil has a lot of sympathy for]. I can't do it because I know where he comes from denominationally and ecclesiastically, and I simply can't write off the standard vocabulary of the average SBC pastor as inherently-pelagian. It may be populist in intention, and anti-intellectual in spirit, and simply and finally guided by the view that the number of people who agree with you and will follow you defines the success of your work, but I honestly don't see Rick Warren as anti-Christian. He's just mediocre, and popular, and most of his critics cannot evaluate him from that perspective because, frankly, they cannot muster a generous or balanced approach to discernment in general.

That, I think, is what guided your interview of Pastor Warren: a reaction against his most-unfair critics. As you see him as your friend, I credit you for wanting to defend a friend against injustice. But here's the thing: it seems to me that you thereby missed the point of all the fair criticism of Rick Warren and the PDC/PDL approach to local church life. In seeking to overcome the unfair criticism, you brushed over the concerns legitimate people have about your friend.

There were great opportunities to address those problems during this interview. For example, when pastor Warren boasted that he'd put any 500 members of Saddleback up against any 500 members of any other church with regard to doctrinal knowledge (cf. pg 36 of the transcript), this was a great opportunity to consider his consistency. If the members of his church are deeply educated in systematic doctrine, why does he preach without using the language of the Bible for the doctrines of the Bible -- let alone the common language of systematic theology (cf. pg 37)? Isn't this kind of latently anti-intellectual approach to doctrine and the Bible the most serious cause for concern about what Pastor Warren has advocated for 25 years?

To that charge, it's also interesting that he offered the claim that he has read the "complete sets of Jonathan Edwards ... 22 volumes, 800 pages each" (pg 4), and it had a significant influence on PDL. PDL was published in Nov 2002, and written presumably in the previous year -- and through that time, only volume 18 of the Yale "Works" series had been published. Perhaps he forgot how much he had read prior to writing that book; we are all getting older and are not the Grad students we once were.  But more to the point, if Edwards was such a profound influence on PDL, why is his name so conspicuously-absent from it? Others are plainly mentioned in the book: Brother Lawrence is mentioned 5 times; Dr. Hugh Moorehead is quoted 3 times; Mother Teresa is cited twice; Hudson Taylor is mentioned once; Billy Graham is mentioned once; George Bernard Shaw was mentioned; Lane Adams [an author with fewer readers than this blog can claim] is quoted; there are others. [Thx, Kindle Edition search, since the book lacks a subject index] Plainly, these influenced Pastor Warren's writing of this book. Why not mention Jonathan Edwards if he had, as Warren said in the video, greatly influenced PDL?

To point this out and to ask Pastor Warren how he can substantiate this statement when factually it seems, at best, unsupported by the text, would not have been a hard item to come up with. I had not read PDL in almost 10 years, and this bit of emendation to the text seemed obvious -- an interesting and challenging point to investigate; it's unfortunate you missed the opportunity.

The enduring legacy of PDL, though, is Warren's use of any and every translation of a passage to allegedly make a point. For example, in Chpt 8 of PDL, Pastor Warren cites Ps 147:11 as "The LORD is pleased only with those who worship him and trust his love." This theological point is certainly true enough, but this is the CEV translation of a passage which reads "the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love," (ESV) or "The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy," (KJV) -- a phrase which, in the context of the Psalm in question, as you know, is a contrast of God's will to do good over and against the normal hope of man that one's own strength or accomplishments will carry the day. This example is a rather-mild incident in PDL, but it is by no means the only one. For your reference, Tim Challies shares this concern, as does Mike Oppenheimer of "Let Us Reason" Ministries. Monergism.com points out that PDL is not the only source of data regarding Pastor Warren's misuse of Scripture.


This practice of cherry-picking the loosest and most-imprecise translations of passages to make a point in PDL is probably the most-pervasive criticism of the text, and you never arrive there. Of all the things you are from the pulpit and in your ministry, you are a man of God's word, and the misuse of Scripture is not something you usually lay hands on lightly. From my desk, it seems to me you can't possibly have missed this. Let's admit this: you didn't ignore the issue of hermeneutics. You opened up the question of how one uses Scripture  (pp. 5, 14, 34). You simply didn't pursue it. You allowed Pastor Warren to simply say that he doesn't believe in contradictions in the word of God, and let that be enough. It's a casual approach to the man and his philosophy, not a deep consideration.

And in the end, this is why I have written to you. I am your fan, and deeply indebted to you for your lifetime of faithful ministry. I'm not a quack blogger who is now emptying my library of anything you may have written or edited because you are endorsing a dubious partner in ministry. I'm a guy who has grown because of your engagement with the glory of God, and have felt the weight of the divine act of the incarnation and crucifixion because of your meditation on and exhortation of God's Grace. I am a better man, and a better father, and a better husband, because you have put the Gospel to me in serious and sober and joyful terms. I believe completely that the greatest cause in the world is joyfully rescuing people from hell, meeting their earthly needs, making them glad in God, and doing that with a kind and serious pleasure that makes CHRIST look like the treasure He is.

I believe in your faith, and in your good judgment. While I cannot and will not question the former, I ask you to reconsider the latter as you are now campaigning for a broader and deeper acceptance of Rick Warren among those in broader "reformed", "T4G", and "Gospel Coalition" circles. He is, after all, a pastor and not merely a blogger. He's a shepherd and not merely a popular author. He's sending missionaries and not merely encouraging middle-class values. And as you seek to leverage the good name and good faith relationships you have among your partners in the groups listed above, remember that part of fellowship among brothers is honoring the concerns and objections your fellow workmen have expressed throughout the years about Rick Warren.  He only has something to gain from their acceptance -- while they clearly would tell you there is something to lose by uncritically allowing him in as a teacher and leader.

In closing, I have a great empathy for your efforts to seek to be inclusive for the sake of Christ toward those who are in Christ but not in our basic theological camp. As I close in on a decade of internet punditry as a blogger and advocate for the Christian faith, I am deeply sensitive to the dark and unrestrained excesses of those who count themselves as defenders of the faith but are unaccountable for their strident pronouncements. As someone who is often lumped in with those sort, I think it's important to say plainly that I don't think it's an easy or uncomplicated thing to write you, a seasoned pastor, a critical open letter.  I think you are right that some have treated Rick Warren with injustice -- but he is not hardly the man your interview with him paints him to be. He's not hardly someone deeply concerned with a robust declaration of the Gospel and its consequences. His weekly preaching does not reflect this, and his books do not reflect this. After 40 years of demonstrating pastoral care for real people and careful, weekly expository preaching, you must be able to see the deficiencies in what he has done, is doing, and will continue to do if accepted without asking the serious questions his writing and actions create.

Please: for the sake of your own continued credibility, and for the sake of the partnerships in the Gospel which you have forged with other men of good faith, reconsider the broad and uncritical endorsement you are giving to Rick Warren. Underscore your differences with him clearly and cogently, and ask him to respond seriously for the sake of his commitment to your integrity and his own.

For that reason, I leave you with a blessing. As the apostle charged, it is always our purpose to give a reason for the hope that is in us -- to put to shame those who would revile us for Christ's sake -- with gentleness and reverence. As you have spent your adult life doing this, I ask God our Father, through the Holy Spirit, and in Christ's name, to bless you for it now with these things: love for your friend beyond mere bonhomie; courage to speak prophetically and evangelistically; and humility to see the limits of your own approach to what you believe is addressing injustice.

My thanks for your time.








198 comments:

DJP said...

Another stellar letter. Thanks, Frank.

I may say more later, but for now let me join you in affirming my own appreciation for and personal indebtedness to John Piper. Those factors don't dull the concern I feel for Piper's attempt here to help Warren; they heighten that concern. I think the interview neither helps Warren personally, nor does it help his perception in the eyes of those who are concerned about his (to be charitable) many missteps.

Stephen said...

"Of all the things you are from the pulpit and in your ministry, you are a man of God's word, and the misuse of Scripture is not something you usually lay hands on lightly. From my desk, it seems to me you can't possibly have missed this."


This was astounding. Piper lobbed all these easy questions and I was sure John had thought some explanation for why Rick so loosely uses Scripture and was going to say something, but he didn't even go there. As others have said, this seems to be one of the fundamental issues that affects the health of a church (and not the exact dot on the theological spectrum in which you lay), and perhaps our most influential leader is not called out.

Tom said...

"If the members of his church are deeply educated in systematic doctrine, why does he preach without using the language of the Bible for the doctrines of the Bible -- let alone the common language of systematic theology (cf. pg 37)?"

Just a quick comment here... I know Alistair Begg has commented in the past that his people know systematic theology and reformed soteriology but wouldn't necessarily know all the theological terminology to describe their beliefs.

I'm not sure our purpose should be to make our people walking theological dictionaries who are out in the lobby discussing supra, sub, and infra lapsarianism.

DJP said...

Tom, if you listen to the interview: we're not talking about terms like aseity and infralapsarianism; we're talking about justification and sanctification.

Tom said...

Sensei,

I hear what you and Frank are saying and agree with you to some extent. However, is it possible for us to teach our people (and for them to learn) the biblical teachings regarding sanctification and justification without them having to know the terms sanctification and justification as well as memorize the ordo salutis?

Tom Chantry said...

...is it possible for us to teach our people (and for them to learn) the biblical teachings regarding sanctification and justification without them having to know the terms sanctification and justification...

Possible, maybe. But advisable? Certainly not. At some point it is necessary for every Christian to learn at least some theology, and to learn it in terms which will enable him to discern truth and error in the teachings of others. I know for a fact that one quarter of my church members will leave in the next five years. It is the world in which we live; jobs will change, families will move. The question is, are they prepared to comprehend teaching and to discern truth from error when they leave my congregation? Will they have the necessary language - that which is used by the church at large - or will they be dependent on my "Dick and Jane" theological language?

I suspect that the whole argument is specious. Those who don't know the words probably don't know the truths as well as their pastor thinks they do. Words are just too powerful.

Tom Chantry said...

I would add that the whole process of changing the theological language of the historical church in order to be more accessible is a terribly destructive tendency. It will necessarily lead to confusion and downgrade. Doctrinal formulations are in place because they nail down certain biblical teachings and make it impossible for inventive teachers to lead the flock astray. Whenever someone wants to teach the same doctrine using new and better language, beware. There had better be a very good reason for it.

Zack Skrip said...

@Tom,

But Justification, Sanctification, and Propitiation for that matter, are biblical terms that should be dealt with as the pastor preaches from those texts. Yeah, they're big words, and yeah, they're weird sounding to the modern ear. But at some point you have to deal with the text of Scripture unless you want to leave your people milk-fed babes who can be blown around by every wind of doctrine.

Zack

Trevor said...

Just a quick thought re: teaching theological terms explicitly and such - if the Bible uses terms such as justification (Rom. 4:25; 5:16,18) and sanctification (Rom 6; 1 Th. 4:3; 1 Pt. 1:2) literally and explicitly, then why wouldn't a pastor explain said terms? A little off topic, but that's my $.02.

Frank - I really appreciate the letter. I think I am in the same boat as you on this Internet/Reformed/Piper/Warren/Discerning/Blogosphere river we internet folk so often wade in.

Tom said...

Chantry and Zack,

Thanks for the interaction. I agree that justification, propitiation, and sanctification are important. I'm not convinced that using synonyms or simplier terms to describe the truths of these doctrines leads to downgrade or milk-fed babes though.

That being said, I don't want to use this minor point to sidetrack the discussion here from the main purpose of Frank's open letter.

Tom

Frank Turk said...

From my desk:

I wonder if anyone who was learning to be a Football player (as opposed to Futball) would learn the difference between "encroachment" and "off sides", or if he'd want to know the difference between the quarterback and the halfback. Would it be enough that he knew that the defense players can't make contact with the offensive line prior to the snap (oh wait - "snap" is a technical term), and that the offense can't cross the line of scrimmage (oh shoot - another tech term) prior to snapping the ball?

Could that person ever be a full-time player or referee if that's how he learned and thought about the game?

Listen: when we require more of little league athletes than we do of converts to Christianity, we are going the wrong way.

I am all for finding a common vocabulary for speaking to lost people. Using the words in the Bible to preach to members of a church is not the same thing, and those who say it is (Warren, Steven Furtick, etc.) are bluffing badly.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Dr. Piper, I too have been much edified by you and your books and preaching. But even more by your example. You do "walk the walk" as they say, and your passion for Jesus and seeing people safely in His arms is manifest. That's why I would like to say, in the off chance you get to the comments section, that your video interview with Rick Warren was a superb example of what the church ought to look like, how we should first seek to understand and then be understood. Respectful and loving, as two Christian leaders ought to be.

You and Rick Warren have done massive good for the cause of Christ. In fact, your book Don't Waste Your LIfe and Warren's The Purpose Driven Life have helped literally millions walk more closely with the Savior. I am one of them, and thank you both.

Robert said...

We are reading through 1 Peter with our children, ages 7 and 9. We have explained sanctification to them (and will continue to do so) and I am planning on covering justification with them this week (because I think that is something they need to dwell on for a long time). And because these terms and the concepts behind them are still important for me to spend time meditating upon, I don't see how a seasoned pastor could not take the time to cover them with his flock. They are in the Bible, after all.

I have books by Piper and I have heard him speak many times. I have no doubt about his personal commitment to the Lord and the work he has done. However, I am saddened by how much he has opened his arms to Warren...I think it actually does harm to the church for him to do so. I certainly hope that he takes your criticism to heart and sees the love you are showing for him.

word verification: untan

DJP said...

Chantry, Zack and others have pretty well anticipated my answer to your question, Tom, and done better than I'd've done. My focus is directly-Biblical words.

I think you've given me a topic for tomorrow's post! Thanks! Win!!

Frank Turk said...

Hi Johnny --

Thanks for your opinion. It relates to the subject of this post how?

Frank Turk said...

Trevor:

It's a trap.

Trevor said...

That's no exegetical preaching...

(Sorry, I couldn't resist. It was almost obligatory.)

Frank Turk said...

OK -- last comment from me until after lunch.

I have gotten a couple of "huh?" tweets and e-mails already because people don;t understand what this open letter is about. I think those people didn't read the whole letter, but I'm in a generous mood.

There are, in my opinion, fair and unfair criticisms of Warren -- and the fair criticisms are a cause for real concern about whether he should be included as a useful teacher. That is: he is muddled enough that it's way more likely his disciples are not really very sound disciples. They may be Christians, he may be a Christian, but that doesn't make them great examples or qualified to be teachers.

The purpose of Dr. Piper's video was plainly to sanitize this matter. It addresses, in my view, only the -unfair- criticisms of Piper and not the -fair-and-obvious- criticism of Warren which everyone from Challies to my son (but, apparently, not Johnny Dialectic) can come up with. By doing that, Dr. Piper does his own credibility a disservice. By ignoring Warren's own glaring embellishments in this video, Dr. Piper doesn't do his own effort to help the man in the "reformed" circles he's speaking to.

My point is simple: if Dr. Piper wants to help Rick Warren, he should not try to undo the work of absurdist critics. He should deal with the plain and clear matters which, frankly, he himself would object to if they were put in the terms Warren commonly uses. And glossing over the laughable assertion that Jonathan Edwards was a major influence on PDL -- in fact, propting Warren to say such a thing -- doesn't do this interview any favors either.

That's it. Carry on.

Victoria said...

I really appreciate the respectful way you addressed your very weighty concerns to John Piper. I hope he reads this and can really hear what you are saying. I have greatly benefited from his ministry-but have the concerns that you have so eloquently addressed here.
Thank you.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Frank, I'm a bit flummoxed that you don't see a relation to the subject matter of your post in my comment. So, for starters, here are two points of connection:

Rick Warren harms the church in general.

Please: for the sake of your own continued credibility, and for the sake of the partnerships in the Gospel which you have forged with other men of good faith, reconsider the broad and uncritical endorsement you are giving to Rick Warren.

My earlier comment denies the former and seeks to urge Dr. Piper to ignore the latter.

Tony said...

I am on the side of Chris Rosebrough...and agree with him that Rick Warren is a heretic. I sense a lot of wolf under that sheep's clothing.
Love John Piper though.

DJP said...

Ah, so it's contentless gainsaying cluttering up the meta for a contentful post. Now we get it.

Scott Shaffer said...

Hmm, after watching the interview, I was expecting and hoping for an open letter to Rick Warren.

Johnny Dialectic said...

No, it's an attempt to disagree agreeably, which apparently does not work for some. It gave an actual assessment of the video that differed from the one presented here, and offered a counter opinion based upon a different view of the evidence.

And for that one gets a snide dismissal without substance. Talk about John Cleese moment.

jigawatt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DJP said...

Irony: you complaining that your contentless "is not" was dismissed without content.

Back to Frank's contentful post, and folks who want to interact with it.

Chris Nelson said...

Warren is a wolf who allows nonchristians prominent teaching roles for his flock. Warren's theology is marketing and he see's Piper and his reformed friends as another market. This was warned about when Piper decided to minister/join with Warren a year ago and now Piper's book is below Rob Bell's and Donald Millers in the resource section of Saddleback. It seems, many respected authors drool at and crave Warren's endorsement of their new drivel. It is amazing to watch the apostasy spread at such a high speed. Please repent Dr. Piper.

ZSB said...

Great article. Weak, floundering preaching, clumsy writing, and translation-shopping truly are the sins of Rick Warren. They are not enough to place him outside the walls of the Church, nor are they the marks of an intentionally deceptive wolf-in-sheeps-clothing. Nor are they blacker than my own sins.

Johnny Dialectic said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
donsands said...

"He's just mediocre, and popular.."

Yep.

Rick is a swell kind of a guy, like many men. He's closer to nominal Christianity then genuine. Yet, I too consider him under the grace of God.

I hope Pastor Piper reads this fine letter, and thinks upon your well chosen words and thoughts.

ZSB said...

BTW, if Dr. Piper reads this and confronts Rick Warren Paul and Cephas style, and Warren--prompted by the Holy Spirit--turns over a new leaf in his preaching, using his position of power and popularity, and the fact that he has the ear of presidents and captains of industry, to BOLDLY preach the Gospel from one reliable translation, that would be INCREDIBLE. My first instinct is to roll my eyes and say, "yeah, that'll happen." But Paul was actually PERSECUTING the church at one point. Seems well within the reach of God's strong arm.

And that's why these letters are not just grandstanding on Turk's part or mere entertainment for Evangelicals. This is how it's supposed to work in the church, I would argue.

Trevor said...

Thanks for the breath of fresh air ZSB. It sure helped clear out some of the stuff that sounds like my word verification: "nonsc".

Robert said...

ZSB,

I don't put much stock into God choosing more influential types so that it is a greater work in converting lost souls. His Word and the Gospel included in it are the greatness and the power behind any of the greatest preachers. This testimony is the manifest evidence of this fact:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J471VobaZks

Why don't we hear/see more of this from Rick warren?

Brian Jonson said...

Frank -
I was eagerly awaiting this response! Thanks for doing it. Piper's interview was a head scratcher.

Piper didn't ask Warren why his claim to believe in God's sovereignty over evil is completely contradicted by his statements on various talk shows. Piper didn't ask Warren why he compared differences between Christianity and Islam to differences in musical style. (Google his talk to a Muslim convention a couple of years back).

I am just so frustrated...

Thank you for an excellent article.

Jesse said...

Having read all of Piper's books, it seems to me that he can't conceive of someone seeing the doctrines of grace and the supremacy of God, and not having their world turned upside down--much less simply using them as a convenient tool. Listening to this interview, it strikes me that Piper really thinks that what matters is if Warren confesses to God's sovereignty, election, etc.
But this has been a long time coming. It is clear that if a person can pay lip service to soteriology, then they get a pass on ecclesiology, sanctification, and homiletics. I mean, Warren's failures may be more obvious (per Frank's letter), but are they any more severe than others whom Piper has friended ostensibly because they believe in election?

Johnny Dialectic said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Morris Brooks said...

The issue with Warren, as we have seen evidenced in his books and interviews, is that he is an "every man." He is whatever he needs to me with whatever group he is with, and, seemingly, without any sense of the contradictions. A chameleon at best, a charlatan at worst. He makes the teflon Don, look sticky by comparison.

I am afraid he has mesmerized Piper, just like he has so many others, and it is easier to be mesmerized when you feel sorry for that person. One of John Piper's great strengths is his passion and emotion; but our greatest strengths can also become our greatest weaknesses, and the source of our greates blindspots if we are not vigilant regarding our own souls. That is what I think has happened with Piper regarding Rick Warren.

Frank Turk said...

Johnny --

A fair-enough response.

You're saying that the links I provided from Challies and Monergism.com (which I provided as -moderate- voices regarding the controversy) are not evidence of Warren harming the church through a shoddy example of pastoral work?

If you are not saying that, how do you receive the examples from Mongerism.com and Challies?

Frank Turk said...

Scott Schafer --

After watching that video, do you think Rick Warren would be willing to come clean on his fibbing and his shape-changing? Rick Warren is really not my concern as I think he's probably not going to change (for the better). John Piper accepting him uncritically and without regard to his peers and his friends concerns me.

I trust John Piper's conscience. Hence: this letter.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Frank, though disagreeing with the general thrust of your post, I would like to commend you for comments such as this:

I am deeply sensitive to the dark and unrestrained excesses of those who count themselves as defenders of the faith but are unaccountable for their strident pronouncements.

I appreciate your striving for a balanced and respectful disagreement with Piper.

Crappel said...

I think Dr. Piper's whole reasoning for this is summed up in his exhortation at the end :

"...You are the most publicly
influential pastor in the world perhaps....That’s an incredible trust. That’s an incredibly sacred trust and I want to end with an
exhortation and a prayer for those who are watching this."

I think that that has more to do with his friendship with, as well as semi-endorsement of, Dr. Warren, than anything else. He believes that a lot is at stake, namely, RW's followers, so if he (JP) can influence him to "clean up his act", then maybe RW can wield that influence in a more biblical way going forward.

Granted, I believe he gave him a pass on some things, which may or may not have been a mistake. But I'd be willing to bet that he doesn't give him that pass when they speak privately.

davidshlee said...

Great post sir. I wonder what would happen if Rob Bell interviewed Rick Warren in front of John Piper....

Ken said...

Dan wrote on a Tweet -

"If RPB-ers also ignore Frank Turk's fine open letter to Piper, it will be a real pity"

What/Who are RPB ?

Is it Reformed ? bloggers?
Reformed ? baptists?
Rick-Piper-Bloggers?

Frank,
I thought that your letter was the best response I have seen yet. I wish I could put it in those words.

Piper admitted a while back that he did not take the time to research the people of the Word of Faith movement/Prosperity heresies, so he couldn't name names or know exactly what they say. He just said he knows the whole movement/theology is wrong.

Maybe he has never looked into RWs other statements and writings and the Chameleon like ways that Warren has tailored his answers to different audiences, just as he doesn't look into the heretic statements made by Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, etc.

But, Piper did a good job in actually being a little more fair Warren and to the PDL book. the biggest problem I have always heard is what it does not say, not what it does say. It does not have enough explanation about justification, is one of the main problems I have read. Warren said he wrote it assuming people who read it would be believers.

Piper seemed to feed Warren too much of the answers; but I love Piper's grace and seeking to be more fair to RW; but RW still has a lot of explaining to do. The different answers he gave to media on the Proposition 8 thing in California were very, very serious and looks really bad on Rick Warren, IMO.

It is hard to believe that RW read all of Jonathan Edwards with understanding and comprehension. It is hard stuff to read! You made a good point about that some volume was not published yet at the time of PDL.

I am still on page 10 of Edwards "The Freedom of the Will" and I started it years ago. Put it down because I then read Piper and Sproul to try to understand him.

It is hard to understand why Piper did not ask him to explain more how sound doctrine and Reformed theology connects to the pragmatic whatever works kind of method driven philosophy.

DJP said...

David! I had the same thought, then forgot to voice it. Actually, you made the point better.

I'd also like to read Warren interviewed WITHOUT Piper there, talking to (say) Pagitt, Wallis, Maclaren, etc.

DJP said...

RPB.

Brian Jonson said...

I knew this whole Piper/Warren "BFF" relationship was on shaky foundations when Piper gushed over the fact that Warren claims to have read all of Edwards' works.

Does anyone really believe that?

As Frank pointed out, it wasn't even possible prior to the publishing date of PDL. Even if it were, reading Edwards is not a casual event. He is almost as much a logician as theologian. No one can skim Edwards. Reading him is a labor.

I am not afraid to say it - I think Warren is lying.

But, he had Piper the moment he made the claim.

This is so difficult because Piper has helped me (and thousands of others) so much with his solid theology and wonderful preaching.

thehasbeenhymn said...

Fantastic response. It would be nice if Rick Warren would let someone like Chris Rosebrough interview him. You know that the hard questions would be asked and RW would be poked and prodded and asked to give an account not just for his book, but for the things he has said publicly [on hannity and colmes, telling people to "just try jesus for 30 days"] or actually getting into his face about how he uses the bible

I think Frank hit the nail on the head when he talked about the SANITIZATION of Rick Warren by John Piper. While I love John Piper, I am extremely disappointing in him.

thehasbeenhymn said...

Brian, I actually think that he has. What people don't seem to understand is how smart Rick Warren is. He is a brilliant man, intellectually speaking, and is a ferocious reader. I don't doubt for a minute that he has read the collection.

Daniel said...

It is my sincere hope, though not at all my expectation, that in the coming months we will see (and rejoice over) the undeniable fruit of this seemingly new, though presently unevidenced, reformed persuasion in Mr. Warren.

BrettR said...

Most reformed type blog enthusiasts would not have liked the interview unless Dr. Piper went in, clothes-lined Pastor Warren, ripped off his pants and showed to the world that Rick wears Pelagian underwear.

What I like about your open letter is that you knew that wasn't going to happen and that it was not what you expected. I think you phrased it well that while you admire Dr. Piper, you would have liked him to at least poke him with a sharp stick.

What I think is missing in the letter is questioning whether he should have interviewed him like this on Warren's home turf. It seems to me that this affected the interview as much as anything; I don't think Dr. Piper wanted to take his theological dog into Rick's front yard and the dog take a dump in the flower bed.

In the end, we are saddened that we are now left with having to give Dr. Piper the benefit of the doubt about giving Pastor Warren the benefit of the doubt when we don't understand why this benefits anybody.

Michelle said...

Thank you for writing this letter. This whole issue has been a source of confusion to me because of the concerns I have about Rick Warren, and the respect I have for John Piper. It's a great encouragement to me to see the heart of the issue articulated, and articulated so well. I hope John Piper reads it, and responds.

Frank Turk said...

Brian:

Yeah, I think that's not the best way to frame this up.

Here's what I think:

[1] I think it's impossible for Piper to read anything except through the lens of his deep appreciation of Edwards. That's not a knock, btw: it's the item that informs his whole ministry.

