Friday, March 25, 2011

"The Church Should be Warned!"

And so the saga of Michael Horton being seen in a picture with Rick Warren rumbles on. Conflicting reasons are given for why it's a bad thing, and conflicting accounts of what Horton did wrong. As I see it there are two complaints going round:

1). The problem is the picture, nothing more. Horton was unwise to pose like this, and the picture could be used by Warren's supporters to say that Horton approves of Warren

2). Mike Horton went to Saddleback, shared a platform with Rick Warren and failed to explicitly warn against Warren. He ought to have used the opportunity to denounce Warren as a false teacher.

The same people have made both claims, leading me to conclude that in fact what we have here is good people feeling uneasy about the picture, and then looking for ways to articulate that unease. The picture jars. Claim 1 is basically subjective, it is about possible interpretations of a picture.

Claim 2 is different, it is about strategy, and underlying it are two points. The first is a probable misunderstanding of what the Lausanne event at Saddleback was. It was not about Rick Warren per se. Lausanne was not founded by Rick Warren, it predates him. It was a 'conversation on global evangelisation'. To go there and to talk about Warren would be accepting an invitation under false pretenses. But to go there to put your point about the need for gobal evangelisation to be based on... well, on the evangel, the Gospel, is to take the invitation as offered. To present an alternative to Warren's ideas is the most effective way to undermine him in that context. What was the alternative? To leave it as a cosy chat between people of like mind.

I am concerned that a lot of the discussion has missed the context, and committed a serious category error in comparing Michael Horton participating in a conversation hosten by Saddleback to two other different matters. The first is John Piper explicitly saying that Warren is sound an inviting him to speak at the Desiring God conference. The difference is plain - it was Piper's ground, and Warren was explicitly said to be sound. The second is Ken Ham's being dropped from two homeschooling conferences. In these cases Ham was a speaker at a conference, giving an address, not a participant in a conversation. A conference speaker has far more freedom in what he can say.

To my knowledge, Horton was not booked to speak at any other meeting at Saddleback, nor has he done so since the Lausanne meeting last summer. Thus he could not be 'kicked out' of any. Note also that Ham did not refuse to speak at meetings where Peter Enns was speaking - he was given the boot. Finally we need to understand that different people may take different approaches in different contexts. A homeschooling convention is liable to be made up mostly more conservative Christians, many with little formal theological training. The audience at the Lausanne conversation would be less conservative, middle-of-the-road evangelicals. It would be reasonable to assume that the homeschoolers would not know who Peter Enns is (most people don't) or what he teaches. The same cannot be said for Rick Warren and a crowd at Saddleback.

Finally, let us be most careful not to lump Horton together with Piper. Piper has explicitly said Warren is sound. Horton has never said this. Well, you may object, no-one is saying that he did! Precisely, and that is why we must not lump him together with Piper.

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John1717 said...
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