Christian Hedonism: A Summary by John Piper
In the comments section of our recent post "'Do Hard Things' Doesn't Mean You Can't Have Fun," a discussion ensued during which the term "Christian Hedonism" was repeatedly mentioned. Daniel asked, "[W]hat is a Christian Hedonist? Sounds kinda shady to me..."
We're sure Daniel wasn't the only one wondering, hence this post. We encourage all of our readers — even those already familiar with the principle — to read the following summary by Pastor John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church and Desiring God Ministries.
Pastor, theologian, author, and speaker, Piper has authored well over 20 books and is a regular contributor to WORLD Magazine. His book "Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist" coined "Christian Hedonism" as a description of the doctrine he summarizes below:
Christian Hedonism: A Summary
by John Piper
A "Christian Hedonist" sounds like a contradiction, doesn't it? If the term makes you squirm, we understand. But don't throw this paper away just yet. We're not heretics (really!). Nor have we invented another prosperity-obsessed theology by twisting the Bible to sanctify our greed or lust. We are simply stating an ancient, orthodox, Biblical truth in a fresh way.
"All men seek happiness," says Blaise Pascal. "This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves." We believe Pascal is right. And, with Pascal, we believe God purposefully designed us to pursue happiness.
Does seeking your own happiness sound self-centered? Aren't Christians supposed to seek God, not their own pleasure? To answer this question we need to understand a crucial truth about pleasure-seeking (hedonism): we value most what we delight in most. Pleasure is not God's competitor, idols are. Pleasure is simply a gauge that measures how valuable someone or something is to us. Pleasure is the measure of our treasure.
We know this intuitively. If a friend says to you, "I really enjoy being with you," you wouldn't accuse him of being self-centered. Why? Because your friend's delight in you is the evidence that you have great value in his heart. In fact, you'd be dishonored if he didn't experience any pleasure in your friendship. The same is true of God. If God is the source of our greatest delight then God is our most precious treasure; which makes us radically God-centered and not self-centered. And if we treasure God most, we glorify Him most.
Does the Bible teach this? Yes. Nowhere in the Bible does God condemn people for longing to be happy. People are condemned for forsaking God and seeking their happiness elsewhere (Jeremiah 2:13). This is the essence of sin. The Bible actually commands us to delight in the Lord (Psalm 37:4). Jesus teaches us to love God more than money because our heart is where our treasure is (Matt. 6:21). Paul wants us to believe that gaining Christ is worth the loss of everything else (Phil 3:8) and the author of Hebrews exhorts us to endure suffering, like Jesus, for the joy set before us (Heb. 12: 1-2). Examine the Scriptures and you'll see this over and over again.
Christian Hedonism is not a contradiction after all. It is desiring the vast, ocean-deep pleasures of God more than the mud-puddle pleasures of wealth, power or lust. We're Christian Hedonists because we believe Psalm 16:11, "You show me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy, in Your right hand are pleasures for evermore."
Join us in this pursuit of satisfaction in God, because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.
This article can be found at Desiring God Ministries' website.