Several months ago John Piper invited Rick Warren to be a part of the national Desiring God conference coming up this fall. This news has been out for a while, but people are starting to absorb the announcement and question and criticize Piper. Anticipating that reaction, John Piper put together a quick video addressing the reasons for his decision. Before you read further to discuss this, listen to what he has to say here.

First of all, in inviting Warren, Piper is overall being consistent with his prior practice. Piper brings a variety of speakers from different backgrounds to speak at the conferences he hosts. He also belongs to a denomination that doesn’t draw hard lines in the sand (see the open theism controversy in the Baptist General Conference). However, his Desiring God conference is neither a denomination nor a church. It’s a conference dedicated to the promotion of certain ideas or ideals.

The problem is that Rick Warren has a patchwork quilt of things that one could say about him. On the positive side, he believes in inerrancy, affirms his belief in the gospel, practices church discipline, and has well-organized discipleship based on Ephesians. On the negative side, he comes across as very pragmatic, uses the Bible version that best fits his point (rather than walking through why he takes it that way), tailors his message to his audience (for example, speaking to Muslims about being Purpose Driven) rather than speaking the Word of God, and can be very ecumenical. He often is in groups where the gospel is neglected in practice if not in teaching as well. He seems to negate what he claims to believe by what he does. Some might say this is a classic example of a conservative evangelical inviting a neo-evangelical to speak.

These negatives have caused a variety of people to say they wouldn’t have invited Rick if they were John. Tim Challies and Micheal Horton have two of the more eloquent blog posts on the subject.

The purpose of this post is not to criticize and critique John Piper or Rick Warren; it’s to learn. We’re in no way joined to either of them organizationally anyway. The purpose of this post is to discuss the importance of the platform (by “platform” I mean any opportunity to speak/preach to an organization or group of people) and why people do different things with it. As Challies said in his post, “That’s the thing about platforms—once built, they need to be nurtured, preserved and protected.”

I see two major uses for the platform:

  1. To promote your beliefs. For example, our national conference is designed primarily to promote what we believe and fellowship around it.
  2. To sharpen what you believe and how you express it. This use of a platform often is where major questions arise, because to sharpen your beliefs, typically you have to bring someone in from outside who believes differently from you in some ways. His preaching and presentation will challenge you to integrate your theology better than you did before. In fact, you may not come to agree with everything he says or how he says it.

Typically in our circles, I would say, we stick to the first major use of the platform for our events, but we use books or other means to challenge our thinking. In some ways this is a form of graduated separation. Discerning what form to disseminate ideas and challenge thinking is important.

What do you think? Does the platform have other major uses? Why would you use the platform for the second reason—to sharpen what you believe and how you express it? What problems arise when you do? Do you listen to only one news channel or read only one paper? Why or why not? What challenges does listening to a variety of voices bring?

Update: If you want another eloquent post on the subject, check out Phil Johnson on Pyromaniacs.