Over at the Pyromaniacs blog, Phil R. Johnson has finally posted his excellent and balanced take on the issue that has came to be known as "Warrengate" here.
Of course I think it's a bad turn of events, and I didn't find Dr. Piper's rationale for handing his platform over to Warren satisfying at all. I was surprised when I heard about it, but on second thought, I have to admit that it is consistent with Dr. Piper's modus operandi. Last year some people were appalled, others delighted, when Doug Wilson spoke at the conference. The year before that, the blogosphere was all abuzz with strong passions for months because Mark Driscoll would be the featured speaker. In 2007, it was John MacArthur, who (let's face it) is hardly a John Piper clone.
So Piper likes to feature speakers from outside the boundaries of his own circle of close fellowship, and that's a good thing, within limits. But Piper's choice of Warren as a keynote speaker proves his idea of where those limits lie is vastly—perhaps fundamentally—different from mine.
Furthermore, as much as I differ from Piper on the question of who deserves his imprimatur, there's at least an equal measure of difference between what I think is the proper way to respond to Piper and the way some of his most vocal critics have responded. I'm appalled and ashamed at how some on my side of this debate have expressed their disagreement with Dr. Piper.
It seems to me the whole controversy reflects in microcosm why the evangelical and fundamentalist movements of the 20th century have both failed so egregiously.
Dr. James R. White in his Dividing Line, for the first 15 minutes, similarly analyzed the Piper-Warren episode. Chris Roseborough in his Fighting for the Faith radio podcast on April 2nd also addressed the situation here. Lastly, Lane Chaplin lay out all his cards regarding the issue on his blog here, and give us practical steps we should take in how we can apply the doctrine of separation to Pastor Piper in not recommending him. As Lane says:
While I do believe Piper has many great things to say and I greatly respect him as someone who has a record of standing up for Biblical truth, nowhere do I believe we need John Piper. In other words, if I don’t send someone to John Piper that does not equate to I don’t send them to God. R.C. Sproul has said something to the effect that when you build a bridge, you can count on traffic coming from both sides. There are plenty of other preachers and teachers out there who do not see the need to receive traffic from the seeker-sensitive/Purpose Driven movement, and, if you agree that John Piper does not have the monopoly on Biblical truth, I can’t understand why you wouldn’t direct brothers and sisters to someone who refuses to receive that traffic and put it on your brother’s plate.
So there are some of my main concerns regarding this issue. I can’t help but be reminded of a superstar basketball player who does something that would cause any normal person to be discredited from the eyes of the public, but, because he has a track record of making some good plays, producing some good stats, and making a few notable appearances, he’s given the go ahead because public opinion as a whole accepts him. I’m afraid that many are dealing with this Piper situation in the same way. I am the first to admit that Piper has written some wonderful stuff, I enjoy many of his sermons, and I think he’s made some key appearances on the social realm for things like anti-abortion and the like, but I also come from the camp that believes that the player shouldn’t be dictating the coach. In other words, if the player (even if he’s a superstar) messes up big time (and I do mean big time), you discipline him for the time being with hopes that he’ll come back from his mistake better than before instead of carrying on like nothing has happened because there's a chance your fan base will decrease and, hey, you've had some good times watching the guy. Folks, Christianity is not about superstars. It’s about Jesus Christ who is interceding for the sin of everyone who believes on Him at this very moment. If you need a certain pastor and his notoriety to substantiate your relationship with God, I’m afraid you have two options: 1) Go to Rome where you’ll fit right in. or 2) Get right with the Lord, confess your sins, and trust on Him for your spiritual edification. He’ll send you the teachers you need, but it may not always be the teachers you want.
Christianity indeed is not about superstars. It is disconcerting to read some of the responses from the "young, naive and impressionable" (to use Lane's words) and see how they defend Pastor Piper's actions without so much as examine them according to Scripture. It is as if Piper is somehow infallible, and even if he were to invite the Pope or the Antichrist to his conference, he is still correct.
Lastly, with regards to Phil's contention of those who are way over the top in their reactions, there may indeed be a few here and there. What those of us who disagree with Piper on this issue strongly should do is to think first and pray before uttering words we may regret later. It is natural to be angry and hurt over compromise within the camp, but such should not translate into personal insults or even curses on Piper. Do we not believe that God Himself cares about what is going on? Isn't Piper's sin first and foremost a slap on God's face not ours? Shouldn't we therefore come before the throne of grace and plead before God what is also on His, before we lash out irrationally in anger and thus harm our cause? Do we need to give the New Evangelicals more excuses than they already have in rejecting the clear teachings of Scripture by making our conducts an unnecessary offence?
So once again, let us obey Scripture in the need for separation, yet do so with sadness for Piper's sin and a desire that he repents and changes his mind on this issue. Piper is our brother who is in sin, let us not treat him as our enemy. Leave our hatred of sin at where it belongs: the Devil and the Flesh.