John Piper's announcement that he has invited Rick Warren to speak at his conference has generated a lot of discussion. I've been thinking through it since I heard about it (ironically, the day before April Fool's...so I was skeptical at first). I've considered writing my thoughts out--for I've had several people ask, "What do you think?"--but have hesitated for the following reasons:
- Who cares what I think? (That's been my default answer when asked.) It's Desiring God's Conference, and I do not sit on their board, and they do not use me as an advisor. If we ever hold a conference at Grace I will then be able to choose the speakers along with the other elders. How I would feel about the people Piper invites should never cross Piper's mind.
- Who knows why Piper invited him? Watching the comments from some blogs, there is a form of Fundamentalism (using the word to refer to actions more than doctrine) that I don't think Piper would mind distancing himself from. I believe Piper wants to resist a loveless orthodoxy that can be proclaimed by some. His teaching ministry has resisted it, but I also believe he wants to avoid being associated with it, if possible. One comment I read said something like, "Can we now as fundamentalists admit that Piper is not one of us?" Reading from other comments the man made, I thought, "Yeah, Piper may be ok with not being "one of you." Perhaps there is some strategy here not only to state what Piper supports, but also passively eliminate that which he does not.
- Who knows what Piper will do? It appears from the schedule that Piper will still speak at this event, despite his break from public ministry. For this reason, it seems to me that final judgement is best reserved until after the conference. You never know what Piper may do. I was at a conference once where Piper publicly asked the music leader not to sing a song again due to erroneous thinking communicated in the bridge of the song. He pointed out the error, and was gracious to the leader, even suggesting maybe changing the words or eliminating the bridge, but even stated publicly that he hates the words. Another time, Piper was sharing the pulpit ministry at a conference with another nationally known speaker. The other speaker was setting the crowd up for his next session by saying some rather controversial things. He finished and sat down. There were a couple of songs in between and then Piper took the pulpit. Piper's first actions were to publicly point out the concern he had, stated the concern he had for where the speaker was headed and told him he'd be listening very closely. He did all of this in the pulpit with the other man (who's neck turned very red) sitting on the front row. I don't see John Piper shying away from pointing out error, even if he invited the speaker to his conference.
Yet, I have to admit, I am a little baffled by Piper's decision. However, until I write a full blog post (and am probably leaning toward I won't), this is the best article I have seen. The concluding paragraphs of the article state:
I am glad that through his conferences John Piper is not trying to build the young, restless, Reformed as much as he's seeking to just preach truth. That is a good and noble goal. It is a goal that allows him to look outside of a safe little group of approved speakers. At the same time, Rick Warren is way outside that group and for good reason. Warren's critics have not always been fair to him and yet neither have they been without justifiable and significant concerns. His ministry is in so many ways antithetical to Piper's. It surprises me and maybe disappoints me a little bit that he has been invited to share that platform.
At yet let's heed Piper's warning not to fall into an error of secondary separation. There is no need for us to separate from Piper over such a decision. We have plenty of latitude to disagree with him; let's do so with respect for him and for his long and faithful history of ministry to the church. The sky is not falling, the world will go on.
Seriously, you should read the whole article.
Also related, here's some video from Piper himself, regarding the issue: