This has been rumored for a while, but SharperIron confirmed with Desiring God yesterday that Rick Warren has indeed been invited to participate as a speaker at their 2010 conference. There will surely be a loud response to this from various perspectives in the days ahead. Phil Johnson’s brief tweet gives a taste of how it’s being received by some conservative evangelicals. Buckle up. There is a “red sky” this morning, sailors. The blogosphere is about to erupt with all things Piper and Warren, I imagine.
My two cents?Very quickly…
1. I’m disappointed. I’m surprised, though perhaps I shouldn’t be. Piper has shown in the past that he likes to push the envelope, as when he included Douglas Wilson and Mark Driscoll in the DG conference. The invitation to Warren just reveals how serious he was in comments to Mark Driscoll about how far he’s willing to bend for fellowship:
“Let me tell you how I think and how I decide who I’m going to hang with. As I look across the broad spectrum of Evangelicalism and all the different styles, what concerns me is doctrine. And if Mark Driscoll holds those nine truths firmly in his left hand, then I don’t care what’s in his open hand.”
I guess he means it. But…
2. This is different. Warren is the church marketing guru of our generation. He’s pushed decisionism and Finney-type tactics to new heights, and conservative evangelicals (such as Carl Trueman) have responded with concern, or indignation, or rolled eyes. In fact, he’s done things that are downright ecumenical. So this isn’t just a matter of “style.” He’s confused the “G” in T4G. To use Piper’s analogy, I’m not sure that what Warren does with his “open hand” makes real agreement with what’s in his “left hand” possible, despite what he may say in a doctrinal statement.
3. This could be a game-changer. It may not be as significant as Graham’s pushing fundamentalist unity to the brink via his LA and NY campaigns, but I think it could be a watershed decision. Will T4G-type evangelicals agree or defend it? I can’t imagine that, even as influential as Piper is. Will they speak out publicly? Will they look the other way? Probably all of the above; they’re a diverse bunch. It will be interesting to see. But as much as MacArthur-types love Piper, this sort of thing could push their tolerance and even their collaborative efforts to the breaking point.
4. This demonstrates that there are still very significant differences between even Calvinist-leaning separatists and conservative evangelicals, or at least with Piper. I love the man. I’ve grown from his teaching ministry more than anyone else’s, bar none. Still, this is a big deal. Though separation from fellow believers is often maligned, this demonstrates what happens in its absence.
That’s not to say that we need to revert to trench warfare between “them” and “us.” As I’ve said (here and elsewhere), I think the fundamentalist and new evangelical categories are so outdated and simplistic as to be essentially useless in our day. I’ve said that I’ll endeavor to make alliances on fidelity to Scripture, not labels. That’s still true. But issues like this aren’t mere “turf protection.” It’s not a matter of “this guy met with that guy who once had dinner with a guy who spoke for that guy.” This is an overt endorsement and fellowship with a man who has famously and consistently led Christians and non-Christians in the wrong direction on crucial topics. It is about truth, and alliances with the likes of Warren are indefensible.
All that to say, I think this could cast a long shadow.
Update: If you’re not inclined to read through the comments section (and I don’t blame you), I’ve offered a response to the videos of Piper’s explanations here.