[2] I think it is -easy- to see some echoes of Edwards in PDL. I'm sorry, but while PDL may be a wholly-populist book, it is a contemporary take on the expansiveness of God's influence over all things. It's not hardly as weighty as Edwards, but it does try to put God first before one tries to size up one's own purpose.

[3] Piper clearly felt those echoes of Edwards.

[4] He wanted his friend to say, "Oh yeah: Edwards." And he set Warren up to say, "Oh yeah: 22 volumes of Edwards."

I think blaming Warren because of Piper's filters is probably not going to improve the dialog or the question of what one should do with this interview. I think calling Rick Warren a "liar" is just too much -- he's like the guy in your office who always has a good story: he's not recounting history but building up good feelings. he means nothing more or less by it.

Scott Shaffer said...

Frank,

I don't know how either will respond. How have others responded to your open letters?

My point is simply that Warren continues to be a larger concern for the church; hence, he is in greater need of rebuke and correction.

Don't misunderstand me, I don't disagree with the content of your post. Like I originally said, after watching the interview I hoped for an open letter to Warren.

D. C. said...

Ever give any consideration of doing your own sit-down interview with Rick Warren? I think that would be an interesting exchange.

DJP said...

Brett, I think that what's missing from your assessment is this Piper element of "Pff! what's with all the haters?! I don't see anything here!" Well, the "haters" include some pretty substantial non-kneejerkers, and it sounds as if Piper just shrugged them off, read one book, and pronounced that it all looked fine to him. Then he told Warren, "You look fine to me," and Warren replied "Yep! Me too!" — and that was that.


Piper would have benefited (and Warren might have benefited) if Piper'd gotten Phil or someone on the phone and even said, "I don't see what the big noise about Warren is. Enlighten me."

Frank Turk said...

I am pretty sure it's not a sharp stick to ask the question, "If Edwards was such an influence on PDL, why is his name so absent?"

Likewise, I am sure it's not a sharp stick to ask, "Translation is a slippery-enough subject and tool; why don't you just find a translation that is sufficiently clear and stick to it?"

Those are soft-ball questions. Those are easy to answer, and one would have to labor to avoid the real heart of those questions.

I think we can call Warren a mediocre pastor with a big stage, and Piper our mentor and teacher who was not as careful as he usually is, and not have to let the entire thing slide into some kind of agnosticism. Saying that we should, or that I did, is simply an over-reaction.

Frank Turk said...

DC:

I would love the opportunity. It'll never happen. I don't swim in his ocean. I'm a different fish.

DJP said...

Frank: Rats! We should have offered to meet him at American Girl.

We really missed a bet, there.

/c:

Frank Turk said...

Talk about context ...

BrettR said...

DJP said:

"Piper would have benefited (and Warren might have benefited) if Piper'd gotten Phil or someone on the phone and even said, "I don't see what the big noise about Warren is. Enlighten me."

Well said, and how sad this interview is in light of all the good council that is out there.

twistedcrownofthorns.com said...

Ha! thanks for taking a dig at us littluns with that swipe:"I'm not a quack blogger who is now emptying my library of anything you may have written or edited because you are endorsing a dubious partner in ministry." Lol. I do love Piper as an older brother but since his return from sabbatical leave I struggle to not show concern over his liasons. I am still praying that the John Piper who urged me not to waste my life would come back from leave.

Frank Turk said...

Unless you're emptying your library of Piper's works because of his association with Warren, that swipe is not at you.

If you are doing such a thing, how do you qualify it as a swipe -- because I called these people "quacks"? They are quacks.

Next.

ZSB said...

Turk,
What time zone are you in??? You ate lunch an hour ago? :D

Frank Turk said...

I'm eating lunch now.

Brian Jonson said...

Frank:

Fair enough - I have some skin in this game. Warren's "programs" nearly ruined (depending on your perspective) a church I was a part of for many years. I am inclined to lean easily to the overly-critical side when Warren is discussed.

Thanks for the reply - and I agree with what you said to me.

Keep on the good work.

Jugulum said...

Johnny D,

I think your disagreement with Frank's letter would be more contentful if it did more than praise the style of the interview (which Frank didn't criticize), say that you've been helped by Piper and PDL, assert that millions other have been helped too.

That doesn't address Frank's concerns--it really is just an "is not", like DJP said.

If you want to address the issues--offer reasons why Frank is wrong about Warren's impact--why not interact with the specific concerns he raised about aspects of Warren's teaching? Either explain how Frank wrongly depicted those aspects, or explain how they aren't actually problems. (Tom's comment about terminology is an example of the latter.)

In other words, make an argument. Without it, no one can be edified by your comments even if your conclusions are right--you're justing voicing support, not providing insight.

Jugulum said...

Johnny,

P.S. I'm not sure it's true that your assessment of the video actually "differed from the one presented here", as you said.

Unless I'm misunderstanding Frank, he didn't fault the video as a poor example of "how we should first seek to understand and then be understood", or say that it wasn't "respectful and loving", and he didn't say it isn't important to do both of those things. He said that Piper failed to probe the most important & fair criticisms that people have raised against Warren. (Do you actually think Frank is wrong about that? Do you think Piper did raise the issue of Warren's cherry-picking translations & verses out of context? Do you think that's not a criticism people make--that it's not "the most-pervasive criticism" of PDL? Do you not even think it's a problematic accusation that Warren should have had the opportunity to refute?)


He also didn't say that no one has ever been helped by PDL or Warren in general. He said, "His books have done more of a dis-service for local churches than they have served to improve them, and his own methods and writings are frankly a bad example for others." He later pointed to the specific aspects of Warren's teaching that he thinks have done people a dis-service. (And note that "a dis-service" is softer than active "harm". You can do someone a disservice by failing to give them something important, without actively harming them.)

You can't respond to that by saying that you've been helped, and others have too. That doesn't contradict Frank's concerns. It doesn't even hint at what you think is invalid about Frank's letter.


In other words, after reading your comments, I have no clue whatsoever what you actually disagree with, or why.

The Squirrel said...

"Unless you're emptying your library of Piper's works because of his association with Warren, that swipe is not at you."

Just checked... that'd be only two books... & I can use the shelf space... Hm...

Squirrel

Bill Honsberger said...

That must have been Edward's influence when RW layed out his PDL schtick to the convention of Rabbis and never even mentioned Jesus...would just get in the way I guess.
And perhaps Jonathan would have been so proud to see RW in front of the Davos conference laying out his epic message "Good people in partnership with a really mellow God". No I don't know if that would have worked either.
For sure the great divine would have loved RW's page praising inclusivism on his website four years ago - that whole believing in Jesus thing is just too hard you know...

Piper has always had an soft spot for heresy - cuddle with Greg Boyd, link up with the Toronto blessing gang. Why is this connection with RW a surprise to anyone?

Frank Turk said...

Honsberger --

You think Piper has a soft spot for Boyd? I think you missed an entire chapter in Piper's ministry, dude.

As for Piper's softness toward Charismatic influence, it's a non-sequitur. Warren's not a charismaniac, and the friendship he has struck up with Piper looks nothing like Piper's relationship with the Toronto crowd.

It would be OK if we didn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just once.

Frank Turk said...

Johnny --

No response to my last question? That's odd: I wonder why?

D. C. said...

DC:

I would love the opportunity. It'll never happen. I don't swim in his ocean. I'm a different fish.


Frank,
You might be right.....but hey it would be worth a shot! BTW this is probably one of my favorite open letters you have done in both tone (ugh, I know that is a nasty word for some) and particularly in content.

Robert said...

Squirrel,

You could free up the space for two new books coming out by some blogger guy...

Sir Brass said...

I have to say that I am becoming very disappointed in Dr. Piper as of late. There seems to be a diverging from how he was preaching in the Don't Waste Your Life videos and what he's doing now.

Frank, I appreciate the letter and its (please trust that I'm cringing at my own use of this infamous word) "tone." I don't fully buy into PirateChristian's assessment, but I can see that that's how it may sound to some folks. Still, I shudder when I hear people like Johnny laud praises upon Warren when the man is doing disservice to Christ and His Church.

I understand the benefit of peacefully extending a hand across theological divides within Christianity, but I simply cannot agree with how Dr. Piper is doing this with RW.

A far better example is the relationship between Dr. Michael Brown (a charismatic, formerly reformed, Arminian) and Dr. James White (reformed, cessationist, etc.). You'd think the two couldn't be any more different, yet together they've shown how a debate on a heated topic should be done, and have not just debated against each other but with each other against others all the while glorifying God in their behavior and integrity.

THAT is how one deals with the "other camp." Not softballing and letting slide the things Dr. Piper let slide.

I am no mind-reader. I cannot tell why Dr. Piper has gone lax. But like you, I pray he comes around. He certainly is not doing Rick Warren any favors by being so non-confrontational with him.

Timmy Jimmy said...

I'm not reading all 65 prior comments to mine...

But please know Frank that I appreciate your work and thought put into this post. Press on. I'm glad you are willing to press John Piper on these issues. The gospel is too important to allow Warren's view of it to go unchallenged.

Just one thought occurred to me worth mentioning. John Piper is not a journalist, and I think he needs to stick to preaching and teaching and leave the Q&A sessions to those more equipped for it.
Blessings
Timothy

Frank Turk said...

In 1995, John Piper produced this list of the marks of a Spiritual leader.

Discuss.

Frank Turk said...

To paraphrase the Incredibles, if everyone was James White, then no one would be.

Susan said...

Summarizing his board meeting with the other Pyros, Frank commented on Dan's post yesterday:

"Phil Johonson is actually a complete marshmallow for those whom he loves."

After reading this open letter, it is fair to say that Frank shares this title with Phil, IMHO :)

And the quote that really stood out to me from your post today, Frank, is this:

I believe completely that the greatest cause in the world is joyfully rescuing people from hell, meeting their earthly needs, making them glad in God, and doing that with a kind and serious pleasure that makes CHRIST look like the treasure He is.

If Dr. Piper's person and works have so influenced you, Frank, then what a great work he has done (or rather, the Lord has done through him)!

Bill Honsberger said...

Frank -
I am not in the BGC - but of course some of my best friends are BGC... The fact at Piper nails open theism in theory is commendable. But the BGC itself worked out this nice compromise where we will attack the ideas as heretical - but somehow ignore the most prominent teacher of the heresy. I am not sure how this helped much.
I didn't mention anything about charismatics. I speak at many charismatic churches, attend one myself and taught at a pentecostal Bible college for over ten years. I am not charismatic nor pentecostal but neither is it the hill to die on for me. I referenced Pipers softness for the Toronto Blessing madness, which had nothing to do with the inhouse discussion we might have between charismatics and non. Rather it is between Christian teaching and experience as opposed to the WORST possible end of the word faith movement.
There is no non-sequitar at play here. My point was Piper's soft spot for people who are heretics - which is directly in line with the discussion concerning his relationship with Rick Warren.
No baby and bathwater issues here. And I am not expunging my library either. And if Pyro readers feel the need to expunge - please send all the volumes my way!

DJP said...

You could free up the space for two new books coming out by some blogger guy...

...aaaand Robert takes his place as my Favorite Commenter of the Day.

Robert said...

Frank,

I read the list and saw number 10 is "A Good Judge of Character" and I feel that, sadly, this is where Piper has run into some problems as of late. I'm sure we'd all disagree about certain affiliations he has had (i.e. Mark Driscoll), but Rick Warren is waaaaaay off the beaten path. I also think that those terms are a bit ambiguous and need a bit more definition before just throwing them out there. It bugs me that I don't see doctrinally sound because that would be my number one qualification. I'd also like to see something about a focus on the Gospel, but that's just me.

Rachael Starke said...

The letter is great - way to point the exhortation where it's most likely to be heeded.

The list is fascinating. The list on its own, as summarized by Chediak, is just the kind of thing Warren would eat up, rework, and then turn into a motivational talk at a corporate "prayer breakfast."

The list as Piper fleshes out is one that Warren would never offer, but Piper would and does, which is why Rick Warren gets invited to pray at the White House inauguration, and Piper doesn't.

You probably meant this to be more about where Piper's at, but that's the piece that I wish someone would interview him about, and not feed him a comfy answer about "I'm sure you're just being kind and pastoral, yes? Yes?"

Doug Hibbard said...

Squirrel---

If you're clearing out books, I'll send you my address. After clearing junk off this past week, I've got about 4 linear feet of space in the office.

Related to the real point---

Ah, never mind. I haven't watched the video.

THEOparadox said...

Some of Warren's remarks in the interview were disturbingly similar to what he said in his TED talk. I don't care much what he does with his money or how much social work his church is doing. I want to hear him talk about what he's doing with Jesus. I want to hear him tell about what Jesus has done in the Gospel and in his life.

The letter was very good, Frank. We can give Piper credit for being a bridge builder. But this time the bridge might be going somewhere undesirable. I don't want Piper to condemn or attack RW, but I wish he would, as you implied, ask the more challenging questions.

Douglas said...

I think Rick Warren is a born "Christian" not a "born again" Christian. After all is said and done his great grandfather was led to the Lord by Charles Spurgeon so that must make Rick Warren a Christian, surly? Having a strong Baptist background makes you a "Christian" doesn't it? No need for the new birth at all, a? One thing I really believe and have no doubt about, Rick Warren is a masterful, deliberate Scripture twister. I do not trust him. A heretic? Maybe.

"But I think actually out of my Baptist background – my father was a Baptist pastor, my grandfather, my great grandfather, I think I told you before was led to Christ by Charles Spurgeon and sent to America as a church planter." - Rick Warren Clarifies Doctrine, Purpose Driven Life with John Piper - TRANSCRIPT

Pierre Saikaley said...

