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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

John Piper on God and Fathers

"The children will have years of exposure to what the universe is like before they know there is a universe. They will experience the kind of authority there is in  the universe and the kind of justice there is in the universe and the kind of love there is in the universe before they meet the God of authority and justice and love who created and rules the universe.
Children are absorbing from dad his strength and leadership and protection and justice and love…
And all this is happening before the child knows anything about God, but it is profoundly all about God. Will the child be able to recognize God for who He really is in His authority and love and justice because mom and dad have together shown the child what God is like?"
I recently read those thoughts, which were attributed to John Piper. I’m informed they came from This Momentary Marriage (Wheaton: Crossway, 2009) 143-144.

It’s hard to believe that anyone who claims to be Reformed could write such things. Thankfully, children have a priori knowledge of God through which they encounter him in every intelligible experience. Unfortunately, the author has not encountered Calvin’s Institutes, Book 1, at least in any lasting, impressionable way, let alone Bavinck, Van Til or Romans 1.

I appreciate the author's desire to see fathers reflect God's character. Notwithstanding, who is the father to teach his son about, a god who can be encountered only after the child is exposed to his earthly father's love (or hate)? Thankfully, children are spared this sort of thinking because they don't read the author, but father's who drink him in are not so fortunate.They are told they must teach the child about God before God can reveal himself to the child. The undiscerning father can get a warped impression of the magnitude of his influence upon the child, which can (i) put undue pressure upon the father (ii) cause the father not to rely upon God to do what only God must do and (iii) cause the father to think that the child has no innate knowledge of the Divine and that the child can only know what God is like through knowing what his father is like.

Regarding iii, by these calculations a child cannot be culpable for his sin because his sin would be against a god who is thought to be (at no fault to the child) imperfect just like his father, which implies no true God at all. Accordingly, No God => No Transgression...And, No Transgression => No Culpability. Moreover, this type of thinking suggests that a child cannot know his father is sinful because the child supposedly has no innate understanding of righteousness by which to assess his father's love.

The Piper quote above fits quite well with his view of invincible ignorance, which I touch on here.

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Joshua Butcher said...

I've been waiting for you to post something new, Ron. I'm not disappointed with what came from the wait, either.

I wonder how much less preachers and theologians would say (much less all others) if they thought more carefully and deeply about the implications of what they are thinking?

Reformed Apologist said...


It gives me no pleasure to say that the Reformed community has a very superficial Calvinism.

My aching has turned to numbness, which at weaker moments makes Peter Gabriel a better topic to blog on than things I know are more needful.

Joshua Butcher said...


I hope that the numbness passes! It would be a loss to the cause of faith if you weren't pressing it home wherever you are able.

Anonymous said...

John Piper is historical premil, charismatic and opposes the practice infant baptism. He may call himself "Reformed" all he wants but his credentials disqualify him. Given his views on "gifts" he is less Reformed than even John MacArthur even though MacArthur is a Dispensationalist. That guys like these are not Reformed in their understanding of the penetrating nature of general revelation is no real surprise.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you would be willing to post on the Sabbath when you have some time. I'd be very interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic.