He answered them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” Matthew 16:2-3 ESV
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared” I Timothy 4:1-2 ESV
In the past year, I’ve written several posts on deception that has crept into the modern church in the form of false teachers/preachers. The Bible provides the basis for the increased presence of these leaders as we head towards to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ (II Peter 2:1-3, I Timothy 6:3-5, et.al.). To date, my primary focus of discernment has been on emerging/ent church pastors, such as Rob Bell and Brian McLaren, whose “gospel” is twisted and dangerous and prosperity/social gospel-lite teachers like Joel Osteen or Rick Warren. Each of these “preachers” present their own unique dangers and personally I prefer to ascribe to the practice of avoidance rather than acceptance and picking and choosing what is right or wrong with their ministries. A half-truth is still a lie. But there is a storm approaching that has potential to be just as dangerous. Consider this post of a weather storm warning that is quickly turning into a storm watch.
This new storm has some interesting twists and plots associated with it that I’ve been watching unfold for almost a year now and it involves a pastor whom I highly respect and have grown from spiritually. But like all men, pastors, even those on the national scene, are fallible and must constantly be tested against the Word of God. It doesn’t matter if it’s your own pastor, one down the street, or one you see on TV, we should always be discerning as to test them against the Bible. There is a danger with following men too closely, and especially “living” men because they are constantly moving and developing themselves, whether for good or bad. That’s not to say we can’t learn from those church fathers that have come before us, but most of them have withstood the test of time, the scrutiny of their words have withstood against the truths of the Bible. Most pastors on the scene today have not withstood that test and have not gone through that level of scrutiny, like for instance a Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, John Owen, John Calvin, etc. We know where these men stood on doctrinal issues and while not perfect, they remained faithful to God in their ministries.
The storm of which I am speaking has Pastor John Piper in its eye and his decision to extend an invitation to Pastor Rick Warren to speak at the upcoming Desiring God conference. I’ve held off until now with posting on this, mainly to remove any potential emotionally charged response, but this announcement was made in April and sent shock waves throughout the evangelical world. Blogs, talk shows, and social media alike have been abuzz over what the implications of this decision might mean and the dust has yet to settle. Pastor Piper’s biblically sound ministry is one of the more popular reformed ministries today and he has done a faithful job in his nearly 4 decades of preaching the Word. However, despite some questionable alliances recently, this latest one has many confused about what this means for his ministry going forward. Many less-discerning evangelicals may see nothing wrong with Pastor Warren and his Purpose Driven Ministry so in order to make this more evident, I’ve included a link below to some of Pastor Warren’s publically stated positions on various theological topics, along with a clip from him speaking to a group of unbelievers, and have included Pastor John MacArthur’s revealing look at the Purpose Driven Life.
Below is a clip from Pastor Piper where he addresses questions concerning the announcement of Rick Warren joining his conference. I don’t disagree with inviting someone to a conference where a discussion can take place over various beliefs, doctrines, and theological differences, however, what I do take umbrage with is the insistence that Rick Warren is theologically sound and the validation that his association with this conference, and specifically John Piper, gives him within reformed circles.
PRAGMATISM – a practical approach to problems and affairs; a movement in philosophy marked by the doctrines that the meaning of conceptions is to be sought in their practical bearings, that the function of thought is to guide action, and that truth is preeminently to be tested by the practical consequences of belief.
Finally, in this clip is where John Piper seems to be confused on his stance with Rick Warren. At one point he states Rick Warren is a “problem” while he next states he is theologically sound. Then Piper states that Warren frustrates him with some of his teachings, but ensures that he likes him. Is it therefore any wonder why there is so much confusion over this decision when Piper himself is confused? Until a public repentance is issued regarding this alliance or unless the conference proves to be a venue for revealing Rick Warren a false teacher, I can no longer endorse the teaching of Pastor Piper.
Below I’ve included my public statement on the Piper/Warren Alliance that was posted on other blogs around April 9th, roughly a week after the announcement:
This news saddens me deeply, but really comes as no surprise. I felt discernment was needed with Dr. Piper considering his close allegiance to Mark Driscoll, but nevertheless I didn’t dismiss him completely because I had hoped he was taking a mentoring approach in their relationship (though one has to question the presence of the Holy Spirit within a pastor that enjoys being so crass to the point of vulgarity and his loose handling of scripture for comedic relief, but I digress). Admittedly I have enjoyed listening to some of Dr. Piper’s many sermons, specifically those on Romans, and have grown through his expositional teaching while in the back of my mind there has been an “approach with caution” warning light. I’m hesitant to say this is what I’ve been waiting for, perhaps more so what I was praying against, but this turns the warning into a full-fledged alert.
I suspect however that this relationship is deeper than a conference invite because as we know the iceberg tip is all that can be seen, the depth of which likely extends into Driscoll’s Acts 29 Ministry and Warren’s various ecumenical groups/agendas each of which spread like a spider’s web among the evangelical who’s who. When Piper aligned with Driscoll, he brought a certain level of validity or endorsement to Driscoll’s ministry wherein many fringe reformers were willing to overlook language and behaviors as being merely “rough around the edges” like a John Calvin or Martin Luther. The problem is they weren’t offensive for the sake of attention or relevance, it was for the sake of the Gospel, of which they were prepared to die. The addition of Warren to Piper’s circle of reformed influence is especially disconcerting because the common theological ground on which he stood with Driscoll bears no merit with his relationship to Warren, despite Piper’s efforts to defend his selection. What it does however, is add validity to a ministry that continually seeks to evolve to the current trends in the religious marketplace, in this case Calvinism or perhaps more accurately “New Calvinism.”
If I may, a quote from Dr. John MacArthur’s book Ashamed of the Gospel:
“In the first quarter of 2009, Time magazine ran a cover story titled “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.” Number three on their list was “The New Calvinism.” All of this, obviously is strong motivation for evangelical and post-modern pragmatists to jump on the Calvinist bandwagon. (Why wouldn’t those who think of religion as a product to be marketed-as well as those addicted to popularity-want to get into the fastest growing demographic?) Prepare yourself for a wave of erstwhile Emergents and evangelical pragmatists to run to the crowd and declare themselves the true representatives of neo-Calvinism. They will bring every pragmatic tool in their arsenal and will exert all their energies toward making “the New Calvinism” seem even more stylish-until the glow fades and something else becomes stylish, and they will run after that. The sober, biblically minded remnant in their [reformed] midst need to remain on guard.”
Sadly John Piper’s latest alliance has ushered in that which Dr. MacArthur warns about, because now Warren can put his marketing skills to work within Calvinistic circles. Piper himself in the video above recognizes Warren as a self-described pragmatist, but dismisses this notion quickly. As a result of this alliance, there needs to be either concern about the discernment of Dr. Piper or concern over his willingness to overlook obvious issues within the ministries of fellow pastors, neither of which is especially flattering for a man like him. The question is will those of the “sober, biblically minded remnant” be courageous and bold enough to take a stand when even those most prominent among them seem to be faltering? On a side note, it’s interesting how this announcement seems to coincide with John Piper’s planned 8-month leave of absence, curious if the timing is related or merely coincidental.
I will continue to pray for JP.