Apologetics Maturity

Published on February 2nd, 2011 | by Bojidar Marinov

33

The Precious Gift of Biblical Maturity

I understand very well the dangers of criticizing well-established names in the Christian community. It certainly doesn’t win you friends. It may make you lose some friends. Christians are quite intolerant when someone criticizes the icons of their modern Christianity. You are accused in being divisive, jealous, unmerciful, etc. No matter how right and honest you are, criticizing a great man of the faith can put on you a mark of leprosy for a long time ahead.

But sometimes even great men of the faith say or do things that are foolish or dangerous. Not everyone sees the foolishness or the danger; the bright light of the great men blinds even the best Christians at times. But those of us who see the foolishness or the danger in the words of the great men must speak up, even at the cost of being ostracized. Just as Paul rebuked Peter, and Augustine refuted Pelagius, and Luther criticized Erasmus, the errors of great men must be corrected, even by those of us who aren’t as great as they are.

Therefore I must take issue with John Piper’s article on the Ligonier Ministries web-site, “The Precious Gift of Baby Talk.” Piper takes 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, where Paul compares our eternal state, when we shall see things “face to face,” to our present state as the thoughts, words, and actions of a mature man compare to the thoughts, words, and actions of a child. He then proceeds to call our present language “baby talk” compared to our language in the eternal state. That’s a fair conclusion: It can be deduced from Paul’s words, that we are children today compared to what we will be in eternity. Then Piper declares that “baby talk” is a “precious gift,” and woe to those who despise it. Then he jumps to the declaration that the whole Bible is baby talk, and that God talks to us in baby talk. Everything is baby talk, and how precious it is.

Babies, their actions, and their talk always produce emotions in us – especially in those of us who are parents and who remember the first years of their children’s lives. There’s nothing wrong with these emotions. But we can’t base our exegesis and our theology on emotions. Piper’s article is bad exegesis. It is bad theology. And taken in its direct meaning, with Piper’s authority as a scholar and theologian, it will produce dangerous results.

It is bad exegesis because Piper imposes conclusions on the text that are not there. While it is true that our present talk is much inferior – “baby talk” – to our talk in our glorified state, the text doesn’t say our present “baby talk” must be considered a “precious gift.” Such emotionalism concerning our present condition is lacking in 1 Corinthians 13, and in fact, it can’t be found in the Bible at all. There is no glorification of our childishness anywhere in the Bible; there are no thanksgivings to God for the fact that we are like children today. Neither is there any rebuke against those that “despise, belittle, exploit, or manipulate” baby talk. The Bible doesn’t anticipate such a “problem” that Piper writes against. Neither baby talk, nor childishness, not our present imperfect condition in speech, thought, and action is anywhere to be considered “precious gift.”

Ironically, Piper’s chosen passage is in the context of a larger passage of several chapters where Paul admonishes the believers to be mature. Baby talk and childishness are not praised, to the contrary, the next chapters contains Paul’s conclusion to the whole discussion on spiritual gifts: “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking” (1 Cor. 14:20). As we will see below, the Bible encourages maturity, not “baby talk.”

Furthermore, there is no verse in the Bible that declares God’s word to be “baby talk” by any stretch of our finite imagination. Neither was Jesus walking in a “human nursery,” talking “baby talk.” While the picture of us being babies and Jesus being our great Brother, teaching us and admonishing us in our infirmities is not wrong per se, we don’t see a single verse where Jesus claims He is talking baby talk so that we understand better. He spoke in parables, not in fairy tales. And the purpose of His parables was clear: So that the unsaved wouldn’t understand Him (Matt. 13:10-17). Far from coming to a nursery, Jesus acted as if He had come to a reputable university where the learned thought they knew something, and He confounded them all by speaking way above their heads. Even when He applied the Old Testament verse, “Out of the mouths of infants and babies Thou have perfected praise,” the immediate occasion was young children speaking theology, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” mature and meaningful enough to offend the high priests and the scribes (Matt. 21:15-16). It wasn’t baby talk at all.

Piper calls Calvin for help, and quotes from his Institutes, 1:13:1, “God, in so speaking, lisps with us as nurses are wont to do with little children.” But the immediate context of Calvin’s words has nothing to do with our childish condition today compared to our mature eternal state. Calvin’s words apply to our finiteness in knowing God as He is. This finiteness won’t change in our eternal state, therefore Piper can’t use Calvin’s words to support his thesis. Calvin doesn’t say that baby talk is a “precious gift,” nor does he inveigh against imaginary mockers of this baby talk. If anything, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians 13 he considers the very need for the gifts of knowledge and prophecy due to our imperfection today; not only is our childishness not a “precious gift,” it is imperfection from which we need to be freed.

Piper considers himself Reformed. But historical Reformed theology never praised childishness or baby talk the way Piper does. As a matter of fact, one of the Reformers’ first controversies with the Roman church was over the images in the churches. The Roman argument was that images were a “guide to the unlearned,” much like pictures are to children. The Reformers vehemently preached and wrote against this argument, and against any argument that presupposed permanent childishness in the believers. If some men in the churches were “babies” in understanding, the church wasn’t supposed to cater to their childishness, nor praise it as a “precious gift.” Childhood and infancy were only a temporary condition, the children were supposed to be matured, trained to think, talk, and act as adults from an early age. Maturity was the product the Church was supposed to supply to society, not praise of baby talk. “Childish” is a pejorative word in Calvin’s language, and in the language of the Puritan authors. Britain and America, and the Huguenot communities in France were known for the early maturity of their youth. We know enough stories of the lives of the Founding Fathers of the United States to tell us that they were productive, wise and mature at ages that today are considered “childhood” or “teen age.”

Indeed, the Bible has only good things to say about maturity, and nothing good about baby talk or childishness. We have no ecstatic accounts in the Bible of babies, baby talk, or children’s play. The “Baby Jesus” is the invention of our modern emotionalism, not a Biblical principle. The focus was on the adults who worshiped the baby, not on adoration of “Baby Jesus’ sweetness.” At the age of 11 Jesus was intellectually and socially mature enough to survive for three days alone in another city, and even talking to and silencing the teachers in the Temple! Mary’s adoration of her baby isn’t in the Bible either; it is a product of our modern Roman Mariolatry, not of sound Biblical theology. And Jesus is not an exception. David was commended for his ability to maturely manage his father’s business and even kill lions and bears at an early age (1 Sam. 17:34-36). When Jeremiah objected to God’s call and commission to be a “prophet to the nations” with the words, “I am just a child” (Jeremiah was probably 11 years old at the time), God simply dismissed the excuse without even giving an explanation as to how a child could take on such a task (Jer. 1:5-7). One whole book in the Bible – Proverbs – is devoted to teaching children to become responsible adults from an early age.

Neither is the New Testament supportive of Piper’s praise of baby talk either. In addition to Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 14:20 we have Hebrews 5:11-6:3, where the state of “baby-ness” in knowledge and understanding is considered undesirable, and the author rebukes his readers for remaining on a childish level. In 2 Peter 3:14-16 Peter speaks about the “unlearned” who distort Paul’s words for their own destruction. Galatians 3:23-26 tells us that after faith came, we are no longer in need of a tutor in our childhood. In Ephesians 6:1-3, even children are not treated like children; they are instructed like adults, and are expected to understand the long-term connection between their obedience to their parents. John tells “little children” that they “know the Father” (1 John 2:12-13).

To summarize, it is maturity, not baby talk, and not childishness, that is the precious gift of God. There is no verse in the Bible that supports Piper’s claim. Childhood is a temporary condition, and the faster one gets out of it, the more blessed he and his parents are.

But Piper’s article is not simply bad theology. The fruits of his eulogy to baby talk may be dangerous for our generation, in a time when more than anything else we need real men who are willing and able to reach the level of Biblical maturity necessary to reform the church and redeem our culture. It is no mere coincidence that Paul places the talk about the difference between a child and a mature man in the chapter that is focused on the true Christian love. In the first half of 1 Corinthians 13 love is described, and we can easily see that the opposite of love is not hatred – in its modern use – but selfishness. And in a very real sense, the “perfect” Paul talks about may be indeed the perfect godly love, not necessarily the end of the world. If that interpretation is correct, then the difference between a child and a man would be the degree to which the person is selfish or loving, in the Biblical sense.

Indeed, those of us who are parents know very well what the main characteristic of a baby is: babies are selfish. They do not care for others, nor do they care for other people’s needs. A baby expects to be served always; he views the world through his own needs, whims, and desires. A baby doesn’t care if Mom is tired, or if Dad has to go to work early in the morning. It takes careful training and upbringing to teach a child to respect others and not first seek his own. If there is no good Christian upbringing, a selfish baby grows up to be a selfish – that is, childish – man. A childish 40-year-old man or woman is an ugly thing to watch. Very seldom would someone call baby talk in a grown up man a “precious gift.” Such a man is not a blessing, but a curse to himself, to his family, and to his community.

And indeed, much of the modern Reformed churches are full with people who are childish, that is, selfish. I have argued in another place that the “modern Reformed” are no different from the “emergent church” movement – they are just a theologically correct version of it. They come to God not to seek His Kingdom, only their own salvation. Jesus, in their view, only serves the goal of the salvation of their souls. They have a theology that justifies their selfishness – a theology that diminishes the Kingdom of God to the Church only, and the Gospel to personal salvation and justification only. They know nothing of a comprehensive worldview, they don’t know anything about the Crown rights of Jesus Christ in every area of life, and they don’t care. Neither do they care for leaving a Christian culture for their children and grandchildren, nor about discipling the nations, as the Great Commission tells us. It’s all about their own salvation, they believe, and them only.

Piper’s article will only reinforce such childishness and selfishness. Indeed, if we are permanent babies in this life, in need of constant baby talk, if even the Bible itself is baby talk, and if Jesus condescends to our baby-like condition, and if this baby-ness of ours is a “precious gift,” then why would anyone want to grow in the faith? Why would anyone invest years in careful study of the Bible’s commandments for all of life? Why work to address our nation, or any nation whatsoever, why care that Jesus was given all authority in heaven and earth, if all that matters is that I AM SAVED? We are babies after all. There isn’t much we can do in this life. We must wait until the other life, when the perfect comes. Even with the Holy Spirit in us today, nothing of significance can be done. We don’t expect babies to build anything of significance, after all. Besides, why limit the “precious gift” to baby talk only? Paul says in the very same passage in 1 Corinthians 13:11 that when he was a child, he also thought and reasoned like a child. Why not declare a complete life of childishness a “precious gift” and do away completely with Biblical maturity?

The fruit of Piper’s eulogy of baby talk will be the further descent of the church to even more immaturity, selfishness, and eventually uselessness in the work of the Great Commission.

Contrary to Piper’s view, we need mature men today. We need men who will grow above the need for baby talk and baby food and will turn the tide in our culture. We must not be afraid of men who despise and reject baby talk – we must welcome such men. Far from being a danger, if our culture and our churches were full with such Biblically mature men, it would be a Reformation in our churches, and a restoration of our culture. Baby talk is not a “precious gift”; it is an ugly sight when coming out of grown men, men who should have become adults and teachers by now, but who still need baby food. Our church today, and our culture today, doesn’t need more reinforcement of its childishness; modern Christians don’t need the help, they are pretty skillful already in remaining on a baby level. Contrary to Piper, Jesus is not a babysitter in our human nursery; He is the Master, Lord, Teacher, and God among His brethren, of whom He expects to “understand the times and know what Israel should do” (1 Chr. 12:32). Emotions are a beautiful thing but we as Reformed Christians cannot allow our theology to follow our emotions. John Piper should know this truth better than anyone of us.

Print Friendly


About the Author

A Reformed missionary to his native Bulgaria for over 10 years, Bojidar preaches and teaches doctrines of the Reformation and a comprehensive Biblical worldview. Having founded Bulgarian Reformation Ministries in 2001, he and his team have translated over 30,000 pages of Christian literature about the application of the Law of God in every area of man’s life and society, and published those translations online for free. He has been active in the formation of the Libertarian movement in Bulgaria, a co-founder of the Bulgarian Society for Individual Liberty and its first chairman. If you would like Bojidar to speak to your church, homeschool group or other organization, contact him through his website: http://www.bulgarianreformation.org/



33 Responses to The Precious Gift of Biblical Maturity

  1. Praise the LORD! I don’t know how I missed reading this earlier, but it was certainly my loss! Mr. Marinov is one of my favorite columnists and he is a gift to America. Please keep preachin’ the truth and ignore those who dare criticize your work. They need to do more Bible reading, thinking and less following of the latest public figures.

  2. Joel Petersen says:

    Hey Bojidar,
    Just what is the purpose of these ” attack ” articles ? To train up a generation the Lord can use to start installing His Kingdom into the Nations or just letting people know how grounded in the Word you perceive yourself to be ? Why don’t you do some constructive articles like uniting the Kingdom Ministries to literally train up people in the Ways of The Lord ? How about some articles on the Ekklesia being the training and equipping center ? You people preach and teach ” Reconstruction ” , some people ” hear ” it and then it dissapates because they have nowhere to go with it. Sounds sorta like an effort in futility to me.

    • Joel, preaching only positive things is not enough. Just as preaching only negative things is not enough. The Lord told Jeremiah about the purpose of the prophetic ministry:

      See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms,
      To pluck up and to break down,
      To destroy and to overthrow,
      To build and to plant.

      So, the purpose for both “attack” and “edification” articles is to build and expand the Kingdom of God. Some things need to be broken down – like Piper’s eulogy of childishness. Some things need to be built and planted – like our exposition and defense of Biblical economics, politics, education, missions, etc. If you want me to be one-sided – saying only positive things – then you got the wrong person to try to convince.

  3. Shotgun says:

    I really hope Piper doesn’t damn you to Hell and ignore everything you write from this point forward…because…you know…that’s not a very good way to deal with those Christians who try to point out flaws in someone’s thinking.

    Dr. Bahnsen used to use the illustration of a raccoon sneaking into the back-door of someone’s house. It wouldn’t be right of us not to let the owner of the house know about it. Nor would it be right for the owner to get offended and slam the door in our face! “How DARE you say that there’s a raccoon in my house??”

    A measure of Christian charity is needed on all sides.

  4. Scott says:

    It took me several years after I was an “adult” to grow in maturity in Christ. Far longer than for our predecessors. If it weren’t for teachers like Mr. Marinov here, I would still be living that hollow, baby-like existence. Thank you.

  5. Bo,

    That article has me scratching my head. I still don’t understand the paradigm he created and shoved the entire Bible into. Was the Old Testament scripture Baby Talk too when the LORD commanded that Israel smashed their enemies infants skulls on rocks? I mean c’mon. Were the Prophecies of the coming Christ Baby Talk? That is horrific manipulation/eisegesis of the scripture if you ask me. I have always admired Piper in his great delivery and passionate messages. Especially this teachings on lust and pornagraphy. Very helpful to my walk of Purity and Holiness.

    However looking at this, I can see his Eschatology is speaking more than anything. It’s a defeated mindless eschatology where we are all “Babies” until Christ comes back to make us Mature. How irresponsible of Christ to send Babies like the Apostles out to be beaten, put in jail, and persecuted for a Baby Story? I’m very offended by such a rendering of the text. Though I see he’s not intentionally trying to convey Skepticism it is exactly what he is doing. Imagine a Pagan Philospher getting a hold of this article and seeing a well known Theologian hiding behind the “Apparently confusing scriptures” yet proclaiming them to be Truth. This has to be a necessary inference that there are things in the scriptures that are confusing therefore we have to wait until the Perfect to come in order to be clear of what we are suppose to believe.

    I find that astounding and I’m sure Piper fan’s (I am but I pick and choose what I like…I’m all grown up) will certainly pull wool over their eyes to justify him. However, there is no getting around this. This is bad. And Bo I appreciate your article for it really articulated the cry of my heart.

    Godspeed good sir.

    Hail King Jesus,
    seal

    • You nailed it, Bro. I just didn’t have enough space to write all what you said.

    • E Harris says:

      I agree. One of the main reasons I became “postmillenial” is because of this issue of maturity. It does seem that, if Jesus were to come back in the flesh, to our christian culture of today… we still wouldn’t know what to do with him. Too many of us still think (today) as the apostles did BEFORE the resurrection. In fact, the very reason He left and sent His Spirit, was so that we could learn to be more mature, without relying on a fleshly understanding (a fleshly king). If Jesus were physically available to us… we still wouldn’t be any more advanced in our understanding of him, than we are with his Spirit and Words available to us. In fact, it would be a crutch.

      I do agree with Piper, in that we are mere babies compared to what we will become. And that the Bible (while very detailed, layered, textured, precise, and deep…) is essentially written to aid us in our quest toward maturity. It isn’t “baby-talk” but it sometimes pictures a God who uses metaphore (even real, physical metaphore) to help His people to THINK clearly about heavenly, Godly, non-material matters. (In the same way that “money” is baby-talk…to people who aren’t adapted to the currency of Heaven.)

      I believe that the words are deeper than most of us know. The Bible only seems like “baby-talk” to those who don’t understand it’s deep simplicity.

      Surely we enter THROUGH the door (Jesus Christ). But then we mature while in the fold (the city).

  6. charles White says:

    Does anyone see a connection between the immaturity of the modern evangelical church and a government that cannot deal with its enemies in a mature way? We should be ashamed of the childishness of our elected leaders in the way they handle foreign affairs, the economy and a myriad of other things that may or may not even be their responsibility. With the problems we face as a nation, should not Christ’s church at least have a cogent message which would indicate wisdom, maturity and expertise? But where are the church leaders with such wisdom? Where were they in the years leading up to 1776? Answer: They were in pulpits, preaching about the evils of King George, indicating an expertise in all things governmental.

    But that was then. Now we’re more civilized. Let’s all get in a circle, hold hands and sing softly – in the spirit.

    There – now I feel much better – and much more spiritual.

  7. NickKane says:

    Good stuff Bojidar!!!!!! Good stuff indeed!!!!!

  8. Having read the article in question, I don’t think that is what Piper meant. I don’t think (and this is just from what i can tell) that he is saying anything against becoming more mature in Christ and doing HIs work on earth, only how marvelous it is that Christ came down to meet us on our level- which is so far beneath Him. I agree with both Mr. Marinov and Piper,and I am not sure that there is actually a disagreement.

    • . . . only how marvelous it is that Christ came down to meet us on our level- which is so far beneath Him.

      “Only”??? I see more than that in Piper’s article. Starting with the title itself.

      Here are two propositions, you tell me which one is Biblical:

      1. Baby talk is only necessary because we are immature, a condition that is imperfect and less than desired. We should be ashamed of our childishness, and God gave us His Word to make us mature in the faith, not be children in our talking and thinking and reasoning. The “perfect way” Paul talks about in 1 Cor. 12-14 will make us grow and mature, not remain at the level of baby talk.

      2. Baby talk is normative for us before the Final Judgment, and it is a precious gift. We can’t ever mature in this life, we will always remain children in our talking, thinking and reasoning, this world will always remain a “nursery,” and therefore Christ came to us speaking baby talk. Knowing the impossibility of us ever becoming mature in this world, God wrote a whole book of baby talk. Since the Word of God is baby talk, and we have no higher authority than the Word of God, we can’t hope to ever grow and mature in this life, before the Final Judgment.

  9. Susan says:

    Bo, you are a treasure. Thank you.

  10. Joe Mudd says:

    Brother Marinov you never cease to blow me away and I thank God
    for your gift of understanding and ability to share. You are an inspiration.

  11. Josh says:

    Thank you Mr. Marinov,

    I read that article when it came out on Ligonier. I was in some ways built up, but in others something just didn’t feel right. You nailed it on the head. Yes, we should have child-like faith in that we undoubtingly trust our Father for all things. It is also good to recognize we are still sinful creatures until glory, even if we’re redeemed. But we are not to be childish (or as you put it, selfish) in our faith. May Dr. Piper be a wise man, recognize the correctness of your rebuke, and repent of such a dangerous teaching (and hopefully prove himself wise and thank you for it!).

    May God bless you richly!

  12. Charla says:

    Amen!! Great article……..I am not a fan of Piper myself..some of his books have me scratching my head.

  13. Penny says:

    WOW! Bo!! I really want to respond to this, but I don’t particularly want to be verbally mutilated as a result. Is it possible that you have missed the point of what John Piper was saying in his article, or at least, blown it WAY out of proportion? I read his article and came away from it in no way thinking that he is encouraging immaturity or childishness. I saw it as 100% comparatively speaking. It almost sounds like you have a bone to pick and this just gave you the opportunity to do so. I’m a little grieved that your response to John Piper was so attacking. If we’re going to be biblical, then let’s carry it a little further. Paul instructed Timothy, “Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers,…” Perhaps you haven’t intended to come across this way, but it truly does. Paul also told Timothy, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition,…” He also taught him, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” I’m pretty sure that Dr. Piper falls into this category and I’m afraid that I experienced your response to him as very dishonoring. I would feel differently if you were speaking of a heretic or a Pharisee, but Dr. Piper is far from being either. It almost sounds as if you’re inviting him to meet you behind the barn to settle things.

    John Piper has such a deep love for the Lord, and such tenderness in his approach to people, that your rebuke seems a little severe. I think that you possibly could have dealt with the “rebuke” one on one with Dr. Piper out of respect for him and out of brotherly love, and then made your point about the church’s lack of maturity without smearing his name. I, personally, am 100% in the Reformed/Reconstructionist camp and would love to see Dr. Piper take that leap too. But I still love and accept him where he is and, quite frankly, I would love to have the knowledge and wisdom that God has poured into him throughout his life. At one time or another, we are all guilty of wrong theology or bad exegesis (which I’m not convinced is true of Dr. Piper in this case), but the humble are aware of that. I hold Dr. Piper to the same level of esteem as I do other great men of faith, but no man is above making human mistakes . . . no man. I love AV and regard its teachers very highly as well, but have mistakes been made in articles printed, or books written, or lectures given? No one has exhaustive knowledge except God.

    My one issue with the Reconstructionist movement is that we may have nailed the letter of the law, but we sometimes miss the spirit of the law. We need heart/grace, as well as truth/law. The lack of maturity, knowledge, and wisdom that permeates the post-modern church grieves me greatly, but we don’t want to sacrifice grace or truth. A good mix of both would serve us well, don’t you think? One of the best quotes that I think would serve our movement well is by William Law; “You can have no greater sign of a more confirmed pride than when you think you’re humble enough.” Our camp needs to remember that in our bold attempts to set everyone else straight, lest God be the One to humble us. I agree with your premise, but not your attack of such a sweet, godly lover of truth as John Piper. Had the former come without the latter, you would have won my heart as well as my mind. Speak truth boldly, but with grace, love, and humility. (That last sentence was just a reminder to myself:-) Thank you all for your articles and your commitment to truth!

    • Mack Card says:

      In reading all of the above, I have to agree with Penny. Even before reading her post I felt a bone was being picked with Piper. I’m not a Piperite either, but I believe he has been misunderstood by Bo and underserving of this “attack”. I, also, agree that many in the Reformed camp lack grace when dealing with issues we don’t agree with. I’m reminded of Aquilla and Priscilla taking Apollos aside, after hearing him speak, and explaining the way of the Lord more clearly to him. That is consistent with Gal. 6 where Paul says, “…restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Lest you think I’m hostile to AV, I love AV and have benefitted greatly from this ministry. I hope my response isn’t taken to be hostile in any way.

    • But I am not questioning Piper’s commitment to God. As a matter of fact, my whole article is based on the assumption that he is a great man of God who accidentally let his emotions dictate his exegesis and theology. It is possible that the greatest men of God make such mistakes, and it is legitimate that they get corrected; and correcting them doesn’t necessarily mean a negation of their commitment or greatness.

      I don’t know if it sounds that I have a bone to pick with Piper. May be I do have a bone to pick with him, why not? May be the bone is that the Bible doesn’t contain a single verse to confirm the sentiments in his article. Isn’t this a legitimate concern? May be it is his bad exegesis. Is this the wrong bone to pick? May be I did come across “attacking.” But my “coming across” has two sides: the speaker (me) and the listener (you). Could it be that I wasn’t actually attacking but your bias made you believe I was? Could it be that my article is completely legitimate, including in fulfilling Paul’s injunction to Timothy, it just seemed to you attacking?

      Seriously now: I did not attack. You know very well Piper’s article makes no sense, exegetically, theologically, practically. If it was written by anyone lesser than him, you would have brushed it aside as a touching but inadequate attempt at originality. The Bible says nothing of sorts. And you know very well Piper relied on emotions, not on serious theology, when he wrote the article. So much is obvious.

      • Penny says:

        Bo, thank you so much for your response. I do hope that my response to you didn’t come across in any way disrespectful. I greatly respect your writing and have learned so much from you. I just felt like this one was a little off and felt like it had the potential to cause others in the body of Christ to start “Piper bashing” for no reason. Maybe I’m the one who is wrong in my understanding of Dr. Piper’s article, but let me just share with you my take on it.

        What I heard Dr. Piper saying in his article was basically this: We, as humans are pathetic, weak, sinful, immature, childish creatures upon whom God has chosen to pour out His mercy and grace. God speaks a language that, excepting His grace, we’re not capable of understanding. You have to know that if we could literally visit the mind of God in His personal thoughts, we would be completely lost trying to understand such infinite, perfect, totally exhaustive knowledge. God, therefore, condescends to communicate to us in a language that we, in our comparative immaturity, can understand. That, I believe is what Dr. Piper is accurately referring to as “baby talk”, and it is indeed, precious. I, personally, believe that even in our glorified state, we won’t be able to completely understanding the infinitely deep mind of God. That He is willing and wanting to communicate with us is the precious gift, not the immiturity itself. Surely, you have to know that there is nothing in Dr. Piper’s teaching that advocates spiritual immaturity or childishness. But comparatively speaking, we – even the most mature of elders – are immature and childish, and, again, compared to God, always will be.

        Granted, this article is not John Piper’s finest hour or his deepest, most thorough work. I’m not completely sure why he chose to reference 1 Cor. 13 to make this point when I feel sure that there are texts that could nail it so much better. But I experienced this article as relatively benign compared to the blatant falsehoods traversing the internet as we speak. I think this is one of those “look beyond the surface” writings that would be more fitting for a personal devotion and as a tool for causing the believer to ponder a little more deeply. I don’t experience him saying that the believer should remain in his or her immaturity. Reading his article, that never crossed my mind.

        I realize that Dr. Piper is not a Reconstructionist and, as I said before, I would love for him to jump on board. But that seems to be more of the “bone” you have to pick than this particular article. I may be totally wrong about that. But I just don’t see anything in his article that leads me to think that he is encouraging believers to remain immature. I’m not one of those people who spends my days reading and listening to John Piper, although, I have done both at times. As Mack put it, I’m not a “Piperite”, but your response to this article seems like a fifty dollar response to a 20 cent situation – almost as if you were looking for something with which you could take issue and cause the mindset of readers to turn against Dr. Piper. This is a small thing that is creating a larger-than-life stirring in you, and, unfortunately, that stirring does have the potential to create even more division in the reformed camp that we don’t need.

        There are so many malignant issues out there that deserve our time and attention right now, and we need every soldier who is willing to stand up and fight. Do we really want to choose these little battles on which to expend our energy? Do we really want to create these little divisions among the body of Christ? Don’t we have enough division? If you have read or listened to Dr. Piper’s sermons, surely you know that he teaches and strongly advocates growth in Christians. Is the ax you have to grind really about this article? Like I said, I may be wrong about all of this, but even if I am, I would ask you to just be humble and ask the Lord to search you and know your heart, to try you, and to see if there be any hurtful way in you in this situation. I love the Reformed/Reconstruction camp, but, collectively, we really could use a HUGE dose of humility and constant reminders to relate in truth AND GRACE. If your issue really is just this article, I think you could have been so much more respectful by dealing with your brother one on one and not by publicly disgracing him. If I could make a reading recommendation to every person in the Reconstruction camp right now, it would be Andrew Murray’s classic, Humility.

        • :) If your response came across as disrespectful, I wouldn’t even have the capacity to notice it. I never really learned to assess writings on the basis of the authors’ respect or disrespect to me.

          There is a logical problem in your interpretation of Piper: You so lightly dismiss his key passage as if it is almost irrelevant. You don’t seem to take Piper seriously as to what he chose to use as a proof for his thesis:

          I’m not completely sure why he chose to reference 1 Cor. 13 to make this point when I feel sure that there are texts that could nail it so much better.

          But Piper’s discussion of 1 Cor. 13 takes more than half of his article! So your “take on it” has to ignore most of the article, so that you make your case. Piper obviously believes 1 Cor. 13 is very important for his thesis, and I take him seriously. To defend Piper against my critique, you need to ignore or dismiss as less than relevant Piper’s own choice of proof!

          I don’t think you can build a serious defense of Piper in such a way.

          Contrary to what you say, Piper’s choice of 1 Cor. 13 is very important. Why? Because, like I say in my article, there are no Biblical passages that support Piper’s sentiments. He has to take a passage, do quite a lot of logical twisting, and come a conclusion he can’t find plain and straight anywhere in the Bible. 1 Cor. 13:11 is a very suitable passage for that purpose. Notice, even RC Sproul, when he interprets the same passage directly, comes to the conclusion that Paul encourages maturity; RC can’t see any praise of “baby talk” in it.

          I would say this: Piper had a very nice emotional idea come to his mind: The Bible is “baby talk.” Then he had to find a supporting verse. There isn’t one in the Bible. So he took 1 Cor. 13 and through indirect reasoning – not direct plain exegesis – “proved” the nice emotional idea he had.

          I am not sure I did find a lot of calls to growth and maturity in those sermons of Piper I have listened to. I would rather say, the emotional appeal to our “baby state” is rather prevalent in much of what he preaches and teaches. This article is not really an exception. I have listened to a limited number of his sermons, I must admit, and I tried to locate any calls for changing anything bigger than just our souls – the culture for example.

          I have my own explanation for Piper’s praise of baby talk. Piper praises baby talk with a purpose: to justify his rejection of a comprehensive worldview. If you keep praising baby talk, you are justified in remaining on a lower level in your preaching, only covering a few topics of personal faith and salvation. A comprehensive Gospel that is focused on the Kingdom of God, not of the individual’s salvation as its goal, requires a comprehensive worldview, and therefore comprehensive teaching, preaching, theology, etc. By remaining on the level of baby talk – and praising it as a “precious gift” – Piper has a good reason to never move his Christianity beyond the level of personal issues. If there is a bone I have to pick with Piper, it is this.

        • Penny says:

          At the risk of your thinking that this is just a female, emotion driven response, I’m just going to put this out there and most likely will just let it rest after this. I don’t wish to argue with my sweet brother, Bojidar. I respect you too much for that. I don’t disregard Dr. Piper’s use of his chosen text; I merely said that I felt there are better texts to support the omniscience of God in comparison to our human lack of knowledge and maturity. I do consider God’s willingness and desire to communicate with mankind a precious gift, but I still see no indication that Dr. Piper is advocating immaturity. I’m guessing that if you sat down with him and talked this out, you’d find that your take on what he is saying is not what he is actually saying. I’m guessing that you would walk away from that conversation with a whole new perspective on him in general. But you seem to disregard the fact that he is a person and not an argument. Your lack of heart and your harshness in communicating your thoughts hinders your witness. You’ve almost turned Dr. Piper into an enemy of Christianity, instead of the godly, image-bearer of God that he is. You come across a little harsh and defensive.

