Three Reasons I’m a Christian Hedonist

This idea of Christian Hedonism is fairly new to me.  It began when I started using Desiring God’s resources more and more.  Then, I read John Piper’s article “We Want You to Be a Christian Hedonist”.  After that, I tackled Desiring God.  That sealed the deal for me.  “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”  How true is that?  When we glorify God above all things, we are satisfied because he is the greatest thing this universe has to offer.  So, without further adieu, here are three reasons I’m a Christian Hedonist:

  • I want to be happy.  I have looked for fulfillment in so many other things.  School, sports, girls, knowledge, money, material possessions.  Everything has been dissatisfying.  Those things aren’t wrong and they certainly can be joyful to experience, but they are not the greatest thing.  The only thing that can make me eternally happy and quench the deep thirst of my soul is Jesus Christ.  I want to enjoy him forever.  Piper’s alteration of the first answer in the Westminster Confession is true: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”  Is there anyone in the world who wants to be sad, depressed, and unfulfilled?  Everyone looks for happiness.  By God’s grace, I have it in Jesus and I want to continue to grow in happiness for the rest of my life on earth.  And one day, when I meet Jesus face to face, I will have an eternity to take so much joy in his presence as I gaze upon his infinite beauty and wondrous glory.
  • The Bible makes it perfectly clear that we are to pursue joy in the Highest Joy, namely God himself.  Psalm 16:11 says, “You make know the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  John 15:11 says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”  Philippians 3:8 says, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”  Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Psalm 66:1 says, “Shout for joy to God, all the earth.”  There are hundreds of other passages like these.  God is the only thing that can satisfy our longings.  The Bible tells us to be satisfied with him above all other things. 
  • John Piper.  I praise God for the way he has used John Piper’s writing and preaching in my life.  So many people have a mentor that they have never met who has had more influence in their life than anyone else.  John Piper is that person for me.  Piper is passionate, transparent, honest, loving, revolutionary, and challenging.  Thank God for men like him to spur others on to know God and all that he is for us in Christ. 

Read the other posts in this series:

Three Reasons I’m a Christian
Three Reasons I’m a Calvinist
Three Reasons I’m a Campus Crusade Staff Member

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12 comments

  1. John Piper has had a huge impact on helping my faith as well; it’s been a blessing to be able to go to his church and hear him preach just about every week (not lately since he’s been writing books instead, which I’m also super excited about!). Glad to see other’s finding and continuing to pursue their ultimate joy in God through Jesus Christ… there is no other way.

  2. John Piper is too lopsided in his use of the Bible for my tastes. He has created a philosophy of living which some of my personal friends took literally. Now, all they can ever see in any Bible study is how God is trying to make us happy here and delight us there, right now, all the time, without delay. They seem to have lost sight that God expects us to be obedient, patient, sacrificial, loving, giving, others-minded, selfless, and more.

    My friends also keep telling me there are many Bible verses that prove that pursuing pleasure is commanded by God, especially as our greatest command, yet they never have quoted me even one, at least, not one in context. They keep on quoting Psalm 37:4, which makes me realize they have no clue how to read Psalm 37 (verse 4 is just one phrase of a larger sentence) and they keep throwing out Psalm 16:11 but don’t get it that this is a passage (if taken in context) about being dead.

    Let’s start teaching how to do good exegesis before we begin inventing new philosophies from truncated Scripture verses.

  3. Conrad,

    Thanks for your thoughts. I have a two questions and a few rebuttals.

    Q1: How has “he created a philosophy of living” when other key men of the Christian faith have proposed the same idea only with different vocabulary?

    Q2: Is not God the most glorious being in the universe and therefore worthy of all our adoration, delight, and enjoyment? If we aren’t enjoying God more than other things, then are we not enjoying something else more, which would make *that thing* God?

