Unfortunately well-respected evangelical pastor Dr. John Piper exhibited a real error in judgment by inviting Dr. Rick Warren who, because of bullying tactics so often used in hostile Purpose Driven Church takeovers I refer to as The Purpose Driven Pope [1], to be the keynote speaker at the Desiring God Conference 2010. This is now slowly opening up a bit of a Warrengate across the blogosphere as more and  more people find out; and as more of the big “names” within evangelicalism start to weigh in.

Apprising Ministries has been keeping you apprised as to it all as best I can; however up until now, I’ve also chosen not to offer much personal comment on Warrengate. All I’ve said is Rick Warren’s heretical in, at least, his double-minded stance concerning the Roman Catholic Church. And I chose that issue carefully because while Warren can possibly hide in the weeds concerning his PDC methods, or his chameleon-like teachings, or his seemingly man-centered pragmatism, he has absolutely nowhere to hide from his sinful embrace of the Church of Rome as being “in God’s family.” [2]

Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries, whom I have much respect for and link on my front page, provides me a very nice lead-in for sharing a couple of my personal concerns about Dr. John Piper’s discernment, which I’ll do below as this post develops. In Warren/Piper, Peter Lumpkins, Corey the Anti-Christian Apologist, and More, on Today’s DL! Dr. White gives us the link to his April 8 edition of The Dividing Line. At the outset of this DL program Dr. White said he counted himself among those people who were “surprised” that Dr. Piper would have extended such an invitation.

He explains that he hasn’t really made it a point of his own labor in the Lord to discuss and/or follow the ministry of Rick Warren. Dr. White tells us that’s why he feels, “I really haven’t spent the time that would be necessary to be able to document what I’m talking about” concerning Rick Warren. And so, as he prepares to play a clip from the interview conducted by Chris Arnzen on his Iron Sharpens Iron radio program with Dr. White’s friend Phil Johnson of Grace to You and Pyromaniacs, he says emphatically: “I agree with this guy.” [3] 

Following the clip, where Phil Johnson covers much of what he would later say in his well-written post On the Warren-Piper Connection yesterday, Dr. White added a couple of his own concerns. He tells us, “It’s not that Rick Warren teaches specific areas of heresy; the problem with Rick Warren is what he doesn’t say, it’s not what he does say—it’s what he doesn’t say.” Dr. White mentions, in his view, Warren’s message is “an imbalanced presentation of the Gospel”; and further: 

It is not challenging; it is not complete. It doesn’t call for the kind of radical transformation of life and world-view, that would be so offensive in our culture today. And as a result, the entire methodology of ministry that flows from it is fundamentally flawed. 

I don’t know how that even works… I was at a church that had 20,000 members, one time. And, in every situation, what happens is, small churches develop within the larger church; because there is no way one man—or one group of men—can pastor 85,000 people.

He did say something—I’d never heard this—and I haven’t taken the time to check this out, but he said that he had seen some evidence that Saddleback remains the largest church [with] 85,000 members. 

What Dr. White said above is very important in light of Dr. Piper’s video defense of his invitation of Rick Warren. We’re can be thankful my friend pastor Rob Willmann made the time to transcribe it. Dr. White correctly tells us that Rick Warren’s Gospel presentation is “imbalanced”; “not complete,” nor does it “call for [a] kind of radical transformation of life and world-view.” So as a result, Warren’s “entire methodology of ministry” i.e. the Purpose Driven paradigm “that flows from it is fundamentally flawed.” And yet unfortunately Dr. Piper would want us to believe that:

Practically, and here I just think he could put me to shame with his aggressively, in-your-life, transformative discipling of his church. Uh, they have a membership covenant that you have to sign, and it is really rigorous and there are no inactive members… (Online source)

Dr. White goes on to mention Warren’s type of ministry is “gospel-lite”; all of which should bring up this question: If Rick Warren is willing to endorse the gospel of the Roman Catholic Church as Christian, and if his own gospel presentation isn’t “complete,” then are we really dealing with large numbers of genuine believers whom Rick Warren’s supposedly putting us “to shame with his aggressively, in-your-life, transformative discipling of his church”? Not likely; and just where is the legalistic idea of some “membership covenant” found in the text of Scripture? 

And then in his DL program Dr. White brings up Dr. Piper’s reasons for inviting Rick Warren and tells us, “He wants to see what makes [Rick Warren] tick.” Dr. White suggests that this might better be done, for example, “over dinner” rather than to “expose everybody who comes to your big, major conference.” This leads Dr. White to discuss how Rick Warren made it a point to tell Dr. Piper of his being “17 volumes into reading Jonathan Edwards, all the Yale volumes of Jonathan Edwards.”

