09 April 2010

On the Piper-Warren Connection

by Phil Johnson

o (in case you hadn't heard) Rick Warren will headline the list of speakers at next October's Desiring God Conference.

Of course I think it's a bad turn of events, and I didn't find Dr. Piper's rationale for handing his platform over to Warren satisfying at all. I was surprised when I heard about it, but on second thought, I have to admit that it is consistent with Dr. Piper's modus operandi. Last year some people were appalled, others delighted, when Doug Wilson spoke at the conference. The year before that, the blogosphere was all abuzz with strong passions for months because Mark Driscoll would be the featured speaker. In 2007, it was John MacArthur, who (let's face it) is hardly a John Piper clone.

So Piper likes to feature speakers from outside the boundaries of his own circle of close fellowship, and that's a good thing, within limits. But Piper's choice of Warren as a keynote speaker proves his idea of where those limits lie is vastly—perhaps fundamentally—different from mine.

Furthermore, as much as I differ from Piper on the question of who deserves his imprimatur, there's at least an equal measure of difference between what I think is the proper way to respond to Piper and the way some of his most vocal critics have responded. I'm appalled and ashamed at how some on my side of this debate have expressed their disagreement with Dr. Piper.

It seems to me the whole controversy reflects in microcosm why the evangelical and fundamentalist movements of the 20th century have both failed so egregiously.

Let me explain why. Here are some observations about John Piper, Rick Warren, the critics, and the biblical duty of separation—separation both from false teachers (Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 1:8-9; 2 John 7-11), and from deliberately, incorrigibly disobedient brethren (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15; 1 Corinthians 5:11).

John Piper
I love John Piper. People often ask me what living preachers I listen to besides John MacArthur. John Piper is my clear first choice. He's also one of my favorite authors. The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23 was the first John Piper work I ever read, and I was hooked. His chapter in Still Sovereign by Thomas Schreiner and Bruce Ware is worth the price of the whole book. The chapter is titled "Are There Two Wills in God?" and if more Calvinists would read that chapter and digest its contents, it would settle most of the interminable debates about the optative language Scripture uses to speak of God's "desire" for the repentance of reprobate people. I have written elsewhere about how deeply I appreciate Piper's The Future of Justification. His Don't Waste Your Life is as profound as it is brief and pithy. I've never read any book by Piper that I would give a negative review to. I've never listened to a sermon by him without being impacted by the power of truth.

Furthermore, I greatly respect and appreciate Dr. Piper for his courage and persistence as a defender of the faith against Open Theism, not to mention his diligent defense of biblical authority against the juggernaut of egalitarianism. He's one of the most bold and large-hearted preachers alive today. For those and many other reasons, my appreciation of Dr. Piper runs deep.

Obviously, though, I disagree with him on some fairly important issues, mostly related to his belief that the charismatic gifts are still fully operative. It is this facet of Dr. Piper's theology, I think, that makes his judgments often seem subjective—even arbitrary. Consider, for example, his fascination with "holy laughter" at the height of the Toronto Blessing—and his persistent reluctance to condemn that movement despite the vast damage it was causing. (Did he ever actually denounce the Toronto phenomenon? I didn't hear about it if he did.) That is just one example of what I would regard as a glaring lack of discernment in some of his judgments.

Holy passion and sacred delight in God are wonderful virtues, of course, and these constitute the centerpiece of Dr. Piper's message. But true delight in God is the polar opposite of hedonism, and copious passion per se is not necessarily righteous. (Nor is a quiet or restrained expression of one's feelings a sign of indifference.) As a matter of fact, ungodly passions are a massive problem in the church today, especially in the charismatic fringe. I wish Dr. Piper were more vocal in warning against that kind of imbalance.

Furthermore, human passion and biblical discernment can be like oil and water—a truth Dr. Piper acknowledges in principle. Unbridled passion and feelings-based judgments are deadly to discernment. Hang onto that thought, because it will come up again later in this post. It's a principle that works both ways.

Rick Warren
I can't think of anyone who would make a finer poster-boy for the pragmatic, spiritually impoverished, gospel-deprived message of modern and postmodern evangelicalism than Rick Warren. He is shallow, pragmatic, and chameleonic. He is a spiritual changeling who will say whatever his audience wants to hear. He wants desperately to be liked and accepted by Muslims, evangelicals, and everyone in between. The length to which he will go to indulge his ecumenical bent is seen in the fact that he was one of a handful of professing evangelicals who signed "A Common Word Between Us and You," a declaration of spiritual accord between Muslims and Christians. His church's Easter service at Angel Stadium last week was headlined by the Jonas Brothers (who sang a love song from a Disney movie as if it were a song of praise to God). And Warren's sermon on the resurrection was a paean to Possibility Thinking—assuring people that God wanted to do a miracle to revive their broken dreams. That, Warren said, is the meaning of the resurrection. (And, "Remember, God isn't mad at you, He's mad about you.")

Warren has squandered too many opportunities to proclaim the gospel accurately and muffed too many questions on national television to be given a platform by one of the leading figures of Together for the Gospel, The Gospel Coalition, and similar movements whose central goal, after all, is to undo the damage Warren's philosophy has caused in the evangelical movement.

The massive problems with Warren's ministry philosophy are well documented. The same with his practice of softening, omitting, or denying key gospel truths about sin, judgment, the wrath of God, and the necessity of repentance. A preacher doesn't have to affirm heresy or overtly deny truth in order to be dangerous. It is entirely possible by one's behavior to distort or obscure the gospel message. All Peter did to earn a public rebuke from Paul was change seats at the dinner table (Galatians 2:11-14). But in context, that seriously compromised the gospel. Deliberately and repeatedly giving short shrift to the greatest truths of the gospel is at least as serious an error as Peter's hypocrisy.

Warren's private reassurances to John Piper shouldn't trump the fact that he does not actually preach the gospel plainly, boldly, thoroughly, unashamedly, and in a way that is faithful to the Word of God. If he privately believes something other than what he has said in his books and sermons, that makes him more culpable as a hypocrite. His belief is better than his practice? Let's not make that sound heroic.

On one level I share Dr. Piper's curiosity. I'd love to hear Rick Warren explain how someone who believes what he professes to believe could possibly justify the pragmatic philosophy of ministry he has been championing for thirty years. But that's something I'd prefer to hear in private. I would never give such a man a platform at a national conference, in front of thousands of impressionable disciples, to make an apologia for his pragmatic ministry philosophy or his truncated gospel.

In fact, it pains me deeply to see Dr. Piper himself making such an apologia for Warren, assuring viewers (without any substantiation other than their private conversation) that Warren is "deeply theological," and "at root . . . doctrinal and sound." Jesus said, "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit" (Matthew 12:33). That's fitting advice for a situation like this.

No matter how Dr. Piper may qualify his endorsement of Rick Warren (and he didn't seem to be qualifying it very much in the live Q&A the other night), many of Dr. Piper's admirers do assume Warren now has Piper's full imprimatur. Some of the dialogue in various online forums and social-networking sites demonstrates that.

The critics

Speaking of Twitter chatter and Facebook feedback, I can't touch on this whole subject without pointing out that the tone of some of the criticism leveled at Dr. Piper is simply revolting. Within fifteen minutes of Dr. Piper's live webcast the other night, I had to delete a comment on my Facebook page from a woman who called him a clown. Over the past week I have deleted an average of two or three comments each day that were personally insulting or deliberately disrespectful toward Dr. Piper. One woman expressed a hope that his sabbatical would be permanent.

It intrigues and disturbs me that most (not all, but most) of the overtly impertinent comments have come from women. There's evidently a growing regiment of self-appointed discernment experts consisting of women who give lip service to the authority of Scripture. They would unanimously affirm that Scripture reserves for men the teaching and ruling elders' roles in the church. They would, I presume, deplore the ordination of women to such positions of authority. They are not offended by Paul's statement in 1 Timothy 2:12; rather, they would say amen to it. And yet in practice they have no compunction about posting angry, loud condemnations and insistent demands for the removal of a pastor of John Piper's stature. These things ought not to be.

Anyway, I remarked on the radio this week that I think a lot of Dr. Piper's critics have been too shrill, too hysterical, too trigger-happy, too eager for immediate reprisals, and too disrespectful to Dr. Piper. The reactions to that comment have been chilling. I wonder if some of Dr. Piper's critics would have been happier if I had called for his deportation to Siberia. One blog (wholly written, evidently, on a keyboard with a defective shift key) labeled my position "LUKEWARM," claiming I was trying to stay "SAFELY IN THE MIDDLE AS TO NOT ISSUE ANY DECISION WHATEVER." A woman who relentlessly tried to pick a fight with me on my Facebook page finally took her beef to Twitter, where she complained that I was determined to stifle her passion.

Well, as I said above, some passions need to be stifled, and raw passion is a detriment, not an aid, to true discernment.

I've made the argument many times that sharp words and sarcasm aren't always inappropriate, but they are certainly inappropriate as a first response to a man of Dr. Piper's stature. No wonder the self-styled "discernment" community is so odious to milder-tempered Christians.

It was, however, Dr. Piper himself, not his critics, who first raised the specter of separation. He mentioned the subject twice in his apologia for Warren. First, he said one of the reasons he invites occasional bad-boy types to speak at his conferences is that he hopes the Young, Restless, Reformed movement will not imitate the overzealous separatism of the twentieth-century fundamentalist movement.

I agree that this would be a bad thing, but seriously: Does that really look like it's a looming danger?

The answer to hyper-separatism is not no separatism at all.

That, of course, was the error of neo-evangelicalism, a movement closer to Dr. Piper's own roots. Neo-evangelicalism reacted to the extreme militancy of certain angry fundamentalists by repudiating separatism altogether. That philosophy (for which Christianity Today and the National Association of Evangelicals were tireless cheerleaders) steadily and systematically moved the boundaries of the evangelical movement further and further out, until there were effectively no boundaries at all. The mainstream of the movement abandoned its own principles. The movement traded the gospel for shallow political goals. A man of Ted Haggard's weak character and loose doctrine rose to the highest position of leadership. Good feelings and friendly relations eventually trumped almost every evangelical truth. Finally, the emerging generation began to trade the pragmatism and shallowness of their evangelical parents for a postmodernized brand of religion that at least offered the illusion of more depth and tradition.

Together for the Gospel, The Gospel Coalition, and the so-called Young, Restless, Reformed resurgence of Calvinism all gained their strength chiefly because they effectively answered the trends that had been spawned by evangelicalism's attempts to broaden its base by becoming more and more inclusive. A return to that practice will in very short order utterly nullify any gains those movements have made.

The fact is, Scripture commands faithful Christians to confront, rebuke, and correct those who twist or reinvent the gospel—not to ask them to speak at our most important conferences. If they fail to amend their errors (as Rick Warren has consistently done), there comes a time when separation is mandatory. The neglect of that duty (and in many cases, a refusal to comply) has destroyed countless churches and evangelical institutions, not to mention the broad evangelical movement itself. Let's bear that in mind.

Dr. Piper also raised the issue of "secondary separation" near the conclusion of his remarks about Rick Warren. The fact that he brought the issue up at all demonstrates that he knew his invitation to Warren would be divisive. That's another reason I'm very sorry and disappointed that he made this choice—especially if (as it seems) he extended the invitation to Warren during his first conversation with him, without seeking counsel or affirmation from others (especially his partners in T4G and TGC).

But Dr. Piper's friendship with Rick Warren doesn't instantly and automatically make Dr. Piper an enemy of the faith. People have already called for a boycott of his books, reprisals against those who are perceived as "LUKEWARM" in their response to Piper, and practically everything short of assassination. In their minds, those who balk at the cry for some kind of nuclear strike against Piper are guilty of utter apathy and inaction.

That's a ridiculous point of view.

So is the opinion that no response whatsoever is actually the best possible response. Piper influences people who are under my pastoral care. It would be unconscionable for me to ignore what I am convinced is a dangerously misleading and potentially hurtful decision. But there are several valid, biblical responses that lie between the extremes of sheer apathy and shrill vigilantism. The best option, in a case like this, is to explain as carefully as possible why I disagree with Dr. Piper's decision, plead with Dr. Piper to reconsider the trajectory he has set, and do everything possible to make the boundaries between the gospel and all other messages as clear as possible. If Dr. Piper continues on this trajectory of ever-broadening boundaries, the time may come when his influence would become such a danger that total separation from him would be necessary. I frankly don't envision that, given Dr. Piper's passion for the gospel. But more shocking things have happened.

Meanwhile, I'm not obliged to invite Dr. Piper to speak to my flock in order to prove that I'm not practicing secondary separation. Without utterly anathematizing him, I can certainly temper my enthusiasm in recommending his teaching to impressionable people. I do still have a duty to regard him as a brother rather than an enemy or an apostate (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:15), and I owe him respect and honor as one to whom those things are due (Romans 13:7).

From my perspective it looks like Dr. Piper is repeating the worst errors of the neo-evangelicals, and his critics are imitating the worst misconduct of the hyper-fundamentalists. I find myself in unfamiliar territory—in the middle—pleading for more restraint, more biblical discernment, less raw passion, and less impulsive behavior on both sides.

I'll see you at T4G next week.

See also:

Phil's signature


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Danny said...

I have been waiting for this and I couldn't agree more with what you said.

Thank you very much!

Blue Collar Todd said...

When I see that Rick Warren and Brian McLaren have had similar interactions with Muslims, seeking to do good together, it makes the Piper invitation problematic to say the least. A wait and see approach may be best for now, but like it was alluded to, separation may be required down the road.

frankfusion said...

Thank you sir, I think you, Challies, and Roseboroug have given the most sober responses to this issue. I hope people will not totally wrtie of Piper, and yet hope that maybe he'll change his mind or that Warren might be influenced in a good direction (it can happen!). Till then, I'm sure T4G will be interesting, to say the least.

