reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Christian Hedonism - not quite there...

posted by Little Mo | Permalink | 20 comments

Ok, I know it’s practically considered heresy to disagree with John "the magic" Piper in some circles, and I want to caveat what I am about to say by saying that there is no one Christian writer who has influenced me more over the last few years than that distinguished American gentleman.

Yet, on reflection, I find myself unable to totally wholeheartedly subscribe to Christian hedonism. My questions may be answerable, I don’t really know – but here are my objections.

1) Some of the examples used to “prove” that God is not glorified properly unless we give him what he deserves joyfully don’t really prove that. So Piper (and Sam Storms who I have been reading recently as well) makes a big deal about honouring one’s wife by loving her so much that you honour her, rather than because one feels obligated to. Not being married I can’t fully comment on that. But doesn’t it speak even more of her worth, and the worth of the relationship that I honour her, do what is best for her at my own cost even when she is doing my head in and getting on my nerves? Isn’t sometimes more honouring to God that I don’t feel the pleasure of obeying him and yet do so?

2) Scripturally I am not convinced. Experientially there is sometimes joy in obeying God. But sometimes not. Jesus expressed loud groans to God when facing death. Particularly, I don’t know how the command often expressed by Chrstian Hedonists to pursue one’s own joy as hard as you can fits in with the command to deny yourself, which is key to repentance. Denying yourself is sometimes not joyful, and surely actually means that the heart of Christian discipleship is NOT doing what will bring you most joy but denying yourself that.

3) Lastly, and this is a really major question, I’m not sure how one teaches Christian hedonism evangelistically without it being therapy Gospel: “These sins make you happy, but Jesus will make you really happy.” It’s actually been Sam Storms rather less complex presentation of Christian hedonism that has most raised this question for me, for that is what he recommends saying pastorally to people who want to sin. How is that not the therapy Gospel? I’m not sure.

So there you have it – perhaps I am a heretic, but that’s why I can’t sign up to be a full blown Christian hedonist.

Of course, it could just be that I am on a very delayed train home with a sore throat and so I don’t feel much like rejoicing in the Gospel at the moment…