Thursday, April 01, 2010

From out of Left Field

As Luke would say, 'Didn't see that one comin!"

John Piper has invited Rick Warren to be at the Desiring God national conference in the fall. I have never been a fan of Warren's. Other than the first page of the Purpose Driven Life, I thought it was awful (but I've never tried to write a devotional book). I've heard sermon snippets that were awful (but I'm sure I've preached some awful sermons myself). I think the whole 40 Days is awful...

I was interested to hear Piper's reasoning (the two video's below), and I think it's sound. I had no idea Warren was a Monergist/Calvinist. I had no idea he was so committed to theological learning (as Piper quips, "He's never said anything that would make me think he's read theology"). My big question for Warren - how do you reconcile your pragmatic approach to church life with your monergistic view of salvation.

I like what Piper has done here for a few reasons. One, it's easy to be ghettoized - to only read, listen, speak to those with whom you share much in common. That's a problem. As we invite seminar speakers to ECC, I think it will be healthy to invite people from theological perspectives with which we might take umbrage. I wouldn't ask them to preach on a Sunday morning, but to learn from them. Second, and Piper gets at this in the second video, has to do with separation. I'm sure Piper will loose some 'fans' for this, as he lost some when he invited the 'vulgar Driscoll' a year or two back. Warren is certainly different that Piper and the DG crowd, but must Piperites separate from Warrenites?

I'm sure I'll still take my pot shots at Warren every once and a while. Hard not to. But again, I like what Piper has done here. Now if he invites Osteen next year, I'm off the Pipe bandwagon for good!


Tim said...

Dan – I'm curious, what exactly is it that's in need of reconciliation between pragmatism and monergism?

Emily Walker said...

I see Monergism as having to do with the way one THINKS about God's sovereign power over and working through all things, as opposed to us having any ultimate control over any action or outcome or such. Pragmatism on the other hand is the way we ACT according to what we perceive as God's will as is communicated to us in His Word.

Dan Waugh said...

Tim, I'm using pragmatism in a technical sense - I don't just mean he's practical. Pragmatism is the philosophy that if it works, it must be right. Truth/worth are determined by results and the usefulness of something (idea, method, doctrine, etc).

As a philosophy of ministry, it's inconsistent with even a soft monergism, let alone a consistent monergism (view that God is completely sovereign in bringing people to himself). For the pragmatist, results are in man's hands. The right use of the right means produces results. The right means are defined as those that produce the results (numbers, converts, professions of faith). The monergist, on the other hand, will use God appointed means (preaching, sacraments, etc) and seek to do so faithfully. The results are in God's hands. For the monergist, good preaching = faithful preaching; not necessarily preaching that produces results. In fact, a monergist would point to Scripture, especially the prophets, and say God's message is often unpopular. They argue 'big doesn't mean right'.

One Wesleyan/Arminian professor posted 'why I like Calvinists' a while back. He says, "As a Wesleyan I am attracted to “what works.” Calvinists are attracted to what is true. I admire them for that. I teach practical ministry so perhaps it is more natural to be a Wesleyan, but over the last 25 years the evangelical church has overdosed on pragmatism. I appreciate the Calvinists who stand on the side with long faces wagging their fingers at all the large churches saying 'just because you are big doesn’t mean you are right.'"

Warren's methodology and teaching, at least in the Purpose Driven Life and 40 Days of Purpose are very pragmatic. Monergism is nowhere evident - in fact, as I said, it seems inconsistent with his ministry.

That's why I'm very interested to hear his defense of his methods from a monergistic vantage point.

Tim said...

Thanks for the clarification. I guess I still don't really see why it has to be one or the other – just as we seek to be balanced in other ways, it seems to me like there's a healthy balance between "thinking" and "doing" that we should seek.

But, I understand that you're using the terms in a very technical sense, too.

Dan Waugh said...

I don't think this is an issue of 'thinking' vs. 'doing'. It's an issue of how you'll determine what is good and what things to do. The Pragmatist will do what gets immediate results. What works is what's good and right. Period. If it draws a crowd, it works. For example, I loathe Charles Finney's Anxious Bench. It was a place people could come and sit during the 'revivals' and they would 'come under conviction'. It was incredibly manipulative, but it was defended because large numbers of people were 'converted' as a result (the 'made decisions'). Pragmatism leads others to soft peddle sin - people don't like to hear about sin, so we'll be more positive.

Monergists don't just think, they do also. However, they do and rely on the means God appointed. Preaching that produces 'results' isn't good unless it's faithful to the Bible. Good preaching, of the Bible, might not produce results. The results are in God's hand - a confession Pragmatists cannot make.

hope that helps.

seg said...

Perhaps I've spent way too much time in public affairs classes ... but to me it almost sounds like a republican describing what a republican is versus what a democrat is. I don't at all mean that as a slide!!! What I mean is ... there's this notion that there are only two camps, A & B, and you either fit into A or you fit into B. And if you're not in B, we automatically deduce that you're in A.

I don't at all think your definitions are wrong, Dan! But, I think maybe the frustration could be because it's not that helpful to distinguish? I have a hard time setting up most people in either category.

To go back to the Wesleyan/Arminian professor you quoted --- isn't it about striking a balance? The extremes on both ends aren't where we should be --- we need a "new" way where there's *neither* Pragmatist or Monergist, Calvinist or Arminian. So what is that?

Dan Waugh said...

seg, you are on to something. I'm not a philosopher, so defining something like pragmatism is not an easy task for me.

Categories, I think, are important, even when they are not hard and fast. They help us in our discussions without having to start at square one in every conversation. If I know someone is an orthodox believer (a category) I don't have to establish the Trinity, the deity of Christ, etc. I can assume that.

Also, some categories are mutually exclusive. Christianity and atheism or anitsupernaturalism are incompatible. I believe pragmatism and monergism are truly incompatible. Again, technically, there are epistemological issues at play. For the pragmatist, results define what is true rather than the Word of God. There are issues of faith at play - trusting God or trusting methods, etc.

With Warren, I think it's interesting that Piper says he's one of the best known Christian pragmatists, then states that he doesn't think Warren is a pragmatist at his core.

I'm interested to see (again, I think Piper is doing a brave, good thing) how Warren reconciles being in camp A (monergistic) and camp B (pragmatism). It's not an either or for him, and I want to know how he does it (maybe his pragmatism is only skin deep, or maybe his monergism is only skin deep).

Thanks for the comment seg - and my only frustration is with not being able to articulate my thoughts better!

seg said...

Okay, that makes more sense to me now, in terms of what you meant with Warren!

And why is Piper always so confusing in his wording? It's like he thinks it's fun or something.