FX Turk said...

3 things to say about this, and then I'm going to step away:

1. There is no one who could write this post this wat other than Phil Johnson. This is why I am utterly humbled by his friendship.

2. I disagree with the degree of his criticism toward Rick Warren, but not the direction.

3. His rebuke to those, like me, who do not think Warren is utterly unchristian is sobering. It should be part of our view of the matter as we continue to think about this. I invite our friends who would support this cooperation for spiritual ends with Rick Warren to respond to Phil piece here as part of their position.

Solameanie said...

Good post.

I am concerned about the subtle influence of someone like Rick Warren can have on people who start out being very sound in doctrine. Scripture warns those of us who think we stand "take heed lest we fall."

There is a danger in being too chummy and intimate with people like Warren. Over time, having people like that as close friends or associates can lead to eventual softening of your own doctrinal standards. I think we've seen it over and over again. Typically when you ask the individual what caused them to change views they've held for a long time, they'll typically reply, "I've grown," when in fact they've retrograded.

I don't mean to imply that John Piper and Rick Warren are that closely associated yet, but I am alarmed about any potential of their relationship deepening. We can always hope and pray for a reverse effect, i.e. that Warren would abandon his pragmatism. However, that's not usually the way it works.

Sir Brass said...

I agree with the conclusions 100%. I haven't seen what Phil has seen (I haven't been around to observe these things for that long, or study them), but I agree with his assessment.

This includes Piper's gaff in NOT judging Warren by his fruit, but by his mere words which do not reflect his fruit.

This seems to be Piper's blind side. He vehemently and rightly rebukes and casts away to the devil the entire cancerous mass that is the health and wealth (or prosperity) gospel. Piper's righteous hatred of their false gospel is to be lauded and praised. Yet he won't do the same to the other side of the rotten coin: the pragmatists.

All that to say, "Bravo, Phil." Thanks for hitting the nail square on the head and driving it home dead straight in a single blow.

bot1 said...

Thank you so much for your post. So many of the things you said have been rattling around in my head and it was great to see them put to print.

DJP said...

It is an association from which Warren gains much, and Piper loses.

Jon from Bucksport said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and heart. Having been raised as a fundamentalist I know how to do separation. I have felt for years that the problem we have in fundamentalism is that we have too little emphasis on the unity of the body and how to separate from someone without consigning them to the Anathema. You handling of this is balanced and instructive.
I too love Dr. Piper and reading his book "The Pleasures of God" was a watershed theological point for me. I have always wondered how someone as passionate about the Truth as he obviously is could fellowship with so many that he calls friends.

Annemarie said...

Particularly struck by this paragraph, which could stand alone.

There's evidently a growing regiment of self-appointed discernment experts consisting of women who give lip service to the authority of Scripture. They would unanimously affirm that Scripture reserves for men the teaching and ruling elders' roles in the church. They would, I presume, deplore the ordination of women to such positions of authority. They are not offended by Paul's statement in 1 Timothy 2:12; rather, they would say amen to it. And yet in practice they have no compunction about posting angry, loud condemnations and insistent demands for the removal of a pastor of John Piper's stature. These things ought not to be.

To this, I say a loud AMEN!

As to the Piper/Warren issue, I must admit that I am horrified. Just a couple of nights ago I was speaking to someone who is struggling greatly with their faith. My thought was to recommend a Piper book because of the way that he deals with delighting in God. Now, however, I am not going to do that. The person in question already has Warren sympathies and if they were to see this? I shudder to think of the doctrinal path they would be set upon.


Tyler Wallick said...

I guess all of this is a sign of the times. Terribly disappointing and sadly discouraging.

I agree with Phil that some of the responses have been over the top on this. However in my own case, I only have so much time to read etc; that situations like this help me filter who/what I read. When someone shows such a glaring example of lack of discernment, it pretty much removes them from my reading list. I realize I may miss out on the "good" things they may have contributed, but there are plenty of authors/ministries who do not have this "baggage". Maybe after all, that is the saddest part of all - this decision could prevent people from hearing the great truths from Piper that Phil mentioned.

The Damer said...

I suspect that the chameleon in Warren will make him sound like Spurgeon at DG.

Good assessment of Warren but even better of the "critics".

Hayden said...

To all,

You better think this one through. I am a Pastor in a small church and was 'going to leave this one alone' until someone brought it up in a Bible Study. I was surprised at the changed view people had about Warren's ministry just by Piper's invitation.

Everyone needs to be a Berean on this one (Acts 17). I am constantly asking the people that I have the privilege to shepherd 'Is that what the Bible says?'.

Go listen to Rick Warren's sermon's and read his books with an open Bible and be a Berean. Phil is right in his cautions but do not take his word for it.

This should ultimately show us all to 'trust but verify'. As a Pastor that is what I am trying to teach the people to do. Do not depend on the work of others, delve into the Word and study. I think you will come to some of the same conclusions that Phil has.

Pierre Saikaley said...

I agree with DJP.

As I watched John Piper's rationale for joining with Rick Warren, I kept sighing in exasperation.

On the one hand, I love Piper, and I find it distasteful to have to reject him as a compromiser. I can't bring myself to do that-yet.

On the other, for all the reasons Phil Johnson states about the Fundamentalist Movement here


I ask myself what's the alternative if I do become a "Fundamentalist" umpteenth- degree separationist type.

I have personally been to such a fellowship. It was an Independent Baptist calvinistic church that practiced extreme separation, and almost to the point of isolationism. It also suffered from most of the problems that plague the fundamentalist movement.

Anyway, I think Mr. Piper is being the pragmatist here, and it's no so much his deiscernment that is questionable. It's that he KNOWS what he probably should do, but it seems he will do something just to do it, as if The Supremacy of Christ justifies this kind of compromise.

I just have to shake my head.


Janice said...

Phil, thank you for your post. It has helped me calm down a bit because I really didn't know what to think of the Piper-Warren situation.

I absolutely love John Piper. His sermons on the glory of God completely changed my perspective on God (the same way A.W. Pink's Attributes of God totally smashed my previously idolatrous understanding of God). Piper's sermon "Single in Christ: A Name Better Than Sons & Daughters" is the best, most encouraging, most Biblical sermon on singleness I've ever heard (and I've heard and hated a LOT of singleness sermons).

But this Warren thing makes my stomach churn...it really worries me because I don't understand Piper's reasoning here. I have personally heard Warren say on live TV "Just try Jesus for 60 days" which seems to reveal a misunderstanding of how a person is saved, what they are saved from, and how Jesus saves. Warren's smoothness scares me too. I listened to Chris Rosebrough's broadcast in which you could hear Piper amazed that Warren is reading the collected works of Jonathan Edwards. If you've listened to anything by Piper, you know reading Edwards will definitely impress him.

Phil, your cautious concern, extending respect to Piper as a faithful brother and pastor is much appreciated. Also your comment about how Christian women should respond in situations like this is Biblically sound. Few would have the guts to point that out and I thank you for that.

GrayDave said...

>Jesus said, "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit" <

I agree and I would consider 1000's of people hearing the gospel and coming to faith in Christ good fruit.

Deb said...

Thank you Phil! You said so many things that I've been thinking but unable to put together coherently in my mind. Just wanted to thank and encourage you.

LT said...

It is a sad time to see Piper act in a way that brings brothers to have to view him in defence of the faith. To bring up disunity in the minds of those who trust him. We should always be on the guard but we should be able to trust those we look up to.

I pray the same a Paul

Philippians 1:9
"I pray that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment"

Anonymous said...

This is well-written and charitable, and I appreciate it. However, I don't understand how this incident could so dampen Phil's enthusiasm and respect for John Piper.

J.I. Packer has united with Roman Catholics on some issues, and endorsed books by some authors whose proclamation of the gospel is much less than clear. None of that has tempered my gratitude and respect for Packer, and nothing that's happened in the last week has affected my love and appreciation for John Piper. In some ways, my respect for both has grown as a result of their bigheartedness.

Manda Lynn said...

Loved reading this... thanks!

Kris Estep said...

I have been a long time reader but as far as I know this may be the first time I've left a comment on here. Phil, thanks for a level-headed, biblical response to this issue. I, like you, have been concerned since I heard about this but also likewise concerned with the amount of "Piper-bashing" I have seen in response. I agree with you that this has forced many of us to strike a middle ground and at this point all we can do is pray and watch. Hope to see you at T4G!

Anonymous said...

Well said Phil..see ya at T4G.

Underthelittlethings said...

Very well said.

I hope some of my sisters will calm a bit, if they read this.

I think some of us women-folk tend to get 'hysterical' when we imagine that men are not stepping up to the plate on some of these issues.

And of course, some of us imagine ourselves to be the end-all in the defense of the Faith. We picture ourselves as a version of Lady Liberty, draped in righteousness and sword held high!

My sisters: a little humility, please.

Give our men a chance to step forward with a reasoned and thoughtful response to these matters.

Thanks again for a thoughtful and thought-provoking post. Most helpful!

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"I've made the argument many times that sharp words and sarcasm aren't always inappropriate, but they are certainly inappropriate as a first response to a man of Dr. Piper's stature. No wonder the self-styled "discernment" community is so odious to milder-tempered Christians."

Well said.

Family Blogs said...

Thanks for this Phil. What I like about your approach to this issue is the way that you've used it extrapolate bigger issues: and in doing so you've given me much to think about. Your reading back into history in terms of neo-evangelicalism and the dangers of hyper-fundamentalism is very sure-footed. As are you observations about Piper's charismatic background.

Thank you for this sober and balance article - one to which I'll be pointing anyone who asks me about the issues.

Oh...and thanks for the laugh about the website "wholly written, evidently, on a keyboard with a defective shift key". Priceless.

Lou Martuneac said...


Well articulated on various levels you address. So, now: What to do?

You wrote, “The best option…plead with Dr. Piper to reconsider the trajectory he has set …. I do still have a duty to regard him as a brother rather than an enemy or an apostate (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:15), and I owe him respect and honor as one to whom those things are due (Romans 13:7).”

And if our brother in Christ, John Piper, does not respond to the admonishment of brothers; what then? Doesn’t the Scripture have the answer, which is: “have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.” IMO, there is no more loving response from a brother to a brother who has gone off, such as Piper has, than to obey the Scriptures to “admonish” him and if he is unrepentant, to “have no company with him that he may be ashamed” (2 Thess. 3:14) so that he might reconsider his course of action and repent of it.

If this latest error (belief in the charismatic sign gifts being another), after some protest over it, is to be tolerated for the sake of unity in the T4G and TGC community, then the Scriptural response is ignored for the sake of that unity. Then all will have embraced “the worst errors of the neo-evangelicals” Isn’t that possible and just over the horizon?

I agree as you wrote that we, “owe him respect and honor as one to whom those things are due.” The pastor is due that honor, unless he has violated the sacred trust. IMO, the bigger question is this:

Just where does our first loyalty lie; to our friend(s) in the Lord, or to the Lord Himself and the mandated course of action laid out in His Word?


DJP said...

First: note that a number of comments after mine illustrated the point I was making.

Second: I wish I could have posted the following at the head of the comments.

My son Josiah and I are going through Proverbs together on Saturday mornings. We were discussion Proverbs 12:16-18 (not sure which specific one). I mentioned Phil Johnson as a model of maturity of expression to me, a model I strive after but seldom or never attain.

One of the things I told Josiah (and this is what I wish I'd been awake to say at the start) is that when Phil says something, he always has the goods. If he doesn't, he doesn't speak.

Yet again and again I see people relating to Phil as if he just shoots his mouth of, emoting or opining like a hollow Easter bunny.

Yeah, well, never.

So I say that to say this: please don't waste our time with nebulous rejections of his case, or that lots of people have come to Christ, or whatever.

Deal with what Phil actually said.

IOW - are you saying that those videos of Warren waffling, muffing, or kissing up to the world are fakes? Is that a CGI Warren, an avatar, or something? Is his voice dubbed? Are those direct quotations falsified? Is that what you're saying?

As he always does, Phil gave specifics. Please deal with the specifics. Or just go have breakfast at Denny's or something.

I don't think that's too much to ask, is it?

Nash Equilibrium said...

I strenuously disagree with you Phil, that Piper's "status" should be a factor in his being admonished for what is at best a major misjudgement, and at worst a conscious compromise.

God is no respecter of men. While we're not God, I don't think we can be a respecter of men above being repecters of truth as revealed in the Word.

For some reason, you are dealing with a doubled-standard with regard to your reaction to a major goof by Piper, vs. equally serious goofs by others. Your normally impeccable judgement has taken a backseat in this situation in my opinion, for some reason which I do not understand.

Respectfully submitted.

terriergal said...

I see you left out the part where you were putting up that mug shot of the criminal with bad teeth, solely to make fun of him. Why should anyone take your judgement of 'proper respect' seriously when you don't even have basic human respect for people's physical appearance?

Anyone wanting to see the facebook discussion just let me know, I can provide it. It's shameful. Dr Macarthur will be getting a copy.

Julie West said...

I can completely understand the concern that the sheer influence of Dr. Piper is one of the most dangerous issues of his decision. I know myself that often just seeing the list of speakers at one of the Desiring God conferences was enough to cause me to respect them. A lack of discernment, I know, but an example of Dr. Piper's powerful influence.
Also, I would love to hear more about the Biblical role of women in internet forums such as this. A very convicting and interesting point that you made, Mr. Johnson. I was immediately conscious that I have overstepped many times in this way; things I would never have the compunction to say to Christian leaders in person I find easy to express from my laptop. OUCH! Thank you for that insightful confrontation, I think many of my fellow sisters will appreciate this warning as well and pray that we will all be given a heart of repentance.

James Scott Bell said...

What I am going to say may surprise you, but it also surprised me. When I first read this post, I was prepared to say something like "lighten up" on Rick Warren, and what's the big deal about Piper inviting him, etc. But then I read the links Phil provided, watched the videos (even Colbert) and thought about this some more. And you know what? If I were a staunch Calvinist, I would be troubled by this invitation, too.

If you want to have a conference run by one of your main guys, I think it's appropriate to question this invitation.

I mean, if I were to hold a conference, I wouldn't invite Phil Johnson to speak, either. It wouldn't be appropriate, unless it was clearly a debate forum.

I'm not even sure I'd invite Rick Warren myself. I find him to be a gifted communicator. I wasn't at all unhappy he did the Inaugural prayer. But I do find his pragmatism to be over the top. He affirms the inerrancy of Scripture, but seems reluctant to trust it in his preaching. (Billy Graham was not reluctant).

So there you are. I really am flummoxed by Piper's rationale. From a Calvinist perspective, he doesn't need to do this.

DJP said...

Dr Macarthur will be getting a copy.


I'm chuckling; dang, it's a pity one can't prescribe a dose of "Get Over Yourself" in pill form.

takeheed said...

Just recently I spoke on 'Rick Warren and things Purpose Driven' and to be perfectly honest I reached some radically different conclusions than those expressed by John Piper - especially about Warren's 'soundness'. My talk can be heard on this link http://www.gbc-peel.org.uk/audiosermons.htm - it is the talk listed for 17th March.

Warmly in Christ

Cecil Andrews
'Take Heed' Ministries
Northern Ireland

Perzi said...

I really am a fan of Pastor John Piper and I really dont care much for Rick Warren, but Perhaps Pastor John Piper is perhaps seeing beyond the veil by inviting Rick Warren to speak. We all need to come together as Christ followers to achieve the ultimate goal which is to usher lost souls into heaven. "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation..." this division that reformed christians put on the rest of christiandom is just what the devil wants. John Piper has made a wise choice

DJP said...

Really? Huh. So, Perzi, please give your response to each of the links Phil provides, and explain why each one indicates that Piper made a wise choice.

Or by "veil" do you mean "What Warren actually preaches and does in public"?

Chris Meirose said...

This just in: Dr. John Piper invites Greg Boyd to the 2011 Conference...

Tom said...

Phil said: "I would never give such a man a platform at a national conference, in front of thousands of impressionable disciples, to make an apologia for his pragmatic ministry philosophy or his truncated gospel."

Perhaps the problem is that we're making disciples of men instead of making disciples of Christ? If Piper's "disciples" cannot discern what the Gospel is and isn't, and a speach by Warren is enough to persuade them to question the truths of Scripture, that doesn't say much for their discernment or for them being "stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard."

I'm going to T4G next week for the first time, and I hope it isn't just a Christian celebrity Woodstock. I've heard that it can sometimes feel that way, but God help us if we're more enamored with Christian celebrities (and wanting to be their disciples) than we are with God and His Gospel.

FX Turk said...

I'm ashamed that I laughed at the picture of the guy with the stunt teeth.

Can I blame it on a joke about the Virgin Mary?

100 Mile Pants said...

PJ: "Piper influences people who are under my pastoral care. It would be unconscionable for me to ignore what I am convinced is a dangerously misleading and potentially hurtful decision."

DJP: "I mentioned Phil Johnson as a model of maturity of expression to me, a model I strive after but seldom or never attain... when Phil says something, he always has the goods. If he doesn't, he doesn't speak."

Funnily enough, when I heard the news, one of the first things I wanted to know was how Phil would respond. I've been checking here daily to see if he had. And his response just reaffirms why Iwould think such a way.

Phil, your post here is most helpful to many of us as we wrestle with our thoughts and emotions and consider how to respond to those in our pastoral care. Yourself, Dan and Frank are a constant reminder to me to take more care in what I say and choose my words carefully. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Hi Phil,

You wrote:

From my perspective it looks like Dr. Piper is repeating the worst errors of the neo-evangelicals, and his critics are imitating the worst misconduct of the hyper-fundamentalists. I find myself in unfamiliar territory—in the middle—pleading for more restraint, more biblical discernment, less raw passion, and less impulsive behavior on both sides."

So, you're telling me you're an "moderating influence" here? Oh, my, we're in trouble.

- Leo

DJP said...

In what way, Leo? Based on what?

Please be specific. Quotations and links would be helpful.

Don't want anyone to think you were just dropping a vague, irresponsible, drive-by snark, you know.

Solameanie said...


I think Phil was referring largely to the ugliness of some of the criticism, not criticism itself, per se.

Euaggelion said...

I'll see you at T4G next week.

Will Rick Warren be at T4G next week?


Sharon said...

Together for the Gospel, The Gospel Coalition, and similar movements whose central goal, after all, is to undo the damage Warren's philosophy has caused in the evangelical movement.

This, I believe is the defining statement as to why this whole situation is so troubling.

A Musician by Grace

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...


Your love for Jesus is evident. Thank you for setting the example for young Christians like me on how to respond to a situation like this. Like you, I have a great respect for Mr. Piper, and a wariness about Rick Warren and his teachings, and when I heard about this whole thing, my wife and I were disappointed and unsure about it; though we didn't know how to respond. So thank you for unpacking the command in scripture that tells us how to deal with these kind of things in a way that honors Jesus. In response to this, those of us who have disrespected Mr. Piper instead of pleading with him to think twice need to repent; because rebuke and correction is about restoration - separation is a last resort according to the pattern set down by our Lord, and even then it is in hopes of restoration of a brother.

DJP said...

I do, however, have two complaints about the post.

One, the mention of T4G was unkind. I dearly would love to go; but a little event back home takes joyful precedence.

Two, the use of "impact" as a verb. A tooth might be impacted. A colon might be impacted. But a person? Never.

That might be cause for separation.

I'll tell Dr. MacArthur; that's what I'll do. Yessir. I'll get right on that....

Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts, Phil. Personally, I can't wrap my brain around Piper's reasons for inviting Warren. However, I do plan to watch/listen to all the speakers at DG10. I'm interested to see how Warren will handle his topic: "Thinking Purposefully for the Glory of Christ: The Life of the Mind and Global Reality".

I don't believe the biggest issue is Warren being invited. I think the most important issue is whether Piper will officially endorse Warren after Warren has spoken. Piper seemed more curious than anything when he explained his rationale for inviting Warren. And Warren could do 3 things in his message (or maybe more). He could:

1. Explain the reasoning why he's so pragmatic from a solely Biblical standpoint un-apologetically, without trying to say whatever he needs to say to please the crowd.

2. Explain the reasoning why he's so pragmatic from a pseudo-Biblical, psycho-sociological standpoint un-apologetically, without trying to say whatever he needs to say to please the crowd.

3. Explain the reasoning why he's so pragmatic from a solely Biblical standpoint , saying whatever he needs to say to please the crowd. (Or otherwise trying to convince the crowd that he is something that he has shown he is not.)

Personally, if he does #1, I'll respect him more, but will most likely disagree with him. If he does #2, I don't think my perception of him will change much. If he does #3, I'll respect him less.

Nash Equilibrium said...


I think Phil was referring largely to the ugliness of some of the criticism, not criticism itself, per se"

I understand that. One of the criticisms Phil noted as being over-the-top was someone calling Piper a "clown." While that's a matter of subjectivity, his citing of Piper's "status" as a reason for being deferential toward him, is ill-founded, wouldn't you agree? I remember this blog featuring a picture of Rob Bell in a clown nose... a man who (though a heretic), has "status."

BTW I do agree with 99% of the substance of what Phil wrote here, as I often do. I just think that using someone's status is a poor and unfounded reason for defending them.

Alex A. Guggenheim said...

I believe Phil represents the student (as well as the teacher) who has been infected with sycophantic affection for Piper (Guruism) but is waking up to the reality of the treacherous paths to which such undiscriminating admiration leads. And while Johnson may be waking up, a little late, imagine the masses that don't have the constitution of Phil Johnson's and will forever be stuck in a world of denial, minimization and justification of Piper's erring practices and teachings.

But it is a shame because long before these mea culpas on Piper's part regarding his platform invitations were his unorthodox teachings, particularly his "double" or "second" justification. And these departures have been addressed by other Reformed men, again somehow missed and without rebuttal in the minds of Piper's students. And may I add about this view that one is justified by their works before God for salvation, as Piper teaches, is a teaching that has far more consequences and impact on other doctrines than his student have detected, hence they have been infected in these places as well.

But Phil Johnson is right, Piper is just being Piper. He hasn't deceived anyone. You (those of you surprised) are confused or disappointed because of the deception you put upon yourselves regarding Piper. Did you bother to learn about his theological origins or pick up on his acceptance of such broad theological fellowship and commendation in all of his publications that stand out like a sore thumb?

And Phil Johnson is also right that the extreme responses to Piper's problems with personal comments or posturing and finger wagging with a judgment on his spiritual condition are wrong. But Johnson too conveniently labels all such miscreants as hyper-fundamentalists. If they are hyper-fundamentalists as he accuses they aren't the ones shocked or upset, such people never endorsed or followed Piper and more than likely most of them are preoccupied with their theological/spiritual fiefdoms. But there are militants within the Reformed/Covenant community and it might be that they are the people to which he is referring which would be his own community!

The problem isn't with Piper. Piper has a right to be and teach, before God and man, whatever he deems his conscience convinces him is necessary and permissible. And obviously I don't agree with Piper on some critical issues, hence I don't use his material though I may read it from time to time to stay educated regarding his trends and gladly recognize when he is right. The problem is with his students. They have failed to discern and discriminate which has led them to a view of Piper that isn't and wasn't John Piper and their injury is their own.

lawrence said...


If you invent those "Get Over Yourself" pills, I wouldn't mind being able to hand out 2 or 3...and maybe one to take myself :-)

To those who are concerned that now people won't even be able to hear the truth that Piper preaches (like Tyler for instance) I wouldn't worry about that too much.

Great article, Phil, and well said. I disagree on principle, I think, even though I'm no fan of Rick Warren, but I totally respect the way your articulated your position.

Tyler Wallick said...

A-Guggs - that is exactly how I viewed it but lacked the ability to articulate. Thanks.

Chris Roberts said...

"I find myself in unfamiliar territory—in the middle—pleading for more restraint"

Out of all this, that is probably what scares me the most. Phil Johnson... in the MIDDLE? I've got my bunker prepped and ready. A major world event is about to happen.

Aside from that, great entry.

DJP said...

Lawrence, a pill would be nice. I might split my prescription with you.

Getting someone to see his (her) need of it is the hardest part. But swallowing ain't easy; the other week, I knew I needed a dose, but had to keep swallowing gallons of water to get it down.


Unknown said...

In appreciating and agreeing with your post, that which I appreciate most are the tools given to think through this (and other situations) with biblical discernment. So much of the responses on the internet have been emotional reactions on both sides, not calmly thought through from the Scripture.

This post offers reflection in how we have responded, insight in how to think about it today, and tools to respond in the future as we see how this unfolds.

The Berean spirit, in love, needs to be fostered not blind acceptance under the banner of love nor mean spirited attacks.

Phil Johnson said...

Frank Turk: "His rebuke to those, like me, who do not think Warren is utterly unchristian is sobering."

I haven't really rebuked anyone for refusing to categorize Rick Warren as "utterly unchristian." It's above my pay grade to make judgments of that kind. Rick Warren SAYS he believes the gospel. Perhaps (despite all his attempts to remodel the gospel) he really does believe it in some childlike or mustard-seed sense. It's not for me to say one way or the other, and I haven't even expressed an opinion on the question.

The problem is that Rick Warren doesn't PREACH the gospel without watering it down or changing it into a message designed to boost the sinner's self-esteem rather than convict of sin. And most often, he simply doesn't preach the gospel at all. (See his TED lecture, linked above, for evidence of this.)

"Utterly unchristian"? I didn't say that. I admit I wonder how someone who truly appreciates the power of the gospel could do what Rick Warren did this past weekend in front of two (supposedly) sellout crowds at Angel Stadium. I wonder how someone who loves Christ could laugh so blithely at the joking blasphemies of Stephen Colbert on national television.

Still, Rick Warren's formal confession of faith is sound enough (he affirms the Baptist Faith and Message, I gather), and I'm not prepared to criticize someone just for being reluctant to write him off as an utter reprobate. Again, I'm reluctant to make that judgment myself.

On the other hand, even if we presume that Warren is indeed a true brother and not an enemy of the gospel, the admonition enjoined by 2 Thessalonians 3:15 surely precludes handing over the platform to him at a national conference--especially after his 30-year track record of persisting in ever-more-pragmatic methodologies despite the many critiques and admonitions he has already received from men whom he ought to respect and listen to.

Aaron said...

Thanks that was a very well done and level headed article. I however just felt this move by John Piper was for me the straw that broke the camel's back. Not only from who Piper has invited to conferences (the Doug Wilson invite really bothered me.) But then there's his "squishy" stance on Baptist issues (allowing people baptized as children to take Communion etc.) I wouldnt call for anyone to take my stance and apply it unilaterally because it's hard to separate from The Brethren but sometimes you have to take a stance on principle even when it hurts and for me I just had to remove myself from supporting John Piper I pray for him but cant really in good conscious support anything new he has coming out because this latest action just seems painfully naive.

lawrence said...


Wait, you KNEW you needed one and you STILL couldn't get it down? Shame on you. I'm telling Phil. And John McArthur. :)

Phil Johnson said...


You misunderstood what I meant by "status." Perhaps "track record" would have been a better choice of words on my part. I was speaking of his standing and reputation as a faithful teacher of God's Word, not his prominence or social rank.

Kim said...

The number of ladies letting loose with nasty comments does not surprise me. Sometimes, my gender simply cannot get rid of its catty tendencies.

Lou Martuneac said...

John Piper has invited, embraced and defended Warren; where is Dr. MacArthur on this? I suspect some private admonition for now.

