19 Comments on “John Piper’s Analogy

  1. Having watched the video, Peter, you seem to be defending Piper's analogy on the grounds that its ostensibly puerile,offensive nature is justifiably because Piper is using the language necessary to make a complex, clever theological point. Piper did not say 'the idea of sex' so those who criticise him (including many an evangelical!) are hardly displaying bias by pointing out that his language does not most naturally communicate what one assumes to be a key theological idea. If we assume that Piper meant children 'find the idea of sex' boring then that's problematic,because – in his analogy – humans finding God boring indicates a flaw (his use of 'problem')whereas presumably five year olds finding sex boring is a natural state of affairs and doesn't indicate a 'flaw'. Human beings can and should not find God boring (not to get into murky Calvinist waters ;-)) ; five year olds, to use the charitable interpretation of Piper's remarks, still shouldn't not find sex boring. And the example of innuendo isn't accurate; that's a case of a child not picking up on it because they DON'T know what sex is, not someone having a 'Euchh! Why would anyone want to do that?! Girls have cooties!" reaction. If Piper had said 'we are like five year olds who don't UNDERSTAND sex" then his analogy might have merit, but then you still have the problem that premature child sexualisation is intrinsically bad and harmful whereas understanding God is exactly the opposite. An analogy whose logical elaborations ultimately indicate a meaning contrary to that intended is a failure. And even more problematic is the fact that the eye-opening, Holy Spirit enlightenment invoked is surely as much of an interior, 'heart' 'experience' as it is a dryly intellectual 'knowledge' one which does raise all sorts of horrendous logical equivalents if the analogy is developed.

    Certainly one can assume that of course Piper was not making a seeming paedophilic comparison to whip up some retweets. But I think the furore, and your video above, indicate that one has to do linguistical spinning to justify the positive intepretation of the comments. Even if you automatically discount all people who might have reason to discredit Piper, the response and his ultimate deletion of the tweet do indicate that, at the very best, the potential merits of the analogy are far outweighed by its logical and aesthetic flaws. If he wanted to unpack a complicated theological point in the manner of your video, then Piper should not have used a tweet to try and communicate it. It's unfair to stack the deck by assuming that those reading the tweets should have made up for the logical flaws that a commonsense reading of the tweet imply by charitable mitigation and theological sophistry.

  2. I completely agree with you, Pee-tah. I retweeted that status immediately after reading it because I thought it was incredibly clever and true. But it shouldn't surprise anyone that people took it out of context. The fact of the matter is, if you just THINK through the whole of Piper's character, then there'd be no need to jump to the conclusion that he was speaking of five-year-old children actually having sex. People just want to have their gasp-moments.

    • lol! What context? Ignoring the plain meaning in a message in preference of arguing from authorial intent fallacy, or, even worse, a version of "not that kind of player" platitudes is quite the opposite of focusing on what the text says (and retweeting Piper's message does negate rather the idea that it was only intended for Piper acolytes who could decode its subtleties). And, although one concedes that Piper is a cut above Fratboy Moron Emeritus Mark Driscoll, there's a world of difference between "not as stupidly offensive as it seems" and "incredibly clever".

        • I'll abstain from 'moron', but I think Fratboy Emeritus is a fine description of Driscoll for reasons I can expound on at length but which are probably not relevant to this thread! (although, in passing: I see Driscoll tweeted a joke about 'soccer' players and his superior masculinity which no doubt got uncritically Retweeted by some of his european acolytes, despite it being an even less untrammalled than usual example of Driscoll's – yes, moronic – conflation of biblical standards and particular American, Ed Hardy T-Shirt yada yada cultural expressions. That ideological position is indeed both poisonous and moronic, so legitimately invoking it in relation to Driscoll's ideas is not necessarily or even usually ad hom, although I concede that the comment above does not display such subtleties)

          • I’ll abstain from ‘moron’

            Driscoll’s – yes, moronic – conflation of biblical standards and particular American

            5 lines is all it took Ryan.

            Seriously, next time you use that kind of insulting language, we will be in sin-bin territory.

            • to clarify : you're really saying that regarding Driscoll's (or anyone else's) ideology as 'moronic' is not allowed? Your site, your rules, so I'll of course comply, but I'd have thought you'd have seen the difference between ad hom (Driscoll is a m—n) and an opinion on his ideas. Calling +Gene Robinson 'Vicky' or a homophobic slur is ad hom; regarding his ideology as 'heretical' or 'moronic' or 'destructive' or whatever is an opinion that many hold in good conscience and one they can elaborate on.

              As I say, to hear is to obey (;-)) but I disagree that characterising Driscoll's ideology in the way I did is the same thing as ad hom against Driscoll the person. Apologies in any case.

              • I just have a problem with *everytime* Driscoll is mentioned (including when you bring him up) you consistently refer to him as a "moron" or similar. It's not big and it's not clever.

                And yes, if someone was to constantly use language such as "pansexualist sodomite" about an individual they'd be in the same boat.

                End of discussion.

    • Clever, as in a "too clever for his own good, too clever by half" sense, perhaps? Wouldn't most five-year olds if they had the mechanics of sex explained to them be appalled as much as baffled? I once heard a daughter's response when her mother explained how she came to be conceived -"Daddy put his thingy into you Mummy? Eugh!" I realise Peter was trying to unpack this tweet as a question about comparative levels of capability in understanding, not about a five-year old's sexuality, but analogies are inexact things at best and risky when you are trying to compound completely unlike ideas as "Sex" and "God" to make a point. (Whatever next? "God is an Orgasm: Some people have never achieved it"……… sounds like the title of a bad book…)

    • Hmm, I must admit that I nearly retweeted this, but then I had second thoughts, purely because, with Twitter, there is no context! I don't think that this is the kind of insight that can really work in a context-lite environment like Twitter because so many people cannot 'just THINK through the whole of Piper’s character', having never come across the guy.

      • >>>>Twitter because so many people cannot ‘just THINK through the whole of Piper’s character’, having never come across the guy.

        It's the writer's job to communicate clearly. Unpacking what Piper meant is not the same thing as assuming he must have meant well and rewriting his message accordingly. Piper deleting the message is potentially (one hopes) a concession that, irrespective of his intentions, the message was not phrased as well as he hoped.

          • Ah, could have sworn I read some tweets saying that he'd deleted it. Mea culpa.

            I would note that I did listen to your video and explain in depth (IMHO, of course) where Piper's analogy falls down, which you did not respond to. Which is fair enough of course – only so many hours in the day – but the claim by some of those defending Piper that those who criticised his tweet either have an axe to grind and/or are failing to understand some highfalutin' theologising is simply untrue. The analogy is, as I said, not simply inane and offensive. But, after one concedes this point, it still falls apart the more you think about it. Piper might be a good writer by pop-evangelical standards but tweets necessarily are part of communicating with the wider world (isn't this one reason why we all love CS Lewis so?) and, on this terms, the tweet is a failure. No excellent writer would have used it, for reasons of internal logic ( children not knowing about sex is good, whilst people not knowing about God is bad, many children to have some knowledge of sex, most don't know about sex which is manifestly not the same thing as knowing about sex and finding it boring etc etc etc etc).

            The fact that Piper's defenders stress what a great guy he is yada yada is an unintentional indication of this analogy's failure, suggesting as it does that one needs to rope in a bit of arguing-from-authorial-intent to make the muddled expression clear.

  3. As a young child I had a neighbour girl who thought it would be fun if we showed each other our private parts. I had no interest in doing it, but to please a friend, I did. It was boring!! Ten years later and with appropriate hormones flowing, I might have reacted differently.

    At that age, I was also taken to church weekly and I found God boring too. I firmly believe that God has planted a "seeking" seed within each of us. He desires that we seek him, and until that hole is filled in us, we will feel something is missing. If we are fortunate to have someone to lead us to God, then we will be filled; if not, we will seek after the ways of the world and think that missing piece of us can be filled with sex, power, money, things, etc.

    Just as we need an other to stir the sexual desire within us, so we need someone to lead us to God to stir that desire to know our Creator and thus be filled.

    One of my reasons for supporting infant baptism is that it was the Holy Spirit (given to me at my baptism) which was able to lead me to find God. I had a career beginning, a new car, and was beginning to accummulate the things of this world (which define our happiness and fulfillment in our lives), but still felt something was missing. My ears were deaf to all the human invitations to come and meet God, so it required an act of the Holy Spirit (through a car accident) to awaken me to the reality of God and my need for Him in my life. Only then was God no longer boring to me!

    • >>>>>>>>As a young child I had a neighbour girl who thought it would be fun if we showed each other our private parts>>>>

      Not to be pedantic, but isn't that an example of finding nudity boring, which isn't quite the same thing? If Piper had said 'human beings who find God boring are like children who find adult things, like sex, boring' then that would have been relatively uncontroversial (isn't there a line in Mere Christianity where Lewis mentions the common initial reaction to finding out about procreation?). He did something more controversial because, in Peter's reading, the complexity of his idea warranted it. I think he's wrong. Great analogies make more sense and reveal greater depths the more one thinks about them. With Piper, one moves from the initial (of course) intellectual excitement that, as he can't be literally talking about paedophilia, we much be in store for a fine, complex expression, to watching the analogy nosedive as the logical elaborations of it show that the things he is comparing are essentially different. It's a poor analogy, although certainly it sparked lots of discourse, which is arguably the best one can hope for in 140-character max theology!

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