1. HG Ferguson says:

    What we have here with Piper is the age-old dissonance between what I call the creative temperament vs the non-creative temperament. NCT people just simply do not see or feel the need of CT people just to create. This can range from Piper’s downplaying of the power of imagination to twisted notions that since all fiction is a form of man-made fabrication, ALL stories are therefore a lie and hence of the devil. I have seen both extremes expressed. God’s Word does not condemn imagination, only the sinful misuse of it. God’s Word does not condemn story, either (Jotham’s fable in Judges immediately comes to mind). What God’s Word DOES condemn is speculative imagination that posits another view of things contrary to what God has expressed. We are indeed to make every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. This includes the Christian imagination. But that being said, I really do think Piper’s post is a result of the antagonism of the NCT against the CT. NCT people see no use or real need for creative pursuits, especially ones that do not appeal to them. I hear Piper when he says fiction has value when it supports Scripture, but story needs no justification. God could have made spring and fall drab green. But He chooses instead to wreathe His world in beauty. So should we in our writing, our music, our art, whatever that may be. Art, story need no justification. God has already provided it.

  2. notleia says:

    One thing that I get really, REALLY tired of are these people who grind down any real exploration of faith. From the way they talk, uncertainty is a bigger sin than gleefully mowing down pedestrians with a truck, and mere conviction in this set-in-stone doctrine is a bigger virtue than charity. For as much as they vilify the sheepish masses, they sure browbeat their followers into never questioning.

    • Piper here doesn’t show such an attitude at all. That’s a completely different issue.

      • notleia says:

        He’s implicitly accusing the speculators of straying from the straight-and-narrow, so I’d say it’s not unrelated.

      • Yet I’m not reading “accusation,” only caution for those already in agreement that Scripture is God’s Word and out of love for God, we must not deviate from it. Even if he were accusing, though, are you not in turn doing the same thing by accusing Piper of “vilify[ing] the sheepless masses” and “browbeat[ing his] followers”? Them’s “you’re deviating from the righteous spiritual path” words.

        So even assuming the worst, no one here is on the spiritual high ground. We all have beliefs on which is the right choice, the wrong choice, and the worst sins.

        • notleia says:

          You probably haven’t been accused of being too liberal, which is to say, heretical. Do you know how fine the line is between cautions and accusations when it comes to denominational differences?

        • In the DG piece, however, Piper did not go after liberalism but instead silly evangelical attempts to find all kinds of trivia goodies in the Bible. None of his examples are unique to liberal denominations. None of mine were either. I’ve heard the “needle’s eye gate” notion and Nephilim nonsense only in conservative evangelical circles. Piper rightfully cautions against those, nd yet strangely (and contra his own expressed views elsewhere) confuses the purpose of imagination and the purpose of preaching expositional truth.

          I’m not saying Christians can never be mean, can’t step over the line from cautions to your own side to condemnations of other folks. But that wasn’t the point of the Piper column — and so far I’ve only seen one “pre-emptive strike” style of denominationally/spiritually driven accusation in this meta.

          • notleia says:

            I’d like to point out that he lumped female leadership into the dismissal pile with the Nephilim.

            • (Incidentally, it’s rather rare that I end up defending a certain Christian author’s material in one sub-conversation after the blog, and adding to my critique of the same author in another sub-conversation.)

              You are not reading Piper rightly. You also accidentally conflated what he said with what I said. (One of us should be insulted! 🙂 ) Piper did not mention the Nephilim; I did. Moreover, despite Piper’s expressed views elsewhere, he does not even address the female leadership issue, only the extra-Biblical speculation about why Paul said what he said. Moreover, Piper would not oppose “female leadership” anyway.

              (P.S.: Some similar Christian leaders, including many affiliated with Piper, are indeed clueless about gender issues, and some lean toward active misogyny, and some are just plain misogynist. None of my rebuttal dismisses this legitimate concern.)

              • notleia says:

                I hope you’re right about his views on female leadership, because this kind of boundary-reinforcement is exactly the kind of stuff the nutter-butters do. Reinforce the tribal boundaries, make sure everybody knows how good it is on the inside and how evil/stupid it is on the outside, then make use of the tribal boundaries to keep people in line or ostracize and expel them from the tribe. Which, granted, is what most “tribes” do, but the rules in the nutter-butters’ circles tend to revolve more around “disagreeing with my interpretation of the Bible, the only correct one, which is a challenge to my authority” than things like “don’t be a jerk.”

  3. Neil says:

    I think you are over reading this – particularly knowing John Piper’s love for poetry. He only says the value is in the deeper truth that is conveyed – that doesn’t mean that it has to be allegory or even something that could be conveyed in a sermon. It may just be the wonder of existence, the complexity of human relationships, even just the beauty of language and what can be done with words – these are all “deeper truths”.

    • I would favor that interpretation, if not for his specific remark about there being no worth for sanctification in “imaginative structures.”

    • If I had to guess, though, I’d say this is more of a “relapse” to spiritual-sounding slogans. Piper otherwise preaches solidly about the centrality of God’s Word, and yet how other gifts of God glorify Him (including fiction, poetry, and imagination). And of course, as noted above, Desiring God features some of the best content about how fantasy stories and imagination glorify God, when they touch on the topics.

  4. Galadriel says:

    There is definitely a tension between imagination and “fact,” but that doesn’t meant they’re opposites.

  5. dmdutcher says:

    I kind of agree with the over-reading point. I don’t think he’s discounting speculation in general, but he’s talking about pastors, teachers, and Bible study leaders focusing on “What if?” scenarios that won’t really help. I think the kind of sanctification that fiction provides is of a different type, and is fine to speculate on. The problem is more that you shouldn’t go into a church and be taught trivia when you need direct preaching and teaching on how to live.

    • As I noted, at first Piper does focus only on Bible preaching, by preachers.

      But also as noted, Piper briefly expands the topic to discuss all fiction. He is now no longer addressing only preachers and preaching. He makes a general statement that imaginative works’ holiness-making power is only in “the deeper truths they convey.”

      Poetry and preaching are not the same. Illuminating fiction and authoritative exposition are not the same. I love poetry and fiction. These are by nature inventive. They too have their place and their power. But the sanctifying power they have is owing decisively to the deeper truths they convey, not the imaginative structures that convey them.

      I understand what he’s getting at, but I still disagree. Imagination is its own sanctifying, God-exalting power. As H G Ferguson said above, the use of creativity and art to reflect God’s glory needs no other “well it conveys something better” defense.

What do you think?