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.