If you are going to purchase a copy of John Piper's "Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist", I urge you buy the Revised Edition. If you already have the first edition, by all means invest in the Revised Edition; there is enough new grist in the Revised Edition to make an upgrade that is well worth the purchase.
First, the context and style of the Revised Edition gives the book greater weightiness. You may be thinking, "Context and style issues shouldn't take precedence over issues of content." I would tend to agree with you in all most all cases; however, it's issues context and style that lends greater credence and cogency to the overall content of this edition, and its issues of context and style that sets this edition apart the previous edition(s). With respect to context and style, in the 25 years since the first edition came out, two contextual aspects make this edition more meaningful. (A) The Revised Edition was updated in the midst of the ongoing caldron of John Piper's ever growing life and ministry experience. Over the past 25 years, the concepts written upon the pages of "Desiring God" appear to have developed far beyond thoughts, ideas, and concepts. The content of the book seem to have been tried in the fires of the author's life and ministry in good times and in difficult times. In the preface, the author confesses that both his ministry and life have had some difficulties since the publishing of the first edition. Piper writes:
"One of the older women of our church quipped to us at our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, Ã¢â¬ËThe fist twenty-five years are the hardest.' We have not found it to be so. We are nearing the end of the second twenty-five, and undoubtedly they have been the hardest. The body ages and things go wrong, Marriage, we found, passes through deep water as husband and wife pass through midlife and beyond. We made it. But we will not diminish the disquietude of those years. . . The other Ã¢â¬Ëmarriage' in my life (with Bethlehem Baptist Church) has been a mingling of sweetness and sorrow. As I sit here pondering the years, the sweetness so outweighs the sorrow that I have no desire to dwell on the pain." (pg. 11)
It is clear that when John Piper writes about desiring and enjoying God, he is not witting about sycophantic Pollyanna emotionalism that is conjured up with a little moralistic hocus pocus. Piper is talking about a desire that is the product of our new birth in Christ and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
(B) In the passing years since the first edition of "Desiring God", Piper has had to answer several meaningful critiques of the theory of Christian hedonism. As a result, the Revised Edition has a bit more of an Apologetic flavor. The apologetics in this edition addresses some questions that the first edition left wanting (questions about the supremacy of Christ in the will of man, the laboriousness that accompanies Christian sacrifice, and the pressing hardship of Christian suffering). The addition of a chapter on Christian suffering as the sacrifice of the Christian hedonist is a needed addition that makes the revised edition well worth the purchase.
Second, and most vitally, the content of the Revised Edition of "Desiring God" is exceptionally biblical and theologically robust. I approached this book with my guard up against any whiff of emotionalism that seems to be prevalent in too much Christian self-help literature. So, I did find myself trying to argue against Piper's assertions and theories; but, more often then not, I found myself trying to argue away or minimalize Bible texts. From a Reformed theological perspective, Piper first grounded his theory in sovereign grace and the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Chapter one deals with God himself as totally sovereign and supremely pleased (Psalm 115:3). Chapter two Piper argues that no one can delight in God as we are commanded to (Psalm 37:4) unless God transforms us into new creatures in Christ via the effectual calling of the Holy Spirit. In other words, we need to be born again, which is God's doing. Following these two initial chapters, the rest of Piper's theory flows out from the sanctification and the ordinary means of Grace: worship (ch. 3&4), the Word (ch. 5), and prayer (ch. 6). The remaining chapters build upon God's sanctification and our implementation of the ordinary means of grace: money, marriage, missions, and suffering.
Third, and finally, I had some mixed thoughts on the binding and format of the book. I liked the included study guide. The study guide is easy to use without being simplistic. The inexpensive printing/binding makes this book accessible to wide audience. However, I wish there were an edition printed on heavier paper with a hard cover stitched binding. As a pastor, I tend to make many marginalia notations in books. "Desiring God" is such an influential and ground breaking book any thoughtful Christian will be utilizing and writing in this book, whether or not you agree with Piper's Christian hedonism theory. The notes I took in this book tended to bleed through, and I am not sure how well the binding will hold up with extended use. That said, the binding and printing issues are only enough for me to downgrade the book one half a star out of five.
I received this book free for the purposes of review from WaterBrook/Multnomah Publishers.
Every author seem to have "the book." That is the book that people associates the author with. Jerry Bridges has The Pursuit of Holiness, J.I. Packer has Knowing God", and John Piper has this book, Desiring God. I first read this book in 1998 after my BSM (Baptist Student Ministry) Director read a page during a Bible Study. I was impressed with the theology and passion John Piper has for God. This book instantly became one of my favorite books. To is truly an honor to review the 25th anniversary edition of Piper's classic.
For those not familiar with the book, it centers around the idea of Christian Hedonism, which simply puts, "The chief end of man to glorify God by enjoying him forever." Piper draws our attention how we should treasure God above all our personal treasures and anything this world can offer. Using scripture, love, and prayer to show us how we can truly enjoy God. The final chapter of the book is on suffering, which is the best chapter on suffering I have ever read. Yes, there has been other books on suffering since then, but this was the first chapter I begin to see how God can use suffering to make us treasure and seek him.