IMO, the high-profile men of T4G (JMac, Mohler, Dever, Sproul, et. al.) who converge next week would like for this to go away and will have little, and most likely nothing to say about it. Their fellowship is fragile enough as it is with Piper and Mahaney’s charismatic theology. This issue with Rick Warren must be must unwelcome news for the T4G and the Gospel Coalition.

This has the potential to be a deal breaker for them. I do suspect, however they’ll choose an outward show of unity and tolerance, but at what cost? At the expense of fidelity to the Scriptures that mandate the believer’s response to this sort of compromise and disobedience?

Tolerance for Piper/Mahaney’s charismatic theology and Mohler/Duncan signing the Manhattan Declaration appears to be the pattern and with this issue IMO will not be deviated from.


Phil Johnson said...


Let the record show that YOU said that, not I.

Tom said...


I grew up in the fundamentalist era and completely concur with your assessments in both the concerns you have with Dr. Piper’s invitation and the unchristian response of so many. However, I can fully understand the fleshly anger that is taking place in so many responses and think it is important to try and understand them so we might help better correct them.

I grew up in a SBC church during the peak of its liberal era and just at the time the conservative movement began. Since the schools had not yet been cleaned, I chose to vacate the traditional route of a SBC guy and went to MBI and DTS. Going there put me at an extreme disadvantage with my SBC heritage and was told I would never be able to pastor a SBC church. Though that proved to be untrue to this day, there have been sacrifices for going that direction.

I went to those schools because of their long tradition of being a bastion of conservative theology and they were bedrocks that would not be moved. You probably know as well as I do that there have been huge disappointments that have occurred there. To give you perspective, I was at both these schools during the Lordship salvation debate. I cannot tell you the disappointment that was. You can only imagine, after what I gave up, that it felt like a betrayal. It was the first of many.

I truly felt that Dr. MacArthur was a person who I could trust to not waver. So I must admit I was confused, considering his position on the charismatic movement, when he had C. J. Mahaney at the Shepherd's conference I attended. Because of my fundamentalist background, it came across to me as another compromise. It felt like the circle was becoming smaller and smaller. But it helped me realize that the gospel should be the dividing line and I came to rejoice over C.J. rather than disappointed.

But it seems like the lines are being further moved by Dr. Piper. Obviously none can authentically question his commitment but, as you pointed out, it is how many will perceive this invitation. This invitation pales with the others. Driscoll is committed to the gospel. On the other hand, there is no question that Rick Warren is not committed to the clear message of the gospel, yet Piper invites him. So this feels like a betrayal to many and now it seems the line that had been drawn in regards to the gospel has been crossed. I have those in my church that will view this as nothing less than a complete endorsement. Right or wrong, that is how they will take it and they will be influenced by Warren.

The fundamentalists were too broad but this feels like too much ground is being given up. Nothing stirs more emotion than when people feel betrayed (e.g. Stupak) or feel like they don't have a voice (e.g. Healthcare). I think that is what is driving a lot of the emotion. I know even I have had to pray for my emotions to be tempered and you have a closer relationship to Piper and the ability to have a more influential voice.

I hope at T4G that you and others will point out the most recent presentation by Warren at Easter and beg Piper to reconsider. I believe it is too much ground to give up whether it is real or merely perceived.


FX Turk said...

Phil --

You did say this:

The massive problems with Warren's ministry philosophy are well documented. The same with his practice of softening, omitting, or denying key gospel truths about sin, judgment, the wrath of God, and the necessity of repentance. A preacher doesn't have to affirm heresy or overtly deny truth in order to be dangerous. It is entirely possible by one's behavior to distort or obscure the gospel message. All Peter did to earn a public rebuke from Paul was change seats at the dinner table (Galatians 2:11-14). But in context, that seriously compromised the gospel. Deliberately and repeatedly giving short shrift to the greatest truths of the gospel is at least as serious an error as Peter's hypocrisy.

From that, I interpolated "unchristian", which I think is a fair assessment of what the problem is (in your view) and why we should hold him at arm's length (if we should hold him at all).

However, I note your qualification here, and I still take your post as a whole as a meaningful and thoughtful rebuke as one who disagrees with you.

Phil Johnson said...


But notice that the comparison I made was to Peter, not to the Judaizers. That was deliberate.

FX Turk said...

And I think it's also important to say this as well:

I'm not a big fan of Rick Warren. I am entirely uneasy with the PDC/PDL view of ministry, church, and Christ. I personally probably wouldn't go to see him if he was appearing at my neighbor's house and was going to say grace over free steaks.

I would go so far as to say that he represents the current place Revivalism finds itself in the history of the Christian faith.

BUT ...

In all seriousness, it is not common to find a pastor who has what the general readers of this blog would call a "right minded view of the Gospel" who has the ability to reach out to people and teach other to reach out to people for the sake of the Gospel.

There is something in Rick Warren which we great doctrine types can learn from. Maybe DG is not the best platform for that, but on the other hand, what would be a platform where YRR types would come to hear a guy who's not Y, not R and not R.

Unknown said...

Phil, thank you for your willingness to address controversial issues. May God guide you in discerning the difference between true and false doctrine.

Clark Dunlap said...

Thanks Phil, I've been appreciating your input since the mid 90s and the Calvinist bulletin board we posted on.
I haven't been around Warren as much as you, but found him to be shallow theologically, pramatic, but within the pale.
But its interesting - and ironic - that a previous post suspected that he would sound like Spurgeon in Piper's pulpit.
especially since Spurgeon had his rebukes and challenges for Downgrading the gospel.

FX Turk said...


Fair enough. That's a good distinction, and I missed it.

Mason said...


Thank you so much for your thoughts. Your point on Galatians 2 is critical and relevant, but being largely overlooked in much discussion surrounding this issue.

I've given this link on other forums, but I thought I would post it here too. The content highlights the easy-believism that surrounds Warren's presentation of the Gospel. The entire article (which is characteristic) wreaks with fleshly appeals.


Thanks again brother.

PS - Your point is well taken on the hotheaded watch-bloggers/commentors. Paul Washer mentioned recently that when David first started, many of those who gathered to him did so simply because they hated Saul. What a warning.

Watcher's Lamp said...

What's worse than John Piper inviting Rick Warren to the DG conference?

It's John Piper on video justifying his own actions and Rick Warren's theology and ministry.

It's John Piper on video classifying the issues others have with Warren simply as secondary separation issues.


Asking Allah for forgiveness, entertaining homosexual activists (and then acting like you weren't becuase you were "out of town"), espousing interfaith and pluralism internationally as a representative of "Christianity", never mind the mutilation of Scripture and promoting a false gospel in the name of church growth. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

John Piper minimizes the manifold issues Warren represents to Biblical Christianity.

In a cloaked manner, John Piper patronizes the critics by saying it's just "hanging out with someone".

No Dr Piper, it is not just "hanging out with someone".

Rationalizing and patronizing are the same techniques 100's of other pastors used to counter church members who stood against the use of Warren's materials in their churches.

Why did pastors resort to those tactics? Because the Purpose Driven program teaches those tactics. Pastors use those tactics to get what they want...out of pride and ambition.

Anyone who does not feel the sting of John Piper's actions and comments does not know enough about Rick Warren's theology and ministry or the Bible. Or both.

This flock is getting fleeced.

Kim said...


Yes, I will definitely clarify that it was I who said that and not you. :)

Anonymous said...

Phil, thank you for this thoughtful post...Amen!

DJP said...

Feel better now, Henry? Hope so.

Now please read Phil's post — which answers all your questions — and check out his links, then tell us what the facts lead you to think.

Peter Keon Ho Kim said...

Can you imagine the impact it would have in the Christian world if John Piper was able to have some influence over what Rick Warren says and does because of their relationship.
I am hoping that Piper will have the same sanctifying effect on Warren as he had on Mark Driscoll.

Mr. Fosi said...

"Just to be clear, I don't agree with this type of hatred-filled language, no matter who it is coming from."

Oy vey.

candy said...

Part of an edited email I sent someone:

As for Warren's tactics. He utilizes "dialig to consensus" which is why he is like a chameleon. As an example, say someone has a group that really tries to follow the 10 commandments. Someone comes in and says....well, we really like your group and want to join, but we just have a problem with one commandment. Can we dialog about this and maybe come to a consensus? So...the group dialogs and decides that they can live without that troublesome commmandment for the sake of unity. It goes on with more compromises down the road and creates synthesis. So here is Rick Warren telling John Piper that he believes everything just like Piper does, except for maybe, limited atonement, as an example. They might use the platitude of getting along because love is more important than that one little doctrine. He charms Piper (which is how it initially looks to me) by
saying he read everything Piper ever wrote, and not only that, is reading through Jonathan Edwards. Piper is won over and thinks maybe he can influence this guy by including him in his circle. I am concerned that Warren, who is well acquainted with the dialectic process of essentially, divide and conquer, will actually have more influence on Piper. I agree that it might have been better for Piper to be friends with Warren for awhile, and prove Warren's doctrinal beliefs and renouncement of worldly systems management methodologies over time, and not give him a platform to speak at a conference. For Piper to state that he called Warren to make sure of his doctrinal beliefs before he talked about the issue on his video is curious to me too. Wouldn't he have already known Warren's doctrinal positions before he invited him? He affirmed Warren's Purpose Driven Life, his approach to convenental
membership, and what he calls church discipline, which in many cases was actually a way to rid the church of dissenters who saw the problems inherent in Warren's approach.

I am concerned because we know if we compromise in little areas, we create cracks that widen over time. I have come to appreciate MacArthur more and more for his uncompromising stand in the public square. We do know by looking at history what happened when Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, and Princeton allowed compromise to seep into their schools. I am concerned also because so many young people trust Piper implicitly, and this issue seems to bring confusion. I know many of us are hoping we are wrong to be alarmed, but I think the fact that Warren has not publicly renounced his human-centered books and teaching means that he still believes all of that stuff.

Piper stated that he hopes people don't become brittle Reformed Christians, but I think many of us came out of questionable practices and compromise, and into Reformed theology with great relief as we put aside those things that formally tossed us to and fro. I hope this issue will not result in young believers being tossed around in their thinking.

NewManNoggs said...

Thanks for addressing this, Phil. I know it's off topic, but are any of the Pyro team going to address Piper's evolving old-earth stand. (pun intended)
As it seems everyone says, I love Piper. He's way smarter than I am. His ministry has been a huge blessing to me. BUT, is he getting punchy in his senior years?

Jeri Tanner said...

This is in response to Barry's comment and maybe others who wonder about Dr. Packer's signing off on ECT and the ramifications of that, and other such things: Ian Murray has documented the fallout (bad fruit) of the early days of evangelical ecumenicism in his histories. He touches on the happenings of that time, and on Dr. Packer's part in them, in his biography of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and expounds on it in "Evangelicalism Divided." It makes the heart quite heavy. I think a look at the whole life and ministry of Dr. Packer up until now is a look under the microscope of where such decisions take one. He (Dr. Packer) must surely be a great man of God with a great mind and heart for God. Yet he did not attain to the stature and ongoing helpfulness and impact of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who held firm to the end of the truths that were so important to the preaching of the true gospel.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

PJ: "Speaking of Twitter chatter and Facebook feedback, I can't touch on this whole subject without pointing out that the tone of some of the criticism leveled at Dr. Piper is simply revolting.

Anyway, I remarked on the radio this week that I think a lot of Dr. Piper's critics have been too shrill, too hysterical, too trigger-happy, too eager for immediate reprisals, and too disrespectful to Dr. Piper.

[Piper's] critics are imitating the worst misconduct of the hyper-fundamentalists."

Hmmmmmmm. Well, maybe one possible silver-lining to Piper's invitation of Warren is that it has (perhaps unintentionally) brought out, revealed, and exposed the latent nastiness and ugliness of a segment of Desiring God devotees.

Phil Johnson said...


The nastiness wasn't coming from DG devotees but mainly from people who were either already hostile to Piper or fiercely passionate about guilt-by-association and conspiracy-theory-style "discernment."

Unknown said...

I truly appreciate your discernment in responding to Dr. Piper's lack thereof with respect to the invitation of Rick Warren. It is exactly how I did.
My sadness comes from Dr.Piper's validation of Rick Warren. Rick Warren has led many an unbeliever into thinking they are a true believer with his methodology and his omissions from the truth of scripture. This validation could lead to a massive increase in the deceiving of the lost.
I have never thought that Rick Warren's motives were not pure, but I have determined from the Word his man-centered approach to evangelism was in gross error leading many down the road to hell. Dr. Piper needs to examine the fruits of Rick's ministry and not just take his word for it.
Sadness is all I can say. T4G won't feel the same this year because this has definitely become a stumbling block to many brethren. Discernment is at a minimum on this one. ;-(

Andrew Faris said...

This is a fantastic post, Phil- maybe my favorite I've ever read on this blog.


Larry Geiger said...

"I find myself in unfamiliar territory—in the middle". That's ok, at least we don't have to worry about Dan having that problem :-)

Aaron said...


I mentioned Phil Johnson as a model of maturity of expression to me, a model I strive after but seldom or never attain.

Funny, I was thinking I say the same thing about you to my wife and kids. And much like Pastor Pants, my first reaction to this controversy was to check the blogs daily to see what you, Phil and Frank would say. This was so much so, that I started to wonder if I hand't moved from respect to unhealthy idolization of the three of you. I was thankful that Phil took so long to respond because I needed to think about the situation and use my own brain to apply Scripture to the dilemma.

I came to the conclusion that I think it was a mistake on Piper's part, but every man makes mistakes, even great ones. And as is illustrated by the banter between Frank and Phil, the issue as to how to categorize and treat Warren is not easy to discern. I hope my friends aren't so quick to push me down when I stumble.

Lou Martuneac said...