"They are quacks."

They're like people who burn NIVs b/c they've found the only Bible in English that God blesses.

I'm sorry, I didn't see the interview so I'll just make a general comment:
I'll just say about Dr. Piper what a pastor friend o mine said about him: "read him-but use discernment".

Regarding Mr. Warren-'nuf said.

jmb said...

Rick Warren claimed to have read all of Jonathan Edwards and cited him as a great influence on PDL, but didn't mention him in PDL.

A former pastor of my former congregation, hardly a follower of the Reformed faith, claimed to have read all of Calvin's "Institutes." Yet he didn't know what "exegesis" meant.

Richard Nixon once announced that he had seen all of the films of director John Ford. Ford made over 100 films, not counting shorts and documentaries.

In all cases: Barely possible; highly improbable.

Those who make claims like these reveal their contempt of not only facts, but people.

Boerseuntjie said...

I am just surprised that Mr. Mark DRISCOLL's name and integrity has not been included in these writings or comment threads...

I would not go so far to call anyone "a brother" whom does not comprehend the difference between the Roman Pagan "gospel" and the Historical Biblical Gospel of Mercy...

That is just me - I am socially awkward - I know.

But I see Matthew 7 as a bit of a strong word against subjective approval of claims to salvation or rather claims of close salvific relation to Him Whom is Named the "Consuming Fire".
This of course being the differnce in the Gospel "YAHWEH our Righteousness" (Imputed Righteousness to sin sick mortals as we are. This being the Message: The FREE Gift of the Works and Person of Messiah Alone).

I wonder if Mr. DRISCOLL and Mr. WARREN even truthfully LIVE in light of this great difference?
I claim not to know - but I do know there are MANY more Local Pastor-Elders whom require our support in their ministries...

As for these "celebrities" - whether they go by the name of "reformed" or "pelagian"; I shall know Only Christ and Him crusified; for Paul did not die for my sins, nor did any other Elders.

May we become LES and may Christ Increase - for His joy and glory Only,

A simple bondslave according with the Free Gift of everlastng Mercy and Electing love Alone,
W

ajlin said...

DJP:

Robert meant Challies.

[j/k]

Sir Brass said...

"To paraphrase the Incredibles, if everyone was James White, then no one would be."

If everyone were James White, we'd all be bald, scottish, and have no need for cars because we'd bike everywhere and where we couldn't bike, we'd ride motorcycles. Also, Oakley would turn into a megacorp from the profits :P.

Frank Turk said...

I'm getting e-mail now from the private prevailing force now.

Pray for me and my soul.

Johnny Dialectic said...

No response to my last question? That's odd: I wonder why?

Thanks for asking, Frank. I've actually been working hard on a project today, which precluded my hanging on, or responding to, every word Pryo.

Yes, I read Monergism and Challies. I find the former less persuasive and more besetting than the latter. Now, I believe your question was whether "Warren [is] harming the church through a shoddy example of pastoral work."

I would say No. He is not harming the church. But his critics actually may be.

Since you provided links to read, I'll return the favor:

http://tinyurl.com/3hakesz

http://tinyurl.com/3avq3fm

Thanks for the discussion.

Frank Turk said...

The odd thing about the first link is that it's heavy of ipse dixit and light on actual argumentation. That is: Warren's view isn;t New Age because the writer says son, not because he can prove any disjunction in @Challies' argument.

The odd thing about the second is that it's relies in things not in evidence - like the size of the editorial knife. The writer can't produce one edit to support his case, but those edits are the substance of his case.

Next.

Backbone Threads said...

I've read quite a few posts/open letters regarding this interview, and I've got a lot to chew on...

Mike Riccardi said...

Well, there ya go.

Mike Riccardi said...

DOH! I mean this one.

thomas4881 said...

Didn't Warren say Catholics were his breatheren? If he did I would say he's not a Christian.

Jules said...

I wish Piper would have focused more on Warren's orthopraxy. It seems Dr. Piper may be wearing blinders.

Thomas Louw said...

Frank.
Or anyone for that matter.
I’m looking for a balanced critic of Rick Warren.
Got any links?

Chris Nelson said...

Squirrel, I have two Piper books also and I haven't had the stomach to read them or listen to anything he says for quite a while myself. When will Piper interview Camping? Harold has done far less damage to the cause of Christ than Warren. I don't think Camping invites moslems and tantric sex practitioners to teach his flock.

Ben said...

@Thomas Louw

See the following critique by Michael Horton:

http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2010/04/01/michael-horton-on-rick-warren-modern-reformation-and-desiring-god/

Paul said...

Piper has preached a lot of good sermons.Well,I guess that settles it. Besides, his belief that Christians are still enslaved to sin couldn't harm anybody, right? I'm wondering, like other New Calvinist (ie., Michael Horton)--does he deny that Christians are born again?

Frank Turk said...

That's for the feedback, Paul. I'll be pondering all day how it relates to this post.

Frank Turk said...

This is the active link for the Horton article on Warren.

Johnny Dialectic said...

"[P]erhaps we large-headed reformed types need to see Rick Warren as a guy who is not the end of all religion and the end of solid faith, but the beginning . . . we cannot get all angry-eyebrows over a guy like Rick Warren who brings many people in. Somehow in his hands, the Gospel brings many people in. Is it the power to save in your hands, dear reader? Can you show it to be the power to save? That’s a tough question, and I think we should ask it before we make Rick Warren into a downgrader." (Frank Turk, Ap. 1, 2010, in a comment on the Horton piece)

Well said, Frank! In Warren's hands the Gospel brings many people in. This is the point that dominates all others, is the most important, is the one Jesus is most concerned about.

Your criticisms and concerns w/Piper and the interview are fine to discuss. But, as you advise, "angry eyebrows" ought to be checked at the gate, esp. in light of actual people being actually saved via Warren's ministry.

Caleb Kolstad said...

I have always loved John Piper's stellar expository preaching ministry but have not been so appreciative of his discernment.

I wonder sometimes if Dr. Piper likes to stir the evangelical pot for the sake of controversy. Dr. Piper has shown great discernment in many areas of ministry perhaps this is not about discernment?

Business and marketing 101 says the only thing worse then bad press is no press at all... His choice of DG conference speakers the past 5 or so years has certainly been the subject of MUCH discussion. I hope I'm wrong about thought 2 but think Phil and others are right about point 1.

Thanks for the good post here.

Robert said...

I don't know that I have ever heard Warren actually present the Gospel. It is certainly lacking in his PDL/PDC. Of course, maybe that is just another one of those terms that is too technical.

Bill R. said...

I see everyone trying very hard to be a voice of moderation with regards to Rick Warren, and I think that is commendable, but...

What if a stern rebuke is necessary? Did Paul call for moderation when rebuking Peter in Galatia?

My biggest problem with the PDL is this: That unbelievers are encouraged to read one chapter a day. After 7 days they are asked to make a decision for Christ. Is the gospel presented in the introductory material and 1st 7 chapters a full gospel?

No mention of the following to this point:
• God has a standard for our lives and we have fallen short. Rom 3:23 Warren describes sin as ‘spiritual adultery’ – flirting with the world’s temptations?
• God hates our sin, and we make ourselves His enemy when we continue in it. James 4:4
• That everyone will face judgment. We will individually face God and answer for our failure to meet His standard. If we are found guilty, we are condemned to eternity in Hell. Warren does describe eternity, but see the next point.
• That Hell is a place of eternal torment. Warren describes it only as separation from God.
• Jesus’ life on earth, that He is God, that He was sinless.
• The fact that because of our sin, Jesus had to die in the most brutal way imaginable. Rom 5:8, Heb 12:2
• The resurrection!! (1 Corinthians 15:13-14 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.)
• Repentance. (Jesus said “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” Luke 13:3)
• Obedience to Jesus’ teachings. (John chapter 14)
• The cost of belief. That we may make enemies of our friends and families, that we invite persecution and ridicule, or even death for our faith. Luke 14:28)

Is this defendable? Really?

Paul said...

Frank,
I want you to have one less thing to do today, so:

"Another stellar letter. Thanks, Frank.
I may say more later, but for now let me join you in affirming my own appreciation for and personal indebtedness to John Piper. Those factors don't dull the concern I feel for Piper's attempt here to help Warren; they heighten that concern."

Should our *primary* concern about Piper really be that he is attempting to help Warren? Are you kidding me? *Associations* are the major issue with Piper?

That was my point--sorry if it was off-subject, and thanks for the link.

Frank Turk said...

Awesome alert: check the stats for the poll at the top of the blog. The highest vote-getter in the poll is that what Warren said in the video vis. Edwards' influence is the exact opposite of his words in the video.

It's still early -- we have less than 100 votes, and we could have in theory more than 10,000 votes is all readers vote over the course of the week. Please take this poll more seriously than what is going on right now.

Chris Nelson said...

When amongst Jews, Rick Warren likes to avoid the theological term, "Jesus".

Chris Nelson said...

I would Frank but I can't stomach Piper or Warren. Could you post a video of dancing bears instead?

Johnny Dialectic said...

Of course, putting "Sure" at the beginning of the first option isn't stacking the deck. But it's comforting to know this scientific sampling of Pyro cheerleaders will settle the question once and for all!

Robert said...

Johnny,

Can you actually make an argument for what your gripe is? One with a basis to stand upon? Or do you just not agree because how you feel about Piper and Warren? If so, just come out and say so because that is what your words lead me (I'm not going to speak for others today) to believe.

Frank Turk said...

Johnny: it's ashame that Warren's exact words are that offensive to you. Here's the transcript section:

[BEGIN XSCRIPT]

[PIPER]: Where did this focus come from or, any special influences or, since we talked about this
two years ago at Ralph Winter‘s funeral, any influence from Jonathan Edwards? Just,
however—the roots of it all.

[WARREN]: Sure.

[PIPER]: But don’t talk too long because I’ve got 20 pages.

[WARREN]: Sure. Okay. Fine.
Well, definitely [Jonathan] Edwards is an influence.
Edwards is, without a doubt, the
most brilliant mind America ever produced. I’m not talking about theologian. I’m talking
about mind and everybody. I put him above Einstein and everybody else.

I think you have talked, you know, it is passionate, enlightened intellect. And he used his
mind—I have read through the complete sets of Jonathan Edwards which is about, I don’t
know, 22 volumes and they’re about 800 pages each. He clearly was an influence on me.

[/XSCRIPT]

This is why reding the transcript or watching the video was a requirement of taking the poll. Help me understand how citing it as it was rendered was unfair in any way.

Frank Turk said...

Robert:

Johnny's gripe is that he doesn't like other people framing objections. Only he can frame objections -- and his are loving, while ours have other motives. The rest of us need to shut up because we're not as smart or loving as he is.

He might say it differently, and he might narrow "other people" down to me personally. I think he's just trying to get banned because he likes the 8 other people in that club.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Is it really that complicated? You're presenting a survey. One of the options is worded differently from the others. And clumsily, too.

If you want to say "Sure" is lifted from the transcript, then the first option become colloquial, unlike the others. You ought to have put it in quotes as well.

That's all. If you were an intern at a polling firm, they'd pull you aside and gently instruct you. I suggest you just take the "Sure" out.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Johnny's gripe is that he doesn't like other people framing objections. Only he can frame objections -- and his are loving, while ours have other motives. The rest of us need to shut up because we're not as smart or loving as he is.

Frank, please point me to the comment in this thread where I ascribe motives to anyone. Please.

Have I not rather commended your attempt at balance? Where have I questioned your motives?

I said: I appreciate your striving for a balanced and respectful disagreement with Piper.

I said: Your criticisms and concerns w/Piper and the interview are fine to discuss.

I meant those things. So where are you getting the "motives" and "shut up" thing?

Boerseuntjie said...

@ Chris NELSON;
Yep that JESUS/YESHUA doctrine is a ittle bit offensive to the apostate Jew; sadly.

@ Bill R.
Now that is a Commendable COMMENT relating to the Essence that is missing!
(So much so that I thinks some Semi-Pelagians might even agree with it).

Johnny Dialectic said...

I've been a loyal reader of Pyro for years now. I've offered both agreement and disagreement (esp. when the subject is Arminianism). I word things strongly sometimes, but that is what you Pyros are known for. That a hearty interaction should bring out a "ban" warning is troubling to me. When I'm rebuked I try to come back with some content. If it's not what you're looking for why not chalk it up to my missing the mark, rather than threatening to boot me out of here?

Can't we play a Barbara Streisand song and remember the good times, too? I've written much in support of Pyro posts over the years. It's not easy being the resident Arminian, but I think I've tried to keep things honest, even if at times they get heated.

You don't have to ban me. If you don't want me around, just tell me you'd prefer I not post anymore.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

I visit many Christian blogs on the net, and so many people say disparaging things about John Piper, which actually breaks my heart, because I love him as a brother, and have been blessed by his ministry and his books.

The backdrop of these disparaging remarks are ALWAYS in direct reference to him supporting Rick Warren and other questionable teachers. This is done most of the time *without even knowing* what John Piper teaches. Which actually says a great deal about our associations. It seems to be the consensus, of many, that who we associate with theologically, is exactly what we really believe and teach.

Where has discernment gone?

Paul said...

@Chris:
"I would Frank but I can't stomach Piper or Warren. Could you post a video of dancing bears instead?"

Ok,I'm back,I just needed that really bad. Chris-you live in Ohio?-I would like to wash your car for free.

Frank Turk said...

Johnny:

No.

Next.

donsands said...

"I visit many Christian blogs on the net, and so many people say disparaging things about John Piper" Mary Elizabeth Tyler

And the reason they are belittling him is because he has befriended Rick?

I think that's what you're saying, isn't it?
But you're not including Cent in that group, obviously. I have a numb brain at times, and so;
just wanted to be clear on that.

Frank Turk said...

I read Ms. Taylor as saying that the radical anti-Warren crowd is disowning Piper without grasping Piper.

I agree with her.

Robert said...

Mary,

I think the question you put at the end needs to be aimed at Piper as well as those who don't want to read his books. I am torn as to whether I have more of a problem with the public affiliations he has had lately or the whole problem with the implications of him being charismatic and some of the things he has said regarding that. Either way, I still have some of his books. I am closer to not "following" him on Facebook, though, because of posts like his interview with Warren.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Frank is right, Donsands, people are rejecting Piper out of hand just because of his association with Rick Warren. They do not even want to hear what Dr. Piper has to say because of this friendship. Which is extremely sad, because if you have read anything by John Piper, he goes very deep into God’s Word and gives us his very best interpretation. He is a unique genius, which I have said many times in the past.

This is an unofficial poll, btw, but it is the first thing I notice when visiting many blogs. I have found myself defending John Piper even before I have a chance to defend the faith. And I will add, I think Dr. Piper is wrong to associate with Rick Warren, it breaks down the walls of biblical separation (simply because I believe Warren teaches another gospel; another gospel to the Jews, another gospel to the Muslims, another to the..., well, you get the picture).

If John Piper is doing this (supporting Warren), for the sole purpose of reaching a larger audience and to further buttress Warren’s apparent lack of doctrinal absolutes, then I would have to say that God gives people the teachers He intends for them to have. If they want to believe a lie, God will be more than happy to deliver the message by way of a false teacher. 2 Ths 2:10-12, .. because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

donsands said...

"Which is extremely sad, because if you have read anything by John Piper, he goes very deep into God’s Word"-Mary

Amen.

I met John Piper at a Jonathan Edwards Institutes Conference, where is was teaching the Word. Wonderful brother in Christ. Exceptional teacher of the Word. I agree.

Thanks for clearing up my not so bright mind.

Have a great evening in our Savior's love and peace.

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Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Robert:

I hear what you are saying. I had conflicting feelings about purchasing Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. That's the ole cessationist in me, but over-all it is pretty solid.

Tina said...

I am dumbfounded at the way that John Piper is treated with kid gloves by most of those high-profile individuals commenting publically on this matter. John Piper's actions have provided endorsement and credibility to Rick Warren who is a false teacher. I realize that many do not view Warren as a false teacher, which is amazing to me. However, based on the belief that he is a false teacher, I would say, "What is the difference between the false teacher and the one promoting the false teacher." I am concerned for the Church as discernment wanes.

donsands said...

"...based on the belief that he is a false teacher, I would say, "What is the difference between the false teacher and the one promoting the false teacher.""-Tina

Based on the belief that I think Rick is a brother in Christ, and a less then deep teacher of the Word, what does that say about the one promoting the weak brother/teacher/pastor?

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Tina:

I think you are expressing some very suppressed thoughts and feelings many Christian’s are having. How can a pastor, such as one of John Piper’s status, who is pretty solid in his theology, even come close to supporting someone like Rick Warren? Doesn’t he know that many will be led astray?

That type of thing is very hard for so many-reformed Christian’s to express, mainly because Dr. Piper integrates and incorporates, into his theology, some pretty solid principles, doctrinal absolutes and beliefs from the Reformation and the Great Awakening. He embraces and endorses the doctrinal truths of some pretty hefty theologians, like Edwards, Luther, Whitefield, Knox, and many others. His theology is an amalgamation of these greats and encapsulates all their good wisdom, insights, and truths that we hold so dear and precious. So it is pretty hard for some to disassociate themselves with Dr. Piper. It would be like writing all these men of God off, in one fell swoop. I know I feel like I am walking through a mind field trying to defend him, while at the same time I find myself very disappointed he cannot be more discerning.

But let us not forget, the Reformation and the Great
Awakening are far behind us, and the former saints are now in heaven, and we now face the *new age* of watered-down theology.

Let us **pray **that Dr. Piper does not fall victim to a mixed bag of theology, and keeps the faith once delivered to the saints.

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Mike Riccardi said...

THEOparadox,

You're welcome to venture into this with Paul, but just know that he's already ground this axe some time ago -- in fact, almost a year ago to the day. This is his pet issue, and despite the lengths to which responses have gone, there seems to be no arrival in his understanding.

Add to that the fact that this post has nothing to do with Piper's theology of Law and Gospel, but with his recent interview with Rick Warren, and, well, as they say...

Frank Turk said...

Paul:

You have never read the book, "What Jesus Demands of the World", by John Piper, have you?

Frank Turk said...

I have read Paul's mini-thesis on Dr. Piper and have found it, um, shall we say "less than serious with the subject matter, but very serious in terms of offensiveness." It's out, and if it turns up again, it will get deleted again.

Paul: for your own edification, here's my single-subject justification for deleting your posts.

You said:

[QUOTE]
He believes that the Law only expresses the works of Christ and not any obligation on our part: “What Then Shall Those Who Are Justified Do with the Law of Moses?
Read it and meditate on it as those who are dead to it as the ground of your justification and the power of your sanctification. Read it and meditate on it as those for whom Christ is your righteousness and Christ is your sanctification. Which means read and mediate on it to know Christ better and to treasure him more” (John Piper Sermon: “How to Use the Law of God Lawfully to Bear Fruit For God”).

He’s saying that we are dead to the Law in regard to it having power in our sanctification. Is that true (Mathew 4:4 John 17:17 James 1:25)? Are we to just meditate on the law or obey it also? Do you really think he left out “obedience” by accident? He is also saying that we should read it as if Christ effects our sanctification in the same way he effected our justification. In other words, sanctification by justification. Also, the “Law of Moses” bit is a deliberate smoke screen. Is he saying we should only meditate on the Law of Moses and do something different with the rest of Scripture? As usual, he creates confusion in the way he uses words, like, all the time.

[/QUOTE]

Here is the complete text of that sermon

The context for this sermon is a supplement to his 3-year preaching through the book of Romans -- Rom 7-8, for example. You've read it, I am sure: "we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive," "I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me," "I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" But also "For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do."

So Piper's starting point is not whether there is a command to general obedience, or whether we ought to seek to do it: it is Paul's own words which tell us that seeking justification of ourselves through the Law is only going to bring condemnation -- thus we are wretched men.

And his text for the sermon is 1 Tim 1:5-11. "we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person" and so on.

You are concerned that he says this much: " if the law has done its condemning and convicting work to bring you to Christ for justification and transformation, then it is not made for you any more ..."

But you have snatched it away from the very next clause: "– in that sense. There may be other uses you can make of it, but that's not what this text is about."

In doing that, you are the one making a confusion of the sermon and of the message. And you are using that confusion to slander Dr. Piper.

Don't do that. This is your only warning.

Paul said...

Frank,

The fact that you pulled my posts while only addressing the more nuanced statement by Piper is telling. The fact that you, nor anyone else will address Piper's outrageous statements in "Desiring God" is also telling. And, I find the linguistic demeanor that suggests that posting here is some kind of privilege....well, arrogant and laughable.

DJP said...

Yeah, it's "telling" that we have a policy of trying to keep comments on the topic of the post, which your personal hobby-horse/vendetta isn't.

And for general edification: the position that Christians are not under the law of Moses per se, but rather are under the spoken/enscripturated/heart-inscribed law of Christ per se, is neither fringe nor heresy.

THEOparadox said...

Mike Riccardi, thanks for the heads up. I should have known better.

Frank Turk said...

Hi Paul:

Here's what I think I am obligated to do -- as a fair-minded person, if I delete a post because it is outrageous and slanderous:

1. I should make sure that I am not proliferating the slander. The person wronged should not be further wronged.

2. I should make sure that I give a good reason for my action. Proving that your first claim is unsupportable becuase it is based on omission regarding Piper's sermon does that plainly and fairly. It's actually a lot more than you did in making your unfortunate claims.

3. I should not spend the rest of my life discussing it. You're demonstrably a person who will use omission to advance an argument -- that is, you will not give the other person the opportunity to speak for himself. Why should I spend my time and my words on you when it is inevitable that you will do the same to me?

So I consider it a closed matter. If you want to talk about it some more, you have your own blog to do it at. If you come back with this axe to grind again, you're out for good.

Frank Turk said...

Going forward, "Paul" will be dealt with by the Blogger spam filter.

Robert said...

Frank,

As for the poll, can we add another option that goes like this:

Oh, well, of course I have to appease you, John, and I know that you are a great fan of Edwards, so I'll say that he influenced me. That will make me more acceptable to you, which will in turn make me more acceptable to the evangelical crowd.

I'm not sure if that is what he meant when he said it, but I have a strong feeling from things he has said to different crowds that this is exactly what was going through his mind.

I voted for the first option because that is what he wanted to convey. I'm not saying it is the truth, but it seems like that is what he wanted people to believe.

Frank Turk said...

Robert:

The only thing I would disagree with is the motive you attach. I think Warren wouldn't embarass Piper by disagreeing with him. His motive is bonhomie, not deception. He wants to make friends, not dupes.

Brian Jonson said...

Robert:

I think your assumption is on target, based on Warren's coziness with the Muslim community and secular media. I think he sees the advantage in getting "in" with conservative evangelicals such as Piper. This seems to be his pattern. He is a chameleon theologically. No one can know for sure, but I think that is a fair position.

Morris Brooks said...

Yes, Frank, but sometimes the only way you can get to be friends with people is to dupe them, because they would no be your friend otherwise.

Ken said...

I hope that Dr. Piper will read Frank's Open Letter, and Tim Challies blog posts on Rick Warren and Chris Rosenberg and Phil Johnson's analysis at the "Pirate Christian" web-site (which PJ Twittered today); and also that Dr. Piper will take the time to listen to Rick Warren's TED talk. ( I don't think Piper has heard that.)

Phil J. has a great line - "I was wired to sin" in response to Rick Warren's emphasis "do what you were wired to do".

But I still don't find anything in Piper's books or sermons that are wrong or bad; so I will not get rid of my books by John Piper and his sermons are still glorifying to God.

I think we can recommend Piper's books and sermons for their content in themselves, and still disagree with his "soft-ball" approach to Rick Warren, and say that Dr. Piper showed a lack of discernment in these "get togethers" with RW.

I don't think the issue is done with. Many Questions still remain.

DJP said...

One truth this has re-impressed on me is how seriously a pastor must take the influence he exerts, simply by being a pastor. I think Piper is not taking that truth seriously enough. I know I didn't, particularly in my first pastorate — and I was less than nobody. But I was a pastor.

donsands said...

"How seriously a pastor must take the influence he exerts, simply by being a pastor."

Be not many pastors. And yet, if you are truly called to be a pastor of God's people, there are great blessings as well.

The word serious is not taken seriously by too many in the pulpit these days. It surely outwieghs those who take it too seriously; those leglistic types.

And John Piper is quite serious about his calling, I'm sure. Rick Warren seems unserious about everything really. Especially the truth.

Enough said from me.

Have a joyous wonderful Lord's Day this weekend. Worship our Lord, and sing praises to His glory and grace. And listen to His Spirit as the Word comes forth. And pray to our our sovereign Lord to do great, great things in the Church, and this dark world, for He is a great great God.

trogdor said...

I'm very intrigued by the results of the poll, and I'm not sure who it says the most about. Clearly the answer he was getting at was #1, yet about 4 out of 5 of us believe he meant something else.

For Warren (on the off-off-off chance you're actually reading this) - the first qualification for an elder is that he be above reproach. Yet when you simply answer a fairly straightforward question, almost 80% (many of whom are legitimately Christians) think you must be dishonest or outright lying. This should absolutely floor you. How did you get to the point that the majority don't believe you can be honest even about something so trivial?

The word that keeps jumping out in critiques is 'chameleon'. To the degree it's deserved, having that be your defining personal/ministry trait is problematic.

For us: Really? We can't believe even this? OK, look. I know what it's like. There are weasely politicians who can say anything, and I automatically don't believe it just because of who it is. It doesn't matter how obviously true it is, or if I actually hold the same position myself - if so-and-so says it, it must be wrong.

There's just something unseemly about that. Maybe I need to come back when I can say it more clearly, but it just doesn't seem like a good way for Christians to go through life. Everyone - including Rick Warren, and cultists, and atheists, and communists, and even Rob Bell - will occasionally say something that's true. Is it really good to be so cynical about anyone that we can't trust even that much?

For Warren, again: Dude, I just compared you to a weasely politician, and I doubt anyone thought anything of it. Again, how did you get here?

Cindy Stokes said...

Wow, i don't know if my comment will be read, since there are already 155 comments. Anyway,I wanted to address two things in your open letter. One is defending Rick Warren as not being pelagian. I am a Southern Baptist though am saddened by the way the denomination itself is headed. I would argue that both Rick Warren and the average Southern Baptist pastor preach in a pelagian way. Irregardless of what Dr. Warren gives lip service to, I have heard him take a passage of the scripture (along the pattern of the average evangelical) and teach it as a doable thing, as something that will lead to "God's best". The invitation to "receive Jesus" is tagged on at the end, but often, little connection is made between Jesus and our actual ability to obey the "biblical principal" taught. And the kind of conversion that tends to be offered in the average SBC, doesn't really require God's grace and can be done with a human will.

