Friday, September 30, 2011

Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, by John Piper


As Joey Tribbiani once said, there is no such thing as a truly selfless act--the only reason people do anything is, on some level, because they see it as somehow being in their own self interest.  And on some level, John Piper seems to agree with him.  I like his overall point--that we glorify God by enjoying Him--but I'm not sure this book needed to be quite so long. Granted, I was already in agreement with Piper and thus was not a tough sell, but it still seems like he could have made his point in fewer than 300 pages (plus another 150 pages of appendices).

Still, I appreciate his encouragement to enjoy God. So many Christians obey merely out of duty, and while I think God is still glorified when we choose to obey Him in the absence of an emotional desire to do so, I don't doubt that we should seek to obey with joy. As Piper notes, the relationship between Christ and the church is pictured by human marriage, and no spouse wants to be loved only out of obligation. There will certainly be times when duty is what drives us, but if it is all that drives us, the marriage will hardly be the vibrant picture of sacrificial love that it was intended to be.

Piper does his best to address the criticisms that have been offered since he first started his platform of Christian Hedonism--that is, that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (a slight tweaking of the Westminster Catechism), and that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. I don't think Piper's wrong in his choice of label, nor do I think the idea itself is theologically questionable. However, I do see the potential for abuse. Piper certainly does not mean to encourage human-centered theology, or to make emotions and pleasure into gods, but I can definitely see how a philosophy of Christian Hedonism could be vulnerable to a general tendency to drift in that direction. In other words, he's not wrong, but Christian Hedonists will need to be very careful to keep God's glory--as opposed to man's pleasure--at the center of their beliefs.

All in all, it's a decent enough book, and encouraging for those of us with a tendency to prioritize obedience over emotion.

No comments: