Saturday, October 2, 2010

Rick Warren Gets John Piper's Stamp of Approval?

Posted by Christine Pack

The Desiring God 2010 National Conference is now underway at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis, MN.  The Desiring God conferences that John Piper hosts annually are known for bringing together some of the best and brightest thinkers, teacher and pastors in American Christianity.  The key note speakers for this year's conference are listed as:
John Piper
R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
R. C. Sproul
Thabiti Anyabwile
Francis Chan
Rick Warren
No, that last name is not a typo, and yes, for some reason that many cannot fathom, Rick Warren has been invited to be a keynote speaker at this conference.  Rick Warren, the preacher who has single-handedly done more to drive true gospel preaching out of today's churches has been invited to speak at one of the most respected forums for putting the spotlight on bringing true gospel preaching back into today's churches.  Oh, the irony.

Rick Warren - who could not be at the conference in person due to family illnesses - kicked off the conference via a video message.  Here are a few sound bytes that jumped out at me:

"Nothing happens till somebody starts dreaming. What we need today are great dreamers."

Rick Warren, who brought us the Purpose Driven Life explosion, sounds like he's going in a Word of Faith direction with this line of thinking: exhorting Christians to go ahead and dream their big dreamy dreams, because God is just waiting for them to come up with something BIG so He can bless them.  But this really the biggest problem today in American Christendom?  Americans just aren't dreaming dreams that are "big" enough for their lives?  American Christians just don't think about themselves and their lives quite enough?  It's hard to imagine a more self-focused, self-absorbed, narcissistic, man-centered culture than ours, but that is not, apparently, how Rick Warren sees it.

"I want us to have a covenant together. It’s a mental covenant for the mind...."

Okay, we have yet another covenant from Rick Warren.  And incidentally, it was his first covenant in the Purpose Driven Life book that flagged my husband that something might not be quite right about Rick Warren and this wonderful book that everyone was raving about.  We were brand new Christians in a seeker sensitive church that had just begun a 40-day churchwide Purpose Driven Life Bible study.  On pages 12-13 of the Purpose Driven Life, the reader is asked by Rick Warren to sign a “covenant” to agree to read the entire book over the course of 40 days (or a chapter per day). My husband leaned over in church and whispered to me: "What about let your 'yes' be 'yes' and your 'no' be 'no'?"  Later at home, he told me this verse from the gospel of Matthew had popped into his head when we got to this covenant in our Purpose Driven study:
"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." (Matthew 5:33-37)
This was very sobering for both of us.  We were brand new - and I mean brand new - Christians.  But we both were very concerned about doing what was right in God's eyes and according to God's Word.  And here was "America's Pastor" exhorting us to go against what Jesus himself had plainly taught.  This was probably the first inkling we had that, no matter how well-regarded a teacher or book might be, we must always hold ALL teaching given in the name of God to the Word of God.  But on to the "mental covenant" that Rick Warren wants us to make together:
Test every thought.
Helmet your head.
Imagine great things.
Nourish a godly mind.
Keep on learning.
With a cute little acrostic. That Rick Warren just loves a snappy little acrostic, doesn't he?  After all, he's already given us P.E.A.C.E., his global initiative for bringing about - hey, you guessed it! - world peace.  Then came C.H.U.R.C.H, Rick Warren's initiative for addressing HIV/AIDS.  R.E.C.O.V.E.R.Y. was designed to help addicts gain freedom from their "hurts, hang-ups and habits."  And then there was S.H.A.P.E., another man-centered, psychologized program for further self-focus and self-assessment, and which promises the following benefits:
Reducing stress
Increasing success
Determining how you learn
Deepening satisfaction
Building self-esteem
Wow!  Sounds great.....except that most of these things can't really be considered to be the legitimate blessings of Christians as promised in Scripture.  In fact, I've heard one pastor say something to the effect that he sees his main purpose as being that of a "self esteem buster." Meaning, his desire is to make sure anyone listening to him deliver a sermon is completely stripped of self esteem (and to be sure, that is no easy feat in the American culture).  But, it is only in our brokenness and in coming to the realization that we have nothing, absolutely nothing, to offer the Lord of glory, that we can then come as we ought, as beggars, with empty hands outstretched in humble submission. "Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the Cross I cling."

And now we've got T.H.I.N.K. - Rick Warren's clever little acrostic that he apparently came up with just for the DG 2010 "Think Conference" (get it? "T.H.I.N.K." for the "Think Conference?")
Test every thought.
Helmet your head.
Imagine great things.
Nourish a godly mind.
Keep on learning.
Okay, that sounds great and mostly right.....except for the "I." "Imagine great things?"  Again, is that something Americans really need to be exhorted to do?  Don't we already imagine and map out magnificent, marvelous road maps for ourselves that we would then like to present to God for rubber stamping?  But this is not the yielded life of a true Christian as taught in Scripture....coming up with big dreams and then looking for God to give us the "go juice" to accomplish what we desire.  In thinking this way, we create an idol in our minds of a "God" who is reduced to being the "power in our engines" and the dog that jumps through the hoops of our choosing.  No, the way we come to the Lord is with our hands open, humbly submitting our dreams, plans, wants, and desires to His perfect will (Matt 6:10).

In closing, let me put forth the troubling idea that, thanks to Dr. John Piper's Desiring God 2010, a whole new audience is now being exposed to Rick Warren's particular brand of Christian narcissism.....with Dr. Piper's stamp of approval.  And so I'll ask a question I've asked before: how far from orthodoxy does Rick Warren have to fall before Christian leaders will begin to "mark him out" and separate from him (Romans 16:17) - rather than continuing to give him a platform for teaching and preaching? Apparently, to Dr. Piper's mind, we're nowhere close.

photo credit: via photopin cc

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