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Frequently Asked Questions about Christian Hedonism
Copyright © 2004, 2005 - All rights retained by author
Written by: C. W. Booth

Before reading the following questions and answers about the doctrines and philosophies of Christian Hedonism, you may wish to read the article A Biblical Study of the Theological Foundation of "Christian Hedonism" . That article provides a deeper elaboration of where the philosophy of Christian Hedonism is in apparent conflict with Scripture..

Each of the questions and answers below discuss in a general way the doctrine of Christian Hedonism as defined in the books Desiring God and Dangerous Duty and compares those concepts with the Scriptures. Of a certainty no one will agree with all the opinions offered, however, it is hoped that a sincere questioning of the published philosophies will drive Christians back to the Bible to dig out the answers for themselves to resolve lingering questions or concerns.


Q1 - How do you define "hedonism" and "pleasure"?
Q2 - Isn't Christian Hedonism just another way of saying, "God rewards good behavior"?
Q3 - Do you believe that the Bible teaches a conflict between pursuing my own pleasure and loving God?
Q4 - If "joy" or "pleasure" is not the greatest goal of Christians, what is?
Q5 - Donít you have to choose between "hedonism" and "joyless duty"?
Q6 - Isn't Christian Hedonism just another way of saying to God, "I love you"?
Q7 - Werenít the Pharisees severely condemned by Jesus for worshipping God without cultivating sufficient joy in the temple services?
Q8 - If it is not the emotion of joy that makes worship "authentic", then what does?
Q9 - If it werenít called "Christian Hedonism" would you still have a problem with the philosophy?
Q10 - Isnít there a Bible verse that tells us what most glorifies God?
Q11 - Can I still be saved even if I donít convert to Christian Hedonism?
Q12 - Why do you make such a fuss over the term Christian Hedonism when "hedonism" isnít even mentioned in the Bible?
Q13 - Every evangelical/fundamental pastor endorses Christian Hedonism, doesnít that prove you are wrong to reject it?
Q14 - Isnít it more godly to disagree in secret, why publish your counter-arguments on the web?
Q15 - What is the most frequent criticism you receive regarding your articles on Christian Hedonism?
Q16 - Do you consider Christian Hedonism to be a cult?
Q17 - I feel Christian Hedonism is helping me grow, whatís wrong with that?
Q18 - I want to be happy; how can I be happy if not through converting to Christian Hedonism?
Q19 - I donít see any real difference between what you teach and what Christian Hedonism teaches; what do you see as the difference?
Q20 - Why do Christian Hedonists seem to abruptly stop talking as soon as you ask for Scripture?
Q21 - Are there any Bible passages that actually counsel against hedonism or argue against the pursuit of pleasure?
Q22 - If I reject the doctrine of Christian Hedonism, is there any spiritual condemnation in store for me?
Q23 - Why do you say that Christian Hedonism majors on the infinitesimally minor?
Q24 - Isnít Christian Hedonism just a way of restoring joy to the church?
Q25 - Isnít it true that non-hedonist Christians are really just dead, joyless, useless believers who displease God?
Q26 - As a summary statement of the Bible, isnít "pursue pleasure" more encompassing than "love God" (Matthew 22:37)?
Q27 - Is the goal of worship about getting pleasure, or is it something else?
Q28 - Whatís really the harm in emphasizing "the pursuit of pleasure"?
Q29 - Isnít the command to delight in God the same as saying we are commanded to "pursue pleasure"?
Q30 - If I find a Bible verse that calls me to be joyful, havenít I proven Christian Hedonism is correct?
Q31 - You quoted Dr. Piperís writing well enough, but the quote does not really communicate what he really wanted to say.
Q32 - So Piper pushed the pendulum back to the other side, away from dead unemotionalism, whatís wrong with bringing some emotional balance back to the churches?
Q33 - Werenít C.S.Lewis and the Apostle Paul both Christian Hedonists?
Q34 - Wasnít Jesus motivated to redeem mankind because He was seeking His own joy?
Q35 - If I just substitute the word "joy" for "pleasure" doesnít Christian Hedonism become biblical?
Q36 - Isn't the doctrine of the Trinity similar to Christian Hedonism in that it is a label and a doctrine not explicitly taught in the Bible but is nonetheless true?
Q37 - Is God a Hedonist?
Q38 - Is God Pleasure? (A question on the nature of God.)

