Could John Piper Be Wrong?

Answer: Yes.  Of course.  We are all human and all open to error.

If you have known anything about Dr. Piper’s ministry you have heard the term, “Christian Hedonism.”  If there is anything that makes me cringe just a little, it is that the word hedonism, which is largely associated with the saturation of fleshly pleasure, could be associated with the word “Christian.” Sometimes I wish Dr. Piper used a different term for what he was trying to convey in his book, Desiring God. Regardless of this term, how could I possibly disagree with the underlying statement that he uses to define it? “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”  

To Christians, the word “pleasure” seems to have become a dirty word.  When we think of pleasure we most often think of fleshly humanistic pursuits of lust or entertainment that distract us from lives of holiness. But this is not the case.  God actually wants us to enjoy the greatest pleasure that he himself enjoys. We find God’s pleasure announced in the anointing of Jesus for ministry at his baptism (Matt 3:17).  The Father said, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.” The pleasure that God wants us to have is so essentially beautiful that God wants us to grip it with full intention to enjoy.  That pleasure is Christ.

God is essentially pleased with himself and so he should be.  He is the perfect, unlimited, glorious God of the universe.  His self-existent and eternal glory shines forth his complete satisfaction that he has in himself.  As God revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ, his perfect pleasure in his triune nature is pronounced upon his perfect Son. God is pleased with Jesus for good reason. He is perfect, sinless, obedient, true and every other description of goodness we could possibly muster. This tells us that true pleasure has a standard.  We are pleased in what we determine to be good. The objects of our pleasure tell us something about how we determine what is good. So, when we are assessing what we take pleasure in, we should be careful to ask what our standard of goodness really is.  Why does this please us? How does this show the good and glorious pleasure that the Father takes in the Son?

Pleasure is ultimately caused by the engagement or stimulation of the affections of our heart. This is why pleasure has become such a precarious subject for a humanity with essentially sinful hearts. What we take most pleasure in will expose the state of our heart. The less we look at the beautiful perfection of Christ, the more warped our idea of pleasure becomes. We are not pleased by what repulses us, only by that which attracts us.

Surely, we don’t find Christ repulsive. Do we?

Let’s look for a moment at what pleases God. “(God) was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles..” (Gal 1:16). “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” (1 Cor 1:21). “For in him (Jesus) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” (Col 1:19).

At the end of the day, we can conclude that God takes pleasure in the saving work and person of Christ. If Christ is the object of God’s pleasure, how much more should it be ours? This is our great question. Does our pleasure primarily flow from our affection for Jesus or self?

We can debate about whether or not John Piper should have used the word ‘hedonism’ in his teaching. Ultimately, his defining statement is far from wrong.  God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied (pleased) in him. Particularly, when we are pleased in Christ.

2 Cor 5:9 – Whether at home or away, we make it our aim to please him! As we finish with this verse I cannot help but wonder how we could possibly do anything other than please him if Christ is our true pleasure.