Can We Get Along Together?

October 23, 2010

One of my ecclesiastical/theological heroes, John Piper, came under a slew of criticism earlier this year for inviting “Purpose Diven” Rick Warren to be one of the speakers for the Desiring God 2010 Conference

I like the way Collin Hansen introduces the controversy, in his article, Piper, Warren, and the Perils of Movement Building:

You only thought junior high was over. But lately the evangelical blog world has been abuzz because John Piper invited Rick Warren to speak for his Desiring God National Conference… You see, a lot of folks who like John don’t like Rick. So now some of John’s friends aren’t sure they want to hang out with him anymore. They may not come to his party in Minneapolis. And they aren’t sure that you should either.

I’ll admit I was a little surprised when I heard about it. But I really gave it no thought, until these past few days.  There was nothing specific that compelled me to reconsider the issue. I stumbled upon a few articles that made reference to the matter. And as I began to think about it I wondered to myself: “What is the real problem here?”

Frankly, I see only possible benefits. I am no Warren proponent. But honestly, I find much admirable about the guy and his ministry. I may have concerns about some aspects of his ministry style, and I do have some theological differences with him. But then again, I have theological differences with many people I admire – Piper included.  Nevertheless I gain insights from many people in areas where I do agree. And I am challenged to think more deeply by thoughtful expressions with which I disagree. 

Some time ago I posted The Jesus Pledge, authored by my friend, Paul Miller. Those embracing that pledge declare a willingness to “learn from all types of Christians”.  That is something that I don’t think we Evangelicals do enough.  And it is something that Piper appears to be attempting to explore. At least that is the sense that I get from him in a video he did explaining and defending his reasons for inviting Warren to his party. (Click: Why Rick Warren?)

Two final thoughts:

First, do we implicitly endorse what someone from another Christian tradtion, or with a different ministry methodology, believes and practices simply by entering into conversation and fellowship?  I don’t think so.  Without such conversations, though, how would we become acquainted with anyone outside our own circles?  We can maintain our own convictions, even distinctions, without isolating ourselves from others.

Second, I wonder if there is a possibility of synthesizing Piper’s Christian Hedonism and Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life/Church.  I don’t know what that would look like, and I am not sure I would embrce it, but I know I would not ignore it.  In fact, I am intrigued by the possibility.

3 Responses to “Can We Get Along Together?”

  1. David Alexander Says:

    Wow….I can think of a couple of reasons some would not like Rick to attend. Jealousy comes to mind, small minded TR’s, and some who may not really understand the Grace and Mercy God has provided to us all. Probably those who have an issue with Rick don’t know nor understand the man or his Ministry.

    This is really sad and points out one reason I think why denominations, and men thinking that they have a corner on truth / doctrine / worship style is a stumbling block to so many who have either left the Church or are disenchanted with it.

    I’m GLAD Piper has invited him to participate.

  2. Dennis Griffith Says:

    While I too am glad Piper invited Warren, I wonder of some of the above response may not be a bit strong.

    First, there are reasonable reasons for someone to not be a fan of Warrens, without jealousy. Many realize that the size of the church is not the indication of faithfulness. (See Crystal Cathedral) I am not indicticting Warren, only saying that some who are critical have some reasonable concerns. But, yes, many othes are simply narrow minded.

    Second, to condemn denominations as being divisive is not a fair statement. When some assume that they are the ONLY True Church (i.e. Church of Christ, etc.) that is a reason fro concern. But most denominations, and the reason I am part of a denomination, is for accountabilit, for visible and organizational unity. I do not have to be in the same denomination as someone to have a level of organic unity, but those friends and colleagues have no functional authority, this no real mutual submission. I have long wondered, since gong to a Promise Keepers where they harped on the evil of denominations, how being in no functional unity with anyone is a sign to the watching world of anything good. Granted, some abuse denominational difference, but others flaunt their independence. The issus is humble fidelity & faithfulness.

  3. David Alexander Says:

    Dennis, maybe a bit strong for affect. I’m not against denominations per-say. They have some very good reasons to help us focus our perspectives on Gods Word, provide accountibility, they give us a home sort of speak and help provide unity. Thats not the issue. But some people take denominiations to an extreme.

    I think it’s those who hold so nerrow a focus on denominational views or positions on doctrinal issues that we have the sort of thing where Piper gets flack for inviting Rick to a conference.

    I think the whole deal is a bit sad and reflects how people cause needless divisions and sometimes strife and hurt. Prov 6:19 (that may be a bit strong but you get the idea)


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