Final Question - Why donít you folks at thefaithfulword.org website get it? Itís not ordinary hedonism, itís hedonistic pleasure "in God".

Other Questions to be answered at a later date:

Click here to read the answers to questions 1 through 20 sequentially.

Click here to read the answers to questions 21 through 37 sequentially.

Click here to read the answers to questions 38 through the final question sequentially.


Question 21.

Are there any Bible passages that actually counsel against hedonism or argue against the pursuit of pleasure?

Answer 21.

There are many such passages:

It is better to go to a house of mourning Than to go to a house of feasting, Because that is the end of every man, And the living takes it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, For when a face is sad a heart may be happy. The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure. (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4)

"Hedonism" is both mentioned in the Bible and is severely condemned by the Bible. In the Greek the word "hedone" means "hedonism" or "pleasure". This word is used in James 4:1-3:

"What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your hedonism that wage[s] war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your hedonism."

Many more such passages can be found in the article: List of Bible Verses that Challenge Hedonism.

A counter-argument some may use regarding passages that devalue and deflate pleasure and hedonism might be, "but these passages do not explicitly forbid living by the philosophy of hedonism, they merely counsel against it." True. However, to state the same objection in slightly different words would be to say, "fortunately, God only calls hedonism and the lifestyle of pursuing pleasure to be unwise and foolish, but He does not outlaw it, so we can still pursue it with all our strength." As always, it is up to the individual to decide how appropriate it is to pursue an unwise and foolish lifestyle.

The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure. (Ecclesiastes 7:4)


Question 22.

If I reject the doctrine of Christian Hedonism, is there any spiritual condemnation in store for me?

Answer 22.

At least two times in Desiring God the statement is made, "God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy." (pages 9, 289) What evidence is given, what Scripture is quoted, to support this allegation? If there is no legitimate Scripture to back up this frightening allegation, it amounts to little more than scare tactics and abusive attention-grabbing verbal stunts. Such approaches to Bible study are not edifying, not helpful, nor are they in compliance with the Word when it says to accurately divide the Scriptures.

On page 289 of Desiring God, we are told that those who will not be happy enough will suffer the curses described in Deuteronomy 28:47,28;

"What language shall we borrow to awaken joyless believers to the words of Deuteronomy 28:47,28? ĎBecause you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heartÖtherefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against youÖand he will put a yoke of iron upon your neck, until he has destroyed you.í How shall we open their eyes to the shout of Jeremy Taylor: ĎGod threatens terrible things, if we will not be happy!í?"

But is Desiring God quoting Deuteronomy 28:47,48 in a legitimate manner? Does Deuteronomy 28 really threaten believers with curses, "terrible things", and destruction if they are "not happy" enough?

No, bluntly stated, Desiring God does not properly quote, nor interpret Deuteronomy 28 in a manner that any Christian should find legitimate or proper. And nowhere in all the Bible is there a passage of Scripture, when quoted and interpreted in context, that says God will curse and destroy believers for not having sufficient gladness or happiness.

Deuteronomy 28, in context, actually says that the reason these Jews were going to be judged was because they did not "diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today" (28:1b) and "obey the LORD your God" (28:2b), and they did not "listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I charge you today, to observe them carefully, and do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them." (28:13b,14).

And since the people did break the Law and disobey the commandments: "But it shall come about, if you do not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you." (28:15)

The list of curses is quite lengthy, including wives being violated, children becoming slaves, and even the land being eaten by pests. Why such curses?

