Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Phil Johnson: The John Piper-Rick Warren Controversy: A Balanced Response (Part One)

MP3 Available Here

Phil Johnson, Executive Director of "Grace To You," the radio, television & tape ministry of world-renowned radio Bible teacher, author & pastor, Dr. John MacArthur, will address the theme: "The John Piper-Rick Warren Controversy: A Balanced Response" (Part one).

As many of you have heard, it was no "April Fools Joke", as our guest Phil Johnson tweeted (thumb-in-cheek). John Piper, highly sought after conference speaker, popular Reformed author, founder of the ministry Desiring God (see
http://www.desiringgod.org/), and pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN (see http://www.hopeingod.org/), has invited controversial Southern Baptist pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren to speak on the theme "Thinking Purposefully for the Glory of Christ: The Life of the Mind and Global Reality", at the 2010 Desiring God National Conference . Warren is on a speaking roster that includes such powerful defenders of the Reformation as Al Mohler, R.C. Sproul, Thabiti Anyabwile and John Piper himself.

This has come as a shock to many who greatly value John Piper and his ministry due to the fact that Rick Warren has publicly taken positions on various important issues and has spearheaded activities that most folk in the Reformed/Sovereign Grace community consider to be antithetical to Reformational thinking. In addition to Warren's invitation to Barack Obama (then Senator), a militant pro-abortionist and pro-homosexual rights advocate, to speak at his church in December, 2006, for his Global Summit on AIDS, many of Warren's theological positions are disturbing to many who love and admire Piper.

As Michael Horton, cohost of " The White Horse Inn" radio broadcast and editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine , so aptly put it:

"I admire Rick Warren’s zeal for reaching non-Christians and concern for global challenges. I respect him for giving away much of his income for charitable purposes.

"At the same time, I believe that his message distorts the gospel and that he is contributing to the human-centered pragmatism that is eroding the proper ministry and mission of the church... While I applaud his concern for social justice, I am concerned that he confuses the law with the gospel and the work of Christians in their vocations (obeying the Great Commandment) with the work of Christ through his church in its ministry of Word and sacrament (the Great Commission)...

"...When USA Today asked him why Mormon and Jewish leaders are involved in his pastoral training programs, Rick Warren reportedly said, 'I’m not going to get into a debate over the non-essentials. I won’t try to change other denominations. Why be divisive?' (USA Today, July 21, 2003). Rick Warren endorses a host of books, from New Age authors to Emergent writers to conservative evangelicals. So why not include Calvinists?...

"...We can be so proud of getting the gospel right while we don’t bother to get the gospel out to those who need it. Furthermore, we can be self-confident in our theological integrity while ignoring the Word of God when it impinges on questions of social concern.Yet the answer is not 'deeds over creeds,' but to be re-introduced to the creeds that generate the deeds that are the fruit of genuine faith. Getting the gospel right and getting the gospel out, as well as loving and serving our neighbors, comprise the callings of the church and of Christians in the world. However, confusing these is always disastrous for our message and mission." (Read entire article here:

While our guest Phil Johnson is extremely concerned over John Piper's discernment in inviting Rick Warren to speak at his 2010 Desiring God National Conference, he is equally concerned over the slanderous reactions of some brethren who deem Piper himself to be a heretic, or worse, a non-Christian, over this news.

Phil Johnson, also maintains "The Spurgeon Archive", the largest collection of Charles Haddon Spurgeon resources on the world wide web, and his blog site,


terriergal said...

"I think Piper feels like he has a ministry to these guys sort of nurturing them and bringing them along and for whatever reason he feels like it's effective to do that publicly. I would say look if he wants to have a personal relationship with Rick Warren and help encourage Rick Warren's professed love of Jonathan Edwards I'd rather see John Piper do that privately."

Well that's nice of Phil to offer his opinion, but *apparently* it's just an opinion and has just as much weight as anyone else's opinion. Right?

another thing phil says: "what you're gonna see is some guys who've sort of warmed up to Piper are gonna say well this is great because anything he does is great and how dare you criticize it?"

Is he not there guilty of exactly what he keeps condemning? I have seen no one saying that kind of thing. I agree JP's move here is a bad bad idea, but I feel far more strongly about it than Phil seems to.

I don't know but I'm getting more the impression from these blanket statements about 'emotive reacting' that he doesn't want to be associated with, that anyone who has feelings about this is sinning if they dare to display it, and should be walking around saying "Unclean! Unclean!" This left me with more confusion than clarification.

Should we all read like college textbooks? We can't all be Michael Horton. Should there not be understanding of differing communication styles? Some of the examples that were given as 'juvenile' and hateful on Justin Taylor's blog post about the comments on this story, really were not that bad. I feel like I'm sinning if I say anything at all, and I can't get a radar fix on the 'line' we aren't supposed to cross.

Considering that communication styles are always changing, and are built largely on societal norms, doesn't it seem a bit silly to draw a hard and fast line on any of this?

MRWBBIII said...

I get it now, Phil Johnson & Doug Wilson want us to wait and see what happens having Rick Warren speak at DG 2010 since God did not give discernment to any of his children !

Joe LoSardo said...

Doug Wilson said this is not something that we need to be breathing into a paper bag over. Challies wrote, it is not that big a deal (or words to that end). Likewise Phil Johnson "balanced response" lacks the alarm that I think is required over this. Everyone seems to agree that Warren fails to use the Scripture rightly. Everyone agrees that his methodology is based upon false premises. Everyone agrees that his idea of the gospel is lacking important elements such as repentance. I ask, why is it considered less a crime to ignore elements of the gospel than it is to pervert them?

Johnson said Warren has a winsome personality – which appears to be true as he among those he has won over include Muslim audiences, at least one Jewish synagogue, Catholic talk show host Sean Hannity, Larry King, Robert Schuller, and the Jonas Brothers. Have we forgotten Jesus’ words from Luke 6:25-26: Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets. This describes Warren, yet the worst these men seem to say about this, is that it is a 'bad idea.' Phil Johnson correctly said that Rick Warren, “split more churches than any other single influence in the second half of the 20th Century.” Does that not qualify him as a “heretic” using the most accurate meaning of that word? He divides the brethren – does not God hate that? How is loving what God hates simply a ‘bad idea?’

I think Chris asked Phil the question, “will John Piper correct Rich Warren’s doctrine publicly if he says something wrong.” Warren will not say anything wrong. He knows what a Biblically literate, primarily Reformed audience wants to hear, and just like he did before the Muslims and others, he will do at the DG conference. Just as he won over John Piper, by talking with him about Jonathan Edwards, he will win over Piper’s audience by sounding thoroughly reformed. But then he will go back to his Purpose Driven practices. As Johnson says, no man is sounder than his practices and methodologies. But that is when the trouble really begins, because instead of a borderline false teacher, Warren becomes accepted – and a potential wolf has entered fully into the fold.

I believe that Piper’s reception of Rick Warren as keynote speaker is akin to the apostle Paul receiving Elymas the sorcerer, who in Acts 13, divided the church and twisted the gospel. Should not our response to such men be as the Apostle said in Acts 13:9-11,
"O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time."

But then that wouldn’t be “balanced.”

Lou Martuneac said...

“I can’t explain or defend a bad decision on Piper’s part. People will see this as Piper’s endorsement of Rick Warren if it is bad or dangerous. Nullifies the whole message of T4G. RW is poster boy for opposite approach. If he (JP) has a sounder theology than his practice that is deplorable. Of all the people he could have possibly chosen it is really hard to think of anyone who would cause more confusion.”

These things are reasonable responses.

IMO, however, the high profile men at T4G would really like to see this controversy go away and are highly unlikely to have anything public to say about it.


Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

I am so saddened by all of this. I LOVE John Piper as a brother in Christ, but his discernment here is far from commendable.

I have learned more from Piper, MacArthur and Sproul than any other pastors I have come in contact with, as well as many of the Reformed theologians from the past. I treasure Piper's love for God's glory, and Sproul's devotion for God's holiness, and MacArthur's overall devotion to God's Word being preached expositionally and contended for vigorously. These men combined have brought so much glory to God, and helped us all appreciate and fall in love with God/Jesus and His attributes.

I have had such mixed feelings over this decision by JP to invite RW, because it is absolutely undeniable that RW is NOT preaching the true Word of God. How do I know this??? I learned from the best-John Piper. Nothing that JP has ever taught remotely resembles the false gospel that RW teaches.

So, I am asking God to PLEASE guide JP into making a correct decision concerning this man. The blogs are a buzz with this controversy, and the comments are, "What are we to think anymore?" So many people have been confused by this decision, and this is not helping the weaker Christians in the faith. My only hope is that RW will be brought to see, for the first time, the true, glorious gospel message, and if JP is being used by God to accomplish this, then to God be ALL the glory.

But boy, I‘m confused!

guybri said...

I feel like Tom Hanks in the movie BIG, when a new toy was being pitched that made no sense to him.


Frank said...

2 Questions
Will this move by Piper bring division?
Was this move by Piper really necessary?
He has already palliated the doctrine of N.T. Wright and possibly Doug Wilson.
2 John 10-11 and Romans 16:17 come to mind.
Another question. Should these verses now apply to John Stephen Piper? Just asking.

Phil Perkins said...

Here's a funny article that answers those who think we should wait and see what RW actually says and if he might get converted by JP: http://dontadddontsubtract.blogspot.com/2010/04/why-we-shouldnt-judge-john-piper-really.html

Phil Johnson is a phony. He's always compromised. He pushes Tim Challies and TC has pushed all sorts of heretical stuff.

Phil Perkins

Yiloa said...

Balance, schmalance. Tell it like it is.

Iron Sharpens Iron 30 Day Archive

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend"- Proverbs 27:17