The biblical mandates (2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15; Rom. 16:17-18) are clear and are applicable to the man Rick Warren for obvious reasons. There is no subjective decision to make. One must chose to disregard the plain teaching of Scripture to invite and give Warren a national platform where he has a ripe opportunity to deceive the unsuspecting that would otherwise not be reached if Piper had not given him the venue to do it from. We would all do well to be reminded of Paul’s parting admonition to the elders at Ephesus,

For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them,” (Acts 20:29-30).

Warren IMO is not a wolf, but he is a man who from within the body of Christ has arisen and is “speaking perverse things to draw away disciples.”

In his classic, Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church, Dr. Ernest Pickering wrote, “If one should ask, Does 2 Thessalonians 3 teach secondary separation?—then the response would have to be given, It depends on what you mean by secondary separation. . . . It is the principle of refusing to condone, honor or utilize persons who continually and knowingly are following a course of action which is harmful to other believers and to the welfare of the churches.”

With Piper this invitation to Rick Warren is the latest in what is become a track record of aberrant theology and/or questionable practices. Charismatic theology, thinking the Toronto Blessing is a blessing, embrace of Mark Driscoll in spite of his disgraceful filth speech; and now this. Is this not a pattern that now necessitates the mandates of 2 Thess. 3:14-15?

I agree with you, Phil- John Piper is not an enemy and I do not appreciate those who might portray him as one. He is, however, a brother who has gone horribly wrong in theology and practice with the Warren invite being the latest and most stark example. If members of the body of Christ do not take biblical steps to admonish and withdraw from to restore him he will eventually make even worse decisions than this one with Rick Warren.

If men love the brethren, John Piper in particular, they will admonish him. If he remains unrepentant they will withdraw from him…have no company with him that he may be ashamed and Lord willing repent of this error.


Weeks said...

This is going to sound conspiracy theorist wacko, but I can't help thinking if Piper is having such problems with pride in his life, what better way to short-circuit them than to draw the ire and rebuke of the community he's helped lead? Could this be a private, personal declaration of war on his own popularity, in an effort to reduce the opportunities for pride to corrupt his faith?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

PJ: "The nastiness wasn't coming from DG devotees but mainly from people who were either already hostile to Piper or fiercely passionate about guilt-by-association and conspiracy-theory-style "discernment."

Thanks for clarifying and identifying the source. I wasn't sure what to term that segment of folks who were risibly angry with Piper so I thought they must have been disappointed DG fans.

Anyways, if they were already hostile to Piper even before he had invited Warren, and they were just looking for a reason to unload on Piper, then their criticisms have to be considered in that light.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Thank you Phil for clarifying the point on "status" - very helpful.

As far as Warren is concerned, I know that his programs have steam-rollered a lot of people in a lot of churches; people who didn't agree with the whole PDL thing and, according to the "program," have had to either be coerced, marginalized, or eliminated so that "change" could occur. Those are hardly Gospel techniques, and I think these distasteful fruits say more about Warren's theology than his theological words ever could.

Unknown said...


P.S. I fixed the shift key for a brownie point-

Anonymous said...


Thank you for your thoughtfulness and wisdom in the way you addressed your concerns regarding this issue. It is an example to me in how to express true disagreement without being arrogant on one hand, or weak on the other. And it was simply well argued.

I wonder if perhaps too much weight is being put on the whole "people will be confused/influenced by Piper's seeming endorsement of Warren" angle.

I haven't read a single person on this blog, Challies, JT, (to name few of the more popular) who seems to be thinking "Maybe Warren's understanding of the Gospel isn't as off as we all think." The reaction has been either that Piper is going off the deep end (really?) or that its not that big a deal, Piper can invite who he wants.

I don't know, I just don't see this being an issue of compromise. Piper has a proven track record of destroying attempts to pervert the gospel by any and all comers. Warren makes no specific target of any doctrine us reformed types hold dear. A chameleon is a great description. Piper is curious. So am I. Do we really think Piper won't nail him if he teaches something heretical or dangerous at his own conference?

Obviously this is somewhat of a tangent sorry.

Rachael Starke said...

Phil, this was so helpful. Thank you.

I admit, I was bothered like everyone else, but also so angered by the hypcrisy of the "church purity police"'s self-righteous, self-glorifying pontificating that I leaned heavily toward giving both Piper and Warren a heavy dose of benefit of the doubt, grace, love and prayer on principle.

But I hadn't read the links you referenced here. Specifically, while I didn't listen to the TED lecture, I did browse the comment thread, and that was the most telling of all. In particular, the first atheist guy warning "You guys better be careful! Warren says he's all about being and doing good, but don't you believe it! He just crafted that message for his audience! He really wants you to believe in his Jesus!" And everyone else weighs in with, "No no no no. He didn't say anything about Jesus! He's fiiine."

As my Australian brethren would say, that's just not on. What self-respecting pastor would read that after one of his, well, anything - blogpost, sermon, conversation in a coffee shop, and not weep?? Good grief, I would.

My prayer now is that the most significant part of this year's DG won't be when Warren speaks, but when he sits down and listens to the others speak, and, by God's grace, repents for the damage he's done. (And yes, what you say about how T4G et al exist to repair that kind of damage was also spot on and helpful.) All those of us who understand the greater miracle of regeneration can surely pray with confidence for God do this lesser one in changing Warren's heart.

And I'll offer another feminine apology for the shrill harping of some of my gender. I'd say I'm stunned by my half of the created order missing the irony of their deception about not being deceived and standing up for TRUTH, but, well, I'm not. Ashamed, mortified, yes. Surprised, no.


Mr. Fosi said...


Maybe because you're not God?

Pretty worthless post, IMO. But take heart, without worthless posts like this, we wouldn't have a basis from which to recognize the worthwhile ones.

DJP said...

Joey - then let Piper "do lunch" with him, get his curiosity satisfied.

MRWBBIII - I'm not sure exactly what you were aiming at, but thanks. It made me laugh. I'm not sure we've ever had an all-caps multi-exclamation-point comment before.

Jerry Brown said...

Excellent post, and I agree with you. I think John Piper made a mistake, but I am not prepared to go burn the library of his books that I own. He is still an excellent pastor and theologian, even if he now shows us that he is, well, human.

Anonymous said...


He kind of already has...he has spoken on the phone with him and asked a bunch of questions, he has talked with him in person. Now he wants to give him an hour to defend/explain his thinking.

If Piper were bringing him in to preach the Word to his local church...I think that would cause for some alarm. But bringing him to a conference with the theme "Think" to give a talk...I see that as something different. But Phil's post has given me a lot to consider though.

candy said...

As a teacher, my above comment leaves me cringing with its typos and spelling errors. I'm so ashamed. :) Other than that, it has been an interesting comment thread, and not that shrill yet.

FX Turk said...

... 98 ...

FX Turk said...

... 99 ...

FX Turk said...

100! Yay!

DJP said...

You're such a kid.

butterfli75 said...

Discernment does not mean we can safely mingle with wolves; rather, it means we can identify them and flee! Let the strongest among our elders counsel these lost teachers from a safe distance. I nominate Phil Johnson for a one-on-one with Warren!

mike said...

i have read more than enough of what you have written to know that you are most anything except deed not creeds, and i want to be clear on that from the getgo.
i am painfully aware that far too many professing christians are in it for themselves, but regardless o fhow much many of us clearly do not believe the writings in the book of James, isn't the price of that lesson too high, if it has to be taught by Rick W. along with the rest of that package?

FX Turk said...

Lots of people try to score the "FIRST!" on posts, which is very immature, but to get #100 on a thread that's bound to have some epic length like 400 or 500 -- that takes patience, timing, and a real sense of what's important.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I wonder what would have happened if all the folks who care so much about the lack of discernment by other folks in the church would have exhibited the same amount of agitated concern to their fellow church members who were thinking about voting for Obama as they do now about Piper inviting Warren.

If Piper's undiscerning about inviting Warren, then what about the lack of discernment displayed by the Christians who voted for Obama?

butterfli75 said...

Does anyone doubt that Warren will use this experience to add to his resume and claim to have the support of every major stripe along the universal religious spectrum that represents the new "Christian/Moralist/Tony Blair One World Religion" order??

Stefan Ewing said...


I like it when someone gets comment 66 in a thread, to wrap things up. But then a 67th comment comes along, and the beauty of the moment is lost.

Unknown said...

I think Phil unreasonably dismisses the problem of seperatism in the young, restless, and reformed movement. The fact that this is the third DG conference in a row that has caused controversy over the speaker seems to definitively indicate it's presence. We can be as separatistic about the details of doctrine as hyper fundamentalist were about the details of ethics and dress. I don't think Piper is off base with his concern. Whether this is the best way to solve it seems debatable.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Phil, for this important and necessary sound point of view.
I hope John Piper will not go longer with this attitude.

May God keep using him in his Kingdom!

mike said...

if you haven't heard much about that, let me recommend another blog site that might help you
guy can be a bit opinionated, but he has addressed that issue at least once.

Nash Equilibrium said...

I am dismayed that Piper is (apparently) also inviting Richard Nixon and Elvis to speak.

FX Turk said...

Mike --

That's a reasonable question.

My opinion, insofar as it is worth anything, is that people who are working hard to do what Jesus said to do in a traditional SBC context might be closet legalists, but they see the "to do" list to include real evangelism to real people as well as the campy social stuff. Sometimes the people on the "creeds" side tend to see obedience as book l'arnin' and not so much seeing dying people with needs.

That's my bias -- I admit it. It may even be unfair. But that's how I would come at the question you are raising.

mike said...

but Frnak, as perfect people in a perfect world...
never mind.

as a guy who was recently asked to step down from the board, and then ultimately to leave a pragmatic church plant, i may have a bias as well. i was beat to death for 18 months by every Hybells and Warren book and success story that could be found.

small church was started by about 50 people who averaged 15 to 20 years of church attendance, and 50 years of age. by the time i left, less that 5 of them remain. it now resembles the average babies R us clientel.

but they do lead the league in give a ways and encouraging stories.

and for anyone who may actually know me, I am not better than anyone else on my own.

mike said...

i should have admitted, has grown to about 250 people, so...

or something like that.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Phil Johnson said...

Danny: "I think Phil unreasonably dismisses the problem of seperatism in the young, restless, and reformed movement. The fact that this is the third DG conference in a row that has caused controversy over the speaker seems to definitively indicate it's presence"

"Controversy over the speaker" isn't second-degree separation, and until Dr. Piper himself raised the issue, I had heard no talk about "separation" from Piper over his choice of speakers (except an occasional peep in fundamentalist circles, which have nothing to do with the YRRs).

The fact that "controversy over the speaker" triggers automatic fear of "fundamentalism" and provokes such a preemptive strike against the very notion of separation suggests to me that some who hang out in YRR circles have the notion that the best (or quickest) way to build their movement is by increasing the circumference of those circles.

That's just what CT did, and it destroyed the evangelical movement. It's what I fear Dr. Piper has in mind, and why he has been inviting badder bad-boys with each successive year.

It's a bad strategy.


Danny: "We can be as separatistic about the details of doctrine as hyper fundamentalist were about the details of ethics and dress"

Doctrine and dress codes aren't remotely the same thing. Let's keep that in mind. True, some of the "details of doctrine" are petty and picayune, but not all. One person's fundamental doctrine is another person's secondary detail. Scripture should be the ultimate arbiter when that debate arises. It would be deadly for YRRs to adopt the Emerging/postmodern notion that no doctrinal difference is more important than the pretense of unity, or that doctrine per se is a trivial matter compared to the smiles and hugs of indiscriminate inclusivity.

Surely there's a middle ground between hyper-fundamentalism and the neo-evangelicals' refusal to contend earnestly for ANY truth. That's all I'm saying.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Surely there's a middle ground between hyper-fundamentalism and the neo-evangelicals' refusal to contend earnestly for ANY truth. That's all I'm saying."

It's true. There is a middle ground.

I know because I'm standing on it.


donsands said...

"Good feelings and friendly relations eventually trumped almost every evangelical truth." -Phil

"Deeds not Creeds!" -Rick Warren

The feelings thing in the church in our day has really dumbed the Body of Christ down like nothing else. We are walking in the spiritual shallows.

I love John Piper. A great pastor of our Lord. A good example of a leader, and man of God. His teachings are deep and very biblical.
His, "Let the Nations be Glad" is such a great book on evangelism for us reformed guys especially, and our non-reformed brothers and sisters as well.

Rick Warren has not be gifted with biblical teaching and preaching, in my way of hearing and thinking. For me, he is not a pastor, and especially not a teacher of the Holy Scriptures.

He is a brother in the Lord who should step out of the pulpit, and run for Congress, or some kind of political career, and there he can do his "Deeds not Creeds" thing.

I have no desire to hear him speak, whether from the Bible, or especially not from his books.

Excellent post.
Phil writes such great articles.

Thank you for taking the time to put all this together.

Have a Christ focused Lord's Day! And may our Father bless us, so that we can worship Him, in Spirit and truth, as He desires.

"But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”" -Our Lord Jesus Christ

Stefan Ewing said...


Thank you for showing that sometimes, the middle way is the biblical path.


I was wondering who that old guy in the suit was, and the guy on the left of the photo shaking his hand.

(I jest. And my verification word is "resends.")

Stefan Ewing said...

Sometimes the middle way is the biblical path. By no means do I mean to imply that one should take the middle path on every question of doctrine and practice.

More often, the middle way is the highway that bypasses the hard mountain path, and leads to the wrong destination.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Guy in the suit: "I am not a crook!"
Guy shaking his hand: "Thank you - thank you very much..."

Gabby said...