"So all these curses shall come on you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you would not obey the LORD your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. (28:45)

Good Bible study requires that we evaluate passages in context. From verse 1 of Deuteronomy 28 through the last verse, verse 68, the curses are given because the people "did not obey the LORD your God" (28:62b) and also "If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, to fear this honored and awesome name, the LORD your God" (28:58). Notice well, the entire Law, all the statutes, all the commandments were to be followed because the Law was Godís gift to the Jews. When the Jews failed to uphold it, and when they purposely turned to "go after other gods to serve them" (28:14b), then God would curse them with all these plagues.

It is in this context that verses 46 and 47 reside. These are not verses that describe the nation being cursed because the people "would not be happy" enough, but it describes the nation being cursed because they broke the Law of God and followed after other gods.

45. "So all these curses shall come on you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you would not obey the LORD your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you.

46. "They shall become a sign and a wonder on you and your descendants forever.

47. "Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things;

48. therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack of all things; and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you.

Careful students of the Bible will see that in context (and quoted in full and not simply in part) that these verses rebuke the nation for grossly breaking the whole of the Law and for serving other gods instead of gladly obeying the entire Law and joyfully serving the true God. Put another way, service to the true God is a joyful duty, a light burden, an easy yoke by comparison with breaking the Law.

In other words which are more familiar to us, the more obedient we are the more blessed we are, and the more blessed we are, the more we can express our gratitude back to God with a glad and joyful heart (see Matthew 5:1-12). Happiness attends and follows obedience. Happiness attends and follows duty.

In Deuteronomy 28, if the people abandoned their duty and their obedience then they would be punished; if they threw off their joyful duty to pursue their pleasures and to chase after hedonism. Punished if they followed a false god. Then they were to be cursed.

It is all but impossible to read Deuteronomy 28 and conclude that the sin the people were cursed for was that they did not have sufficient happiness. Only someone who is blinded by devotion to a manmade philosophy will presuppose such a thing from a full reading of Deuteronomy 28. The people were cursed for breaking the Law and for chasing false gods to satisfy their own desires.

Since no legitimate passage of Scripture says that we will be cursed by God if we are not happy enough, one is all but forced to conclude that the book Desiring God uses the shocking statement "God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy" so that we will be intimidated into adopting the tenets of the philosophy of hedonism. Is this truly how God desired for us to make use of His Word? In fact, I wonder if it is not too strong a thing to speculate if that phrase ("God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy") amounts to a counterfeit commandment which only appears to come from God but indeed does not?


Question 23.

Why do you say that Christian Hedonism majors on the infinitesimally minor?

Answer 23.

It is popular in Christian circles today to hear pastors and teachers ask their congregations to "major on the majors and minor in the minors." What they mean by this expression is that there are some extraordinarily important doctrines and responsibilities that predominate the whole of the Scriptures--these are the majors. There are also doctrines and practices that are mentioned but once or twice in the Word and which would seem to have little impact on achieving the grander visions God has ordained in His Word--these are the minors.

Personally, I am not much of a fan of the concept of "major in the majors and minor in the minors" yet I do understand the general concept of not making a bigger priority matter out of certain areas of life than what the Word would indicate they ought to be. "Sin no more", big matter; "men should not have long hair", smaller matter. Priorities help us decide where we spend time studying, meditating, and laboring.

To be considered a "major" or a "big matter", there must be a whelming wealth of Bible verses instructing us toward the major. If "do not sin" is a major, I ought to find this command and this principle everywhere in the Word, Old Testament and New Testament, epistles and gospels.

Regarding "pursue pleasure with all your strength", Christian Hedonism, where is the abundance of biblical commands emphasizing our emotional state over our obedience or even over our love? If Christian Hedonism and its command to pursue pleasure as our "highest calling" is not simply a "major" but THE major, the Bible must be replete with commandments to "pursue pleasure with all our strength" and the Bible must be overflowing with directives to put our feelings and our emotions ahead of duty, obedience, and love.

C.S. Lewis wrote (in letter 17 from the published work Letters to Malcolm) that experiencing pleasure and then attempting to see tangible hints of the glory of God in that pleasure was merely the "adoration in infinitesimals". To emphasize that the experience of pleasure was an infinitesimally small thing compared with the major themes of Scripture, Lewis further wrote to Malcolm that "the simplest act of mere obedience is worship of a far more important sort than what Iíve been describing" regarding pleasure because the Scriptures clearly tell us that "to obey is better than sacrifice". To Lewis obedience is the "far more important" major while experiencing pleasures are the infinitesimally small minor.

Historically, few if any Christians have found that the Bible puts feelings and emotions ahead of duty, obedience, and love. Pleasure was never thought to be a goal to be pursued but rather was thought to be a gift from God for a life of faithful devotion. Emotions have traditionally been found to occupy a more minor seat while love, obedience, and duty predominate as the major themes of Scripture and the priority for our lives. Now, suddenly, in the 1980s a new doctrine is published in a book by a single individual which claims that emotions and the pursuit of pleasure are our "highest calling" and chief duty, THE major of all majors.

As with any modern doctrine, one must ask, did God really wait around for 2000 years following the last recorded Scriptures before revealing His true will regarding human emotions and pleasure, and did He really select an extra-biblical philosophy book in which to publish this revelation to His people?

Everything we have needed for holy living, sound doctrine, worship, and Christian growth have been available to the church for 2000 years. So let us return to that standard. Where are the genuine tangible calls to seek pleasure for ourselves? Where are the passages that elevate enjoyment as a highest of all duties?

Honestly, and that is what I am seeking here, honesty, the Word is never focused on our emotions over our conduct. Where are the Bible verses that describe knowing we are saved based on our emotions? Not finding such an abundance, instead, I can find a wealth of Bible verses that tell us to evaluate our level of obedience to see if we are in the faith. For example, how often do we read the directive that He who loves Christ will keep His commandments?

The fact of the matter is, emotions are simply not esteemed in the Word as highly as are love, faith, hope, and obedience. Emotional responses are certainly discussed in the Word, but they are not given priority. Those who fight against that idea must invent "new Scripture" to make it sound as if emotions were highly important. One such example is when Dr. Piper wrote as part of a rhetorical question, "unless a man is born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the kingdom of God." If the Word had actually said such a thing even but one time anywhere in all the Bible Piper would not have had to bastardize a genuine Bible passage to make his point. This is a classic example of making "a major" (the doctrine of salvation) out of not just a minor, but out of a manís imagination.

Nor would he have to use the one verse fragment, "delight yourself in the Lord," out of its context over and over and over again, most often erroneously calling this fragment of a promise a "command of God", if such genuine commands existed.

When legitimate Scripture makes something a priority, it is plain and evident when it does so. What is the greatest of all commandments? Everyone knows it is "love God" because the text of the Word says, "there is no commandment greater". No ambiguity, no need to invent pseudo-Scriptures.

When "love" is set against two other great elements of our religion, "faith" and "hope", which is the greater? Again, no guesswork needed. Plain text from 1 Corinthians 13 explicitly states that love is greater.

And just what is this love that the Bible refers to as the most major of all our commands and pursuits? Yes, even the youngest of children know because it is so often and plainly told us that to love God is to obey God. Again, due to the abundance and the straightforward language of the Word we know that love is the greatest of all commandments and that the primary definition of love is to obey God.

Where are the same indisputable and obvious Bible verses that say, "pursue pleasure", "convert to hedonism", "be thou devoted to the pursuit of pleasure", "terrible things will happen if you are not happy enough", "worship is only authentic when you are elevated in an emotional ecstasy above the working of your thinking mind"?

Since there are no such Bible verses you can be certain, absolutely certain, that God does not require such counterfeit commands to be placed onto His people, nor will He hold us accountable to live by them. For this reason the one who is converted to Christ away from sin but remains unconverted to the philosophy of Christian Hedonism is not imperiled in his Christian walk nor in his eternal salvation.