    Psalm 37:4
    I’m pretty sure that Piper’s exegetical abilities are a bit more refined and seasoned that Craig W. Booth’s–whoever that is. In Psalm 37:4, when David writes, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” is this not in the context of many commands? Verse 3: “Trust in the LORD, and do good.” Is that not a command? Verse 5: “Commit your way to the LORD.” Is that not a command? Verse 7: “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.” Is that not a command? These are not suggestions. God *never* gives suggestions. The command is: Delight yourself in God. The rewards is: He will give you the desires of your heart — namely, ultimate joy in the Highest Joy. It is a command. There are hundreds — if not a thousand — verses like it. You can see the book Desiring God for more. Because of that, I wonder why you focus on attacking that one small verse Piper uses in the book, amidst the hundreds of others.

    Psalm 16:11
    I would like to know why you think this Psalm is about death, especially when it contains lines such as: “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you”; “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, indeed I have a beautiful inheritance”; “Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken”; “Therefore my heart is glad and my whole being rejoices”; “You WILL NOT abandon my soul to Sheol”; and of course verse 11, “You make known to me the paths of LIFE; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.

    So, it would seem clear that this chapter is a passage, not about death, but about God keeping David from death. The culmination of all the emotions and thoughts racing through David is this: “I have full joy with God! He gives the greatest, eternal pleasures!” Can you explain it differently?

    Finally, you wrote: “They [your Christian Hedonist friends] seem to have lost sight that God expects us to be obedient, patient, sacrificial, loving, giving, others-minded, selfless, and more.” Is this a presumption you are making or have you noticed it in their lifestyle. I would contend that if we are being fully satisfied with God alone, those things will naturally follow. And besides, isn’t God trying to make us happy by redeeming us? The Bible is meant to reveal our brokenness and God’s redemptive solution for that brokenness. Jesus says as much in John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that *your joy may be full.*” Who do you suppose that joy is to be full in? No doubt Jesus meant God — himself! Even a parable in Matthew 13:44 illustrates that we are to pursue the kingdom (i.e. God) for joy. “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then, in his joy he goes and sells as he has and buys that field.” We are to forsake all other things and pursue Christ so we may have joy.

    So many other theologians and laymen have made this point clear: Augustine, Pascal, Luther, Edwards, Owen, Spurgeon. Do you think they are wrong as well?

    If you haven’t read this yet, I would suggest taking a look: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Articles/ByDate/1995/1538_Christian_Hedonism/

    I look forward to your response.

  4. Your first reason reminds me of what I wrote on my blog this morning. Thomas Merton suggests that to find true happiness, or better still, joy, comes through suffering and having faith that light is only discovered through darkness. He also warns against attachments, possessions, etc., that are only fleeting and never bring us the satisfaction we hope for. More about Merton and his books are at mertonandfriends.wordpress.com. One book of his you might really enjoy is New Seeds of Contemplation.

  5. You asked Conrad: “Q1: How has ‘John Piper created a philosophy of living’ when other key men of the Christian faith have proposed the same idea only with different vocabulary?”

    It is entirely likely that I am not as well read as yourself, however, I have never read any other preacher but Piper who has ever written: “Why call it Christian Hedonism? I am aware that calling this philosophy of life ‘Christian Hedonism’ runs the risk of ignoring Bishop Ryle’s counsel…Nevertheless I stand by the term for at least six reasons,” and, “Christian hedonism says more, namely, that we should pursue happiness with all our might. The desire to be happy is a proper motive for every good deed, and if you abandon pursuit of your own joy you cannot please God,” and, “Christian Hedonism does not put us above God when it makes the joy of worship its goal,”and, “I came to see that it is unbiblical and arrogant to try to worship God for any other reason than the pleasure to be had in him,” and, “To that end this book aims to persuade you that ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying him forever’,” and, “The radical implication is that pursuing pleasure in God is our highest calling,” and, “Maximizing our joy in God is what we were created for,” and, “The aim of life is to maximize our joy.”

    Since Piper calls it his “philosophy of life” I find it entirely appropriate to also call it his philosophy of life. Also, since no other preacher has said that the goal of worship is the attainment of joy or that we should pursue pleasure with all our might or that the pursuit of pleasure is our highest calling, I think it is right to say it is all Piper’s original invention. This is Piper’s entirely unique philosophy of life.