This edition of Desiring God is just as good as the 10th anniversary edition I purchased when I was in college. To be honest, that edition has more things underlined than this edition. I guess I am still impartial to my first copy of the book. One plus of the book is that majority of the scripture quoted in the book is from the English Standard Version (ESV), which my favorite translation of the Bible. In some of the footnotes, Piper makes reference to other books that he has written to go into more detail on what he is talking about especially, When I Don't Desire God. I am happy to recommend this edition of Desiring God to anyone who has never read it nor who is familiar with John Piper.
Desiring God consists of a preface, introduction, 10 chapters, an epilogue, an appendix and a very helpful study guide. The book is arranged topically, examining 9 topics from the perspective of a Christian hedonist (which Dr. Piper defends and explains in chapter 1). The topics are: conversion, worship, love, scripture, prayer, money, marriage, missions, and suffering. Each of these chapters is a compelling push towards delighting our souls deeply in the sovereignty of God.
Particularly inspiring are the chapters on worship and prayer. When one recognizes that Jesus is our happiness, then the world seems to fade away and the glory of God Almighty pervades the mind and soul of the believer. Think of it this way: if Christ is revealed completely and your soul is broken on the beauty of the Lord and His graciousness, then it must be impossible to withhold from Him the delight that pours out from the soul. Therefore, worship ceases to be an expression of ourselves to God and instead becomes the inevitable reaction of one enamored by God's beauty. Prayer ceases to be duty and becomes delight, singing ceases to be forced and becomes an overflow of what is already written in the heart, and life becomes worship.
The trouble with Desiring God is that Dr. John Piper is so exact and true in his encouragement towards happiness, that we feel it cannot be true. Following the theology and pattern of Jonathan Edwards Piper defends the idea that Christians are to seek their delight in God and in God alone. The great difficulty of the work is that Dr. Piper does not distinguish between joy and happiness. The reality is that Dr. Piper is so specific in his language that we come face to face with the fact that he has no intention of distinguishing the two and he really means for you to be a happy Christian.
Thus, the struggle that most believers have with Desiring God is that it seems selfish to attempt to pursue God for happiness sake. Further, this is not a matter of semantics, for surely if we used the more ambiguous term "joy" then we could excuse Dr. Piper. However, Dr. Piper is not loose with words and we cannot excuse this work. Either we agree that Jesus is happiness and we will love this book as a freeing encouragement to the pursuit of our happiness in Christ or we insist that faith is not given to call us to our Lord rather it is earned by our desperate depressed worship and we will reject this book.
The final truth is that Dr. Piper's work challenges the soul to find delight in God. In a world where our affections are torn in a thousand directions, Desiring God calls us to return to our first love and to embrace the reality of Jesus as our Lord and savior.
"I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review"
To begin with I will say I can think of no other book which has had a greater impact in my life, excluding the obvious. I can recall discussing this book with multiple people, even the locations in which we discussed this book and how great an impact it had on our lives. When I reflect upon my life and think of things in which have transformed my life, I think about when I first bought this book. I have probably bought around thousand of books in my life, but I could not tell you where I bought half of these books. Because of the impact this book had upon my life I still remember a number of details from when I purchased the book. I remember going to a small Christian bookstore in Texas, while on a mission trip and purchasing this book. Afterwards, I remember going to get Ice Cream next door and hanging out with the mission team. The only reason I include these details is to demonstrate the impact that this book had upon my life. I can describe my understanding of scripture before and after this book and the difference in which it had upon the way I viewed scripture/the Christian life.
Piper thesis of the book is to demonstrate how scripture calls for Christian Hedonism. Hedonism is generally a derogatory term used to describe someone, who does whatever he can to receive the most pleasure. The reason the term is generally derogatory is because it is used in reference to people who often rape, pillage, steal, and kill all for pleasures sake. Piper then takes this term combined with the Westminster Confession Shorter Catechism question one and demonstrates this theme throughout scripture. Piper makes an incredible argument, that scripture calls for a believer to pursue their delight in Christ above all things. Piper argues that, "the chief end of man is to glorify God Ã¢â¬ËBY' enjoying him forever." After Piper has well defended Christian hedonism, he then shows what this looks like in every area of life:
Conversion: The creation of the Christian Hedonist
Worship: The feast of the Christian Hedonist
Love: The labor of the Christian Hedonist
Scripture: The kindling of the Christian Hedonist
Prayer: The power if the Christian Hedonist
Money: The currency of the Christian Hedonist
Marriage: the matrix for the Christian Hedonist
Missions: The battle cry of the Christian Hedonist
Suffering: The Sacrifice of Christian Hedonist
I can think of no greater book I would recommend to a new believer looking for good Christian literature. If you haven't read the book, go buy it! You may end up disagreeing with it at points, but it will still have a great impact upon your life and theology, I know it did in mine. Having had a chance now to look back upon this book with four years of college and a couple years of seminary behind me, I find new joys/ comforts in the book. At first the book was a meal for me. It may not continue to be a meal for you depending upon where you are in your theological education, but it will definitely be a dessert that you look forward too. Pick the book up and read it for the first time or a second time and you will be reminded of the joys of the Christian life.