John Piper Interviews Rick Warren on Doctrine

I am not a Rick Warren aficionado.  I don’t have the foggiest idea what he does on Thursday afternoon, nor do I listen to his sermons (I’ve heard one).  I’ve never read any of his books.  And I don’t follow his tweets.

This means that what I’m about to say concerning John Piper’s interview is strictly limited to what I heard in this interview.  I’m judging it solely on the basis of the content found therein.

So let’s start with the big question.  Is Rick Warren, based on what he said in this interview (3rd time’s a charm), a heretic?  No.  Not at all.  He’s a conservative, monergistic Evangelical.  And for that, I’m extremely thankful.

Let’s back up now.  The interview was very interesting.  Piper covered a lot of subjects, touching on everything from limited atonement to Scripture to hell to prevenient grace to the sovereignty of God.  Rick Warren answered the questions forthrightly and often with Scripture.  There weren’t any howlers, on Warren’s part.  His understanding of the New Heavens and New Earth might be a little quirky, but then again, he said that he hadn’t studied the issue at great length.  Fair enough.  For the most part, Piper and Warren could heartily agree (although I suspect that Piper communicates doctrine differently than Warren, not to mention emphasizes it more).

Clearly Pastor Warren is a man who likes to boil things down into succinct and often pithy statements.  For example, he said towards the end of the interview,

“I believe there are two great themes in scripture: Salvation and stewardship. You know, I believe that one day we’ll stand before the Lord and he’s going to ask a couple questions.  The first one is, “What did you do with my son Jesus?” That’s it, “What did you do with my son Jesus?”… The second one is the question of stewardship which is, “What did you do with what I gave you?”

Is that how you would put it?  Perhaps not, but it’s certainly clear and biblical.

Much more could certainly be said, but I’ll leave it to you to make up your own mind.  But as for myself, I’m thankful that America’s most well known pastor isn’t a flaming liberal.

Must Listen Factor: Moderate.

Difficulty: Moderate to High.  A certain measure of theological acumen will be required to grasp the subtleties in this interview.

Length: 90 minutes

To Download: For some reason, the audio file is a wave file.  So it’s like 1 gig.  Uhg.  Not sure why they did that.  Anyway, I watched the interview- a truly rare moment for me.  You can find it here: LINK.

3 Comments

  1. Barry York June 3, 2011 at 7:57 am #

    Austin,

    As you acknowledged that your review was limited to the Piper interview, I thought you and other readers would appreciate as well Tim Challies’ thoughts at http://www.challies.com/articles/thinking-about-rick-warren-john-piper#more. A great admirer of Piper, Challies speaks carefully to the the consistent inconsistency that is Warren.

    • Austin Brown June 3, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

      Thanks, Barry! I very much appreciated Tim Chalies’ blog entry. And I suspect that he’s dead on. While I haven’t followed Warren, and am therefore unable to speak with much clarity on the subject, I feel well-nigh certain, given his philosophy of ministry, that there are some highly questionable, even objectionable, strands in the ministry life of Rick Warren.

      I guess the big question, which is Tim’s question, is why John Piper would tacitly place a stamp of approval on Rick Warren. What do you think?

      As for myself, I think Piper aims for some level of unity, when it is possible. If a man holds to the Gospel, then Piper seeks to treat them like a brother. Over the years, I’ve delighted in listening to his Desiring God conferences. The range of theological diversity represented at those conferences has been fairly astonishing. And for the most part, it has been a blessing. This, I trust, reflects a deeply held conviction on his part. And I think the Reformed community, or Machen’s warrior children, could extend more grace to fellow sheep, even those who are a bit wonky… but not too wonky 🙂

      That being said, the whole Warren thing still puzzles me a bit. I wonder if Piper doesn’t feel compelled to try to calm the Calvinists down a bit by showing that Warren does believe the Gospel. On the other hand, I wonder if Piper hasn’t befriended Warren in order to assert a positive influence in the man’s life. He’s helped Driscoll out. He’s helped Francis Chan. He’s helped a ton of people. Maybe he is in a better position to critique future slips/errors on Warren’s part? If that is a motivating factor, he couldn’t voice the thought over the airwaves. Therefore he would be forced to keep silent (save those closest to him), which leaves all of us onlookers to simply guess at his motives, and even call them into question. I think this is very likely, given Piper’s character and track record.

      I think the next year or two will shed more light on the situation.

      That being said, I would have liked to see Piper raise one or two of the biggest Warren-headshake moments during the interview, whatever those might be.

  2. Barry York June 10, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    Austin,

    I think you discern Piper’s aims correctly and I couldn’t add anything better to what you say. I do agree with your last sentence, as I think even Oprah and Barbara Walters would bring up the inconsistencies. And that’s not meant to ridicule Piper, just to point out that even the world knows if you are going to interview someone you should not ignore the major questions your audience will have.

    Though this is related to your latest post from the Gospel Coalition conference, I also want to thank you for calling to our attention the discussion on seminary training. It was quite stimulating.

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