I wish I had more time to comment on this. As it is, I’m away from home and don’t have much online time this week….
I fired up my twitter feed when I got to our destination, only to see a lot of ire being directed toward John Piper for his invitation of Rick Warren to speak at the Desiring God National Conference this fall. The watchbloggers, most notably CrossTalk blog (formerly Slice of Laodicea), are all upset over this and seem to have totally written John Piper off. I won’t repeat many of the charges, I’d feel dirty doing so. Just search the term #apj in Twitter to see some of this for yourself, or scour the comments at some of Justin Taylor’s recent blog posts.
Last night, DG had hosted another ask Pastor John live online Q & A event, and so of course Piper had to deal with the controversy. The DG Blog has a 12 minute video-clip up from last night’s event, that should satisfy anyone’s curiosity. In that clip, which I recommend you watch, I found a few segments very insightful and pertinent to the issue of secondary and excessive separation. Let me provide some excerpts here and then offer some thoughts. I apologize in advance, if I don’t get the transcript exactly right.
…I’m real eager that this glorious thing God is doing in the “young, restless, reformed” — whatever this thing is called that God’s doing, awakening people’s love for the supremacy of God in all things. I’m real eager that that not become a brittle, narrow, ugly, excessively separatist movement, and so I’m not devoting my life to finding a lot of enemies to attack. I’ve got some, but I like to do it simply by hammering on truth….
Separatism or, who you do things with, is an important Biblical question. And so, I don’t put Rick Warren in the group that I’m going to hold at an arm’s distance. …I’m not going to draw the circle there.
And suppose you disagree with me on that. Now you’re faced with the question, ok, I’m with John Piper theologically. I’m not with Rick Warren on a bunch of things. John Piper has just chosen to hang out with Rick Warren. What do I do with John Piper? That’s called secondary separation issues. And there you are, I hope we can disagree about who we hang out with. Okay. Because a lot of traditional fundamentalists have said, no, if you hang out with somebody that I believe I should separate from, then I’m going to separate from you. And I want to say, look let’s, can we disagree about whether he would come to your conference and you still be willing to eat with me, talk with me?
So I would encourage you to think through that issue of secondary separation. The way I have chosen to live my life for the sake of reformed theology and the supremacy of God and the inerrancy of the Bible and the importance of solid Reformation gospel truths, the 5 solas, and so on, is to give all my energy to putting them in a positive, aggressively spreadable form, not to spend my time shooting at the people who don’t like them….
I think Piper does a good job explaining secondary separation. It is always a problem, because people always will disagree with others on their particular approach to ministry. So, should we just separate from anyone not exactly like us? No.
I find it interesting that many who aren’t fundamentalists exactly (they aren’t card-carrying Independent fundamental Baptists), still think secondary separation should apply here. I think it’s the natural human reaction when we face disagreements. It is certainly easier to just write people off, then allow for important differences.
Yet, Rom. 14-15 should apply here. We can accept others even thought they differ from us. Personally, I’m encouraged that Piper is reaching out to Warren. He may perhaps influence Warren, and Warren does have some positive things to share with us, too.
I have serious reservations about Warren and his methodology. But his book revolutionized my grandfather’s life. I can’t argue with that. When we take small differences and make them so important we will die over them, we are making mountains out of molehills. And in the process, the important, fundamental truths–that list Piper shared that Warren upholds– are rendered meaningless. As I have pointed out before, we “minimize the gospel through [such] excessive separation.” I think the unity we have in the big things should enable us to get along enough to respect others who differ with us in relatively minor matters.
What’s your thoughts on Piper and Warren. Do you agree with my thoughts here? If not, why should we think of Piper as “selling out” for this invitation of Warren to speak? Please join the conversation in the comments below.