April 5, 2010

John Piper to Feature Rick Warren: What Are the T4G Men For to Do?

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

On the morning of March 30th I posted the first article in this series, which verified that John Piper had invited Rick Warren to speak at Desiring God (DG). Shortly afterward numerous sites/blogs picked up on and ran the story. Many include threads with commentary. See the listing below. My previous articles in this series include:

John Piper to Feature Rick Warren at 2010 Desiring God

John Piper Explains Why He Invited Rick Warren to Desiring God

The revelation of John Piper’s invitation of Rick Warren to his Desiring God (DG) conference could not have been welcome news for Together for the Gospel (T4G)1 organizers and its key note speakers on the eve of their event. The Piper/Warren issue is sure to be the buzz of the conference. I do not expect anything on the Rick Warren invitation from the platform speakers unless it comes from Piper, which he may feel compelled to address in an attempt to quell the buzz.

The true irony of this year’s T4G is the theme, which is, “The (Unadjusted) Gospel.” Rick Warren is among the high priests of a watered down, non-saving message. IMO, only Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin and the GES’s Crossless Gospel could possibly eclipse Rick Warren’s heretical reductionism. See- The Gospel of the Christ: One is Baffled…

I half-suspect Piper may take the platform at the outset to address the Warren invite. Why? For the purpose of getting it on the table, hashed out and hopefully quelled so that it is not a major lingering distraction during the conference. Nevertheless, there will undoubtedly be a huge buzz on the floor of T4G and in small groups settings throughout the conference.

Among the group of high profile evangelicals at T4G are men who know and minister frequently with one another, who have become a peer group. I speak of men such as, but not limited to: John MacArthur, Mark Dever, R. C. Sproul, Al Mohler and John Piper. Each has many years of ministerial experience and are respected by one another. Because of the close cooperation with one another over the years Piper would have no reason to brush them aside and they would likely feel at liberty to approach him.

I have pondered how men like John MacArthur, Al Mohler, R. C. Sproul, et. al., might react to the revelation of Piper’s invitation to Rick Warren. Mohler and Sproul have a larger consideration than MacArthur because they are scheduled to speak at DG along with Warren. Over the last week one nagging question I’ve had is:

Before agreeing to appear at DG were Mohler and Sproul informed by Piper that Rick Warren had also been invited?

I’ve also been speculating on what might be going on behind the scenes in these few days before T4G convenes. Frankly, what I am going to share would IMO be going on whether or not T4G were just on the horizon.

What will be the reaction of the T4G men: MacArthur, Dever, Sproul, et. al.? I suspect some private attempts to admonish Piper have already taken place. All indications are he (Piper) will reject any admonishment from his brothers. Will there be some public negative reaction from the other T4G men? Will, for the sake of T4G/TGC fellowships, all be forgotten. At T4G will all embrace one another as if nothing is amiss?
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple,” (Rom. 16:17).
In regard to Rick Warren the mandates in verse 17 apply and there is no subjective decision to make. Piper, however, chooses to ignore the Scriptures to embrace Rick Warren, to defend and give him recognition, which will lend credibility to Warren and his methods. Piper puts impressionable believers, who follow him (Piper) at risk. Piper offers Warren a national platform, which could through his, “good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple,” and lead to their spiritual demise.

Piper is irrefutably acting “contrary” to the Scriptures and it is inexcusable.

Al Mohler has plenty of ecumenical baggage of his own. First, knowing Billy Graham has turned thousands of (alleged) converts over to Roman Catholic and modernistic churches when he accepted the chairmanship of Graham’s 2001 Louisville crusade. Second, signing the Manhattan Declaration 2 (along with Ligon Duncan), which extended Christian recognition to the deadly “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18). If Mohler were to raise any legitimate concern it would be highly hypocritical of him. It would be impossible for Piper or any believer to take Mohler seriously with his recent track record of ecumenical compromise.

R. C. Sproul may be one who will admonish Piper and by conviction withdraw from DG.

John MacArthur has written effectively against the Charismatic movement, church marketing and emergent movements. Piper is a charismatic, he is irrefutably become a new evangelical with his embrace of and invitation to Rick Warren. If Piper’s belief in the miraculous sign gifts was not enough for MacArthur to cease from hosting and sharing platforms with Piper should we expect the Rick Warren invitation to compel MacArthur to withdraw from, mark and avoid him?
“Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” (2 Thess. 3:15).
IMO, MacArthur will and very likely has approached Piper in private to reason with and/or admonish him. If, as I am certain, Piper will not respond, MacArthur will likely post something from the Grace to You site and then back to situation normal with Piper. This convergence of high-profile evangelicals is IMO fragile in the first place because of the charismatic issue with Piper and Mahaney. Adding Warren to the mix has the potential to shatter this T4G/TGC/DG camp. I do, however, think they are all going to put unity before fidelity to the biblical mandates that apply. This has been the pattern of evangelicalism.