As impressive as that may be, Dr. White’s rhetorical question to Rick Warren is the same one I have, “Then why is there so little evidence of Jonathan Edwards’ preaching of the Gospel in your ministry? That’s the point.” The other day pastor Bob DeWaay, Senior Pastor of Twin City Fellowship and author of the excellent book Redefining Christianity: Understanding the Purpose-Driven Movement, was on the Crosstalk program, which is hosted by Ingrid Schlueter. As they discussed Warrengate DeWaay talked about the “file cabinet orthodoxy” of Rick Warren. 

DeWaay explains of this kind of profession:

You stick it in a file cabinet, and someone questions you about it, you pull it and show [it to] them. Then you put it back in there; but it really doesn’t influence what you do, how you write, how you preach, how you speak. And it’s not very useful orthodoxy. [4]

Dr. White, using Phil Johnson’s concerns in the aforementioned ISI clip, next points outs that “no matter what” transpires “people are going to look at this and go: ‘Hey, if Rick Warren can be invited to Desiring God, then that must mean the mechanisms that he uses in ministry just aren’t that seriously bad.’” Dr. White then says, “From Phil’s perspective, that’s a complete undermining of the Together 4 the Gospel, which is constantly emphasizing of preaching the entire Gospel—all of the Gospel—and living in light of it.”

We can certainly agree with Dr. White when he reminds us that, “John Piper gets to decide who he invites to a conference.” However he also informs us, “I’ve heard lots and lots of stories about stuff that John Piper’s done in the past. He takes on the mantle of a prophet; and he’s not afraid to tell you what he thinks; he’s very straight forward.” If so, then Dr. Piper shouldn’t be afraid of hearing what someone else thinks as well. As Dr. White tells us, “That’s just John Piper; that’s what you get. He’s gonna mix things up; and he’s gonna challenge you.”

Fair enough; however, as much as Dr. Piper has done for the church, and the respect that he’s earned, there is more than enough reason here—with his opening up Warrengate—to question the discernment of this man who would take “on the mantle of a prophet” of the one true and living God. As Dr. White finishes up his comments concerning Warrengate he critiques the “hope” of “a bunch of people” that there’s some genuine, and actual, change in Rick Warren’s teachings; i.e the wish “that he would move more toward a biblical, and sound, and complete, pattern of ministry.”

But as Dr. White the goes on to correctly point out, whenever the leadership of these “big, huge churches” try and move back toward a biblically sound pattern of ministry “they no longer remain big, huge churches.” Here I would offer that someone as learned as Dr. Rick Warren is very well aware of this fact. You can download and listen to Dr. White’s The Dividing Line right here. And finally, now I’ll point you to the following insightful thoughts from my friend, and fellow Christian Research Network contributor, Lane Chaplin that will prove quite helpful here.

In his My Cards on the Table Regarding the Warren/Piper Situation Chaplin addresses “giving Piper the benefit of the doubt” because he may have some hidden, and positive, reason for doing so:

People have said that they’re giving Piper the benefit of the doubt in this situation because they don’t know what he’s bringing Warren to the conference for exactly.

The people who employ this rationale have adopted, in my estimation, “the apologetic of unsubstantiated optimism.” In this view, it doesn’t matter what a person has already said regarding the issue, what matters is what you hope happens in the future.

That’s what determines this person’s train of thought. “The apologetic of substantiated fact” is irrelevant and is very often completely omitted from even a comment unless it’s some passing comment dealing with things the person has done favorably in the past.  

I’m wondering if the people who are endorsing the former apologetic have seen the two videos where Piper explains why he’s inviting Warren. Here is maybe my most discomforting concern regarding this issue: Piper says that he invited Warren to the conference because John Piper believes (as he states) that Rick Warren is a sound teacher.

This is the truly mind boggling thing for me… (Online source)

Lane’s entire post is well worth the read containing a well-reasoned discussion concerning issues surrounding the sad state of Warrengate.


1. For more I refer you to Dan Southerland And Cult-Like Hostile Takeover Tactics Of Purpose-Driven/Seeker-Driven Church Transitioning.
2. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05316/605324.stm, accessed 4/11/10.
3. http://sharpens.blogspot.com/2010/04/phil-johnson-john-piper-rick-warren.html, accessed 4/11/10.
4. http://www.crosstalkamerica.com/shows/2010/04/john_piper_invites_rick_warren.php, accessed 4/11/10.

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