I think that at the DG conference Warren is suddenly going to sound very 5-pointish. Because (as many have rightly criticized) he’s all things to all people. That sums him up. Like Tim Challies says, he’s A and he’s not A. He’ll be fine at that conference, which will do nothing but add further confusion to the true church. Because when it’s all said and done, for all time, when anyone dares to criticize Warren in Reformed circles, they’ll always be able to quote from his carefully chosen words that sound reformed-ish. And that, I fear, is the long-lasting damage Piper will have succeeded in accomplishing.

SandMan said...

RE: Guys shaking hands:

One was an egomaniac who mesmerized millions with nonsensical mumblings and random gyrations until his tragic end. The other: Elvis Presley.

And Phil, thank you for the concise modern Christian history lesson. I admire John Piper's body of work, but was unclear about why he is cavorting with Warren. This helped frame the issue in my mind. While I do not agree with Piper's decision, you helped me understand the way he sees it.

THEOparadox said...


This is an excellent article, and the most balanced one I've read on this subject. 98 percent of it reflected my own unarticulated thoughts that were waiting for someone to put them together.

However, I take exception to using Piper's occasional lack of discernment as a basis for criticizing his continuationist view of spiritual gifts. Would you say that Wayne Grudem or CJ Mahaney evidence the same lack of discernment? Disagree with continuationists on Biblical grounds if there are any, but not because Piper in particular fumbles on occasion. Plenty of cessationists have fumbled in much worse ways - and there are enough SOLID continuationists out there to repel what you said in this regard.

But, again, this is the only quibble I've got with such a FANTASTIC and well-written post! Thanks for taking a stand against unbiblical extremes on both sides.

Derek Ashton

DJP said...

Ill-thought-out, impulsive decision-making



Which the chicken? Which the egg?

Phil Johnson said...

Derek: "Would you say that Wayne Grudem or CJ Mahaney evidence the same lack of discernment?"

In all candor: Yes, at times.

I'm not suggesting that any of them lack discernment completely. I am suggesting that the subjectivity inherent in Grudem's theology is deeply problematic and hostile to sound discernment.

Grudem insists (on the one hand) that the gift of prophecy is operative today, yet (on the other hand) that we can't reliably know whether God has spoken infallibly or our own imagination is working overtime. How is that not a recipe for trouble? Did any of those men speak out against the chaos of the Toronto Blessing when churches were being ravaged by confusion?

Or even afterward?

I'm not trying to be contentious; just honest. It seems patently obvious to me that it's a massive problem when a pastor feels he can't tell his flock not to go running after the "Holy Ghost Bartender" because, after all, it might turn out to be a legitimate "move of God."

Unknown said...

Phil, Thanks for the clarification.

Let me also clarify. I wasn't talking about secondary separation. I was more speaking of a mistrust towards anybody who differs theologically. Many in the YRR have become truth idolaters. I know you are concerned about the slide in postmodernity, but as one fully entrenched in the YRR movement I can also attest to plenty of hubris, division, etc. over less than gospel. The hubbub over Mark Driscoll and Doug Wilson was ridiculous. I, like many, have my concerns over Rick Warren (I think chameleonic was spot on by the way, though I'm sad to say it), but surely all the rage about his presence at a single conference declares something about our tendency to fracture over less than gospel. I'm not suggesting you support separatism, but I think there is plenty of it in many YRR circles. Even with all their ecumenical talk, there is plenty of separatism in emerging camps. Some would more quickly ally with a Muslim than they would a Southern Baptist who voted for Bush. I also think the concern that YRR people are attempting to build the circle by expanding the circumference is a bit premature and (I hope) overly alarmist. Piper didn't invite the Archbishop of Canterbury after all.

"Doctrine and dress aren't remotely the same thing." I'm not even sure what you mean by that, but I am sure that any Fundamentalist would disagree with you. Disputes over dress are always doctrinal matters, and our doctrine always informs our dress. Whether culture or tradition determine our dress (or something else entirely), the issue always comes back to doctrine. My point is that we can be just as legalistic about the details of doctrine as we can be about anything else. Self-righteousness over the Bible comes just as naturally as self-righteousness over skirt length, and it is just as deadly.

Are you suggesting (I'm not sure that's why I'm asking) that YRR guys are in danger of making doctrine a trivial matter? That John Piper of all people are in danger of failing to contend for any truth? If so, I would definitely suggest that is overly alarmist. Listening, engaging, and associating with a fellow evangelical at single conference is a far cry from "indiscriminate inclusivity." So far in fact that it sounds like "wolf," and we all know what happened with the kid the cried that.

Coram Deo said...


I've been listening to your GraceLife Pulpit series on Galatians over the past couple of weeks. This is my second or third time through this series, and it's spiritual meat to me. Thanks for all you do at GLP and GTY.

With this in mind I was quite intrigued to see you mention Paul's stern, face-to-face rebuke to Peter for compromising on the gospel in this post, but I was a bit disappointed that you didn't explore this topic a bit further given the context of the Piper/Warren dust-up.

Warren has publicly not only muddled the gospel, but he has actually corrupted it in both word and deed time and time again.

In your opinion - and in the light of scripture - how is Warren not under Paul's double-curse which was pronouced upon the Judaizers, which extends to all those who teach another gospel; which is no gospel at all?

If, as I believe is the case, Warren is under the anathema pronounced by Paul for his error, then what by what reasoning should Piper not earn a stern rebuke from those within his circle of accountability for apparently extending the right hand of fellowship to one who preaches another gospel?

In Christ,

James Beane said...

Here is a short clip of John Piper defending himself against claims of intimacy with folks like Mark Driscoll. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJmkk1XjrGw

CR said...

Coram Deo,

This is the first time for me commenting public on the JP/RW issue.

There is a difference context-wise between the Judaizers and RW. The Judaizers were saying, ah yes, we believe in the gospel and what Paul preaches and all that, but you see, Paul didn't go farther enough, you see, you also have to be circumcised. I think it's important enough to point that out, because it's important to point out what the Galation heresy is so it can be identified.

Now, what about RW. Here is what troubles me about RW and why Piper invited him. RW, I don't think he believes in adding works to faith, he may, and I may have missed some links, but I don't think he advocates that. What is troubling is, in everything, I've seen, he's never really clearly articulated the gospel. So, RW, can't be accused of the Galation heresy, because he's never, first, in my view clearly articulated what he believes the gospel to be.

Now, has he mentioned Christ and Him dying on the cross? Yes. Has he talked about Hell? Yes. Has ever talked about sin? Well, he's talked about sins (plural) but not the essence of sin which is ungodlines. Well, I guess you should say never, maybe he has? But it's not enough to talk "about" the gospel, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones would say, but to actually preach the gospel.

Now, it may be an equal damnable heresy or heterdoxy to not articulate a gospel just as it is to articulate a false gospel. Now, RW may believe in the true gospel, but I have never heard him articulate it. Now, I'm very shy in public, pretty introvert, and I tend to get nervous in crowds. But RW is a public figure, he can't use that excuse. So the question I have is, why has he not articulated clearly, what the gospel is in public.

Another troubling thing about RW's invitation as has been noted, is that Piper is very influential. He's influential not just for people under the pastoral care of PJ, but hundreds of pastors including, Piper himself.

You want to know how influential he is, have any peon, and it's not just Piper but any public pastor, make a criticism of the pastor, even if it's God-honoring, and watch the attacks.

And we've already seen the defenders of Piper saying, hey, let's give Piper a break, maybe RW is not that bad. Hmmm...not that bad, well, in an age, where most professing Christians cannot articulate the gospel themselves, isn't it essential for the pastor to be able to do that himself?

That said, maybe, well not maybe, the Lord has his own plans. Maybe he will use this very poor decision by Piper to attract RW followers to listen to Piper. Maybe, RW, will be counseled by the other pastors in the conference. The ends doesn't justify the means, but the Lord has taken the real bad decisions we have made and turn them for our good.

Michelle said...

My husband and I are going to listen to Dr Piper speak tonight (Lord willing) at DG's regional conference up here in Vancouver, BC. I have struggled this week to reconcile my disappointment with my respect for him, and I have wondered how I'll be able to go with the right attitude. The way you have addressed this issue has really helped me - thank you.

David Regier said...

CR -

Thanks for that last bit. The joy in being a Calvinist is that we can rest in the fact that somehow the glory of God is going to show up, no matter who invited whom to what.

And that makes me say, "This is gonna be good.

Lou Martuneac said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pierre Saikaley said...

Has this post broken any records yet?

Zaph :-)

Phil Johnson said...

Coram Deo:

See the comments above. I'm inclined to think the proper Galatians 2 comparison is between Rick Warren and Peter (rather than comparing Warren to the deliberately-gospel-denying Judaizers). I'm not quite prepared apply the anathema of Gal. 1:8-9 to him.

bp said...

One thing that strikes me is how unbelievable it is that Piper would say that he thinks Warren is doctrinally sound. As someone else said, "Very Surreal".

I am hoping that it is pure ignorance that leads him to say this and that he possibly is just so busy all the time that he hasn't really read RW's writings or watched his conferences on tv in depth. I'm hoping that once people point some things out to him, he will see that this was not a good decision at all.

If this isn't the case, and Piper IS aware of his writings and public speeches, then I'll be dumbfounded and I guess anyone can be deceived, even the elect.

Some people have said, "let's just wait and see what Warren has to say." But who in the world thinks that he's going to give his normal, ecumenical, watered down, God-loves-you-when-you're-being-you type of message at the Desiring God conference? I have little doubt that his message will be very impressive.

Victor said...

Thanks Phil. That's a very good post on this whole situation.

100 Mile Pants said...

DJP and Phil: How much difference does it make inviting someone docrinally flawed to your conference versus being invited to someone else's conference who is doctrinally flawed? Or sharing a platform with such a person at a third party conference?

I'd be interested to know you views if that's not too far off topic.

DJP said...

I see a difference. Perhaps I can answer by referencing my post on just such an opportunity — because that's how I saw it: an opportunity.

NOT to impress people and make friends

BUT to preach Christ.

Rachael Starke said...


That was awesome.

That is also why you probably aren't on Larry King's sub list when Rick can't make it, and why the Jonas Brothers may not want to come do the music for your Easter services.

I know this breaks your heart.

Unknown said...

Every time I hear Warren mentioned, I'm more worried about the gullibility of all his readers. The level of biblical ignorance is astounding.
My two cents on the current controversy are posted here:

The Predestined Blog said...

I want lie, as some one who has been greatly influenced by Dr. Piper, it hurts a little to see him do this.

However, John Piper is a great Godly man. We know his solid track record, no reason to be too suspicious now. Perhaps he can have a good influence on Warren (make him more Gospel centric - you don't think they talked about this?) as he did on Driscoll.

candy said...

I have been thinking about a few points of this issue, and talking with my husband about different aspects of this. It took 25 years of turmoil in the Christian faith for me to come to an understanding of Reformed Christianity. I was so relieved, as I stated previously, to not be wracked with guilt over my shortcomings as a Christian and to understand a bit about his imputed righteousness. I mentioned to my husband that perhaps some of the fear being expressed by people is a result of being excited that God was bringing about a revival of reformation understanding, and then seeing a potential crack in the veneer, so to speak. I think that we will see a split of Reformed leaders. Some Reformed Christians will veer one direction with the intention of allowing major differences to be secondary to unity, and other Christian leaders will be staunchly guarding doctrine over unity. We all would be zealous for both to occur, but we see throughout history that whenever a work of God is present, the enemy soon comes in to kill and destroy. I just pray and hope most of all, that we practice discernment with grace, keeping the Gospel front and center. I thank God that Phil writes with such grace and truth...and keeps the surreal weird posts coming in alongside the more serious doctrinal concerns that he posts. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this great message. Your comments about ungracious women give me pause to recheck my words and attitude. As a woman who is always very concerned about false teachings I pray that I am not guilty of being pugnacious and disrespectful even while disagreeing. Thank you again and God bless you!

leadsoldier said...

Is it too simplistic to suggest that Dr. Piper has taken this step because THAT'S WHAT HE WANTS TO DO.

Is it possible that while many of his friends and admirers and supporters are dismayed by this decision, based on what they know about Warren, stuff that's in the public domain... Perhaps Dr. Piper has acquired a "burning in the bosom" about Mr. Warren; that he, John Piper will succeed in extracting sunbeams from this cucumber.

Rick Warren is one of those Scirroco winds that whip up in deserts, all droning power, suffocating sand and gloomy visiblity.

olan strickland said...

To me the Piper/Warren connection is as strange as Southern Seminary having the Billy Graham School of Evangelism.

I don't think Piper has a clue as to how much difficulty his having these "bad boys" at his conference causes. I'm speaking especially of pastors like myself who aren't a John Piper and who are warning their congregations of the secretly introduced heresies of these "bad boys."

Daniel C said...


I agree with you. I also agree on the need to strike a balance also between the hyper-sSeparatist tendencies in Fundamentalism, and the compromise that is present in New Evangelicalism.

I would think that 2 Jn. 9-11 does say somthing on this issue. What do you think of Peter Masters' book on the issue of separation, Stand for the Truth? I have also written on this issue here. Do you think that is a balanced approach?


Lou Martuneac said...

(PR) Daniel:

Good to see you here, enjoyed the interaction at your blog.

You reference Master’s booklet Stand for Truth.* Here is an excerpt that is applicable,

…in the past true evangelicals were always great defenders of the Gospel, never selling out to error, no matter what the gains. If these stalwarts of the past were to reappear among us today, they would be appalled at the compromises of many evangelical leaders and teachers.”

With Piper’s invitation to Warren, it is my opinion critical lines of distinction over the Gospel have been blurred. The Gospel has been compromised!


*The original title was, Separation & Obedience.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

I love John Piper as a brother in Christ. Though I am totally confused by his decision, and strongly disagree with it, I know that he, too, makes mistakes, just as WE ALL DO. And who are we to say it is a mistake, God may have more in store than we fully understand at the present?

Think on this:

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand (Psa 37:23-24)."