I believe the convergence of T4G and The Gospel Coalition around Calvinism and Lordship Salvation trumps other doctrinal considerations. Many conservative evangelicals are willing to tolerate, allow for and excuse Piper and Mahaney’s Charismatic theology and practice for the sake of cooperation around Lordship Salvation. I suspect for the sake of this unity, some conservative evangelicals will raise a form of protest and then will brush Piper’s invite of Warren aside. Some will happily sit on the platform with Warren and Piper.
“A final sad spectacle reported with enthusiasm…is the Together for the Gospel conference, running from 2006. A more adult affair convened by respected Calvinists, this nevertheless brings together cessationists and non-cessationists, traditional and contemporary worship exponents, and while maintaining sound preaching, it conditions all who attend to relax on these controversial matters, and learn to accept every point of view. In other words, the ministry of warning is killed off, so that every error of the new scene may race ahead unchecked. These are tragic days for authentic spiritual faithfulness, worship and piety.”3
Is the “ministry of warning” to be “killed off” over the Rick Warren controversy just as it has been over Piper’s charismatic theology? To date, there has been no “ministry of warning.”

If Piper’s charismatic theology were not bad enough now add his embrace of Rick Warren and invitation to him for DG and you have T4G on the cusp of division. That is IF evangelicals ever come to the point of obeying the God-given mandates for biblical separation themselves. Only MacArthur has shown any proclivity toward separatism, but has been woefully inconsistent.


Please continue to- John Piper, "I'm Going to Need Help to Know Why I Should Feel Bad About This Decision."

*Indicates additional articles and commentary.

1) T4G and The Gospel Coalition are converging around a “particular” interpretation of the Gospel that defines well the tenants of Calvinism, while allowing non-cessationists [Charismatics] and ecumenicals to be part of their coalition platform. That interpretation of the Gospel is Lordship Salvation. When T4G and The Gospel Coalition events converge in alternating years they converge around Lordship Salvation. For the sake of clarity these conferences should come to be better known as: Together for the Lordship Salvation Gospel, and The Lordship Salvation Coalition. See- “Foremost Defenders of the Gospel?”

Al Mohler Sign the Manhattan Declaration: Was This a First Time Foray Toward Ecumenism?

The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness

What about “secondary separation?” In his classic Dr. Ernest Pickering wrote:
“When our brethren do things that are wrong—caused by an incomplete knowledge of or deliberate disobedience to some teaching of Scripture—we should not merely continue fellowship with them as those who have done nothing wrong, but we should warn them, remonstrate with them and seek to recover them to a Biblical position. . . . If one should ask, Does 2 Thessalonians 3 teach secondary separation?—then the response would have to be given, It depends on what you mean by secondary separation. . . . It is the principle of refusing to condone, honor or utilize persons who continually and knowingly are following a course of action which is harmful to other believers and to the welfare of the churches.” (Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church, pp. 221-222.)
Pay close attention to that the final sentence from Dr. Pickering’s excerpt (see bold). It “secondary separation” can be appropriately applied to both Rick Warren and now John Piper because both are, “following a course of action which is harmful to other believers and to the welfare of the churches.”


  1. Lou-

    Lighthousetrails has also written about it here:



  2. Hello Lou,

    I hope you won't mind my saying so; sadly, we just might be seeing a modern version of "the traditions of men."

  3. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ,” (Col. 2:8).

    Brother Ken:

    Thanks the reference to this passage. Through Paul the Holy Spirit is warning us against being caught up in or being taken captive by false philosophies. Incredibly John Piper now gives Rick Warren a national platform in which he has a ripe opportunity to draw away disciples (Acts 20:30). Indefensible!

    I want to publicly thank you for the numerous articles you have published at your site, Apprising Ministries in regard to the Piper embrace of and invitation to Rick Warren. Your ministry is sorely needed and appreciated in this present hour.

    Kind regards,


  4. I've liked a lot of what Piper has said over the years. I don't own even one of his books though. Piper reminds me of George Whitefield. Whitefield is often trumpeted as an example of a great Reformed preacher, but the reality is Whitefield would not take on John Wesley when the time came and so Wesley was able to bring his Semi-Pelagianism into America via "Methodism".

    Also, I see men like Phil Naessens are wobbling on this issue. He unfortunately has a pattern of trying to play both sides (be it on whether Ken Copeland is a "true believer", whether he is "approved" by the Greek Orth Church, or in his consistent denunciation of hyper-preterism as a heresy). I am glad to see you and others took him to task.

