Thursday, April 1, 2010

Regarding Unity, Piper, Warren, and Blogging

Here's an easy text to exegete, from Eph. 4:1, 3: "...I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called...eager/dilligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

How many of us can honestly say that we are eager to maintain Christian unity?  Somehow diligence in our pursuit of unity gets us pegged as liberal.  Funny- I thought seeking to obey the clear words of the Bible made us conservative.  Who knew?

This passage has been rolling around my mind for a few weeks now, but I couldn't resist commenting on it more publicly as all this Piper/Warren conversation has surfaced.  For the three of you who haven't heard, Piper invited Warren to be one of the speakers at this year's Desiring God conference, which is focused on the life of the mind for Christians.

Many in Reformed circles are not just surprised; they're positively upset.  What is Piper thinking?  How could he invite someone like Warren?

Warren is actually a confessing Calvinist, but of course he is known best for being the champion of seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven Christianity than anything else.  He preaches, according to many, a watered-down gospel and pushes a way of doing church that necessitates theological shallowness.

So in the midst of all this, many are loudly commenting that Piper has invited a guy who preaches "a different gospel" (in the worst sense) to speak at his conference.  Now, if Warren does, in fact, preach a different gospel, he shouldn't be preaching at any Christian conference.  But for all my disagreements with Warren (and they are considerable), for the life of me I cannot find anything that tells me that Rick Warren is a heretic or a non-Christian- which ultimately is what we're saying if we say that he preaches "a different gospel".  And I've been to Saddleback plenty of times- I lived 10 minutes from Saddleback for years.  I've actually known many godly people who are or have been heavily involved in that church- hard to believe, I know!

All that to say this: unless you're really willing to say that Rick Warren is a heretic, it's time to back off just a tad bit.  Take all that theological eagerness and reallocate it toward preserving Christian unity.  The passionate desire to be humble, charitable, and personally gracious toward a professing Christian who seems to love other Christians and walk in obedience to Christ (cf. the indications of true Christianity in 1 John) is patently biblical.

And that includes how we talk about Piper in all this too.  You might remember that it is fair to precede the word Piper with "Doctor", a titular prefix which he attained at no less than the University of Munich.  You might remember that Dr. Piper knows a few things about what makes a Christian and has consistently displayed his godliness and wisdom in a life of fruitful ministry.  You might remember that Desiring God as a whole is one of the most trustworthy large-scale ministries in existence, reformed or otherwise.

So here's what I'm thinking: maybe we go ahead and eagerly preserve unity by trusting him on this one?


Anonymous said...

Edifying post.


Z-Hop said...

Well said. I appreciate that you confessed to your own concern, but not without giving ample reason why we shouldn't cast any stones.

Mason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mason said...


What I appreciate about your site is you all are thinking beyond mere creeds to how doctrine should and must affect our life (orthopraxy). I really mean that.

My problem with your conclusions - Paul called Peter out publicly although Peter was a brother in the Lord (cf Gal 2). The amazing thing about this passage is that Peter was "not straightforward about the truth of the Gospel" (2:14) although Peter never said a word. Again, the fact that Warren reads Edwards, holds the solas, and appreciates monergism doesn't mean all that much. Is he handling the Gospel correctly? From links I've provided elsewhere the resounding answer is no.

To reiterate one point - It is a false dichotomy to say that unless he is under the Galatians anathema, we need to be focusing our energy on preserving unity. If this were so then Paul should have never publicly voiced his outrage against Peter.

(Removed and reposted to correct a typo)

Andrew Faris said...



One of my issues is with the pure vitriol of many. Again, consider the words of Eph. 4:3: "Be eager/diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." If nothing else, this should encourage us to be humble and charitable.

Of course, part of the issue here is that I am simply not as down on Warren's handling of the gospel as some are. I think it's problematic, yes. But I don't think it's full-blown Finney-ish like some have alleged, nor do I find Warren anywhere near the "heretic" line. We have to make reasonable distinctions on these things.

