I’ve watched both of the videos in which Piper explains his thinking in inviting Rick Warren to speak at the 2010 Desiring God Conference (here and here) Though I’ve spoken often of my appreciation for Piper, neither video encourages me. Neither really alters my initial take.
- He has put himself in the strange place of defending both Warren’s orthodoxy and the effectiveness of Saddleback, especially in last night’s video.
- He has allowed for a great divide between one’s belief (the “left hand” in his earlier analogy) and behavior (the “other hand” in his analogy).
- He has given Warren a great opportunity to make an apology for his philosophy of ministry—and I don’t mean “to say sorry.” I imagine that Warren will rise to the occasion, which will only muddy the waters further.
- He has acknowledged that this is more than an effort to satisfy his curiosity (as some had guessed), but is an attempt to broaden the Reformed base.
- He has, IMO, allowed his love for unity and theology to trump his love for purity. His great heart has overcome his great head.
I’m not just sounding off. I’m not out to get John Piper, whom I admire tremendously. But what Piper says matters. A lot. If his embracing of Warren doesn’t change the way T4G-type leaders think of the Saddleback model, it will undoubtedly do so for scores of students. And to say that he’s not embracing or endorsing Warren is naive, especially after watching the videos. Of course, I’d love to see him influence Warren, perhaps turning the church marketing genius into the next Spurgeon. Do it. Godspeed! But do it in private. Do it without putting him forward as an example.
It reminds me of counsel I give to young ladies with a heart for “James Dean” types. Sure, reach out to them. Pray for them. But dating isn’t a good ministry strategy.
I thank God for John Piper’s advancing in me and others a delight in God’s glory. As I said earlier, no other has influenced my thinking and preaching more. But this is a compelling reminder that while we learn from each other—while we thank God for and pray for helpful teachers—we must have but one Teacher (Matthew 23:8-10).