          Your very first paragraph in your response, I think is where I’m struggling with your take on all of this, Bo. My expression of respect for you was/is genuine, but you basically dismiss any show of warmth and humanness in people. I realize that your issue with Dr. Piper is that he isn’t looking at anything but salvation and personal growth instead of changing the culture around us. That’s what I was saying is the “bone” you wish to pick. But your treatment of him as a person, your lack of warmth and grace, and your harshness I think may be a blind spot for you. I love reading your articles. I love your writing. I have my favorites, among which was your article, Missionaries and the Theology of Resistance. But I’ve heard other people express concern because of how you relate your thoughts. It could be that people are taking you the wrong way, but even if that is true, isn’t it better to work on conveying your ideas in a gentler way, than to risk coming across the way you do sometimes? Isn’t it better to “not even put on the appearance of evil”?

          We can agree to disagree about Dr. Piper’s article. We see it differently; I’m okay with that. It was your approach in rebuking him that grieved me. It just seems like you’re so determined to be right that even in what I’ve written in response, you’re not hearing what I’m trying to say. I LOVE truth, Bo, and desire to seek it out at any cost – even that of my own childish pride. But in seeking and conveying truth, I also want to be continuously mindful that people will be a lot more open in their minds if I concern myself with their hearts first. If Jesus had been about nothing but the mind, He would have merely been a brilliant philosopher. But He was about the heart as well. God in the flesh would, by His own nature, have to be. In my estimation, and granted, my estimation is limited, you have taken what Dr. Piper has said in a way in which it was not intended. But, teach as you feel led. Just remember that those who are reading are human beings with a heart, as well as a mind. In the spirit of Christianity and all it represents, don’t you want to capture both? That, my friend, is the whole point of my initial response.

          Dr. Piper’s article isn’t even a blip on my radar screen. I’m not affected by his words in any way. All of us, in our immaturity will grow according to the sovereign will of God. Those who discipline ourselves to study, pray, and grow will also grow according to the sovereign will of God. He will perfect us all. Is there any knowledge that Bojidar has that hasn’t been given him from God and in God’s perfect timing? Could you have received that knowledge aside from His sovereign will? Assuming otherwise indicates that we’ve already become prideful. God is using John Piper according to His will. He isn’t a heretic. That would be a whole different situation. He isn’t encouraging immaturity. But he’s not a Reconstructionist. How’s that a problem for you? The sovereignty of God can be a frustrating thing for us in our humanness.

          In my personal walk with God, I have had to go through a lot of stages of growth in order to get to where I am right now, which is far from the maturity that I long for. I needed the Charles Stanleys and the John Pipers and the Bojidar Marinovs to teach me in every stage. Dr. Piper is not teaching falsehood. I would say that the majority of those who read his article probably grew from it in some way. I seriously doubt that any Christian read it and said, “Man! What a relief! Dr. Piper says I don’t have to grow and mature.” Let God use him where he is, even if he’s not a Reconstructionist. Please don’t strive to turn others against him.

          I guess I’m just trying to say, Bo, that compassion for your fellowman matters in the sight of God. Jesus came down hard on the Pharisees, but with those who were truly, humbly seeking truth, He had compassion in relating that truth to them. A comprehensive biblical worldview incorporates theology (man’s relationship with God), ethics (man’s relationship with man), and cosmology (man’s relationship with things). The area of ethics, from a biblical perspective includes compassion/love before anything else. Reconstructionists have given ourselves a bad name because of the coldness, and sometimes, arrogance in which we communicate our thoughts. I just feel that this is an area that needs attention, if not repentance, probably for all of us. Please forgive me if I have offended you in any way. It truly isn’t my intent. My one regret is that I haven’t taken the time to respond by way of encouragement to the many wonderful articles that you have submitted in the past. Maybe I’ll do better with that:-) God bless you, Bo!

        • We’ll have to agree to disagree on Piper. So far I haven’t seen Piper’s sentiments echoed in the Bible. And you are still explaining Piper without giving him much support either. I may be a cold man but warmness can’t make up for the lack of sound exegesis. The fact that Piper is a person doesn’t change the requirement that his theology is based on the Bible and not on his personal emotions.

        • Harmon Gottlieb says:

          “I have my own explanation for Piper’s praise of baby talk. Piper praises baby talk with a purpose: to justify his rejection of a comprehensive worldview.”

          John Piper, like most Christians bound to the primary meanings of scripture, doesn’t need “a comprehensive worldview” since he is justified by a truly comprehensive Christ-view. The goal of that view is nothing other than “the individual’s salvation.” Paul writes, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Corinth. 5:17).” The apostle isn’t just “covering a few topics of personal faith and salvation,” but stating a joyous fundamental that should humble the activist vehemence of “world view” Christians.

          Sure, John Piper gets himself entangled in the term, “baby talk.” But he has “good [scripture-based] reason to never move his Christianity beyond the level of personal issues.” The Gospel is formed from the Person and work of the Lord Jesus for sinners; therefore, it is invincibly personal and individual: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified (1 Corinth. 2: 2)”; “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief (1 Timothy 1:15).” Where does scripture ever suggest that being born again in Christ Jesus is a ‘worldview’ rite on the road to “turn[ing] the tide in our culture,” as if redemption was preparatory to recovering some kind of ‘non-personal’ group integrity?