Also, in regards to the poll at the top of the TeamPyro page this week, I can't answer because I don't think any of the answers given mean much. The thing is, he was put on the spot by Dr. Piper. He did not offer up the idea that PDL was influenced by Edwards. He was asked if it did, and he said yes to the person he wanted to please at the time. Typical of the political type that Warren is. Dr. Piper seemed very busy giving leading questions. Answering in the way he thought was desired must have been pure reflex by that point. The question really should be, why did Dr. Warren claim to have read the complete works of Jonathan Edwards? Why wouldn't he let his white lie roll by? These are my thoughts for what they're worth.

Michael Lawmaster said...

Hi Frank!

Thanks for putting your thoughts in writing. Suffice it to say a 'Martin Bashir" interviewer Piper is not but he does do a nice quasi-infomercial. While I definitely think we should give honor to whom honor is due and show respect to an elder; I also think it would do everyone good to remember a title of Piper's books: it is about "Desiring God" not "Desiring Piper." I have a few questions for clarity.

I am curious to know if your opinion of RW would still be the same if he was not in the SBC?

You wrote: "But at the same time, I also cannot bring myself to brand Rick Warren, as Chris
Rosebrough would say, a rank heretic of a pelagian stripe [a view Phil has a lot of sympathy for]. I can't do it because I know where he comes from denominationally and ecclesiastically, and I simply
can't write off the standard vocabulary of the average SBC pastor as inherently-pelagian. It may be populist in intention, and anti-intellectual in spirit, and simply and finally guided by the view that the number of people who agree with you and will follow you defines the success of your work, but I honestly don't see Rick Warren as anti-Christian."

Do you believe RW and his teachings represent SBC pastors, their vocabulary, and their teachings?

You wrote: "From my perspective, Pastor Warren has done what so many Southern Baptist pastors
have done: he has created a local civic institution which has come into national prominence because
so many people have come to it. And on that platform his shortcomings are simply magnified, so that the kinds of criticisms he receives are at least warranted because they have such a wide-reaching effect."

How has Warren created the large "local civic institution"? Are there any valid criticisms of RW's methods in your mind? Is the criticism RW receives warranted solely due to the "wide-reaching
effect" of his 'shortcomings' or because there are legitimate, bibilical concerns of his
teaching/methods/etc.?

Michael Lawmaster said...

You stated that RW is 'mediocre' and that 'his shortcomings are simply magnified' and yet at the
same time you wrote: "it's enough to say that the consensus here is that Rick Warren harms the church in general. His books have done more of a dis-service for local churches than they have served to improve them, and his own methods and writings are frankly a bad example for others" and you refer to RW's "misuse of Scripture." Is the misuse of Scripture just mediocrity or a shortcoming
in your mind?

If one truly believes RW harms the church, the bride of Christ, the body of Christ; and yet Piper
affirms RW as "theologically and doctrinally sound" how do you reconcile the two? Piper has written some excellent material which is useful and beneficial and should not be "thrown out." However, is there a point at which you would not recommend Piper and possibly warn others if he would persist down this path such as your collgeague Phil Johnson stated in his post "On the Piper-Warren Connection" back on April 9, 2010? I think that was an excellent, balanced, well-written post and avoids the extremes.

You wrote: "That, I think, is what guided your interview of Pastor Warren: a reaction against his most-unfair critics. As you see him as your friend, I credit you for wanting to defend a friend against injustice." and you also wrote: "I have a great empathy for your efforts to seek to be inclusive for the sake of Christ toward those who are in Christ but not in our basic theological camp."

Was it solely a reaction against 'injustice' why Piper brought RW to the Desiring God 2010 conference (which included the interview that could not take place until a year later) or was it his desire to be inclusive or both? Are you affirming to include someone "for the sake of Christ" even if their teaching is deemed "harmful" to the body of Christ?

I think it would be helpful and beneficial to all to get into particulars rather than generalities and caricatures of those who may voice their criticism...especially why what they said or did, in your mind, violated Holy Scripture and what would be in accord with Holy Scripture. Maybe we could all
learn something.

For instance you wrote: "He's just mediocre, and popular, and most of his critics cannot evaluate him from that perspective because, frankly, they cannot muster a generous or balanced approach to discernment in general." In what specific ways are people lacking generosity and an imbalanced approach to RW?

You wrote: "But here's the thing: it seems to me that you thereby missed the point of all the fair
criticism of Rick Warren and the PDC/PDL approach to local church life." What is 'fair' and what do
you see as 'unfair' criticism?

You wrote: "In seeking to overcome the unfair criticism, you brushed over the concerns legitimate people have about your friend." Who are 'legitimate' people and who are not?

You wrote: "I am deeply sensitive to the dark and unrestrained excesses of those who count
themselves as defenders of the faith but are unaccountable for their strident pronouncements." What are the 'dark and unrestrained excesses" you see? How are these individuals unaccountable?

Thanks Frank!

mike said...

Michael Lawmaster

you sir seem to have been providentially named.

Bill R. said...

I think the one poster brings up a good point. If it were you, what would your reaction be if someone called your teachings into question, and there was valid Scriptural substance to these accusations?

a) Let some other famous pastor defend you.

b) Laugh it off.

c) Apply reason as a defense.

d) Get angry.

e) Take time to examine myself in the light of Scripture. Agonize over the possibility that I may be in error. If I find the evidence to be true (which in this case is beyond question in my opinion), repent, remove myself from ministry and endeavor to make right the grievous wrong(s) that I committed.

I see much of a, b & c in RW and none of e. You did see response e in Charles Spurgeon (another Baptist I may add) however.

Steve Talas said...

forgive me if it's not a particular deep piece of insight, but as my old elder's who have all long gone to be with the Lord used to drum into us; Always remember 'the best of men are but men at best'

bp said...

Excellent post, Frank. Very well balanced.

Frank Turk said...

Cindy --

Let's remember that the average SBC church today is not Reformed, but that doesn't make it not-Christian. It makes it non-systematic and theologically-muddled, but we could say the same thing about any first-grader who has faith in Jesus, and Jesus loves the child-like believer.

Frank Turk said...

Lawmaster:

I am curious to know if your opinion of RW would still be the same if he was not in the SBC?

Yes. I think most Missionary Baptists have this pedigree as well, as do many Nazarene pastors and non-denom "community" or "fellowship" pastors.

is there a point at which you would not recommend Piper and possibly warn others if he would persist down this path such as your collgeague Phil Johnson stated in his post "On the Piper-Warren Connection" back on April 9, 2010?

If Piper started giving up on the Gospel (as I think Billy Graham has done), I think there's a dividing line we could draw and say, "everything after 'X' has to be treated as suspect," but that doesn't mean, for example, books like 50 reasons why Christ came to Die have to be burned because Piper doesn't think Warren is Satan's Stepdad.

How has Warren created the large "local civic institution"?

You have read about Saddleback Church, right? One thing you can't say about it is that it's creating a lot of people on about theology and Christian philosophy. They do a lot of good works.

So does Kiwanis. You do the math.

Are there any valid criticisms of RW's methods in your mind?

This is when I realized you didn't read my post, and I shouldn't take you very seriously. If you had read my post, your would have seen that I linked to no fewer than 6 different moderate sources of valid criticisms of Rick Warren.

I'm not answering question which I have already addressed in the post.

Is the criticism RW receives warranted solely due to the "wide-reaching
effect" of his 'shortcomings' or because there are legitimate, bibilical concerns of his
teaching/methods/etc.?


I don't see it as either/or -- but even if I concede that the problem is that he comes up short Biblically, and that is amplified because he has a bully pulpit, what doesn't follow is that I have to give the man up as an unmitigated heretic. What worries me about your question is that it qualifies the incompetent with the denier -- which the Bible does not do. The incompetent may be unqualified for leadership, but he can be reformed -- and he can still be allowed in fellowship. The denier has to be run off.

Is the misuse of Scripture just mediocrity or a shortcoming
in your mind?


I have never beaten my wife, thank you.

I think that the mediocre pastor misuses Scripture in ignorance -- but with what he sees as right intention. It's a category I think a lot of people miss.

Before you ask, I think that kind of pastor needs help, not the axe. If he's right-hearted, he'll get better. He might not wind up like John MacArthur, but he'll wind up better than Rick Warren is right now.

[more]

Frank Turk said...

If one truly believes RW harms the church, the bride of Christ, the body of Christ; and yet Piper
affirms RW as "theologically and doctrinally sound" how do you reconcile the two?


The same way I reconcile that people who are divisive and leave churches that are not reformed enough, or have lousy music, or in which the pastor doesn't treat them like a fellow elder all harm the church but are still brothers and sisters in Christ: by relying on Christ to justify them rather than me.

It seems to me the basis of your question is whether of not someone has to have a fully-systematic theology in order to be treated like a brother in Christ. I think that's a works-based theology.

Was it solely a reaction against 'injustice' why Piper brought RW to the Desiring God 2010 conference (which included the interview that could not take place until a year later) or was it his desire to be inclusive or both?

I think there's at least one other possible reason for Dr. Piper to invite Rick Warren to a DG conference: to shake up complacent followers with a message that is uncommon and under-appreciated in DG/T4G/GC circles: the Gospel is expansive and not merely in maintenance mode. That is: the Gospel will save people, and we ought to see it that way rather than as something which ought to be buried in the yard and protected until Jesus comes back. I think that's the thread that runs from Driscoll to Doug Wilson to Rick Warren: Jesus saves, and churches preaching Jesus saves ought to grow.

That you think this is not a viable explanation seems telling.

In what specific ways are people lacking generosity and an imbalanced approach to RW?

The poll results speak for themselves, and would be a primary example. The question was not, "was Rick Warren lying?" Yet a full 1/3rd of respondents responded, effectually, "RW is a liar."

Does that seem balanced to you?

What is 'fair' and what do
you see as 'unfair' criticism?


I would add that asking questions I answered in my open letter by linking to sources I have posited as fair and balanced also demonstrates a kind of unfairness. "You gave 6 examples? By Jove, that's not hardly enough -- list 3 more."

That's what I'm talking about: overlooking the obvious for the conspiratorial explanation. Acting like I cannot name names when I have already in fact named names.

This is ample evidence that you personally are not coming to this fairly, so my example of an unfair critic would be you personally. Is that clear enough?

[more]

Frank Turk said...

Who are 'legitimate' people and who are not?

I am well-documented on this subject, but let me say it clearly: I think Dr. Piper and I are on the same page here. He said in the video that some have slandered Rick Warren. I agree with him. That doesn't mean everyone has slandered RW, but that some have, and those charges are both unfair and sinful.

If you want to know who I think the illegitimate people are, read up on my criticisms of anonymous watchbloggers who are not accountable to anyone and are not qualified to be elders in churches. If you want an exhaustive list, I can't make one: there are too many of them, and frankly you can't tell which are real people and which are sock puppets, so the actual number might be inflated by listing internet nicknames.

What are the "dark and unrestrained excesses" you see? How are these individuals unaccountable?

How about slandering people and failing to retract or amend the record (let alone actually apologize) when one is found to be wrong? Would you call that an excessive behavior, or are all tactics fair game in the "defense of the Gospel"? I would call that a dark and unrestrained excess.

How about posting libel on a blog, getting called on it, then defending it until you have said worse things still -- and then deleting the post, the comment thread, or the whole blog and starting a new blog under a new handle when you are found to be at fault? Excellent prophetic dynamism, or spiritual quackery?

These are /common practices/ on the internet, and frankly they are common in the cottage industry of Rick Warren critics.

As to the matter of unaccountability, when you can just change your crypto-reformed handle in order to escape things you have said in the past, or when you can hide behind others who have material influence over those who would otherwise rebuke you for your antics, you are not accountable. You certainly don't live in a paradigm of biblical accountability.

Thanks for asking.

[-30-]

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Dear Frank:

You made this comment to Lawmaster: "What worries me about your question is that it qualifies the incompetent with the denier -- which the Bible does not do. The incompetent may be unqualified for leadership, but he can be reformed -- and he can still be allowed in fellowship. The denier has to be run off."

My only concern is that competent, trustworthy, reliable writers, pastors and critics of Rick Warren, have proven that RW does not preach Christ crucified to people of other faiths, when in fact, he has ample opportunity to do so. Many even claim he fails to do this very thing with his own church on a consistent basis.

Would you say, based on such testimony, given by trusted men, who carefully read and view Rick Warren's very own statements, that this would constitute a *denial* of Christ? If I left out one of the most important ingredients in cake, such as flour, no one would recognize it for what it was.


You know I respect you and am not trying to be obstinate, but this is the very issue concerning Rick Warren’s ministry that confounds so many people.

Brian Jonson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian Jonson said...

Frank:

You said "the denier has to be run off". Yes, I agree.

Although I'm sure Rick Warren has proclaimed the gospel many times, he has also denied the gospel on certain occasions by refusing to proclaim it when given providential opportunities to do so. I won't start posting links to various interviews, but the man most definitely has run from the gospel on many high profile occasions.

He gave John Piper the answers Piper wanted to hear. For some reason, Piper is unaware of this. Either he is truly ignorant of Warren's clear missteps or he chooses to dismiss them.

Frank Turk said...

Ms. Tyler --

That's a great question.

I work in a wholly-secular job, and the solution to most of our workplace problems is, if I may say so, the Gospel. I do not personally invoke the name of Christ for every one of these issues even though I know that if the people at the table (or in the meeting, or whatever) would simply repent and believe, about 85% of the issues would get resolved and the other would just require us to work as if the other 85% were resolved. So I know I am guilty of not giving lost men the Gospel every time it could come up.

