With John Piper's recent affirmations of the ministry and teaching of Rick Warren, many have begun to reconsider previous critiques "Purpose-Driven" industrial-complex. Mind you, it is an industry. Is a reassessment warranted? Is Rick Warren actually closer to Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy than many of us have thought? Tim Challies, for one, says "No." And I am grateful for his courage to say so, because I whole-heartedly agree with him.
Challies has done a great service in his recent post, Thinking about Rick Warren & John Piper. It is a wise articulation of my exact concerns regarding this entire relationship.
For example, what are we to make of Piper's apparent endorsements of Warren?
I do not think he has given us an accurate understanding of Rick Warren or his ministry. It has given us a very partial understanding, one based on a very limited scope of conversation. I do not think there is any malice here or any intent to deceive. It’s just reality as I understand it.
What are we to make of Warren's apparently correct assertions to John Piper?
One of the most common critiques of Rick Warren and one of the most important is that he is something of a chameleon. There is a kind of pragmatism to him where he will be A and Not A depending on the context. I have little confidence that in a different context Warren would have answered the questions the same way. I am not saying that he outright lied to Piper, but simply that his track record shows that he adapts to fit the context.
Warren has been lauded in the secular media for speaking for a long time to a large group of Jewish leaders without ever using the name of Jesus. He is now being lauded by Calvinists for affirming the doctrines of grace. He has received praise from Roman Catholics.
...There is still a pronounced gap between what Warren says in this interview and what he says elsewhere. And there is just as large a gap between what Warren says here and what his ministry bears out. Saying all that he said and affirming all that he affirmed is not enough; he also needs to show it. But he has not done that. The reason everyone was so surprised that Warren is Reformed is that he has never given us any reason to imagine such a thing.
What are we to make of Rick Warren as a Bible-teacher?
Throughout The Purpose Driven Life he consistently and unapologetically tears verses from their context and applies them haphazardly, relying on a long list of translations and paraphrases to do so. Examples abound and would probably number in the hundreds; these are very well documented and very widely known.
...We do not want men to learn from Warren how to preach, how to use Scripture! He does not treat the Word of God as the very words of God. He can speak of his indebtedness to Edwards and Spurgeon and others, but his preaching shows very little of their influence.
I likewise hasten to affirm Challie's statement regarding John Piper, "I love and admire John Piper. And yet I find that I disagree with his conclusion." Read the entire article here.
I firmly believe that future Christian reflection will vindicate the continued and necessary criticism of Rick Warren's teaching as unbiblical and dangerous to the Church. Likewise, notwithstanding my deepest gratitude for John Piper's contribution to the Church in our age, I firmly believe that history will deem his recent affirmation of Warren to be a major lapse of judgment in an otherwise Christ-centered and Bible-saturated ministry.
In view of Warren's representations to John Piper, I was reminded of the simple reminder given by Al Mohler in his address at this year's Shepherd's Conference, "You do not remain orthodox just by declaring yourself to be so."
So, in sum, we must be grateful for that reminder. By His grace, we reapply ourselves to the labor of ministering the Word rightly for His glory in the Church and the world. Our God expects of us to actually be orthodox and show it. In sincere Christian love, we do hope that Rick Warren will one day actually do that.