          Emphasizing a “comprehensive world view” is the deceptive preoccupation of all non-Christian faiths. Thankfully, the comprehensive Gospel is derived from the forgiveness of personal sins–perhaps John Piper is stuck at this “lower level” where he moves through the world in a fruitful, personal relationship with his Savior.

        • John Piper, like most Christians bound to the primary meanings of scripture, doesn’t need “a comprehensive worldview” since he is justified by a truly comprehensive Christ-view. The goal of that view is nothing other than “the individual’s salvation.”

          This is not called “comprehensive Christ-view.” The name of this ideology is comprehensive self-view. This is the view that Christ serves the purpose of your own salvation and nothing else. This is ultimate selfishness dressed in theological correct language; a religion of humanism, the exaltation of self, fused with the Biblical doctrine of salvation. This is the religion that brings down God, Christ, the creation to only one goal: MY OWN well-being in heaven.

          If Piper has such a view, then he is not the Christian so many people claim him to be.

          Emphasizing a “comprehensive world view” is the deceptive preoccupation of all non-Christian faiths.

          This only shows you know nothing of non-Christian faiths. To the contrary, it is non-Christian faiths, by their rejection of the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent Creator that limit their scope to only few propositions. Some of them limit their scope to only a few cultural things. Others – like the mystery religions – are preoccupied with individual salvation, much like what your post exhibits. The “Christianity” that is preoccupied with personal salvation is no different from a mystery religion; the only difference is that instead of pagan gods, it uses the God of the Bible to serve the eternal needs of man.

          It is true Christianity, with its belief in a comprehensive God who created a comprehensive reality that has a comprehensive worldview. No other religion or philosophy has or claims such comprehensiveness. By limiting Christianity to the level of “individual salvation only” you only follow a pagan mystery religion which have borrowed a few propositions from Christianity; and nothing more than that.

        • Harmon Gottlieb says:

          Bojidar Marinov: “By limiting Christianity to the level of “individual salvation only” you only follow a pagan mystery religion which have borrowed a few propositions from Christianity; and nothing more than that.”

          Explain to us, then, how the scriptures “follow a pagan mystery religion”–

          –when the LORD Jesus speaks from the level of “individual salvation only”:
          “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:15,16).”

          –when the apostle Paul speaks from the level of “individual salvation only”:
           “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Roman 10:9,10).”

          –when Peter speaks from the level of “individual salvation only”:
          “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls (1Peter 1:7-9).”

          –when the Letter to the Hebrews speaks from the level of “individual salvation only”:
          “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).”

        • Harmon, I carefully read the verses you proposed. They do speak about “individual salvation,” and I don’t have any problem with that, like I said above.

          But I couldn’t see where they talk about “individual salvation ONLY.” That little word, ONLY, is what makes your religion a pagan religion. That little word, ONLY, is not in the Bible. You are reading into the text, eager to prove your truncated “gospel.” But the Bible doesn’t contain it. It never says, “individual salvation, ONLY.”

          Therefore the verses you quote do not help your case, and I have nothing to explain.

        • Harmon Gottlieb says:

          Retreating into the claim that the Bible never says, “individual salvation, ONLY” (an expression you introduced on February 4, 2011 at 2:33 pm) exposes a crippled argument.

          The fact is, the Christ-centered substance of the ‘salvation’ verses cited above is clearly keyed to individual salvation only. Otherwise, you would have provided scriptures that a) limit the exclusiveness and the singularity defining individual salvation, or b) confirm the ‘non-individual’ and ‘extra-personal’ dimension animating your argument.

          Fortunately, there are no scriptures that diminish or embellish what Christ has done for individuals. Paul’s message to Timothy, for example, is plainly limited to personal salvation only: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15)).”

          But, more to the point, no scripture supports your charge that a Christian’s passionate concern for personal salvation is “pagan.” This is not “Biblical Maturity.”

        • Retreating into the claim that the Bible never says, “individual salvation, ONLY” (an expression you introduced on February 4, 2011 at 2:33 pm) exposes a crippled argument.

          Why is it a “crippled argument”? Because you have no reply to it? This doesn’t make it a crippled argument. This makes it a very powerful argument. If you are going to participate in a debate, you’ll have to use arguments, not declarations. Find a verse that says “individual salvation, ONLY.”

          But, more to the point, no scripture supports your charge that a Christian’s passionate concern for personal salvation is “pagan.”

          I never laid such a charge. May be you need to learn to read. Or, learn to not build strawmen.

  14. Joel McDurmon Joel McDurmon says:

    The irony here is that Ligonier’s own RC Sproul wrote a booklet years ago called “Going on to Maturity.” In it he states, “There is a vast difference, however, between a childlike faith and a childish faith, though the two are often confused.” He then goes on to cite 1 Cor. 13:11… as a call to maturity! (see pp. 7-8).

  15. Leah says:

    Amen Bo. I love this verse below, fits right in with this message. It’s a harsh rebuke to those babies who remain on their theology of milk.

    “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
    Hebrews 5:12-14

  16. Charles Johnson says:

    I am pleased that there is a forum like American Vision to present these views and to encourage people to grow up and quit acting childish. Childlike and childish are not synonyms!

    Thanks.

Back to Top ↑

electronic-white
tail-ref