Now, that said, I agree that it is documented that Rick Warren does the same thing, and he's a pastor, not a master of disaster and supply chain Batman (eventually, they will put those titles on my business card). So the expectation for him ought to be different -- he has pastoral work he's supposed to be doing when he talks to the Jews or the Muslims or the Kleptocrats and Hoardpublicans. That is: his actions make his claims in this video to be an "evangelist" laughable -- or else they raise more questions regarding specifically concerning what "job" he thinks he's doing when he speaks to these people.

It is entirely possible that he thinks he's just an organizational consultant when he speaks to them, and not a pastor -- which is the reason I posted my anecdote about me to start this answer. If Warren sees himself as sometimes-not-a-pastor, then the charge that he's a heretic has to account for his self-perceived bi-vocational status.

-BUT-

Again, I think this kind of self-perception management on his part is again an indicator of what kind of convulted and inconsistent view of the whole Christian shootin' match Warren is working in. It speaks to his own complete lack of real competency as a pastor, and lack of seriousness as an evangelist, and his lack of accountability to those who, as you have pointed out, have not hectored him with libel and 10,000 paper cuts of accusations but have put it to him plainly that his approach and teaching make the faith an inconsequential thing and puts other things ahead of the Gospel.

And again: this is why the Piper interview is troubling. Can Piper really be ignorant of the utterly-fair and utterly-solemn and utterly-reasonable critiques of Warren? Can he really think of Warren as a completely-innocent guy and "brilliant communicator" when in fact Warren can't muster that kind of gravitas himself?

It is strange to me that some people (not Ms. Tyler, but some) think this open letter white-washes Piper, and others have frankly told me it demonizes him. it is strange because, I think, most of these people cannot be satisfied unless we adopt their hagiography (or anti-hagiography, as the case may be).

Last thing: before anyone gets all, "Frank is calling Phil & Chris crazy people," I think that Phil and & Chris and I all share the same concerns for Rick Warren in terms of what is in evidence. The question is how we interpret that evidence. They interpret it to be the systematic workings of a guy who intends to undo traditional Christian faith, and I read it as a guy who is not that complicated or malevolent. I think he's just an example of the Peter Principle; they think he has intentionally dumped the faith.

I look forward to the day when either they are proven wrong, or I am. Until then, I can disagree with them without pretending I'm the last Christian standing.

Frank Turk said...

Brian --

See my response to Ms. Tyler. I deny that "refusing to declare" is the same as "explicitly denying". It's a category mistake. "refusing to declare" makes him a lousy pastor, not a heretic.

Morris Brooks said...

As a reformed SBC pastor (yes, its not an oxymoron), I can agree on Frank's assessment of RW as fitting the description of many, not all, but many of the type of pastors you will find in the SBC. The main emphasis in for most SBC pastors, and for the convention as a whole, is evangelism. It trumps everything, and as such theology is relegated to the poor step-child status. Success, then in a SBC ministry is measured by converts/baptisms and that governs all they do. It is just that RW has developed a much larger stage, because of his bombast.

jmb said...

Frank -

Whether or not Rick Warren is a fool or a knave (using these terms broadly) is crucial to his character, but I don't think it matters much to the non-believer who comes to faith partly as a result of hearing Warren's watered-down gospel or no gospel. I think the expression "What you win them with is what you win them to" is relevant here. If you take away some or all of the offensiveness of the gospel, there's a greater chance that the person who believes that "gospel" will not come to saving faith.

If Mr. Warren is, indeed a fool, and he is continuing to resist good counsel, it seems to me that he is moving toward knavery.

You wrote: "I think there's at least one other possible reason for Dr. Piper to invite Rick Warren to a DG conference: to shake up complacent followers with a message that is uncommon and under-appreciated in DG/T4G/GC circles: the Gospel is expansive and not merely in maintenance mode. That is: the Gospel will save people, and we ought to see it that way rather than as something which ought to be buried in the yard and protected until Jesus comes back. I think that's the thread that runs from Driscoll to Doug Wilson to Rick Warren: Jesus saves, and churches preaching Jesus saves ought to grow."

So the question is: How expansive is the gospel? Is there a point beyond which it is no longer a saving gospel? It would be tragic if Mr. Warren is helping to convince a huge number of people that they are believers when they are not.

Frank Turk said...

JMB --

Great question. Great! Question.

Let's assume for a second that the Gospel is rightly summarized by 1 Cor 15:1-4 -- a White Horse Inn-esque assumption.

If the Gospel is that -simple-, then it is difficult to call Rick Warren a guy who doesn't say that. As I understand the WHI/Horton complaint against Warren it is that his preaching is essentially Arminian preaching combined with a social justice emphasis. That is: it's not that he's soft on the need for Christ to save, but that he makes too much of social justice as a vindicator of faith.

Chris Rosebrough calls Warren a flat-out Pelagian for this -- which is to say that man just needs to obey the law to be accepted by God. "Try harder" is the Pelagian Gospel. I think it's difficult to pin that on Rick Warren.

Now, that said, "expansive" does not mean "inclusive". "inclusive" means that the Muslims might mistakenly believe the Gospel, using other terms (note: no one has brought up that part of this video yet, either, which is a stunner; there's a place I was completely soft on Dr. Piper). "expansive" means that it's going to get bigger and bigger; it means there's a victory in Jesus which is God-sized and not merely symbollic. It is the reason Baptists like big churches: the Gospel is winning souls.

Warren is a classic big-church guy. Think about the challenge: I'll stack 500 of mine against 500 of yours. Hey: most churches /do not have 500 people in them/. The charge is such a clever and subtle undoing of the average pastor that there's no one who will respond to him, and goes back to Warren's actual pedigree.

He brings many people in. Our concern has to be whether or not they are moving from the 2% milk he's peddling to the meat and potatoes Paul wanted for the Corinthians.

donsands said...

"Warren is a classic big-church guy."

Amen.

Today, it [Saddleback] is one of America’s most influential churches, with approximately 20,000 people attending the weekend services.

This has been a very good comment and answer session. Well done Cent. I pray Pastor Piper will one day call you. Amen.

jmb said...

"Today, it [Saddleback] is one of America’s most influential churches, with approximately 20,000 people attending the weekend services."

Joel Osteen's church has 38,000 attendees. Does that make it valuable?

donsands said...

I don't know how valuable it is, it's just big. Rick knows how to make big. I lean toward it being a bloated church with shallow understanding of God, and His truth, and basically moral.

Michael Lawmaster said...

Hi Morris!

Thanks for the answering my question in a generous manner. It is appreciated.

jmb said...

donsands -

Sorry. I mistakenly thought that you were implying that the size of his church gave it more validity than it would have if it were small. Should have recalled (or re-read) your other comments.

Michael Lawmaster said...

Hi Frank!

I will say, in all sincerity, that I do thank you for taking the time out to answer some of my questions
although not necessarily in the manner in which you communicated it.

I was asking you questions to better understand what you had written. I was unaware that you would be so easily offended and highly agitated. I have seen questions posed after quoting from the source (interacting with the post) so I thought that was the protocol. The intent was not to be unfair to you nor was it a quantitative goal. It would have been nice to have a meaningful dialogue; however, it appears that you have some history which you have been carrying around that you decided to unload. If my asking questions annoyed you, please accept my apologies.

I do have to say that your assumptions are pretty astounding. In one case, you think by asking questions that I am looking for the conspiratorial instead of the obvious and that I am acting like you cannot name names. Huh? Unless you are claiming omniscience, you cannot possible make such a statement.

Also, if that is your idea of ample evidence, then you have an extremely low level for burden of proof especially when you did not even make an attempt to ask me anything in order to clarify any
misunderstandings. Sounds to me like you are superimposing actions of some other people you have had issues with onto me.


1. Thank you for providing an answer for the first question.

2. I appreciate you outlining the "dark and unrestrained excesses". Two wrongs or sins do not make a write. Slander and libel are not good.

3. I personally do not like the images, fake names, etc. If you're going to be on-line then put your face out there, stand by what you say and defend it. If you are wrong then admit it and apologize.

4. Thanks for clarifying when you would not recommend Piper (or anyone else for that matter) if he
remained on the same path. As I stated previously, there is no reason to burn books so that is an
odd qualifier. I have two books by Piper that I am reading now but you did not know that nor did you
ask. Also, I hardly think that anyone who has a criticism of Piper would advocate his books being burned let alone "because Piper doesn't think Warren is Satan's Stepdad." That statement is irrational but it does not stop people from trying to utilize such statements.

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Michael Lawmaster said...

5. I never stated Saddleback did not do good works. So do Mormons, atheists, muslims, hindus, catholics, etc. You missed the two questions entirely.

6. I did read your post and I saw the reference you made to Challies and Monergism in your portion
regarding the misuse of Scripture. The other three I was unaware of and for that I apologize. I had already seen the GTY article previous to your post and I did read the other two. Those would generate some questions but I do not think you are open to it at all based upon your responses thus far.

7. You do make some logical leaps. First, I would state that Warren is not a novice nor is he an idiot. RW has been preaching for quite some time and he has heard many of the criticisms by
multiple leaders in the evangelical world regarding certain methods, teachings, and practices. I don't think this qualifies him as a novice with some shortcomings or one who lacks knowledge. I have not stated that RW could not be reformed. If one has breath in their body then there is hope. At the
same time, leaders should use wisdom in whom they allow to influence those under their care.

8. For all the effort you put into stating a person doesn't deserve the 'axe';...you sure do leap to that assumption quickly for others in a discussion. Biblically, the 'axe' is not the first step. I have not stated the 'axe' is the first step nor that people do not need help.

9. Suffice it to say that you missed the question entirely when you stated: "It seems to me the
basis of your question is whether or not someone has to have a fully-systematic theology in order to
be treated like a brother in Christ. I think that's a work-based theology."

10. The Gospel should be proclaimed to all. I never said that it did not. We have a command from the Lord Jesus Christ to go into all the world and if someone is not doing it then repent, move on and go do it. I don't think you need to invite an RW in for that. It comes down to what Gospel are you preaching. It is important to get it right. You certainly twisted this one around thoroughly; however, I guess that would be the 'generous' approach.

Thanks again for your time Frank.

jmb said...

Frank -

Thank you for your detailed reply to my comment.

Concerning 1 Cor 15:1-4: Yes, the "Gospel is rightly summarized," but, of all ministries, White Horse Inn does not stop at summarizations, and "simple" is not a word I'd associate with Michael Horton or WHI. This is an observation, not a criticism. I would think their position is very close to Sproul's in his book, "Getting The Gospel Right," which Horton has endorsed.

But, more to the point, what Horton wrote in April, 2010, is a concern about Warren echoed by others:

"Obviously, Rick Warren believes that he is simply translating the gospel in terms that the unchurched can understand. However, the radical condition of sin is reduced to negative attitudes and behaviors and the radical redemption secured by Christ’s propitiatory death and resurrection are reduced to general and vague statements about God giving us another chance."

"[T]he radical condition of sin is reduced to negative attitudes and behaviors..." This, to me, is the most dangerous of Warren's teachings, especially, of course, for non-believers. It is close to what Joel Osteen preaches; maybe the same. When sin is watered down to bad attitudes and behaviors, Christianity makes no sense, and people are repenting for not what they SHOULD be repenting for.

Yes, I know that Warren said something different to Piper, but, for just one example, on TED.com in 2006 he said "God smiles when you be you." He also said that, in Ex 4:1-4, Moses' staff represented his "identity, income, and influence!" So much for it being proof that God had appeared to him. In an issue of Ladies Home Journal in 2005, he wrote an article called "Learn To Love Yourself." As usual with false teaching, man is elevated in importance and God is lowered.

I think this is what results when the radical nature of sin is discounted and the worst you can do is make decisions or have attitudes that aren't the best for you.

I admire Warren for the way he has used his fortune and for his practical service. But, in his public utterances, it seems that he has too often furthered the social gospel that Niebuhr described as "A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross."

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Dear Frank:

I only want to focus on one comment you made, as this could become very lengthy. You said, “See my response to Ms. Tyler. I deny that "refusing to declare" is the same as "explicitly denying". It's a category mistake. "refusing to declare" makes him a lousy pastor, not a heretic.”

I politely take exception to this, Frank. In my estimation it is dereliction of duty. As you well know, that is when an individual willfully refuses to perform his or her duties or a *given order* (in the case of the pastor extraordinaire, Rick Warren, who is no young fledgling, “Preach the Word” comes to mind for some strange reason).

And for dereliction of duty, many in all branches of the military have been subject to court-marshal and even been dishonorably discharged.

Outside the pulpit (specifically in interviews) Rick Warren will appease his critics and claim to know and preach the gospel message, but given the *actual venue* of a pulpit, he floats around like a butterfly and treats God’s Word is a very loose, pejorative way.

It is not the gospel he preaches, but his “God loves it when you be you”, and God wants you to use the talents he gives you, hopefully to make the world a better place (for you and for me, and the entire human race (sounds like a Michael Jackson song).

If the world needs a group hug, Rick Warren would be the guru of choice, because it is simply not in his makeup to **offend** anyone with the gospel message, whether they are Jews, Muslims, Jehovah Witness’, or Roman Catholics. He is simply a people pleaser.

As for his quasi acknowledgment of the gospel, well, remember all cults use Christ as a window dressing to draw in the curious seekers, but once the door closes behind these seekers, it then becomes a pure diet of watered-down gospel, which will only bring a famine to the soul.