    You also asked Conrad: “Q2: Is not God the most glorious being in the universe and therefore worthy of all our adoration, delight, and enjoyment? If we aren’t enjoying God more than other things, then are we not enjoying something else more, which would make *that thing* God?”

    These are mutliple questions. God is the most glorious being in the corporeal universe and in the heavenlies. However, God demands that we be “delighted” in many other beings and things besides Himself, for example, our wives. So, no, it is not wrong to be very delighted in other things which God allows.

    A question for you: What Bible passage says, ‘Thou shalt not enjoy anything more than God’? Did you just make this up, or did Piper just make this up? Merely saying, “but it sounds so ‘right'” does not make it scriptural. What Scripture says, ‘Thou shalt not enjoy anything more than God’?

    Another question for you: Is not pursuing pleasure itself making pleasure a god?

    Have you considered that experiencing joy is different than “pursuing pleasure”? Joy is a spiritual gift and a spiritual fruit, the permanent internal recognition that the soul is preserved to and by Christ. But pleasure is a temporal sensation, a passing “good feeling.” You seem to think that joy and pleasure are exactly the same. They are not.

    Another question for you: What one Bible passage explicitly states, ‘Pursue pleasure with all thy might’? I have not found one.

    It is a fine thing for you personally that you have converted to Christian Hedonism, but converting to Christian Hedonism is not a commandment of Scripture. Nor must one convert to Christian Hedonism to be acceptable to God. Therefore, it is wrong to admonish others to convert to something that the Bible does not command.

    Finally, you may be right about Craig W, Booth’s articles not being as “refined” as John Piper’s. However, when I compare Booth’s article providing a thought-by-thought exegesis of Psalm 37, and no exegesis by Piper at all even though that verse is used at least 9 times in Desiring God, by mere default I do know who haas provided the more insightful exegesis of the passage. Especially when Booth concludes that the “desire of your heart” is the desire explicitly stated in verse one and verse 40 (the opening and closing verses of the Psalm): The desire of the Psalmist’s heart is to stop fretting because of evil men and to know that God saves the righteous. (This is a rule of exegesis, Scripture defines itself, and when it does, let it.)

    I hope this does not sound argumentative, but you did ask the questions.

    God’s grace to you.

  6. Conrad,

    Thanks for your replies. I don’t have time to answer them systematically right now (perhaps it will be a new post next week!), however I would like to just say that the Westminster Catechism (that the entire Reformed world subscribes to) asks, as its first question, “What is the chief END (notice the singularity of the word) of man?” Answer: To glorify God and *enjoy* him forever. Therefore, it seems to me that Piper is not the first person to espouse this.

    The second thing I want to say (and the only thing I have time for at the moment) is that I understand (and I know Piper does as well) that we are to enjoy other things in life, such as our wives. However, honestly ask yourself that if you were to delight in something more than God, would that be a good thing? Remember, we are to honor the Giver, not the gifts. If we are to take pleasure in God (spiritual pleasure, remember, for the eternal happiness of our souls) then we will take pleasure in those other things that delight him (namely, righteousness, justice, holiness, etc., and not sinful things). We are not to only enjoy God, but we are to enjoy God above all other things.

    Now that I’ve written this much, I will write a post either this weekend or early next week regarding your objections.

    peace,
    james

  7. James said, “the Westminster Catechism (that the entire Reformed world subscribes to) asks, as its first question, ‘What is the chief END (notice the singularity of the word) of man?’ Answer: To glorify God and *enjoy* him forever.”

    Two quick observations: do you really ‘subscribe’ to the entire Westminster Catechism?? Including infant baptism, etc.? Most of the evangelical world ‘substantially’ agrees with the catechism, but not in total. You might also find that the use of the word ‘enjoy’ as it is employed in the catechism has changed connotations (if not denotations) from how we in modern western America presently use it.

    Second: the ‘one’ question has ‘two’ answers.

    Question for you: Do you know what the authors of the catechism meant by the words “chief end”?

    James said, “We are not to only enjoy God, but we are to enjoy God above all other things.”

    This sounds like you believe it to be a command of Scripture. I do not believe there is any passage in the Bible which gives this to us as a command. Have you, or perhaps has Piper, created a brand new commandment? Jesus did not much like it when the religious leaders did that during His day.

    If there is a command, as your statement implies, that states, “Thou shalt not enjoy anything more than thou enjoys God else it is idolatry,” then how do you measure your enjoyment so as to know what gives you the most enjoyment?

    But as you say, we are required by God to find delight in many different things, like the Word, our wives, the land, even the meals we have worked so hard to earn the money for.

    Let me give you a proposition: Enjoyment (or even finding something pleasurable) is not what makes something idolatrous. Idolatry is related to worship. When we rely on money (or things) to save us, then it becomes idolatry. When we trust in pleasure to bring comfort to our souls, then pleasure becomes an idol. That which you serve becomes your god.

    If you serve money (so as to attain it as a priority in life), it is your god. If you serve pleasure (so as to gain it as a priority in life) it is your god.

    If you serve God (so as to give love to Him as a priority in life), He is your God. You see, God is the one “thing” that we cannot “attain” by way of service. He chooses us, we serve Him. That is why to serve any other being or thing is false worship, idolatry. When pleasure becomes our goal, pleasure becomes our god.

    Hope that clarifies things.

    Grace and God’s best to you.

  8. Conrad,

    Actually, before I wrote a whole post (because I’ve written about Christian Hedonism elsewhere), I’d like for you to answer some of my questions that you haven’t really attempted to answer:

    – Honestly ask yourself that if you were to delight in something more than God, would that be a good thing?
    – In reference to Psalm 16 and 37, can you explain it differently than I did?

    And a couple more:
    – If you were married and enjoyed other women (or men) more than your wife (in any way–physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially), would your wife not be offended and would she not say that she isn’t your true treasure, but someone else is?
    – C.S. Lewis was the person, along with Jonathan Edwards, who spurred Piper on to this teaching. Read some Lewis and you’ll discover his opinions. Are both Lewis and Edwards creating human philosophies as well.

    I figured that if I wrote something else it would not help. If you don’t understand correctly Piper’s writings, what I say will not be fruitful or edifying. What I will say is that pursuing pleasure is not the most important thing in and of itself. The pleasure is in Christ. It is what Paul talks about in Philippians 3. The joy, delight, satisfaction, and happiness is in God. If you miss that in Piper–or others–then you are simply trying to pick a fight that is not there.

  9. James, by the tone of your reply, it appears you may be becoming upset. Such is not my purpose. We can discontinue this conversation any time you desire. I do not want to continue if it results in ill-will. We are both Christians, as are Piper and Booth, and we need to keep that in perspective regarding our differences of opion about interpreting the Bible–we all belong to Christ. When you posted a public blog on the topic, I thought you were inviting the public into discussion. If I have misunderstood this and have been presumptous, then I apologize.

    As I originally posted, I find Piper’s teaching on hedonism lopsided and unbalanced. Particularly off-center is his assertion that a person must be converted to Christian Hedonism in order to be saved (Desiring God, page 55).

    Questions for you to meditate on, are:

    1) Do you personally and honestly believe that a person must be converted to Christian Hedonism to be saved?

    2) If you do believe this, do you make conversion to Christian Hedonism a part of the gospel message when you evangelize the unsaved?

    3) If you do not believe that a person must convert to Christian Hedonism to be saved, then have you not already demonstrated that Christian Hedonism is an improper doctrine every time it is claimed that a person MUST become a hedonist?

    James, You asked me, “If you were to delight in something more than God, would that be a good thing?” This is an invalid question to ask, as I noted in my previous post. It is akin to asking, “Since a policeman is 10 times more likely to die on the job than an office worker, isn’t it more loving to your family to be an office worker?” Such questions are fun to play with, but have no biblical basis and no spiritual value to answer. All they do is breed pride for those take the office worker job on the basis of such personal preferences.

    So to directly address your question (“If you were to delight in something more than God, would that be a good thing?”) I would reply, can you show me a Bible verse that states, ‘Thou shalt only find more pleasure in God Himself than in His Word, or His creation, or His work of salvation.’?

