Tag Archives: Purpose Driven

I am of Apollos…

Last year I shared a blog post entitled “ Red Skies in the Morning” in which the dangerous association of John Piper and Rick Warren was highlighted through the Desiring God Conference invitation that was given to Warren via Piper.  At that conference, many expected to see Piper interrogate Rick Warren on his loose handling of Scripture, his pragmatic methodology, and his widely popular book The Purpose Driven Life.  Due to a family emergency, Warren was unable to attend the conference in person, but provided a video of his talk which was broadcast at the conference.  The content of the video served as a shining example of the concerns with Rick Warren that I just listed above, namely his handling of Scripture, multiple Bible “versions” used to make a point (apart from true context), and his pragmatic inclinations.  To this video, Dr. Piper gave a hearty “Amen” and was awed by the number of Scripture passages used, neglecting to comment on their blatant twisting, often being misquoted, and generally given a different meaning.  All of which served to bring up serious questions regarding John Piper’s discernment in giving Warren a platform.  I mean if a simple blogger like me can search the numerous videos of Warren’s presentations and interviews, recognize his obvious twist of Scripture, and see his situational chameleon-like responses, then certainly a highly regarded pastor such as Piper can see this, right?

Which brings us to the present and the Desiring God West Coast Conference, held at Warren’s Saddleback Church.  Here we finally get to have the interview many had been waiting for.  Dr. Piper and Dr. Warren squaring off to see which would blink first; a high-noon showdown between a senior member of the Reformed (Neo) community and the outspoken, overexposed, Southern Baptist pastor.  Is that what we got?  Hardly.  If anything it was a love fest with Piper applauding Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life and providing a defense for him from “harsh critics”.  What we were left with was essentially that Warren, like Piper, holds to God’s Sovereignty in salvation and that both men were profoundly influenced by Jonathon Edwards.  The internet is abuzz with everyone angling to figure out why Piper would give credibility to Warren and what he wants us to learn from the interview while others are reassessing their critical evaluation of Warren and his ministry.  Lost in the shuffle is perhaps the more important detail, namely the danger of aligning oneself so closely to a “superstar” pastor that their ministry associations affect your own ministry and witness.  Here’s what I mean.

In 1 Corinthians 1:11-15 we read the Apostle Paul say, “For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.  What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’  Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you?  Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?  I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.”  It is obvious that within the Church of Corinth there were divisions and this verse provides insight into one of the reasons why.  Many people of the church were claiming Paul as their “spiritual father”, i.e. pastor or minister; while others claimed Apollos or Cephas and perhaps others were making the argument that they followed Christ alone.  This is not all that different from what we see in today’s visible church as many scramble for alliances with the “superstar” pastors such as Piper, Warren, and others.  These people in Corinth had become so blinded by their allegiances to a particular man that it blinded their allegiance to Christ.  Paul brings them back to a cross-centered focus by asking them the rhetorical question, was he crucified for them or were they baptized in his name?  No, but it was Christ alone.  This is the dangerous trap that we all can fall into today, especially within the Reformed camp where so many crave strong, bold, and visible leadership.

I’m guilty of falling into this trap too, particularly as a writer who, as we’ve been taught in school, understands the value of adding a worthy quote to a blog post or paper.  In the theological world however, doing so gives credence to not only the particular quote or source and not only to the author of that quote, but by relation, to the author’s entire body of work or ministry.  For example, if I quote Joel Osteen and a reader sees that I have presented him in a positive light, they may be inclined to look more closely into Osteen’s books and sermons.  The greater the influence of the “quoter”, the more credibility given to the “quotee”.  Which brings us back to Piper, because “everybody” reads his books, listens to his sermons, and quotes him themselves.  This means that generally speaking when he endorses someone it results in a trickle-down effect on those who follow him closely.  We saw this with his “mentoring” of Mark Driscoll, despite obvious concerns, and we are seeing it now with Rick Warren.  For me personally, I have no interest in endorsing Rick Warren and to quote Piper favorably would seem to give my own acceptance to Warren just as Piper has done.  In an interview prior to last year’s Desiring God Conference Piper warned those who “follow” him not to have a “secondary separation” issues, essentially what I have just described, simply because he associates with Warren.  This fails all biblical discernment tests though because using that logic I should never question the character of a person that brings a teacher of a false religion alongside themselves.  For instance if John MacArthur suddenly started allowing a Mormon teacher into his pulpit, I would seriously have to start questioning the discernment of MacArthur, not the false teacher.  The same is true with Piper, because he is unable to see the inherent falsehoods and blatant misrepresentation of biblical Christianity which Rick Warren has displayed this doesn’t make me question Warren anymore, but instead raises serious doubts about the discernment ability of John Piper.

Finally let me say that God has raised many men up through whom we can learn more about His Word and His Son, but they were never meant to be placed on a pedestal to such an idolatrous level that our focus shifts off of Christ and the Gospel and onto whom they may or may not be endorsing.  This trap is certainly prevalent among those theologians both past and present, but it seems there is an ever-increasing “safety” with quoting and reading those saints of old because their legacies have been firmly etched in stone and their questionable alliances, if any, have all been finalized and brought to fruition.  In the end let us not be like the Corinthians that Paul rebuked, saying we are of Piper, Warren, or others, but let us say we are of Christ and may God grant us the discernment necessary to separate ourselves from the wolves in sheep’s clothing and the restraint required to avoid placing men upon a pedestal.

You may also like:

Tim Challies blog: http://www.challies.com/articles/thinking-about-rick-warren-john-piper

Pyromaniacs blog: http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2011/06/another-open-letter-to-john-piper.html

Red Skies in the Morning

pink-sky-in-morning

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

 Apprising Ministries – Chameleon-Like Rick Warren

 

 

 

 

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.