I still like you, Frank, we are just reading him and his book PDL from a different POV. God help us all to read between the lines more effectively.

And thank you for taking the time to respond so thoroughly. Much appreciated!!!

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Sorry, I am not going back and fixing my mistakes. "(for you and for me, and the entire human race (sounds like a Michael Jackson song)."

It is way too late.

JMB:

Absolutely loved this comment of yours. "I admire Warren for the way he has used his fortune and for his practical service. But, in his public utterances, it seems that he has too often furthered the social gospel that Niebuhr described as "A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross."

Frank Turk said...

Lawmaster --

I like it that the right things in my responses offend you. The problem is that the wrong things also offend you.

To your point 7: Rick Warren does what works for him. In fact, I would say that Rick Warren sees himself as vindicated by what works for him. So why would he change if he was a novice with a great track record? That is: why would be fix what ain't, in his view, broke? What astonishes me about the analyses of Rick Warren is that people cannot avoid the conclusion that he's the theological equivalent of a supervillain with an evil plan for world domination - when he has all the earmarks of a guy who accidentally got famous for being a nice guy.

Let me say this clearly: While Robert Schuller was more serious about undermining the confessions he was literally ordained to uphold, we can see here plainly the trajectory of a guy like Rick Warren, and the real extent of the damage someone like him can cause. That is: in the end, his life's work will wind up bankrupt if it stays on the same path it is on now. If Schuller could;t make it work, why do we thing Warren will be some much more successful -- especially when we're talking about the Gospel here, against which the gates of hell cannot stand?

So Rick Warren has made a nice life for himself by being a nice guy in hawaiian shirts -- that makes him a pelagian? I have already said he's a lousy pastor -- but because I attribute it to his disposition and glib approach and not to a commitment to lying and deception, many people (You included, Lawmaster, but the content of your questions and responses) find my approach wanting.

Regarding you #8: Well, I think there's a difference between criticizing a pastor publicly for the kind of pastor he is and responding to semi-anonymous blog comments. Your opinion may differ.

Regarding #9: You could clarify, then, what you mean. I suggest that when you find a non-Calvinist whom you admire, you'll suddenly discover the biases in the question you asked.

The rest can stand as they are.

Frank Turk said...

Ms. Tyler --

What I did not say was that "refusing to declare" wasn't itself dereliction of duty. It's simply not the same thing as overt denial.

There is a difference between a captain who is worried about how much Ice Cream there was eaten out of the mess hall rather than the operation of his ship, and the man or men who use that to call out mutiny against him. The former is a sluggard or an incompetent who ought to be dealt with by the proper authorities; the latter are disobedient lawbreakers, mutineers who intend to overthrow the right order of things.

The latter are guilty of something different than the former, and should be treated differently. That is my point -- not that Warren is guilty of nothing.

jmb said...

Mary Elizabeth Tyler -

Thank you. From your comments, I sense in you a kindred spirit, at least where Rick Warren is concerned.

I wonder how I would react if I suddenly became very successful and famous. I would hope that I wouldn't further compromise the truth in order to continue to be well-liked, which is my guess about Warren, but who knows? (Well, Someone does.)

I suspect that Dr. Piper is over-impressed by the sheer numbers that Warren draws, so he, maybe unwittingly, cuts him some slack. I doubt that he would react the same way if Warren were just another pastor who wrote a moderately-selling book. I still respect Piper greatly. The whole situation reminds us yet again that even the best of us are flawed.

Michael Lawmaster said...

Hi Frank!

Thanks for your comments. Here are a few responses.

1. Regarding #7:

(a) I don't care about RW's celebrity.

(b) Not all people who criticize RW jump to the conclusion that "he's the theological equivalent of a supervillain with an evil plan for world domination." Some people may have this perception, which you take acception to, but it's not a good thing to have that be the lens through which you view all
criticism of RW.

(c) If pragmatism is what drives a person...then RW would not change. The ends don't justify the means though. If the means are incorrect theologically (which one would have to objectively test against Holy Scripture) then numbers don't equate to vindication regardless of one's point of view.

(d) 'in his view' I think is key. A man can be right in his own eyes, and yet be led astray. I think what really matters is what God has declared within Holy Scripture and our views should line up with it. Growth is up to God as He is building His church and gives the increase.

(e) "So Rick Warren has made a nice life for himself by being a nice guy in hawaiian shirts -- that makes him a pelagian?" This is bad logic and an unnecessary statement.

(f) Again you assume too much. You assume that people find your approach wanting because they
want you to call RW a liar and a deceiver. This would be incorrect. What is most important is the truth. Jesus Christ is the truth and His Word is truth...the entirety of it is truth. It is Divinely inspired, infallible, inerrant and the absolute final authority for the Christian. So, really one needs to look at
the body of evidence that RW has produced in the light of Holy Scripture, test it against Holy
Scripture, and Holy Scripture will determine where RW stands. Jesus Christ is sufficient enough to
state where a person is based on what He has revealed within Holy Scripture.

2. Regardin #8:

I'm not sure what you mean by your comment. I've already stated that I don't agree with anonymous
blog comments, semi or total. If one believes in biblical accountability then a pastor's/elder's ideas can and should be looked at objectively in light of Holy Scripture. If a pastor would object to this and
he is challenged on that and nothing changes then I would suggest the individual leave the church because the pastor and/or elders are knowingly, willfully, continually, consistently acting against Holy Scripture and sinning against God.

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Michael Lawmaster said...

3. Regarding #9:

Again you assume too much and confuse the issue. Perhaps the question was phrased poorly so I
apologize. Nevertheless, I will deal with two parts of your statement in (a) and (b).

(a) I think Dr. James White on the Dividing Line today made a good point about brothers in Christ.

Dr. White stated that he has debated his paedo-baptist brethren many times on the paedo-baptism
issue and he thinks they are wrong; however, they are still brothers in Christ." So we see that there can be differences of opinion and we can still be called brothers in Jesus Christ. However, it makes all the difference in the world what one does with Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

(b) By "fully-systematic theology" I take to mean everying from A to Z not solely the Gospel. If one is talking about the Gospel then one should know it; otherwise, how could one be a brother if one did not know it, right? We are all growing in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and each of us is at a different stage on the path in their life. Whether one is a newbie or a
mature father in the faith...we are brothers in Christ and should be treated as such.

(c) God takes His truth seriously and it is abundantly clear how He desires errant and false teaching
to be dealt with. If one has tested the evidence of a person's teaching and if Holy Scripture finds it errant or false then this would be considered harmful and there are ways to deal with that as outlined within Holy Scripture not the least of which are found in the Pastoral Epistles. If there is an individual who has error and/or false teaching and they have been confronted with it in light of Holy Scripture
and they do not change nor conform to Holy Scripture then there is an issue. I, personally, would not
think it wise to affirm this individual nor give such an individual access to all of the people who have been entrusted to my care.

(d) I would not equate misusing Holy Scripture with people who are divise or leave churches due to
lousy music. These are not even close in my opinion. There are those who are religious and cause
strife and I agree that this is wrong. May God open their eyes. There are pastors; however, who
change their worship style/format which can be physically harmful to people's hearing or some other
area due to sound waves. In this case, if the members have discussed it with the pastor and the church decides to continue to follow the new course then I do not see an issue with the people
leaving to attend another church. It may say more about the pastor and his heart regarding caring for
the entire flock under his care than about the indiviual(s) leaving.

I think Martin Luther made a good statement: "The office of justification belongs to Christ alone." My question did not cast doubt on the finished work of Jesus Christ as if you, I, or someone else could do that. Such would be an absurdity. This does not negate the fact that there are brethen and there are false brethren as Holy Scripture attests to.

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Michael Lawmaster said...

4. Finally, I will leave you with some comments I thought were good in John Piper's book: "The
Future of Justification."

In his essay called “Polemic Theology: How to Deal with Those Who Differ from Us,” Roger Nicole
begins, "We are called upon by the Lord to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3). That does not
necessarily involve being contentious; but it involves avoiding compromise, standing forth for what we believe, standing forth for the truth of God—without welching at any particular moment."

But is it really necessary? Must we contend? Cannot we not simply be positive, rather than trying to
show that others are wrong? On June 17, 1932, J. Gresham Machen delivered an address before the
Bible League of Great Britain in London titled “Christian Scholarship and the Defense of the Faith.” In it he said,

"Men tell us that our preaching should be positive and not negative, that we can preach the truth without attacking error. But if we follow that advice we shall have to close our Bible and desert its teachings. The New Testament is a polemic book almost from beginning to end.

Some years ago I was in a company of teachers of the Bible in the colleges and other educational
institutions of America. One of the most eminent theological professors in the country made an
address. In it he admitted that there are unfortunate controversies about doctrine in the Epistles of Paul; but, said he in effect, the real essence of Paul’s teaching is found in the hymn to Christian love in the thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians; and we can avoid controversy today, if we will only devote the chief attention to that inspiring hymn.

In reply, I am bound to say that the example was singularly ill-chosen. That hymn to Christian love is in the midst of a great polemic passage; it would never have been written if Paul had been opposed to controversy with error in the Church. It was because his soul was stirred within him by a wrong use of the spiritual gifts that he was able to write that glorious hymn. So it is always in the Church. Every really great Christian utterance, it may almost be said, is born in controversy. It is when men have felt compelled to take a stand against error that they have risen to the really great heights in the celebration of truth."

Machen also reminds us that not just the heights of celebration in the truth but also the salvation of souls may well come through controversy for the cause of the gospel:

"During the academic year, 1924–25, there has been something like an awakening. Youth has begun
to think for itself; the evil of compromising associations has been discovered; Christian heroism in the face of opposition has come again to its rights; a new interest has been aroused in the historical and philosophical questions that underlie the Christian religion; true and independent convictions have
been formed. Controversy, in other words, has resulted in a striking intellectual and spiritual advance.

Some of us discern in all this the work of the Spirit of God. . . . Controversy of the right sort is good; for out of such controversy, as Church history and Scripture alike teach, there comes the salvation of souls."

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Michael Lawmaster said...

Why True Unity Flows from Truth

The reason for this is that truth frees us from the control of Satan, the great deceiver and destroyer of unity: “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32; cf. 2 Tim. 2:24–26). Truth serves love, the bond of perfection. Paul prays for the Philippians that their “love [may] abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment” (Phil. 1:9). Truth sanctifies, and so yields the righteousness whose fruit is peace: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17; cf. 2 Pet. 1:3, 5, 12).

For the sake of unity and peace, therefore, Paul labors to set the churches straight on numerous
issues—including quite a few that do not in themselves involve heresy. He does not exclude
controversy from his pastoral writing. And he does not limit his engagement in controversy to
first-order doctrines, where heresy threatens. He is like a parent to his churches. Parents do not correct and discipline their children only for felonies. Good parents long for their children to grow up into all the kindness and courtesy of mature adulthood. And since the fabric of truth is seamless, Paul knows that letting minor strands continue to unravel can eventually rend the whole garment.

Thus Paul teaches that elders serve the church, on the one hand, by caring for the church without
being pugnacious (1 Tim. 3:3, 5), and, on the other hand, by rebuking and correcting false teaching.

“He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9; cf. 1:13; 2:15; 1 Tim. 5:20).

This is one of the main reasons we have the Scriptures: they are “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

[END]

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

"And since the fabric of truth is seamless, Paul knows that letting minor strands continue to unravel can eventually rend the whole garment."

Amen to this statement!

I did a study years ago, on how many times "It is written, as it written, for it is written" is used throughout Scripture, but cannot remember the exact number of times these phrases were used. It was amazingly high, though.

This to say, that every single God-breathed word is capable of being twisted by Satan. He does not just attack the essential doctrines, but all of God's precious Words: the entire fabric, which is so seamless.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

jmb:

You said: "The whole situation reminds us yet again that even the best of us are flawed."

I agree with this statement 100%. Absolutely!!! What I have trouble with, is the issue of compromise. I still see Galatians 1:6-10 as being extremely relevant.

"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ."

jmb said...

Mary Elizabeth Tyler,

That's a favorite passage. I love that Paul writes, "As I said before..." so soon after he has said it the first time. It shows how important he thinks it is, and wants to make sure they've read/heard it.

I think Dr. Piper would be critical of Warren if he saw how the latter compromises the gospel. It seems that somehow he doesn't see it. Since the elect can be led astray (Mt 24:24; Mk 13:22), we all need to be diligent.

TAR said...

Thank you for saying what I could not put in words .

I just fear that Pastor Piper might be demonstrating the very human sin of pride.. believing that he can gently nudge Warren in the correct direction..

I fear it is Pipers pride up against Warrens pride..there is no question who's pride is more deeply embedded and unmovable.. and just trying might do much harm to Pastor Piper .

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

jmb:

It seems we are the last breathing souls left on this thread. It is awfully quiet down here. I think I will batten down the hatches, as we had some horrific winds come through Lake Orion, MI last night, and it may happen yet again today, and I do not want to end up in Topeka, Kansas. :)

Btw, I have learned so much from John Piper's sermons and books. He has done so much to help all of us grasp, love and appreciate the glory of God, and to that I say, "Job well done, Dr. Piper."

Well, I guess we are not the only ones left on this thread. I hear what you are saying, Tar. I just saw your comment. I think all of us can fall victim to thinking that we can make someone see Jesus, when we know that only the Holy Spirit can open a person's eyes.

donsands said...

"I have learned so much from John Piper's sermons and books."

Amen to that. "Let the Nations be Glad", is an especially fine book.

have a terrific Lord's day, and may we all be filled with His joy; the joy that no one can take from us, His beloved children.