    God does not ask us to make such comparisons of what to delight in more than other things. He does not conemn us in His Word if we delight in His gift of a wife more than in His answer to a prayer to save a friend from certain injury. I am happy for you that you believe you know the right hierarcy of escalting delights in your own life, but I have not found such a graduated list of increasing priorities printed in Scripture, so for me to impose my opinions of what lawful delights are “more righteous” would be legalism. I would not dare to instruct others what God requires them to delight in more than others.

    Regarding delight, I will say this. God expects us to delight in His Word. God tells us to delight in Him. He does not tell us to compare the amount of one delight with the other delights He has given us. Now, it is fair to say that if one has no delight whatsoever in God’s Word, or in God, something is seriously wrong (temporary depression, not yet saved, doubting, habitual sin, physical ailment, lack of education, etc.) and that person needs to be encouraged and strengthened by the believers around him and not condemned for “lacking delight.” But this is a comparison between “no delight at all” and “having some delight,” not between degrees of delight. And God does not command us to reject all delights but Him, does He? (If you do think that, I suggest reading The Song of Solomon and Ecclessiastes.)

    You also asked me to intepret Psalms 16 and 37. Psalm 16 establishes its own context with verse 1, and encapsulates that context with its conclusion in verses 10-11.

    Verse 1: Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.
    Verses 10-11: For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

    This is a 2-intentioned Psalm. It is ostensibly about God preserving the life of those who take refuge in Him (ie the life of David the Psalmist). The Psalmist is content and glad in the holy salvation that God provides. By verse 10, the Psalmist recognizes that he will eventually die, but will not stay dead. Then, as the second intent of his Psalm he utters a prophecy regarding the fact that even the Messiah will die but will not undergo decomposition (Acts 2:29-32). After this resurrection we are in the literal presence of God forever, where (at the right hand of God in His literal presence) there is fullness of joy and pleasures.

    Though we may experience certain joys (and even pleasures) while we live here on this planet, the fullness of joy and perfect pleasures await us in our resurrection. Those who are the greatest of hedonists, who zealously desire to pursue the greatest pleasures right now, have only one option (which is to immediately be ushered into the literal presence of God), but it is not an option I recommend. Barring that option, they will have to do as the Psalmist states and wait until their God-planned death and resurrection.

    If we can set aside the filters that require we read everything from a hedonistic bias, we approach reading this Psalm from a fresh vantage. What did the Psalmist mean when he wrote, “The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night”? When the Psalmist says that God’s judgments have “fallen to me in pleasant places” it is clear that the Psalmist is not “pursuing” this outcome, rather, “fallen” indicates that the pleasant outcome is a gift, passively obtained: “it just fell from the heavens and landed at my feet.” For this passively received gift, the Psalmist praises God, as we all should do whenever we experience a pleasing gift.

    Similarly, is the heritage of the Psalmist. I dare say he is not actively pursuing and demanding the heritage, as did the prodigal son, but he does see his heritage off in the distance and appreciates it from afar. The Psalmist does not demand of the Father, “give me the pleasures of my inheritance right now, so I can experience it now, for I am a hedonist!”

    Nowhere does Psalm 16 command a person to “pursue pleasure like a hedonist.” But it does show how a genuinely righteous person allows God to simply let pleasant things fall into their possession as gifts, and when they are resurrected to be in God’s presence forever, only then will they experience the full joy and pleasures of that experience.

    James, you also requested I interpret Psalm 37 for you. I will do this very briefly. Verse 1 states that God’s people should not be in fear of, or envious of, evil people. At the end, verses 39-40 explain that God grants salvation and refuge from the wicked in this world. That is the contextual meaning of the Psalm.

    In verses 4-8 there is one long command: trust in God and commit your ways to God and grow your faithfulness in God and delight in God and trust in God and wait for God and do not fret over the wicked people whom seem so fearsome to you.

    But there is an upside to obedience to this long command: God will give you the desires of your heart and righteousness and the ability to have good and brilliant judgment.

    Everyone likes to focus only on the “delight” part of the command, as if that little piece alone will gain for them all the blessings desired. But verse 5 says, “Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.” God will do what? It is an incomplete thought. To find out what God will do if you commit your way and trust in Him, you have to go back to verses 3 and 4 and combine them with 5-9, because they are all form just one continuous thought. If you commit, trust, delight, grow faithfulness, wait, and avoid fear and anger, only then “will God do it,” that is, give you the desire of your heart.

    The Psalms are written to and about people in specific circumstances. Psalm 37 is addressed to people who fear and envy evil doers. This is what was on the Psalmist’s heart, and his intent was to reassure the fearful and envious of God’s refuge.

    When we get to the question of what did the Psalmist mean by “heart’s desire,” as my hermeneutics professor would say, “it is not a matter of what I want it to mean, or what it means to me, but what did the author intend it to mean?” The Psalmist actually tells us in his own words.

    What did the Psalmist’s heart desire? Verse 1 and 39-40 tell us: he desired not to fear and envy the evil men around him and he desired to find refuge in the salvation of the Lord. The Psalmist assumes that since “you” are reading this Psalm which has been addressed to those who are fearful and envious, that it is your heart’s desire to stop fearing and envying.

    It is very wrong to say, “Well, my heart’s desire is for more pleasure, so that is what the phrase means in Psalm 37:4.” That approach is called eisegesis (telling the passage what you want the meaning to be instead of getting the real meaning from out of the text). The Psalmist had a very specific meaning for the phrase which is consistent with the entire reason for writing this poem. The intent was to help people who desired to overcome their fear and envy. The Psalmist never brought up the topic of “pursuing pleasure,” so there is nothing in the context which would support imposing that meaning on the phrase “desire of your heart.”

    Is it not odd that the Psalmist did not desire “pleasure”? Also, nowhere does this passage advocate or command someone to “pursue pleasure like a hedonist.” But it does command us to trust God, to wait for Him, to commit our ways to Him, to grow in faithfulness, to delight in God, and to stop fearing and envying evil men. And what we get for obedience to this long command is to be set free from fear. Hallelujah! Now that is a gift!!!!

    CS Lewis wrote in letter 17 of his letters to Malcolm that the pursuit of pleasure is an inferior pursuit when compared to doing any act of obedience, service, or worship. He wanted God to let him wander into pleasant episodes of life, but Lewis warned that actively pursuing pleasures and trying to find pleasures everywhere leads to pride and greed. Pride because some will boast in how much pleasure they get from God in every little thing instead of being a silent and humble recipient. Greed because some pleasure seekers will demand of God, “encore,” give that to me again and again!

    Most local libraries have Lewis’ Letters to Malcolm. Check out the book and read letter 17 for yourself. Watch what Lewis says about those who would use Lewis’ writings to teach others about pursuing pleasures.

    I am glad that you noted in your post that Piper rests to some degree in human writings to find the foundation of Christian Hedonism (certainly it did not come from Psalm 16 or 37). Nonetheless, I think Lewis would be unhappy to have his form of “hedonism” (just letting God unexpectedly drop pleasures into his lap) be the stated basis of Piper’s form of “hedonism” (the all-out pursuit of pleasures ‘in God’ as the most important priority of man on earth).

    James, another comment you made was, “pursuing pleasure is not the most important thing in and of itself. The pleasure is in Christ…If you miss that … then you are simply trying to pick a fight.” Yes, I do understand that the pleasure being pursued with “all one’s might” is “in Christ.” I am unconvinced that pursuing Christ’s pleasure is a valid biblical command, much less the chief of all commands God has given us. Nor is the pursuit of pleasure in Christ central to salvation, even though Piper says it is. With Lewis, I argue that those who are pursuing pleasure (in Christ or otherwise) as their highest duty are pursuing the wrong goal, the wrong priority.

    James, you also told me, “If you don’t understand correctly Piper’s writings, what I say will not be fruitful or edifying.” How can I express how deeply this comment breaks my heart? Only the Bible is the source of our doctrine and faith. Sola Scriptura. Nothing that the Bible teaches depends on having to read somebody’s modern-day philosophy book. Scripture stands by itself, authoritatively independent. If the “doctrine” cannot be presented plainly and clearly from Scripture by any believer who has studied it, it is not a valid doctrine.

