The fallout over John Piper’s endorsement of Rick Warren has also revealed that people in ministry positions from where they should be able to respond decisively and expeditiously are selecting the wrong time to apply generosity of spirit and indecisiveness. For example, Phil Johnson is executive director of Grace to You radio ministry of John MacArthur. Johnson also writes for his own website Pyromaniacs, and his lengthy article “On the Piper-Warren Connection” would lead one to believe by its title that he is addressing the serious implications of John Piper inviting Rick Warren to speak at his Desiring God National Conference. Actually, it does little to address the heart of the issue itself; instead, it provides evidence of an unflattering assessment of many in professional ministry.
Unfortunately, many that make their living in Christian Industry are often too far removed from real living to develop discernment. Their problem is they are usually surrounded by admiring laity, and live a cloistered, insulated, happy little Christian life, and are too far from the front lines of spiritual warfare to discern the times. This is demonstrated by the length Johnson goes to in his article to prove he almost knows that Piper’s endorsement of Warren is an apostate move, without being able to come out and say it is an apostate move; resulting in an irresponsible piece that flirts with the notion that Johnson knows the truth, but can’t set if free.
In his article, Johnson is straight forward enough to reveal that the reasons he can’t bring himself to call out Piper on his apostasy are his own emotional ties to Piper, and his fond memories of Piper’s books from days gone by. Johnson is correct to note that Piper has had a distinguished career in Christian Industry. He is an accomplished author, and popular speaker on the Christian circuit. Nevertheless, Johnson’s reluctance to accept the reality of Piper’s decision due to his previous accomplishments is ill placed; God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).
It is remarkable that after confessing his own emotional ties to Piper which are clearly influencing his judgment, Johnson is decisive in criticizing Piper’s critics on their enthusiasm. He implies that those who do have the wherewithal to call Piper out are acting with “unbridled passion and feelings-based judgments.”1 Because some of the saints expressing shock and dismay are women, he then appeals to the scripture prohibiting women from being pastors as also an injunction against them recognizing apostasy, and forbidding them from warning others about it. Certainly, it does not (1Tim 2:12). His characterization of some sheep as “trigger happy,” and engaging in “shrill vigilantism” for harshly criticizing Piper is only a pretense at magnanimity on Johnson’s part,2 and an obvious attempt at deflection, but the severity of the matter remains before us.
Warren set next to Piper at a funeral, an emotional occasion, and whispered in his ear sharing his admiration for some of Piper’s heroes, and flattering Piper by claiming to have read all his books. The result: Warren used words he knew Piper wanted to hear, and Piper was seduced (1Tim 4:1). Now, Piper is endorsing no less than apostate Warren, and turning him lose on his own sheep just before he himself departs from the ministry. It is a baton-passing that repudiates everything good that came before in Piper’s career.
Johnson treats this egregious act, which has potential to cause incalculable harm to the saints, euphemistically in order to gloss over it. Nevertheless, this is a scandal, and it is not about speaker invites that are “outside the boundaries of [Piper's] own circle of close fellowship,” as Johnson euphemizes it for Piper.3 It is about apostasy, and not what Johnson characterizes as merely a “trajectory of ever-broadening boundaries” which requires far more escalation before Piper proves he’s apostate.4 And now it’s also about those who can’t see Bible prophecy being fulfilled before their eyes, and there is no more serious form of myopia. Hesitancy to call out apostasy, wherever it manifests, and in whomever it manifests, is dereliction of Christina duty. Thankfully, ‘lesser’ saints have not shown such timidity.
End time prophecy is clear, and is specific that just prior to the Lord’s return there would be the Apostasy, and that it would be noticeably large, and harmful; resulting in persecution of the Church. Unfortunately, the prevailing view inside Institutional Christianity seems predicated on a misunderstanding of what apostasy means. Apostasy means a falling away from the faith (2Th 2:3). Those who fight the good fight of faith know that our enemies do not need to defect from us, they are already against us. Others seem unable to recognize that what were once well-known Christian figures who preached and sang in our churches are presently coming out in large numbers against the word of God and to deny the Lord who bought them (2Pet 2:1-2).
This swift growth in apostates will soon culminate in the one world church, and the Bible tells us that their destruction will also be swift (2Pet 2:1). As we are to depart between these two events, the Apostasy and the one world church congealing under Antichrist (2Th 2:3-6), Johnson’s indecisiveness on apostasy begs certain questions to be asked of those in Institutional Christianity. Firstly, what did you think the Apostasy was going to look like before you would be able to recognize it? Secondly, how do some reconcile the Apostasy without high-level treason? Lastly, are some too busy dissecting minute details in doctrinal tombs that they can’t look outside the window and see the Bible is happening now?
In the last days, the Apostates will be responsible, in part, for perilous times for the Church. They will be “traitors” who are “reprobate concerning the faith,” and they will “resist the truth” and oppose men of God (2Tim3:1-8). The world will accept these turncoats because in their resisting the truth they will assent to the world’s sin and claim it is good. These supposed victories over the faith will whet the appetite of the God haters, and they will persecute the true Church wherever they find it to have their sin accepted to the last man.
Traitors like John Piper are doing nothing less than preparing the way for the slaughter of the sheep. Those in Institutional Christianity, like Phil Johnson, who require Piper to grow horns and a tail before calling him out are doing nothing less than giving him a free pass.4 They would know that if they were anywhere near the front lines.
For some who are in favorable circumstances inside Institutional Christianity, their complacency in regards to Piper may be a question of lacking discernment, and perhaps their senses could be exercised to better discern between good and evil by more of the word of God, and experience on the front lines of warfare. For others well situated in their employment, it may be a question of having grown comfortable with their attainments, and thus becoming distracted. Beware, complacency is a position too near the category of scoffers the Apostle Peter warned would be walking after their own lusts in the last days, and because of worldly enticements would begin to question the eminency of the Lord’s coming so as to dismiss it from their religious agenda (2Pet 3:3-4). This, too, reveals that the end is near. To those saints who have been faithful in calling Piper’s apostasy for what it is, who are on the front lines, and are now subjects of scorn and rebuke for your obedience to the faith; look up, for your redemption draweth nigh.
1 – 3. Phil Johnson, “On the Piper-Warren Connection,” Pyromaniacs, April 9, 2010.
4. As this article goes to press other Christian personalities from Institutional Christianity are scheduled to share the stage with Piper and Warren at the Desiring God National Conference in October, and they include: Al Mohler, RC Sproul, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Francis Chan. They would exhibit admirable fidelity to God by canceling their engagements, and conversely display they are also subjects addressed in this article should they lack the discernment to do so.