by Mike Ratliff
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Corinthians 1:20 ESV
Secondary separation has become a very controversial topic in the Church lately. Remember when John Piper became publicly defensive after he invited Rick Warren to be the keynote speaker at his pastor’s conference? What did he say? He tried to make the case that it was wrong for anyone to separate from him because they had a problem with the theology of Rick Warren and now he and Rick Warren were buddies. I believe I was not alone is publicly stating that the issue was not in friendship per se, but the fact that John Piper was actually validating the theology of Rick Warren and intermingling it with that of his own. So, do we separate from John Piper because he is a friend with Rick Warren or do we separate from John Piper because we disagree with his theology? Ah, now we are getting to the point. If our theology contains the presupposition that it is impossible for someone to be theologically at peace with Rick Warren and still be theologically sound then we have a starting place, but not a firm foundation for separation.
Believe me, I have fielded dozens of questions from people from all over the world since this happened. Most have been about Dr. Piper’s theological soundness. Is it possible to be completely Orthodox, as we have believed John Piper to be for many years, but for that Orthodoxy to have been nothing but a façade? If that were the case, then that would make John Piper a hypocrite. When he broke the news of Rick Warren’s participation in that Pastor’s Conference things certainly began leaning that way. I have heard all the apologies in his defense, as have you. Look at his track record. Look at all those years of service and his testimony and his preaching and his books. Again, these are presuppositions. Are these proofs of John Piper being an Orthodox leader in the Church in our time? Are these the fruits by which we shall know? Are we to know if a person is a true brother or sister in Christ by what they say or by both what they say and what they do? It is by both. If we have that presupposition then when we look at the testimony of someone like John MacArthur or John Piper or Al Mohler, et cetera, we cannot simply look at his or her doctrinal statement. No, we must also look at what they do and do not do.
Now we come again to critical area of placing presuppositional values on what makes up a genuine brother or sister in Christ and what doesn’t. Last week I listened to a radio show from a link sent to me by some friends. The person doing most of the talking threw everyone under the bus who was Reformed in theology, but who used and/or recommended any modern version of the Bible. That was his basic starting point. I also heard him condemn several of those he listed, whom I know personally and are not apostate or heretics in any way, simply because they were on the advisory board for the English Standard Version of the Bible. You see this fellow’s presupposition makeup was that only those who use the King James Bible were not apostates. That was his starting point. Then if they met that criteria, he dug from there and pointed out all sorts of things he didn’t like about their ministries, most of which were simply petty things that any Presbyterian would disagree with a Baptist about or vice versa.
On the other hand I did agree with him on what he said about Mark Driscoll and the Acts 29/Missional ministries, but to blatantly call John MacArthur a heretic and wolf in sheep’s clothing simply because he uses and recommends Bible versions other than the KJV is simply the fruit of a wrong presupposition.
What is the right presupposition? Is there a dividing line? There most certainly is. Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post (1 Corinthians 1:20). You see, the dividing line is in how the Gospel is handled and how important it is in the ministry of these men. If the Word of the Cross is the driving force in their ministries and all they do flows from that then they will be used by God as He expresses His saving power and true wisdom through them. On the other hand, those men whose ministries are marked by resemblance and emphasis on the wisdom of this world then what you have is religious people who look like Christians, but who have darkened minds. They evaluate the gospel as weakness and folly and we see this in how they preach and minister. This is painfully obvious in the seeker-sensitive churches. They misuse and abuse the Gospel to the point that it is no longer recognizable. Those churches are not true churches.
Now, we must ask, why would John Piper desire to intermingle his ministry with that? If we have the correct presupposition that the way to evaluate any minister or ministry is through the Gospel and how it is preached and handled then what we have with John Piper joining with Mark Driscoll and Rick Warren and other emergents makes his Orthodoxy highly suspect. We must not separate from John Piper because of his friends, but because of his failures in Orthodoxy based upon the Biblical Standards that we hold in our God given presuppositions that the Apostle Paul gave us in 1 Corinthians 1:20.
Soli Deo Gloria!