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Edwards Brings Them Together: Or, John Piper, Rick Warren, and the Powdered Wig

The blogs are abuzz with chat­ter over John Piper’s invi­ta­tion to Rick War­ren to the Desir­ing God National Con­fer­ence in Octo­ber 2010. It’s let­ting the bar­bar­ians in the gates, some have said. The sky is falling, and not with vol­canic ash, oth­ers are saying.

But we must lis­ten closely to John Piper’s ratio­nale for the invite. War­ren reads, in fact owns the com­plete Yale edi­tion of, Jonathan Edwards. Yes, there are other argu­ments, but the clincher is that War­ren reads Edwards, which is enough to con­vince Piper to let him in the gates.

While seated together on a plat­form dur­ing a funeral, War­ren con­fessed to John Piper that he’s at vol­ume 17 of the series, Mark Valeri’s edited col­lec­tion of ser­mons. War­ren, it turns out, spends a year with a the­olo­gian and this year it hap­pens to be America’s Theologian.

What I find intrigu­ing here is why I came to Edwards in the first place, and also why I have stayed with him all these years. Edwards brings peo­ple together.  I started out with Edwards because he brought so many peo­ple together. Lit­er­ary schol­ars, historians—even his­to­ri­ans of science—theologians, politi­cians, pas­tors, and peo­ple in the pew all drink at the waters of Edwards. I’m not sure of any other fig­ure who appeals to so many broad inter­ests, bar­ring Augus­tine (which is likely why we like to call Edwards America’s Augus­tine). To put the mat­ter directly, if Edwards can bring Piper and War­ren together, Edwards must be say­ing some­thing remark­able. If Edwards can bring schol­ars, pas­tors and laity together, he cer­tainly is say­ing some­thing worth hearing.

This isn’t the first time Edwards served as a medi­at­ing force. Harry Stout and Iain Mur­ray (Yale Uni­ver­sity Press vs Ban­ner of Truth Trust) had a bit of a roe a few years back over White­field and his­to­ri­og­ra­phy. Yet, and I don’t wish either to enter in that fray or breath life in the long died down embers of it, they both love Jonathan Edwards. Let that sink in. Ban­ner of Truth Trust and Yale Uni­ver­sity Press both boast of a col­lected writ­ings of Edwards on their back list.

Let’s go back fur­ther and con­sider the case of Miller and Ger­st­ner. There’s Perry Miller, rank agnos­tic; and then there’s John Ger­st­ner, defender of God until veins popped out. And there they were, sit­ting together at the table, brought together by Edwards. Remarkable.

All of this bring­ing together that Edwards has pulled off strikes me as remark­able for not only what it has done in the 20th and now 21st cen­turies. I also find it remark­able because of the con­flict that so dogged Edwards much of his min­is­te­r­ial life. The har­mony with oth­ers he so often wrote about—“When I imag­ine heaven, I imag­ine peo­ple singing,” because singing to Edwards was har­mony and har­mony was excel­lence, or we might say beauty, and beauty to Edwards was everything—seemed to elude him most of his life.

And now in death he brings us together. Poetic, really. Beau­ti­fully poetic.

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Author: Stephen J. Nichols (1 Articles)

Stephen J. Nichols received master's degrees in theology and philosophy, writing his MA thesis under the direction of George Claghorn.  He received a Ph.D. from Westminster Theological Seminary, writing his dissertation on Edwards.  Steve is research professor of Christianity and Culture at Lancaster Bible College.  He has written over a dozen books, including Jonathan Edwards:  A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought (P&R), The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards (coeditor; Baker), and Jesus Made in America (IVP Academic).  His forthcoming book is for children, The ABCs of Church History (Crossway). The E is for Edwards.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. Os Guinness in Chicago, Jonathan Edwards, and Baptist21 Events « owen strachan linked to this post on April 23, 2010

    […] Nichols on the strange uni­tive power of Jonathan Edwards.  It’s pretty remark­able when you actu­ally think about the diverse patrons of the Edwardsean […]

  2. Saturday Links — linked to this post on April 24, 2010

    […] Edwards brings peo­ple together – an inter­est­ing take on the Piper/​Warren controversy […]

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