    We need more Christians of unwavering conviction and less snarky, self-pious "apologists".

    I'm going to bookmark your blog.

  5. To All:

    New article in this series is coming on Thursday morning.



    I get it now, Phil Johnson & Doug Wilson want us to wait and see what happens having Rick Warren speak at DG 2010 since God did not give discernment to any of his children !

  7. MRW:

    I'd like to caution you about questioning motives, Matt. 7:1-2. Other than a tweet from Phil I've seen nothing for him or MacArthur. Why; I do not know. I have speculated on what I think may be going on behind the scenes.

    I also suspect that the T4G men would just like to see this go away, get T4G over with and then wait for Desiring God. IMO, R. C. Sproul is the most likely to drop out of DG. Mohler has no leg to stand on in protest over Piper's compromise

    BTW, not to forget we have Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan who compromised the Gospel when they signed the Manhattan Declaration.


  8. Lou,

    Phil Johnson has spoken on this issue. Here is a link to a radio interview he gave a couple of days ago. As a person who holds to reformed doctrine, I am left slack-jawed.


  9. Nolan:

    Thanks for the link, I will give it a listen asap.


  10. Nolan:

    I just transcribed (not quite word perfect) the following from Phil's radio interview (1).

    "I can’t explain or defend a bad decision on Piper’s part. People will see this as Piper’s endorsement of Rick Warren as if it is bad or dangerous. Nullifies the whole message of T4G. RW is poster boy for opposite approach."

    That is fair, I have no problem with that.


  11. Nolan/All:

    I also posted the following in a thread where the P. Johnson recordings are you linked me to. Thanks!

    We are well aware of Rick Warren's many issues including soteriological reductionism. But now that Piper has invited, embraced and defended Warren, where is MacArthur on this controversy?

    IMO, the high-profile men of T4G who meet next week would like for this to go away and will have nothing to say about it. Their fellowship is fragile enough as it is with Piper and Mahaney's charismatic theology. This issue with Rick Warren is bad news for the T4G and the Gospel Coalition. This has the potential to be a deal breaker for them. I do suspect, however they'll choose unity at the expense of fidelity to the Scriptures that mandate the believer’s response to this sort of compromise and disobedience.

  12. Lou,

    Even if the scripture you quote applies to my charge, leaders are at a higher standard which everyone misses on-
    BTW when are you publishing " In Defense of the Gospel II "


  13. MRW...:

    The revised and expanded edition of IDOTG is at the publisher right now. It will be out within 30 days. It is IMO a much stronger polemic then the first.

    I had panned to begin announcing this, but the Piper /Warren flap took precedence.

    FWIW, depending on what circles one runs in this new edition has 6 fairly high-profile endorsers.

    I will begin publicizing its release sometime next week.

    Kind regards,


  14. Lou , I was wondering if the T4G Conference would be defined/labeled as New Evangelical? I have heard some conservative fundamentalist state that they are NE but those attending T4G conference would say they are definitely not New Evangelical. Your thoughts?

    1. Good Question, to which I believe the answer, is a qualified, “Yes!” You look at certain key persons in T4G: Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan John Piper, CJ Mahaney, who recently left T4G. Of the core leadership I suggest taking a hard look at the track record of Al Mohler especially.

      What do you see in the bio of Al Mohler? One ecumenical compromise after another. If you go to the LABELS section and click on “Al Mohler,” you can read just the last few articles on him and links to other articles that show him acting as a New Evangelical does in his associations. See, this article for examples.

      Al Mohler joined Roman Catholic bishops and apostates to sign the Manhattan Declaration. That action alone *compromised the gospel and gave Christian recognition to the deadly “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18). In the past year Mohler embraced Rick Warren, this generation's high priest of New Evangelicalism. (Earlier John Piper had already embraced Rick Warren as noted in this article.) Al Mohler has also entered into cooperative ministry with the Mormon Church. Over ten years ago Mohler sat as chairman for the Louisville Billy Graham crusade. Al Mohler has NEVER apologized for or biblically repented of any of these things.

      All toll and there is more, he is, and therefore T4G can be counted among the New Evangelicals.


      *Al Mohler is an advocate of Lordship Salvation, a work-based message that corrupts the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3) and frustrates grace the gospel of Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:21).

    2. I saw that 2014 T4G has several people teaching workshops from the Billy Graham School at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. http://events.sbts.edu/conference-classes/t4g-unashamed-louisville-ky/

    3. Yes, and it was under Al Mohler's presidency that SBTS opened the Billy Graham School.