Wednesday, June 1, 2011 | By: Zachary Bartels

Jesus, Tractor Beams, and Disintegration Rays

I’m back like John Travolta in ’96! I have been neglecting my poor blog lately, I know, but I’ll make up for it with a double-header today and tomorrow.

First up, a topic that was spawned from the Rick Warren/John Piper Interview. If you aren’t familiar with the background, John Piper last year invited Warren to speak at the Desiring God conference, and then a bunch of heresy-hunter types launched a veritable tweetgasm of charges and condemnations against Piper, 2nd-degree-separation-style.

I posted the video of the interview on my Facebook wall, encouraging hardcore critics of Rick Warren to watch it if they hadn’t. What followed was one of those meaty meta-conversations that make Facebook worthwhile, largely between me and my friends E. Stephen Burnett and Frank Turk (aside: Turk has an excellent article on the subject on TeamPyro today). Neither of these guys is a knee-jerk reactionary or a tiny-tent neo-gnostic Calvinist, which is what made it interesting.

We disagreed on the subject of whether Rev. Warren was being entirely forthcoming in the interview, but in the process, we began discussing a fascinating question, which I formed this way:

How close to Dort do you have to be before you’re allowed to carry out ministry unmolested by the Truly Reformed?

Turk answered, in true Turk fashion, “You cannot be too close to Dort. It’s like the Theological Starbase Batcave.” Yet the question remains: how far does one have to drift before the starbase begins a sequence of either tractor-beaming him in, or blowing him to smithereens?

Are we New Calvinists supposed to despise Billy Graham? (I sure don’t!) If so, is it just old, quasi-universalist Billy or young, Finneyistic altar-call Billy too? Do we tolerate and cooperate with Methodist pastors at the local level, but then launch missiles when a preacher with run-of-the-mill Arminian theology and methods gets “big enough” to have a national platform?

Do we trust any other traditions to maintain their own star bases and determine when their own ships have strayed too far?

This is probaly really optimistic, given the fact that I haven’t blogged in like a month, but...[waaait for it]...DISCUSS.

And check back tomorrow for reflections on last Sunday, when I passed out and fell to the chancel like a sack of potatoes halfway through my sermon.

8 reader comments:

E. Stephen Burnett said...

In short, I agree with everything Turk wrote on PyroManiacs, and not just because he's Turk. Very gracious, reasonable, mindful of the excessive cage-stage twits out there, but pointing out that Piper only tried implicitly to address their issues, and not the concerns of legitimate critics.

From Turk:

As you see him as your friend, I credit you for wanting to defend a friend against injustice. But here's the thing: it seems to me that you thereby missed the point of all the fair criticism of Rick Warren and the PDC/PDL approach to local church life. In seeking to overcome the unfair criticism, you brushed over the concerns legitimate people have about your friend.

It's not about who's Reformed Enough. I have several friends who aren't Reformed, and I don't care all that much if they stay that way. Why not? Because they clearly love the Lord and want to delight in Him, seeking His truth and love, and honor His Word. They're faithful to Scripture. In short, they have all the same "fruits" that some people seem to expect only from the YRR Cabal.

Thus I've come to realize: what I like best about the Cabal is not just five points, not just love for thick theology tomes, or great preaching pastors, etc., but the faithfulness to Scripture it reflects. So if I see that in a non-YRR person, why complain?

The problem is, as Turk points out, I just can't see that in Warren. His use of Scripture is woeful, for a Calvinoid or a Free-Willie, and I've tried to show that elsewhere.

Furthermore, professing Calvinists who take Warren at his word and say "let's lay off" commit the equal-opposite error to those who now want to burn all their John Piper books. We ought not tread lightly around any leader, whether it's Piper or Warren. And we ought not give anyone a pass to say "yes, I believe this" without also examining his/her life to see if it matches. So far, Warren's simply has not, in many ways, including those Turk summarized.

Thus it's not an issue of whether someone is "Calvinist" enough, but whether his professed faith is confirmed by his actions, and his professed care with Scripture is confirmed by what he says. Christians should want their lives to reflect better their professed faith. That applies to both some critics of Warren, and Warren himself — all of whom may fail to practice what they preach.

Frank Turk said...

Kim Riddlebarger would tell you that anyone not standing inside all the boundaries of Dort is a churchless person - probably not actually Christian but maybe saved if they get their heads sprinkled in time, and sprinkle the kids, too.

Rick Warren isn't reformed -- he's just a mediocre pastor.

ZSB said...

Turk, you (inadvertantly) bring up a good point. Kim Riddlebarger is hardcore Reformed. He really would tell you or me to drop our pathetic covenantless evangelical faith and head home to the halls Heidelberg. And yet, he openly embraces the likes of Tony Jones (a Baptist) and William Willimon (United Methodist) as brothers in Christ. That's the kind of tension I love. I'd have liked to see some of that tension in the interview with Warren, but if it had to tip to one side, I think toward the side of giving a pastor who DOES regularly preach salvation by Christ alone (even if he uses terms like "mulligan" that make me CRINGE) is the side I will land on.

Brad "The E List "YRR" Superstar" said...


Besides my childish claim on the fourth comment in this post, I don't know if I have much to say. I think the Turkmiester addressed most of my concerns in his letter and nailed this whole shebacle on the head. I guess my last questions would be these: Could Piper be doing everything that we are hoping behind the scenes? Has Piper's influence remotely affected Warren's ministry since DG last year?

As for the first, I would hope Piper would be doing such. Granted, Warren is a public leader and should be asked these questions publicly. However, I think sometimes the Reformati is a little to publicly empirical for its own good (I don't see it publicly, therefore it does not exist).

I guess my second question flows from my first. Have we been examining Warrens preaching since his relationship with Piper to see if things have been slowly changing? I know I haven't, that's why I'm asking. My hope is it has. Maybe we can assign this task to all the watchbloggers. Then they can be quiet for the next day or two as they disseminate the 6-8 months worth of preaching and writing.

Lastly, Can we bring Rickrolling back but with a Rick Warren singing it? Posting that on Facebook walls would be amazing!

ZSB said...

Yeah, Turk nailed down the specifics of the Warren/Piper thing laudibly. In my post, I'm more asking questions about generalities.

i.e. There are lots of preachers in each of our towns who more or less follow a Rick Warren method. They don't preach Law and Gospel, a lot of their content is super practical (but not the kind of practical derived directly from the indicative like St. Paul). And yet, they still regularly and faithfully teach that we can only be saved by believing in Jesus Christ.

Are we shooting at them? Should we be? Is Rick Warren a target only because he's so BIG a target?

And, again, how far must one stray (forget Dort) from the way we think the Gospel needs to be proclaimed and communicated before they need to be taken to task or taken out of the equation?

Brad "The E List "YRR" Superstar" said...
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Brad "The E List "YRR" Superstar" said...

I thought this was answered by Turk?

"If you are not lying face-down on the floor of the Bridge of the Starbase Batcave of Dort /reading something from Crossway/, specifically with ESV bible references, with a foreword by D.A. Carson and copious references to the Puritans, you might as well be a contagious space zombie pedophile."

I might have laughed for a minute with this one. On a more serious note, I would dine with anyone who fits the traditional mold of an evangelical.I would break it down into a couple thoughts:

1. Affirms the 5 solas. I don't think this requires one to be completely Calvinistic in their soteriology.

2. Crucicentric. Meaning the person rejoices that Christ was slaughtered on our behalf so that man, who had no way to know God, can now know him.

3. Socially active in spreading the news about Christ. We are to engage the world in all ways that are morally possible in order to preach Christ.

This is my start. I might change it up a little later, but I think this is a good start.

Brad "The E List "YRR" Superstar" said...

And P.S. if my inferred answer was not clear enough, here is my clear cut one:

With its current state, one has to be clinging to the original copy of the Cannon while kissing his copy of "Institutes" while shaking his John Owen Bobble head tossing hand grenades at shrines to Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, and even Richard Baxter. In a more serious tone, you need to wholly affirm Dort and a majority of the Heidelberg/Westminster to be left relatively alone.

This is not how it should be. I have outlined above what I believe the requirements for legitimate fellowship. If this is met in belief and practice, we don't need to be publicly harassing the person at every turn. That doesn't mean we don't ask them every why the don't hold to Dort. What it does mean is we can commend their ministry to our broader Christian sub-culture.