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

One more thing, I am taking a wait and see attitude, it may be a bit early in the game to call for separation, but, if JP continues to engage these so-called "Bad Boys" then I would separate from him as a brother. This has caused so much confusion in the body of Christ, and is doing real damage to those who are young in the faith and in real need of solid answers.

Let us pray for ALL parties involved.

Janice said...

Is it just a strange coincidence or did John Piper get un-invited to the Ligonier Conference in June?
Apparently, he's no longer coming.

Okay, now I'm getting stressed out again. I'm feeling sick to my stomach. This is really worrying me.

DJP said...

Chuck - Is it too simplistic to suggest that Dr. Piper has taken this step because THAT'S WHAT HE WANTS TO DO

Instructive thought, Chuck. After all, if Piper had not chosen to bear the responsibility of being a Christian leader, that would be all the explanation that was needed, wouldn't it?

David Rudd said...

i watched Rick Warren's TED talk Phil linked. The first comment was from an obvious non-fan of Ricks. He wrote:

Rick's been exceptionally clever, he's avoided his usual sermon, as he knew it would fail here. He's taken a different approach, a "general happiness and being positive" is close to godliness. Yet on another day, he'll tell every one of you, that if you do not believe in Jesus, and his version, you will be punished, because after all you were born a dirty sinner, and the only way to become clean is to submit to Jesus' threats of eternal violence.

2 Thoughts.
1) I guess people know where Rick stands on the Gospel.
2) Poor Rick, he can't seem to please any men.

Stefan Ewing said...


Don't reach for the Pepto-Bismol just yet. If he was scheduled to attend, it was probably a vonluntary cancellation on his part, since he is going on a planned eight-month hiatus, starting in May. As far as I know, he is still speaking at Together for the Gospel next week.

Nathan said...

I just thought you all should know that Lou Martuneac was the first one to scoop the Piper/Warren story.

Don't forget it!

mike said...

so at least that person who (it seems) is no fan of the Biblical message of salvation through the sacrifice of Christ, has a clear understanding of the problem of the RW mish mash.
2 thoughts on your thoughts
1) as that post stated, people do know what RW believes in front of certain audiences.
what will he believe in front of God?
2) poor Rick can't seem to please ALL men. (but many)

biggest question/s about the RW ministry
Is God glorified, or minimized/ trivialized by the compilation of the work of this man?
Does it matter?

Nash Equilibrium said...

One thing that has mystified me for a long time about Warren, is that he seems to have fooled a lot of actual preachers into thinking that he is also an actual preacher.

As a marketer, it is clear that he is also a marketer, not a preacher per se. It's clear that Warren did some market research, once upon a time, and (correctly) concluded that what people want is a message of high self-esteem, acceptance of other faiths, and social-justice works. He identified the market and he went after it with the right "product."

So whatever else one may say about Piper, apparently he is one that is easily fooled by words, and he discounts actions, evidenced by his failure to see RW for what he actually is, a marketer. That general gullible tendency would also explain Piper's charismatic bent.

Unknown said...

Thank you for this post, which I'm sure has been helpful (it has for me) towards discerning the true issues involved in John Piper's ill-considered decision and a proper response to them.

If somehow Rick Warren manages to make a doctrinally sound and gospel-centered presentation at the upcoming DG conference (or at least something sounder than his usual fluff), will that not make him all the more hypocritical, for not normally preaching such a message?

The fact that Warren assured Piper of his subscribing to certain orthodoxies, that he has read all Piper's books and is reading through Jonathan Edwards, means nothing at all if the biblical truths he's reading in those books and supposedly subscribes to are not being applied to and represented in his own ministry.

As someone else mentioned, the message Warren preaches is at least as dangerous as the prosperity gospel Piper so fiercely and rightly denounces, and perhaps more so, since on the surface it may look less objectionable.

Mr. Warren may privately affirm the five solas, and may be able to persuade those who question him that his theology is both sound and orthodox. But the proof is in the pudding, so to speak, or "where's the beef"?

Does his ministry methodology and message reflect sound theology? If not, then he should be called to account, rather than be given opportunity to further distract people away from his incorrect teaching and ministry philosophy by being given a national platform. Such an invitation in itself gives him tacit endorsement and approval.

Hopefully the damage will be contained and perhaps God may use the event to bring corrective to Warren's ministry. But this could have and should have been pursued apart from inviting Warren to speak at this conference.

Phil Johnson said...

I wonder if anyone else noticed the link at TED to a talk Billy Graham did there a decade ago.

Graham's talk makes an interesting contrast with Warren's. Warren's is pure humanism, man-centered and full of self-love from start to finish. Graham homes in on the problem of sin and our need for new hearts, and he doesn't let up.

Warren bends over backward not to sound like a preacher. Graham never lets the TEDsters forget that he is a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Warren is all about human potential, and he assures his audience that God wants them to be just what they are. Graham emphasizes his own frailty and solemnly tells the auditorium, "We're all going to die."

Billy Graham is hardly a paragon of non-compromise, but you have to give him credit for this: when he preached the gospel he didn't apologize for it; he didn't try to invent a new, more politically-correct message to suit the mood of the day; he didn't try to replace concepts like sin and our guilt before God with humanistic notions of "broken dreams" and low self-esteem.

David Rudd said...


I noticed that link, but didn't have time this morning to watch it. I'll have to go back and view it now.

Despite some differences I have with Graham (ironically, somewhat related to separation), I have always appreciated that he uses every platform he can to preach the Gospel.

Doug McMasters said...




Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Phil, I know you are aware of the statements that Billy Graham has made to Larry King and to Robert Schuller. You Tube is ripe with these truthful statements from BG's own mouth. He cannot seem to cough out the words that Christ is the only way, and embraces ecumenism all the way.

I have noticed, over the years, that so many people that fall away from the faith all say the same thing, “We are to love ALL people.” This is true, we are to love all people, even our enemies, but God deals differently with false teachers. We are to run the other way and not participate in their evil deeds.

Many people, who end up departing from the faith, feel that God somehow GOT IT ALL WRONG, and we should INCLUDE/LOVE everyone, whether they believe in Christ or not. So, while BG got a few things right, he denied that Christ is the ONLY WAY! BIG, BIG problem!

...me said...

Banner of Truth has posted a timely and beautifully encouraging message entitled "Truth's Victory Over Error," by Paul Yeulett that speaks to a number of the points posted here...blessings ~


takeheed said...

As someone who was deeply troubled by the ability of Billy Graham to on the one hand preach an apparently acceptable gospel message and then on the other hand to say and do things that were clearly not prompted by the Holy Spirit, some years ago I spoke on this very subject and that talk can be viewed on www.takeheed.net - scroll down to VIDEO VIEWING and click on 'Billy Graham: The man and his message'. In this ability to preach one thing and then do things that conflict with such preaching I see that same problem being mirrored to a degree in the ministry etc of Rick Warren.

Russ Davis said...

Poor Phil. His sad, irrational, antiBiblical cessationist delusions have regrettably poisoned the well much concerning Piper, so we can be thankful he has anything good to say at all. Piper has easily refuted this tragic gnostic nonsense in his series on Signs and Wonders 1999, January to April. http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/BySeries/36/
As Sam Storms has noted, the real source of cessationism is ultimately largely pride, and they are too proud to admit it as they will have to in the Judgment.

The usual errant Toronto historical revisionism (for all its missteps) is similar to the kind of pathetic hatchet job done on my own charismatic fellowship, carefully sitting on the sidelines offering nothing but Monday morning quarterbacking chriticism of those actually struggling in the trenches, offering neither love nor assistance, a gross hypocrisy for which there will be a Matthew 25 accounting given in the Judgment, God have mercy.

How like one of Moody's critics of his evangelism methods who could offer nothing better of his own, to which Moody replied he preferred his own supposedly "inferior" methods that actually evangelized to alleged "superior" methods that did not. Phil's similar archair evaluations of charismata are likewise no less invalid in that they don't actually get in the trenches and actually DO something to build the spiritual entity that is Christ's Church.

Coram Deo said...

Well said, CR! I agree with the substance of your comment wholeheartedly.


You said:
Coram Deo:

See the comments above. I'm inclined to think the proper Galatians 2 comparison is between Rick Warren and Peter (rather than comparing Warren to the deliberately-gospel-denying Judaizers). I'm not quite prepared apply the anathema of Gal. 1:8-9 to him.

According to your own teaching, as I understand it, in your series on Galatians it's possible, even probable, that the Galatian Judaizers where not deliberatly-gospel-denying.

They were no doubt guilty of importing Pharisaical ideas about the Abrahamic covenant into the new covenent, but they did so based on their (incorrect) understanding of the new covenant being sealed by grace through faith.

In other words it's both hermeneutically and exegetically arguable that the Judaizers were were guilty of promulgating exactly the same type of gospel error for exactly the same reasons as Warren - bad doctrine - as opposed to a deliberate, conscious attempt to undermine the efficacy of the atonemnent and the sufficiency of Christ's once for all sacrifice for His own.

And the result? Paul pronounced a double curse upon them.

He didn't dialogue with them.

He didn't invite them to a conference.

And he didn't err on the side of grace because they were mostly orthodox and he only differed with them on a few minor doctrinal points.

Where am I going with this line of thinking?

In Christ,

DJP said...

Always thoughtful of Russ to throw in a QED to Phil's identification of "continuationism's" refusal to deal with its own pestilent garbage... or even to identify it as such.

Phil Johnson said...

Russ Davis: "sad, irrational . . . nothing but Monday morning quarterbacking chriticism"

I can't tell you how it cheers my heart to be called "irrational" by someone defending "The Holy Ghost Bartender" and the "drunkenness in the Spirit" mess that (as if it weren't bad enough in and of itself) paved the way for the "Tokin' the Ghost" blasphemies of John Crowder and his ilk.

But I do take exception to the utterly false charge of "Monday morning quarterbacking." I didn't come along after the thing melted into disaster and complain about how bad it was. From the very start of the Toronto nonsense, I was saying as loudly and clearly as possible that the phenomena most associated with the movement were all unbiblical, dangerously anti-intellectual, hostile to sound doctrine, and (yes) irrational.

Lou Martuneac said...

Mary Eliz:

Many people, who end up departing from the faith, feel that God somehow GOT IT ALL WRONG, and we should INCLUDE/LOVE everyone, whether they believe in Christ or not. So, while BG got a few things right, he denied that Christ is the ONLY WAY! BIG, BIG problem!

Well said.


James Scott Bell said...

Tokin' the Ghost? Tokin' the Ghost?

I never would have believed that could be anything but a parody. But apparently this guy is serious (or making serious money).

Doug McMasters said...


Precisely the correct term.

Phil, as I remember the evening (was it really that long ago?), people lauded irrationality as the way God was working among them. Matt and I talked at length to someone who related a story of a person in a four-day trance being "sanctified and rewired by the Holy Spirit."

Spiritually rewired by a trance--I think irrationality fits that precisely.

Phil Johnson said...

Coram deo: "Where am I going with this line of thinking?"

I dunno. I gather you're still saying you think the Judaizers are a closer parallel to Rick Warren than the hypocrisy of Peter is, and that we therefore ought to regard him as an enemy of the faith and a hell-bound heretic rather than a disobedient brother.

I already said I'm not yet prepared to go quite that far, and gave my reasons why. I'll add this:

I don't think Galatians 1:8-9 was a flippant statement by Paul, and I don't think we should be flippant in applying the curse Paul pronounces in that passage to others. Declaring someone "accursed" is a solemn, weighty judgment, and not one that should be made lightly (Matthew 7:2). Until it's clear and undeniable that Rick Warren has formally and finally renounced sola fide (or some other essential gospel truth), the anathemas against him are premature and the eager-to-conndemn spirit that motivates them is ugly.

Let me respond to another point you made:

The Judaizers were deliberate and emphatic in their denial of sola fide. Whether they consciously knew they were corrupting the true gospel and opposing Christ by taking that stance, I'm not sure. It's not clear whether they were self-deceived (believing their gospel to be the true one) or deliberately waging war on the gospel. But it didn't matter. By digging in, denying sola fide, refusing Paul's correction, and insisting that circumcision was essential for salvation, they were bringing condemnation on themselves. That's what I was saying.

Coram Deo said...


The last line in my prior post should have read:

Where am I going wrong with this line of thinking?

In Him,

Phil Johnson said...

Johnny Dialectic:

Oh, he's no parody. I hesitate to apply the word serious to someone like John Crowder, but he does seem to believe what he is doing is the work of God.

It frankly doesn't get much worse than that. Don't spend too much time watching his videos. You'll want to go Nehemiah on him, if you know what I mean (Nehemiah 13:25)

Coram Deo said...

Thanks, Phil.

That's a well said and generally satisfying answer.

But I'd be remiss not to point out that evidently many brothers and sisters in the Lord disagree as to the level of "clear and undeniable" evidence required to find someone guilty of the denial of essential gospel truths as enumerated by scripture - and I'm not sure this disagreement is evidence of a "premature and the eager-to-conndemn spirit that motivates them is ugly."

I would hope that you would extend at least as much grace to those who are convinced by scripture and conscience of Warren's guilt as you extend to Warren himself.

Peace in Christ,

takeheed said...

For those who are perhaps not familiar with the exact nature of the strange happenings that were being claimed as being 'The Toronto Blessing' if you go to this link
there is a short article and at the very end there is a link to video excerpts from the first anniversary service that was held in Toronto to mark 'The Blessing' and I think it should be obvious to all just how unholy these goings-on truly were.

Phil Johnson said...

Coram Deo: "I would hope that you would extend at least as much grace to those who are convinced by scripture and conscience of Warren's guilt as you extend to Warren himself."

It would help if they made clear and convincing biblical and rational arguments rather than merely fulminating.

And (because I know how the full-time fulminators will reply) I'm not suggesting no serious or valid criticisms have been made against Warren. I've made several myself above, and many more in other critiques I have written about Warren. But pointing out that he is a pragmatist who tickles itching ears is not the same thing as showing that he is a Christ-denying heretic.

I think it's pretty important to make THAT argument definitively before we assign him to some dark compartment of hell.

THEOparadox said...

It's easy enough to point to the errors of some whacked out "continuationists" in the charismatic movement. Shall I point to the extremely whacked out behavior of certain IFB preachers as evidence of what cessationism can lead to? Are their antics any better?

But consider this: ALL of the writers of the New Testament believed the spiritual gifts were active in their day, they planted and led a group of wildly successful "charismatic" churches. Were they heading toward a session of tokin' something mystical? Certainly not, so this mere belief cannot be equated with the errors so charismaticism.

One cannot point to whacked out charismatic nonsense and say "see, there you have it - continuationism!" Unbelievers do this sort of thing, pointing to the Branch Davidians and saying, "see, there you have it - Bible believing Christians!" Are they accurately describing you and me? Certainly not.

There are plenty of solid continuationists out there, and they're not into the supposed Toronto Blessing, the supposed Holy Ghost Bartender, or Tokin the Ghost (me genoito!!!). They're into BIBLICAL spiritual gifts, exercised within BIBLICAL limits. A whole lot of them are going to be at T4G next week. One of them even preached at John MacArthur's church once upon a time. Was that a lack of discernment, or godly fellowship around the Gospel with loving acceptance of a disagreement between two brothers about a minor issue? I think enough of JMAC to view it as the latter.

Just sayin'

takeheed said...


I would like to think that my assessment of Rick Warren on
is both biblical and rational and not a case of me 'fulminating' and that the conclusion I draw is a fair one based on what I say.

DJP said...

Derek, can't even dub that a "nice try." Perhaps the best the case you want to make can warrant... but that's very faint praise.

But if you want to try to make a case that confidence in the inerrancy and real-live sufficiency of Scripture leads to horrid abuses, you give it a go. But the Branch Davidians will be no part of your argument.

OTOH, you actually can't adduce anyone practicing actual revelatory or confirmatory signs as illustrations. You're stuck with folks who fake the real thing, or redefine the real thing and chase after feelings or experiences.

Which means you'll end up making Phil's case.

But hey, if that's your little project and you won't leave it for a better one, have at it.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Takeheed, I am enjoying your comments on Billy Graham. I do not mean to sound so harsh, but when people (INCLUDING WOMEN) cannot articulate that Christ is the ONLY WAY, and let their yes be yes, and their no be no, then my conscience tells me to dust my feet off.

My allegiance is to God and not man.

“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven (Mat 19:32-33).”

This verse is not gender specific, and asks both men AND women to confess Him before men.

Coram Deo said...


The Judaizers weren't overt Christ-deniers insofar as we understand their doctrine.

Evidently they agreed with basically everything Paul taught the Galatian churches about Christ and His work, and they apparently agreed with the Apostolic doctrines of the church in Jerusalem, from which they were sent as ambassdors from James.

Yet in their teaching and in the practical outworking of their doctrine they denied the sufficiency of Christ's finished work and the new covenant by grace through faith (Sola Gratia, Sola Fide), which thing is doubly anathamatized by Paul.

Many God-fearing believers - probably some in this very meta - are convinced by scripture and conscience (based on the copious evidence that's publicly available), that Warren tacitly and implicity denies Sola Fide, even though he would presumably never state, "I, Rick Warren, hereby deny Sola Fide, the formal principle of the Protestant Reformation".

False teachers don't usually do their listeners that sort of service.

At any rate, this will be my last comment here on the subject. Thank you for the gracious interaction, and thank you for speaking publicly on this matter.

In Christ,

... said...

OK- Let's reverse the whole situation:

1) Would we be as up in arms if Piper had been invited to Warren's church/conference?

2) Would you (assuming you were a pastor, etc) accept an invitation from Warren to preach at his church/conference (assuming no strings attached/no limitation on content of your message)?

Obviously, it is an unfair comparison since we believe that it is appropriate for TRUTH to preach to ERROR, but not vice versa.

Just curious: Would you take the opportunity to preach at Warren's church? Or no?

Confession- Dr. Mac has preached at my "Slouching toward Saddleback" church twice in the past 5 years. They have been definitive, life-changing moments in our congregation. I am so thankful to God he was willing to come.

Personally, I think I would take the invite from Warren, but not give him a moment in my pulpit (if I had the responsibility for one).

THEOparadox said...


Wouldn't the burden of proof be on you to prove that true spiritual gifts are not happening nowadays? I'm not out to prove they are taking place, I'm simply saying that there is no Biblical reason to deny them.

I'm trying to give due reverence to the admonitions that say, "Do not forbid speaking in tongues", "Do not quench the Spirit", "Do not despise prophetic utterances", and also Paul's very strong praise for the gift of prophecy in I Corinthians. I'm not going to argue with Paul on these points, but do my best to follow his example of balance.

There are some decent logical arguments for cessationism, but are there Scriptural arguments? My main point here is that one can't point to the errors of continuationists like Piper and pretend that in itself is an argument against their position.

NEXT! (just kidding)


DJP said...

Phantom - I gave my answer to that question here.

DJP said...

Derek, up to the "Next!", I was going to ask if you were new to the blog.

No, the burden of proof is on anyone trying to make the case for continuationism -- as we've often discussed. First, they have to show where all the missing parts of the Bible are. You know, the ones written since the first century.

Or they have to drop both the label, and the argument you're trying to make.

Second, as I've often said, I have never yet met any Christian anywhere who would forbid anyone speaking in tongues, Biblically defined.

Biblically defined.

TAR said...

I have considered so many things in regard to this invitation, but the thought I keep coming back to is that he has a pastors heart.. i wonder if he hopes to redirect some of the errant by including them and pastoring them .

I love Pastor Piper...

I pray that this is not a "sinful" act on his part, it is done with a godly intent.

THEOparadox said...


I'm not new around here, actually I'm a big fan of Pyromaniacs, though I haven't read much from you guys on this topic.

To your argument, I don't see how a continuationist position requires an open or unfinished Canon. It's clear from the New Testament that there were prophetic utterances (probably thousands) that were never recorded in Scripture or considered to be Scripture. What prevents that from being possible today? I'd say it's much safer today because we have the full Canon as a measuring line to evaluate what is said.

The continuationists I am around view prophecy as a hermeneutically guided and exegetically grounded (but especially timely) application of Scripture to a particular situation - sometimes without the knowledge of the one prophesying (because the Holy Spirit is guiding this application of the Word).

You seem to have a view of continuationism that is impossible to separate from crazy charismaticism. Continuationists in my circle utterly despise all that stuff (maybe even more than you do).


DJP said...

That is neither prophecy (Biblically defined) nor continuationism. I'm thinking maybe you don't understand the word.

Yet you adopted their argument: no single verse says A B and C will stop, so they must continue.

Well, Derek, no single verse says (in precisely so many words) when writing Scripture will stop.

So if you want your argument, you must necessarily have a big, big, big, and ever-bigger Bible.

Otherwise, you must make a deductive case for the close of the Canon... which will also nicely speak to the revelatory/confirmatory gifts.

olan strickland said...

There is far more in the Bible for determining a false preacher/teacher than just the adding of works to the gospel. There is also the other end of the spectrum of turning the grace of God into licentiousness. On top of that we have the narrow and broad gates of Matthew 7 with enough clarification in that chapter that we know that false prophets/teachers are interested in quantity and not quality and therefore they use the wide gate and take the shortcuts. Then we should go on and state that 1 John 4:1-6 doesn't just give the characteristic of the false prophet/teacher not confessing the Christ of Scripture but that he also uses pragmatic worldly philosophy.

Add to that the truth that Jesus spoke of the ancient false prophets that He intended to be applied to any modern day false prophet - "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way" (Luke 6:26).

At every turn Rick Warren fails the test. John Piper should know better.

Nash Equilibrium said...

PHIL said (about the Crowderheads):

Don't spend too much time watching his videos. You'll want to go Nehemiah on him, if you know what I mean (Nehemiah 13:25).


Phil Johnson said...

takeheed: I would like to think that my assessment of Rick Warren [here] is both biblical and rational and not a case of me 'fulminating' and that the conclusion I draw is a fair one based on what I say.

I'll try to listen to it. I looked at your website and couldn't find anything making a reasoned argument to show that Rick Warren is a hell-bound heretic. What DID jump out at me, though (because you highlighted it with bolded red type) was this comment by an anonymous correspondent, who said, "This is craziness and [John Piper] knows it."

I'd class that as exactly the kind of fulminating disrespect hat offends me in the way Dr. Piper's critics have responded to him. He's not Benny Hinn or even Rodney Howard Browne. Dr. Piper has distinguished himself as a defender of the faith, and I think he deserves a modicum of respect.

BTW, someone objected to my use of the word stature when I spoke of Dr. Piper and others to whom honor is due. I explained earlier that I'm speaking of Dr. Piper's life and track record. I think that point came out quite clearly in the two interviews I did with Chris Arnzen on a NYC radio station this week. I'm going to post some cleaned-up audio-files of those interviews for the benefit of readers who are still strggling to understand the points I'm making.

100 Mile Pants said...

He's not Benny Hinn or even Rodney Howard Browne. Dr. Piper has distinguished himself as a defender of the faith, and I think he deserves a modicum of respect.


Gabby said...

I don't want to sound stupid here...especially here, where I get a bit intimidated by such sharp understanding of the Word. But can someone tell me if Rick Warren is our brother? This never seems to be addressed. Whenever he is thrust into my life by some (more) what I call bad behavior - that's what I always get confused on. Is he our brother? I don't think of him as my brother and I don't pray for him as a brother. But maybe I'm erring here. Pastor Piper is a beloved brother - but is Rick Warren? Or is this a taboo question because it lends itself to questioning his salvation?

A confused sister

Phil Johnson said...

Gabby: "Or is this a taboo question because it lends itself to questioning his salvation?"

It's a legitimate and important question, especially when we're dealing with false or errant teachers whose influence is widespread.

Of course, we can't know another person's heart definitively (1 Samuel 16:7). When someone clearly says he has faith in Christ alone for salvation, in the absence of definitive proof to the contrary, common charity suggests that we need to give him the benefit of the doubt (1 Corinthians 13:7).

"Definitive proof to the contrary" would include a deliberate and incorrigible denial of essential gospel truth (2 John 7-11; Galatians 1:8-9) or a life of unbroken, unrepentant sin devoid of any concern for righteousness (1 John 3:8). Those are the kinds of things Jesus was talking about when he said "You will recognize them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:16).

Yet Jesus wasn't encouraging us to make such judgments hastily or easily (Matthew 7:1-2). Nor did He suggest that we can always answer such questions infallibly. Moreover, Jesus' words to the churches in Revelation 2-3 suggest that the exercise of that kind of discernment is not simple and shouldn't be done in a superficial or simplistic way. John reminds us that those who claim to be in the light but hate their brethren are actually in darkness. So no one should make a hobby of inquisition or revel in declaring anathemas on people who make a profession of faith.

Rick Warren says he believes in substitutionary atonement, affirms justification by faith, and trusts Christ alone for salvation. If someone has definitive proof to the contrary, I haven't seen it.

Yet, as noted above, I think Rick Warren's ministry philosophy is deplorable, as is his willingness to tone down or avoid the hard truths of the gospel (which he nevertheless affirms as true). So for now, I regard him a disobedient brother a lá 2 Thessalonians 3:14.

The Bible Christian said...

From John Newton, You are likely to be engaged in controversy. . . . You are of the strongest side; for truth is great, and must prevail. . . . I am not therefore anxious for the [outcome] of the battle; but I would have you more than a conqueror, and to triumph, not only over your adversary, but over yourself. If you cannot be vanquished, you may be wounded. To preserve you from such wounds as might give you cause of weeping over your conquests, I would present you with some considerations, which, if duly attended to, will do you the service of a great coat of mail. . . . I may reduce my advice to three heads, respecting your opponent, the public and yourself.

As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord's teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write. If [he is a believer] . . . the Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself. In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever. But if [he is not a believer], . . . he is a more proper object of your compassion than of your anger. Alas! "He knows not what he does." But you know who has made you to differ. If God, in his sovereign pleasure, had so appointed, you might have been as he is now; and he, instead of you, might have been set for the defense of the gospel. You were both equally blind by nature. If you attend to this, you will not reproach or hate him, because the Lord has been pleased to open your eyes, and not his. . . . If you write with a desire of being an instrument of correcting mistakes, you will of course be cautious of laying stumbling blocks in the way of the blind or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their principles, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable. . . .John Newton, Works, Vol 1 (Banner of Truth, 1985), p. 269

100 Mile Pants said...


100 Mile Pants said...


Booyah, Frank!

Janice said...

Gabby, thank you for that question! It's one I was afraid to ask. Phil, your answer has helped me out alot because I have wondered the same thing about Rick Warren.

The thing about Rick Warren is he is so good at walking a spiritual tightrope. He is hard to pin down. He's not like Brian McLaren who has blatantly rejected the traditional and Biblical understanding of Christianity.

I'm learning a ton from this and I don't want to be one of those angry fundamentalists who consigns a new person to hell every week, but at the same time, I don't want to take in error and be mislead.

I just want to be Biblical and please God. Thanks for the insights!

Stefan, thanks for the reassurance. I'm calming down again. :-)

Nash Equilibrium said...

Here's a different question: If Rick Warren is a brother, is it any more important that we pray for him than for other lesser-known brothers? Or does his celebrity dictate that we pray for him?

Bart McCurdy said...

If you're interested in learning more about Biblical discernment, please check out the Psalm 119 Conference - Discernment coming up May 14-15 in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

And thanks Phil for the great blog, I learned a lot.

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