Thinking Out Loud

April 12, 2010

Sorting Out Rick Warren’s Invite from John Piper

When I started this blog it was with the determination to be different.   Although it has the usual “about” page, plus an extra one called “Behind the Scenes,” the real mandate to do this is found on a page titled “Life in the Blogosphere.”  (At the time I was defiantly trying to buck the trend toward “Blog-os-phere” as an adaptation of “Atmosphere” by spelling it “Blog-sphere” as if to say “Blog World.”  It never caught on, I changed over a year ago, but the page stands with the unusual spelling.)

In that page is a list of six or seven things I wanted to do here, and they’re all fairly general one except for one.   It said, “I don’t really get the whole John Piper thing…”   (I’m actually breaking one of my own blog rules by getting into this!)

When I started reading Christian blogs many years ago, and also when I started writing one over two years ago, it seemed like Piper was ubiquitous.  People were searching online for everything the man had ever said; waiting with bated breath for the lasted video upload from Desiring God; tripping over themselves to cut-and-paste his latest take on some hot-button theological (or not so theological) issue from someone else’s blog to their own; and quoting his words in articles and opinion pieces as though they were the Word of God itself.

That continues to this day — it’s no wonder the guy is taking a few months off; who could live with that pressure? — but I’ve since learned to keep my bookmarks and published blogroll more balanced, so I only see a small percentage of what persists from the reformed (or in some cases neo-reformed) sector of the internet.

People often ask, “Who will be the next Billy Graham?”   Honestly, I’m glad that we are living in a time when no single non-Catholic Christian leader speaks for all of us.  (I think it helps direct the focus to Jesus!)   I’m glad that this particular type of leadership role is somewhat fragmented.    There’s some good and bad in this, as I mentioned in my post, Top Trends Affecting Your Church in 2009 over a year ago:

Trend #10: Conflicting Spokesmen — Who will be the next Billy Graham? It probably won’t happen that the future will see the focus on a single individual who speaks for all Christians or all Protestants or all Evangelicals.  Since many key spokespeople disagree on secondary and tertiary issues, it will sometimes appear to that there is a lack of consensus.

You see this most clearly in the present teapot tempest over Piper’s decision to invite Rick Warren to the Desiring God conference.  (Over 40,000 posts and web articles served on this topic to date. Would you like fries with that?)    People who like Piper don’t like Warren.   (I was going to put a qualifying phrase in there to temper the generalization, but decided to let it stand.)    Take Phil Johnson for example:

I can’t think of anyone who would make a finer poster-boy for the pragmatic, spiritually impoverished, gospel-deprived message of modern and postmodern evangelicalism than Rick Warren. He is shallow, pragmatic, and chameleonic. He is a spiritual changeling who will say whatever his audience wants to hear. He wants desperately to be liked and accepted by Muslims, evangelicals, and everyone in between.

Too bad Phil doesn’t tell us what he really thinks.

Some feel that Warren is well-chosen as the man to fill Graham’s shoes in civic affairs such as the inauguration of a President and see him as the spokesman for the Evangelical church.  (A feeling, I might add, that sits better with me than the choice of T. D. Jakes or Joel Osteen.)

But — recent events notwithstanding — Piper’s followers, who are extremely well represented here in blog-land still see him as the man who has the final word on doctrinal matters.   Warren can offer public prayers and say grace at prayer breakfasts, but it’s Piper they really need to give them direction.   So they aren’t quite sure what Piper is up to inviting Warren, though Scot McKnight is one of many who endorses the decision.

Personally, I think I have a good idea what he’s up to; and I think the invitation and the decision to take a sabbatical are better understood when seen in the context of each other.  (The blog, Black Calvinist presents some excellent insights, as well. while blogger Stephen Macasil thought perhaps it was an early April Fool’s prank!)

But here’s my point:

  • 100 years from now it won’t matter

And here’s my other point:

  • 100 days after the conference it won’t matter, either; perhaps even 10 days later

These things preoccupy bloggers — many blogs thrive on controversy and division — and a handful of Christian periodical writers, but they disappear in the dust very quickly.    Plus there’s this, from I Cor. 3: 4, 5, and 7 –

When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I prefer Apollos,” aren’t you acting like those who are not Christians? Who is Apollos, and who is Paul, that we should be the cause of such quarrels? Why, we’re only servants. Through us God caused you to believe. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. The ones who do the planting or watering aren’t important, but God is important because he is the one who makes the seed grow. (NLT)

You would that the upcoming conference will change Christianity forever to read the passion of bloggers and those leaving comments on their blogs.   It won’t.

The world will continue.  This will neither usher in a new reformation nor a new apostasy.  The gospel will continue to be preached in all the world for the witness.   Wait and see.   (What’s that verse in I Cor. say?  Love believes the best.)  Speculation just isn’t helpful at this time.

On the weekend, blogger Tim Challies was interviewed during the final hour of The Drew Marshall show.   I didn’t realize that Tim’s background includes time spent in both Warren-type and Piper-type churches, and the subject of the conference was covered.   The April 10th interview will be posted online on Friday, April 16th and you can catch it here.

Video embed of Piper’s response to the critics.

Photos:  The two were sitting side-by-side at the June, 2009 funeral of Rev. Ralph Winter.  (Christian Post)

No “chameleonic” is not a word.   “Chameleon-like” is what he wanted.

By “neo-reformed” I mean to infer not an extremeism (though this does happen) but rather — largely due to the internet –  people who have been recently swept into Calvinism because of various ‘appeals’ who will later, as they work out the nature of God in scripture, find themselves not tethered to Reform doctrine and will gravitate to some other position.   But there’s also Scot McKnight’s definition.  (And Roger Olson’s supplemental piece.)

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1 Comment »

  1. “The gospel will continue to be preached in all the world for the witness.”

    And that’s the heart of the matter, no? Which “gospel will continue to be preached.”

    Comment by Ken Silva — April 17, 2010 @ 11:31 pm


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