Had there been even a few Bible verses to establish the fundamental concept that God wants us to pursue pleasures at all, pleasure seeking may have been legitimately held to be a minor doctrine. Given that there are no commands at all in the Word that elevate the pursuit of pleasure "with all our strength" to be our highest calling (which would make the pursuit-of-pleasure into actual "hedonism") then we know that "Christian Hedonism" is not even a genuine doctrine of Scripture at all. Since "Christian Hedonism" is not a legitimate doctrine of the Bible, not to mention that it does not even qualify as a minor doctrine, permit me to ask this question: Why does the church tolerate this philosophy to be used in the Sunday School classroom as if it were a God-sanctioned doctrine?

Major in the majors. Fine. Minor in the minors. Fine. But why major in a philosophy that is not even qualified to be called a minor? There is little enough time on this Earth for man; let us redeem the time and redouble our efforts to love God, love our neighbors, fear God, and keep His commandments, for after all, is this not the entire duty of man?


Question 24.

Isnít Christian Hedonism just a way of restoring joy to the church?

Answer 24.

In order to make the concept of restoration meaningful, it must first be demonstrated that the essential quantity or quality of joy is lacking. When a piece of artwork is "restored" at a museum, the curator must first decide if the artwork has sufficiently degraded over time so as to justify the invasive procedures that the use of modern materials and tools will inflict on the nature of the artwork.

Such a decision is made on the basis of comparison to what the original "should" have looked like. Sometimes it is obvious because actual paint is missing from the present version. Sometimes the colors have so faded it is no longer possible to see details that once must have been distinct. At those times the decision to restore is simpler.

At other times it is not. Perhaps the curator does not like the depth of red in the painting, so he asks the restoration artist to deepen it. The restoration artist replies, "no, that is the true extent of the red that the artist intended, so I will not deepen it." Who is correct? Had there been a digital reference photograph to compare to, the debate would be over. Without it, the debate over whether to restore comes down to preference.

And so it is with the depth of "joy" in the church today. Many Christian Hedonists demand a demonstration of a higher level of joy within the church. That is their preference, so they have asked for a restoration project on the church. But is such a project truly restoration or the invasive imposing of their preferences onto the church using the modern tool of hedonism?

Our standard of conduct is the Word, not preference. Just as it would be possible to determine if artwork needed restoration to some original state by comparing it to a digital photograph, we can compare the church, and ourselves, to the Word of God and determine what needs to be repaired.

What is the optimum and perfect "level of joy" that the Bible requires of the church? No such standard is described. Instead, the Word defines joy as a fruit of the Spirit. An outcome of continued growth and sanctification. As such, we can assume it is all but absent at our re-birth and grows over time as we learn to obey God and perform His will as we are conformed to it.

To impose an arbitrary standard is to adulterate the Word of God with legalism. And at what level would this arbitrary standard be applied? At the heart level or at the external level? When the face smiles the heart can be sad, and when the face is sad the heart can still be joyful; so which standard is to be imposed?

Christian Hedonism would take the entire "restoration" to an odd extreme if it were permitted. Christian Hedonism requires that men pursue their own pleasures with all their strength. This standard of "personal level of joy" is nowhere found in the Word. In fact, that arbitrary preference is in conflict with those standards which are genuine, such as to love God with all your strength.

Rather than "restore joy" to the church, Christian Hedonism threatens to ruin the artwork entirely by painting over the original with a heavy topcoat of a just one color, hedonism, and mask all that the Master intended with His own strokes. Hedonism is not the restoration of joy to the church, it is the usurping of genuine Scriptural priorities, such as "love God with all your strength", with a new preference never seen or imposed on the church before in history. Let us thank God that He gave us His standard for what the finished Master Piece should look life for all human history.


Question 25.

Isnít it true that non-hedonist Christians are really just dead, joyless, useless believers who displease God?

Answer 25.

Someone who has intentionally assumed for themselves the label of "Christian Hedonist" subscribes to a certain philosophy. That philosophy requires them to pursue pleasure in God as their primary goal in this life and the next.

In turn, anyone who has not converted to the philosophy of hedonism may be judged by some hedonists as emotionally dead, joyless, and therefore useless to the kingdom of God. This judgment is based on a number of false assumptions about the Word and about the philosophy of Christian Hedonism.

