Hedonism and Christianity seem an impossible combination and I wasn't sure how they could be reconciled until reading John Piper's book: Desiring God. In it, he argues that "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." That is the unexpected twist of Christian hedonism. It's not that we live a life focused on worldly pleasure or our own fickle and selfish desires. It's that we refuse to be satiated by the temporary, unsatisfying, addictive pleasures offered to us by the world that only reach a superficial part of our soul. Instead, we hinge all of our pleasure, all of our delight, all of our joy on God, His glory, fulfilling His purposes, and worshiping Him.
Desiring God is a dense work, filled with theological arguments and careful examinations of Scripture. It is worth reading slowly, considering carefully and meditating on over time. John Piper also addresses various criticisms of his philosophy that have been raised since the first publication of the book and does so with a gentle, but thorough explanation.
Throughout the book, he discusses how Biblical teaching on marriage, worship, finances, missions, suffering and more all point to how we should be delighting in God. To me, the point was never so clear as it was in the chapters on worship, as he walked through the difference between dutiful worship versus spontaneous and overflowing praise. Piper compared giving his wife an anniversary gift or spending time with her because he loved her versus acts of love done simply because "he has to." I would want my husband to want to be with me, to love me enough to want to give to me. Acts of service, gifts, time spent with each other and the like should all flow out of love for one another. If he handed me flowers on our anniversary and said, "Here's my obligatory offering of love," our marriage would be in serious trouble! It's not any different with God.
He presents intriguing arguments about the place of emotion in our relationship with God, ones that I hadn't considered before. It's true that when you read Scripture, it clearly argues for an emotional interaction with God. Our faith isn't just cold, hard facts. It's relational. It involves passion, joy, and love. We've been talking about emotions in the negative for so long, especially as Christians, but surely King David was both strong and sensitive. And as we worship, we worship with both spirit and truth, not all of one and none of the other.
To some, it might seem like an arbitrary question. What difference does it really make whether you're a "Christian hedonist" or not? Why bother with all these weighty arguments? Yet, when you've completed the book, you'll have walked through a foundation for doctrine, looking at what is a saving faith, what should worship look like, how do we relate to God, and what does this look like in the practical and everyday living out of our lives in marriage, finances, missions, and more.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Can we make sense of satisfaction or real joy? It's one life's most common questions. Answers for most people are rather less common. I'm interested in knowing, aren't you? Here's a book to show us the way.
The subtitle of "Meditations of a Christian Hedonist" tells you what a unique writing John Piper presents to us in this revised edition published by Multnomah. It's interesting that he has to answer for his writings 25 years later when life had opportunity to test his theories. I found it a real challenge to my Christian life. He goes against so much conventional wisdom, but really discusses the subject with a Bible ever in his hands.
Don't let the term "Christian Hedonist" turn you off. He certainly isn't suggesting that you throw your life away in a pointless pursuit of worldly pleasures. Quite the opposite, he simply believes that life's greatest joy comes from seeking joy in God. He further proves that this is exactly what the Lord enjoys from us. As he says, "This is a serious book about being happy in God." We all want to be happy and this truly is the only way. This works beautifully in that: "We get the mercy; He gets the glory. We get the happiness in Him; He gets the honor from us."
He tweaks the famous confession to "The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever." I think he makes a powerful case that the Bible actually teaches this very thing. His chapter on the "The Happiness of God" is hard to refute. Apparently, in the last 25 years several have tried.
Mr. Piper weaves his premise through many of the most important aspects of the Christianity. Happiness in God is all through the warp and woof of our Christian experience in conversion, worship, love, and prayer. It gets especially interesting and life-altering when he speaks on things like money, missions, and suffering. Our modern-day Christianity comes out of those chapters bloodied but perhaps that is fair as this same modern Christianity has slaughtered our happiness on many occasions!
You simply must read this book. There's not much Calvinism to work around if you are more of a whosoever-will man like I am. I read each chapter so much more slowly than usual. There was so much to think about, so much heart-searching demanded, but I assure you that you will be glad you took the time to read it. I can see myself referring to it again and again in the years ahead.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.
Although pastor John Piper has written more than forty books, Desiring God is the one for which he is most well known. Even people that have never read the book are more than likely familiar with Piper's resource ministry that bears the same name.
The subtitle of the book, Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, provide a glimpse into the the theme and subject matter that Piper spends close to 350-pages unpacking. Essentially, Piper asserts that as believer's in Jesus Christ, our chief end and goal should be to find joy and utter delight in Jesus and in so doing, bring Him glory. What makes this so revolutionary for some is that Piper gives the reader permission to seek pleasure, joy, and enjoyment from our relationship with Jesus and to be selfish in our endeavors to derive satisfaction from Him.
I'm sure there are some that may perceive this approach to relationship with God dishonorable and even blasphemous. After all, we should approach our relationship to God with fear, awe and reverence and seek to please Him in all that we do. If this is you, I encourage you to read Desiring God and consider Piper's claims and the scripture that he references, and see if perhaps Piper can't convince you that pursuing maximum joy is essential to bring glory to God.
WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided this book to me for free in exchange for this honest review as part of their Blogging for Books program.