A few women in our church have been reading John Piper’s radical book Desiring God. We’ve got a couple chapters left to read and already have a ton to pray about, think about, and apply. I couldnít recommend his work highly enough. To give you a taste of Piper’s thoughts on Christian Hedonism (yeah, it’s a biblical concept!) Iíll post my thoughts on the first chapter titled “How I Became a Christian Hedonist” which, as you might expect, outlines his thesis and the bookís direction.
Thoughts on Chapter One
The idea of being “far too easily pleased” is, actually, a really radical thought (from Piper quoting C. S. Lewisí Weight of Glory in the Introduction.) I can think of several times in my life when I thought whatever I was doing at the moment was perfection. As Piper is going to argue, we can be immeasurably happier in Godís happiness. I think that people, me included, are almost afraid to adopt this incredibly high call to action. How different our lives would look if we believed that happiness was mandated by God, through God.
The next logical question would be that if God is all about his own happiness, how is sin allowed in the world? I believe in the section “Who Planned the Murder of Christ” this question is well answered. The fact that God foreknew the death of his Son really does fly in the face of people who would have a problem with “God who allows evil.” God must know what he is doing if he prescribed Jesus’ death on the cross. Also, God must have incredible love if he also prescribed Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. In “It was the Will of the Lord to Crush Him” Piper uses the analogy that God contemplates a mosaic filled with both dark and bright tiles, filling Godís heart with joy. It seems to me that the key to understanding the presence of evil is that God is always pleased with his happiness.
As a side note, I really liked the distinction Piper makes about nature being the glory of God, not a god. Being a student at a fairly hippie-college, I see the environment worshipped on regular basis sometimes to the point of debasing humans! To be fair, I always enjoy a good mountain or ocean. What’s the purpose of beauty in the most basic natural environments? Turning again to Lewis, the old professor comments that nature never taught him anything about the existence of God, but it did teach him the glory of God. Why do you think it is so easy for the half-truth that god-is-nature be promulgated?
Is God for us or Himself? That is the question that Piper says heís going to answer in this book about “Christian Hedonism”. Before we begin to discuss the answer, I think it is going to be crucial that we think about humans in their proper place and God in His proper place. Humans only glean any sort of importance by being image-bears of God. Our worth derives only from the Creator. I was thinking – if we had been made by a mosquito, as an extreme example, we would not be worth very much at all because mosquitoes are pretty low on the totem pole. Humans donít estimate the blood-sucking, malaria-spreading bugs to be exalted at all. Furthermore, the mosquito has never told us anything about its value or importance. If we were made by a creative mosquito we would, ourselves, not be very impressive. But we were made by a divine, infinite, and loving God who is happy and wants us to be happy because He is happy. Personally, I need to repent and turn from the sin of self-pity and self-loathing. I was nothing special before Jesus, but am very special through Jesus. As soon as we grasp that truth, then weíll begin to live like the saints we are.
Another question, why do you think some people have trouble with this idea of pleasure being a godly pursuit? I suppose Iím thinking of especially rigid people like fundamentalists and others. I think that the reluctance to accept fun and joy as a mandate of Christianity is a mark that sin has stained the world, and that Satan is so crafty as to feed half-truths to people that they react in the extreme.