The first false assumption made is that if someone is not pursuing their own pleasures as their primary goal then they must not have any joy at all. Such a person making this assumption is so mentally and visually focused on "joy" and "pleasure" as the purpose of life that he misses the chasm of separation in meaning between the terms "joyless" and "being consumed with nothing but my own joys and pleasure."

Joy is one of the things that brings hedonists pleasure, so they pursue it. By contrast, If a non-hedonist is motivated to act out of say, love, and not from a desire for personal pleasure (joy) then the hedonist accuses them of being "joyless".

Hedonism is blind to the fact that non-hedonists can be motivated by the entire spectrum of emotions, biblical reasons, and commandments. At any given time, a non-hedonist may be spurred to godly action by the fear of God, or by sympathy for a neighbor, or by a sense of duty, or by compassion. In fact, a non-hedonist believer is open to any form of godly influence by which to justify obedience to God and His Word.

Hedonists are narrowly restricted to act only on that which they feel will bring them pleasure. All motives and actions are measured by "will this bring me more pleasure in God than I had a moment ago?"

When one is spurred on to serve God from a selfless desire to please God he is never useless, dead, or joyless. Every Christian will grow in joy over time, for it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Sooner or later the bud of joy will begin growing and God will raise up such a one to experience the joy of the Lord, in His own good timing.

When that believer acts on his desire to please God, rather than to please himself, he becomes useful.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. (2 Peter 1:2-11)

It is not pleasure-seeking nor joy that render a man useful and fruitful. Rather it is the qualities of moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.

The absence of these qualities makes one blind or short-sighted and forgetful. Therefore, it is the one who concentrates on his own pleasures alone that is in more serious danger of becoming unproductive for the kingdom than the one who concentrates on duties instead of pleasure; duties such as self-control and love.

Joy and pleasure-seeking are not the qualities by which God judges usefulness and spiritual deadness. Those who do judge other believers on the basis of how much joy they display are themselves in danger of judgment:

Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:4)

Never have I known a believer, a servant of God, who is "dead" for God has granted such a one new life. Nor have I known a believer who is "joyless" for all believers sooner or later experience some level of joy in their Christian walk with Christ.

When a hedonist accuses traditional Christians and their churches of being "dead", "joyless", and "useless" they are actually saying, "they do not meet my own personal preferences for outward displays of joy and pleasure-seeking therefore I have no use for them." Such hedonists are to be pitied for they have missed a vital element of being a Christian; they have missed the unity in Spirit with all Godís children.


Question 26.

As a summary statement of the Bible, isnít "pursue pleasure" more encompassing than "love God" (Matthew 22:37)?

Answer 26.

Asked another way the question might be: "Isnít Christian Hedonism just a summary statement of all the Bible teaches?"

In either case, the answer is still the same. No, the pursuit of pleasure and Christian Hedonism are not summary statements that in aggregate describe in single phrases everything that the Bible attempts to explain and teach.

This question has been asked to me and even stated at me as a "fact" many times. For anyone to think that the Bible adds up to one giant summation that means "pursue your own pleasure in God as your highest calling and most important duty" is to ignore what the Bible says of itself.

Of itself, the Bible says that there is one all encompassing summary statement that combines the intent of every law from the Old Testament and every precept uttered by a prophet in the New Testament.

And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'

"This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40)

The word "depend" means "to hang from", as a suspension bridge would hang from one of its two giant support cables. The bridge and the lives of all those who use it are completely reliant on those two cables for their support and usefulness of the bridge.

Every law and every word of the prophets are reliant on one of two summary statements:

  • Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
  • Love your neighbor as yourself.

Paul understood well that love for God and love for your neighbor were the two summations of the Word.

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)

Even the scribe who questioned Jesus came to understand that there was no higher summary of all that is written in the Word than to love God with all your strength and to love your neighbor with as much sincerity as you love yourself.