I would even say that Peter more clearly breached gospel boundaries than Warren has. I'm open to correction on that and I'd be glad for you to repost links here on that point. But Peter essentially was limiting the freedom of the gospel for all people who would come to Christ. Warren's problem, if there is one, is that he is making the gospel too free. I'm just not ready to charge him with that, especially considering that I honestly believe that Saddleback really does care about discipleship, even if they go about it in ways that I disagree with.

All that said, I'm grateful for your tone and thoughtfulness, Mason.


Mason said...

Thanks for your reply Andrew. I'm about to attend a meeting then it is off to the conference. I have defended my position a little more over at Justin Taylor's site. So we will just leave it with us both agreeing on this point you made:

"One of my issues is with the pure vitriol of many. Again, consider the words of Eph. 4:3: 'Be eager/diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.' If nothing else, this should encourage us to be humble and charitable."

I confess - I had to google "vitriol" :-)

Mason said...

...I didn't mean that to come across the wrong way. You may most certainly add anything you wish. It's your site, and Christian charity would dictate as much even if it wasn't!

Unknown said...


terriergal said...

I'm ready to say he's a heretic. Why do you all assume we don't know what we're talking about when we say that and issue a bunch of "(GASP!) be careful! Don't sin!" statements?

Gayle said...

I'm not willing to sacrifice truth for unity.

Piper has endorsed Rick Warren's "rock solid theology." This is incomprehensible to me. As someone whose church was destroyed by PDL and PDC authored by Rick Warren, I feel betrayed by Piper's decision to put this wolf on the platform at Desiring God.

Anonymous said...


pedro said...

PDL, PDC, HPM are they not all the same? New names for the same fruit that must not be eaten though it’s pleasant to the eyes, enticing to the flesh, giving secret knowledge which is not common to all with effect of "good results" but ULTIMATELY leads to death (banishing from the presence of God).

All that is being said is well understood by the culprit(s). Issues that God himself have taken up with individuals and they have disregarded the voice of the Holy Spirit, it will be fool hardy to think anyone can then talk such people down by debates either with loving or unloving persuasions.
We are seeing the effects of exalting men above measure.

Saints of God, let us not fall headlong for this cheap and dangerous ploy of the devil and his cohorts to defile many of God's people through drawing them out to debate over issue(s) that it’s as clear as crystal.

By practicing an ecclesiology that is foreign to the pattern of the Apostle through our modern doctrines of "descriptive and prescriptive" theology, which is very much man-centered, we are having the fall of one man or a few men wanting to destroy so many followers of Christ far and wide. It ought not to be so. Let’s stop the enemy immediately by ceasing to continue arguing.

The points made already, speaks clearly and loudly enough to those with listening ear to hear and practice watchfulness.

When any talk about hell and heaven becomes outdated with any Christian no matter how great he or she has been used in the past, then watch out for false doctrines and actions to roll out like a bullet from modern automatic weapon because what is falsely called philosophy has over taken them.

Men who have followed Christ faithfully but have lost the way (deceived by reading books and associating with strange fellows who hold ancient ungodly philosophies) because of their love of pre-eminence and ambition disguised with evangelical outlook have taken many and still struggling seriously to take many more with them.

The examples of seeming Christian societies abound whose "founders/planters" initially started well in the faith believing Acts 4:12 but end up with pragmatism which is ALWAYS - ALWAYS engineered by Satan who works in the realm of carnality and is an expert in manipulating the members (fleshly instincts) of those who have not put to death their members (desires, emotions and will) through submission to the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
Biblical Christianity believes that the gospel works, and that God has given us both the message and the method.

Pragmatism is mind exercise and its profit end in this age only. Christianity is godliness and holds promise for now and the age to come.

In this era where church growth techniques and church management software, are rolling out monthly authored by brilliant chaps, it is clear for those who still FEAR God, to RUN back to their Bibles and remain there or else many well-meaning Christians will end up where they never ever bargained for. The reason is this- the true source of those books packed with result oriented models is the old serpent.

We are called to be as wise as him but harmless as dove. If that means that we should learn from him, how come is it that he is not able to be as harmless as the dove? The truth remains that we’re not called to learn from him or his techniques but called to remain with the author of wisdom who himself is wisdom (God). “Abide in me and I in you and I will produce result in you and through you” (1Cor 15:10, John 14:26, James 1:5 and Pro 10:13.)