John Piper Defends Rick Warren

I was not altogether surprised to learn that John Piper (of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis) recently invited none other than the mega-star of pop-Christianity, namely Rick Warren, to be a keynote speaker the Desiring God National Conference to be held in October 2010.   You can read of Mr. Piper’s decision to include Warren at the Desiring God website, here.

As I watched the video of Dr. Piper explaining and justifying his controversial decision, one statement immediately struck me as simply outrageous:

I do think he’s deeply theological. He’s a brilliant man. He wouldn’t have the church he does or the Peace Plan, or all the influence he does…

May I respectfully ask what difference ANY of this might make regarding the issue of truth and fidelity for God’s shepherds?  Does Dr. Piper really believe that “human brilliance” or having a large church or being “popular” or devising a recycled version of the “social gospel” is ANY indication of a pastor’s credibility or faithfulness regarding the duty to proclaim the exclusive truths of Yeshua to a lost and dying world???  Only “professionals” that work within institutional forms of Christianity might be impressed with the influence (i.e., “power”) of someone like Rick Warren.  After all, Warren’s enviable success is really “shop talk” among pastors and promoters of the “church business.”

I daresay that the LORD God of Israel is not impressed with such concerns….  And may I remind you that the LORD clearly warned us to be vigilant regarding hucksters and deceivers within the church who would deceive many (2 Peter 2:1-3;  Matt. 24:11)?   Still, the seduction of Warren’s power might make sense to pastors of institutional churches that are struggling to capture people’s loyalties.  In the face of disappointing church growth (or revenue) projections, perhaps the marketing style, CEO leadership principles, and “pragmatism” of Warren constitutes a real temptation…

“… I’m not gonna push somebody like that [i.e., Warren] away when they’ve got so much to offer.” – John Piper

At any rate, as I continued to listen to Dr. Piper’s justification of his decision, he seemed unduly impressed with Warren’s claim that he had read “all of Piper’s books” (a claim that Piper himself immediately sensed was a lie), though what apparently really “wowed” him was Warren’s claim that had recently become an ardent student of Jonathan Edwards (Piper’s theological hero) and was arduously reading through all of Edward’s collected works…  Wow is right! How a busy man like Warren finds the time to intelligently read Edwards’ complete works — in the space of a year, no less — strains credulity.  It is far more likely, given the tendency Warren has of tickling people’s ears, that he “reinvented himself” for just such an opportunity…  It sure seems like some kind of “sales pitch” to get another leading Evangelical onboard with his ecumenical heresy and humanistic social gospel…

Again, as I watched Piper rationalizing his decision, I got the sense that he was functioning as an “apologist” for Warren, appealing to “secondary separation” as a non-essential in the Christian life.  Well, Piper is undoubtedly right that we may befriend those whom we differ theologically, but does that include allowing them to share the pulpit in our churches?  Does such friendship overrule the pastoral responsibility to proclaim the truth?

At one point in the video Dr. Piper shocked me by admitting that Warren is a pragmatist:

He’s known as a pragmatist; I believe he’s Biblical… – John Piper (speaking of Rick Warren)

Woah – hold the phone…  What does THAT statement mean???

In philosophy, pragmatism is the doctrine that practical consequences are the criteria of knowledge and meaning and value. A proposition is considered “true” (or “meaningful” or “intelligible”) if it works or provides useful benefits; otherwise it is “false.”  In other words, “truth” is a recipe for making things happen…  Truth is declared in the results of a belief or statement or technology — not in anything inherent by itself.

Did you catch that?

When applied to the realm of the ethical, pragmatism becomes “utilitarianism,” the doctrine that the moral action is one which results in the “greatest good for the greatest number.”  Ethical truth is not concerned with transcendent values, duties, and the obligation to “treat every person as an end in themselves” (Kant), but rather with what is regarded as useful or expedient for the community…

Welcome to the world of Postmodern despair.

In the last analysis, the utilitarian principle is nothing less than a sophistical means to justify the “might makes right” fallacy: If more people prefer some outcome and think that it is useful to their goals, then it is ipso facto right – even if that happens to violates the rights of others who are relegated to minority status (or deemed to be “undesirable”).  Hence Rick Warren advocates unity at all costs — and throwing out voices of dissent in his mission to gain more and more momentum for his “plan.”

Perhaps Dr. Piper doesn’t realize that in addition to being a self-confessed “pragmatist” who advocates a bloodless “social gospel” called the PEACE plan, Mr. Warren is a self-confessed member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Oxford Analytica?  He’s also an ardent supporter of the neo-Catholic Tony Blair who advocates for a similar form of “Christian” ecumenical apostasy.  You can verify these true statements for yourself if you’re willing to look into the matter…

Pragmatism and Biblical theology are POLES APART on the continuum of truth. The fact that John Piper has no problem with this is indicative of the way theologizing in the “Christian” tradition often leads to heresy. Perhaps the reason Warren’s thinking is not offensive to Piper is because it is essentially consonant with the deeper implications of his “Covenant Theology,” which likewise leads to a form of works-justification (i.e., an emphasis on πραγμα, works), and “Replacement Theology“).  After all, if human works are the issue by which justification is demonstrated, then it would make perfect sense for the “church” to engage in an ecumenical crusade to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth…

The “New Covenant” is not a renewal of the Sinai covenant, but rather represents a radical transformation of the believer through the power of the resurrected life of Christ.  The idea of “works” righteousness or justification apart from the proclamation of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection is therefore a form of serious heresy.  There is NO compromise on this point, and those who advocate pragmatism above the gospel are headed for disaster…

I want to hammer on the truth…

During his video presentation, Dr. Piper said that he wants to “hammer on the truth.”  Well, I have personally met with Dr. Piper to discuss his adherence to Replacement Theology and to various “church traditions” (such his “Maundy Thursday” celebrations, his “Easter” celebrations, his “Advent” celebrations, his “New Years Day” celebrations, etc.). During my meeting with him, I was saddened to discover his pragmatic approach first hand.

For example, when I asked how he could justify dismissing the State of Israel as being “theologically irrelevant” — despite the fact that the LORD is repeatedly called the “God of Israel” and that the New Covenant itself (Jer. 31:31-37) emphatically states God’s loyal love for ethnic Israel — Piper repeated his assertion that the Jews had no “right” to the land because they “broke covenant” with God…  When I asked him which covenant, he claimed it was none other than the “Palestinian Covenant” (i.e., the “Covenant Between the Parts” (בְּרִית בֵּין הַבְּתָרִים) found in Genesis 15:9-21).  When I countered that this covenant was unconditionally given – based on Abraham’s faith – Dr. Piper suggested that justification is not entirely by faith but rather includes an aspect of “works.”

If Dr. Piper wants to “hammer on the truth,” as he claims, I suppose we need to qualify his meaning of “truth” as a theology conditioned by an array of presuppositions that are only acceptable to people who have already made up their mind on some very fundamental questions regarding ecclesiology, Israelology, the doctrine of justification by faith/works, and so on…

Tragically, it appears that John Piper’s acceptance of Rick Warren as a keynote speaker is evidence that the implications buried within his theological framework are beginning to be exposed…

This is a sad day for Bethlehem Baptist Church and for all of Dr. Piper’s fans. Over the years, Dr. Piper has encouraged many people with his writings and teachings. We continue to wish him well and pray for his complete recovery.

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For more, see Rick Warren: Big Shot for Jesus

παν ψευδος εκ της αληθειας ουκ εστιν – “No lie is of the truth” – The Apostle John (1 Jn 2:21)

8 comments to John Piper Defends Rick Warren

  • Chris Gillespie

    How in the world are you going to make the link from Covenant Theology and Piper inviting Rick Warren to speak at his conference. That is the typical “straw man” argument I hear all the time from Dispensationalist. Completely ridiculous! If you have problems with Piper inviting Warren, fine, but don’t try to blame Covenant Theology for his decision.

  • admin

    Hello Chris. First of all, I am not a dispensationalist, so you can drop the accusation. Second, I have my reasons for making the connection between Covenant Theology and pragmatism. Third, if you’re really interested in thinking through some of the issues, you can begin by reading a couple articles on my site:

  • Remember Warren’s ill-thought-out comparison between Christians and the Hitler Youth?

    More on Piper/Warren here:



  • admin

    For a good summary of some of the issues surrounding this controversy, see

  • John Trenter

    Dear anonymous Admin–I think Rick Warren was invited to the DG conference not only because he has a lot to offer (especially a crystal-clear presentation of the gospel and things of “first importance”) but also due to his practical Christianity reaching thousands of poor and needy people around the world. I also do not agree with his branding and franchising methodology of church growth, but how do you know that Pastor Piper didn’t invite Warren to perhaps challenge him on the some “things of the mind? it is altogether appropriate to do this with grace and humility, which I see lacking in some of the “anti-Rick Warren” rhetoric. After all, are any of us perfect?? We should examine our leaders with the same grace we profess that Jesus has shown us. I am not afraid of either Rick Warren’s methodolgy or John Piper’s supposed anti-Semitism (which is really a slander and misconception of his views due to previously programmed bad theology). I know Pastor Piper and his views on ethnic Jews and also his great support of “Jews for Jesus” and I can tell you he is surely NOT anti-Semitic. He does offer the same great Gospel to all people groups including Muslims and Jews. He just has the correct Biblical view that jesus was after all, Jewish along with his disciples and that now the dividing wall of hostility between God and man and Jew and Gentile has been forever torn down. I would urge Christians who are stuck in their previous programmed old or new dispensationalim to really study the historic covenant theology position that was especially well-articulated by the Reformers and many others since. It might be difficult but surely will be good food for those who have ingested our current easy escape-hatch so-called “Christianity.” And as for Palestine, how in the world can anyone justify the treatment the Palestinians have endured since 1948?? There are certainly two sides to that question and the ANSWER to both sides is Jesus. Be kind and demonstrate the fruit of the Holy Spirit!

  • admin

    To John,

    There is such a vast difference in our theological perspectives that I am afraid we would merely misunderstand one another if I tried to respond to you…

  • A Public Rebuke of Rick Warren, John Piper, and Kevin DeYoung:

    A number of people have both publicly and privately confronted John Piper about his unholy alliance with Rick Warren, but he refuses to repent, rather he has now retaliated against those who have marked Rick Warren. Piper claims to have read Warren’s book, yet does not even see the host of false teachings in Purpose Driven Life and promotion of occultist Carl Jung, rather he heaps effusive praise on Rick Warren. So sadly, it is time to mark John Piper and warn the church at large!

    Kindest regards in Christ,

    James Sundquist
    Rock Salt Publishing
    Perfect Peace Plan

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