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.”