    Lastly, I would like to re-ask two questions I included in my previous post (I did not see any answer to them):

    – “What one Bible passage explicitly states, ‘Pursue pleasure with all thy might’? (I have not found one.)”
    – What Bible passage were you quoting when you wrote, “We are not to only enjoy God, but we are to enjoy God above all other things.”

    I know that we may not worship anything or anyone else, not even a little, but we may enjoy the evening meal God gives us, the spouse God grants us, and even the salvation God has called us into. God does not demand a contest between our lawful enjoyments on this earth, but He does ordain an absolute right to all our worship and all our obedience. Sometimes I enjoy the after-church fellowshipping more than I enjoy the church service, does God get angry? No. I worship Him alone and nothing and nobody else. Though I do not necessarily seek them, I find enjoyment in many lawful things without incurring God’s condemnation. When our sense of pleasure becomes the measuring stick for orthodoxy, or for salvation, or for right and wrong, we have created a new type of legalism which God has not sanctioned.

    Though this response was lengthy, for courtesy’s sake I thought your many questions deserved full and complete answers. Remember, the measure of the Christian is never the depth of his hedonism but the depth of his faith and love.

    James, clearly you are a strong Christian who desires to serve God faithfully. I will pray that God grants you a growing and vital faith.

  10. Conrad,

    Sorry if I appeared to be upset. I am not. I love to dialogue. However, I feel that you (along with a few others I have talked to) simply dismiss Piper’s writings because, according to your own words “they are too lopsided for [your] taste.” I will say that this declaration is frustrating to me.
    Piper is a passionate person who, it seems seeks to know Jesus in the deepest, most intimate way. I have never heard a preacher with more conviction, zeal, and tender-fierceness than Piper. I would hate to say that he has created a new philosophy or even an unbiblical one.

    I will read your response in full and comment and answer your questions later.

    Thanks for the conversation.

  11. james,

    I am a christian Hedonist as well. But first, before I derive any pleasure in Christ, I proclaim him as lord (romans 10:9,10). Lord = Kurios= master/possessor/slavemaster http://www.searchgodsword.org/lex/grk/view.cgi?number=2962

    I believe the Lordship of Christ is something that is crucial and central to the gospel. First we must submit to Christ, and offer up our lives as sacrifices through faithful obedience. When we are under Christ we are on his “team.” This team created everything. They are a team that is fun to be on, kind of like when I got luck and was on the little league team that won all their games. I enjoyed that, I didn’t do anything, I didn’t play until we were up by several runs. But I had a ton of fun and was constantly in awe of the great players on our team.

    Christ (as a member of the triune Godhead), wins, he has already won and overcome death. He is stronger than the evil one who is out to deceive us. God Created us, and the beauty that is around us. This team is amazing. The more involved I am, the more I experience the success of this team. This is very pleasurable.

    “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” – Piper

    Our glorification of God (obedience), results in enjoyment of him. – Me :)

    Unfortunately in our culture (shallow, consumeristic, fickle) pleasure has been hijacked. And people even though they are desperately trying to be God honoring, still hold back some of their efforts, and consequently some pleasure for themselves. Our preconceived notions about pleasure instantly conjure up selfish images inspired by our culture. I am not surprised that Conrad’s friends read too much into scripture regarding pleasure. We all do. I’ve done it with christian hedonism. Its something Ive had to repent of.

    Pleasure in Christ is not shallow. It stands tall and bold. It is rooted in eternity and victory. It also is not only emotional. It is not something that is “happiness” happiness is fleeting. I have been sad when I should be happy, and vice versa. Although emotions are a vital part of a thorough counsel of God, they shouldn’t be the center. We should desire joy, something much deeper and less fleeting than happiness. Our full knowledge, deep understanding, and wisdom regarding the Gospel is enough to evoke Joy.

    My point is two fold.

    A) Our faithful submission and intertwined association with Christ produce’s joy and pleasure

    B) Our cultural context provides a very poor example of “Joy,” and “Pleasure.” Our culture sucks.

    Ben

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