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.' The second is this, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

The scribe said to Him, "Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE'S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions. (Mark 12:28-34)

And what does it mean to love God? Many answers are possible, but one answer is predominant through the entirety of Scripture:

    • "TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE'S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Mark 12:33b)
    • Samuel said, "Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)
    • "Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul." (Joshua 22:5)
    • If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (John 14:15 )
    • He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves MeÖ(John 14:21 )
    • If you keep my commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept my Fatherís commandments, and abide in His love. (John 15:10 )
    • Öwhat matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. (1Cor.7:19 )
    • Öyou received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please GodÖfor you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. (1Thes.4:1,2 )
    • And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. (1John 2:3 )
    • But whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. (1John 2:5a)
    • By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. (1John 5:2)
    • For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. (1John 5:3 )
    • And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. (2 John 1:6a)

There is no higher summary statement of the Word than the two which Jesus Himself delivered to us: Love God with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Everything written in the Word depends on these two summary statements. And what is love except that we fear and obey the Lord.

"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." (Eccl.12:13 NIV)


Question 27.

Is the goal of worship about getting pleasure, or is it something else?

Answer 27.

If you will pardon the brevity, I would like to reference you to three articles which address this question in some depth:

Forget the Theories of Authentic Worship--Please Just Give Me a Bible Verse

Music, Worship, and Spiritual Gifts

Mega Churches: Postmodern Seeker Sensitivity

Worship is about service to God and to others (Romans 12), it is about edifying one another verbally (1 Corinthians 14:26), it is about praising the Lord of our salvation (Hebrews 2:12). We can worship in our grief and mourning (Eccl. 7:2), in cheerfulness and joy (2 Chron.29:30), in depression and desperation (Jonah 1:13,14), and in fear and trembling (Mark 5:33). Yet we find nowhere that the goal of worship is to attain pleasure for ourselves.


Question 28.

Whatís really the harm in emphasizing "the pursuit of pleasure"?

Answer 28.

Whenever an extra-biblical doctrine is created and taught broadly this question must be addressed: "What is the possible harm?"

As is pointed out in FAQ 17 there may not be any harm at all depending on what the Christian believes the new doctrine teaches, or, in how the Christian acts upon what he hears. On the other hand, there are also many possible unhappy outcomes when embracing an extra-biblical doctrine.

First and foremost is the temptation to make the new extra-biblical doctrine obligatory and bidning on all. This is called legalism. It is most easily identified by seeing things stated as if they were commandments from the Word that must be obeyed, yet, oddly, these commandments are not actually found in the Word. Examples of such legalistic statements might be:

  • "unless a man is born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the Kingdom of God"
  • "we should pursue happiness with all our might"
  • worship is only authentic if the worshipper is "transported (perhaps only for seconds) above the reasoning work of the mind and we experience feeling without reference to logical or practical implications."

Secondly the danger can come from lust, or as C.S. Lewis called it, greed. C.S. Lewis wrote to Malcolm a deadly serious warning regarding the temptation to desire "lawful" pleasure. Lewis called this temptation greed.

"Greed. Instead of saying, ĎThis also is Thou,í one may say the fatal word Encore."

Greed. The pursuit of pleasure for oneself. Demanding of God that we again and again get pleasure from Him or His world.

Thirdly we face the pitfall of pride. Again, C.S. Lewis wrote to Malcolm about focusing too intently on pleasure in order to find God within that experience. Lewis thought that this practice could lead to pride since not everyone experiences the same emotions or sees the same relevance in similar events. And when a person begins to believe that "seeing God" in a pleasurable event is more desirous than, for example, seeing a warning or seeing a sober teaching then he is in danger of proudly judging others as being inferior. Lewis wrote:

"There is also conceit: the dangerous reflection that not everyone can find God in a plain slice of bread and butter, or that others would condemn as simply Ďgreyí the sky in which I am delightedly observing such delicacies of pearl and dove and silver."

Not everyone will respond the same way to any given circumstance, and when this happens, the tendency of man, including the hedonist, will be to assume oneself to be superior over another who sees not a pleasure in an experience, but perhaps some other equally valid but unpleasant message (e.g. a rebuke for sin committed, a memory of a lost one resurfaced, a foreshadowing of an impending doom that escapes the notice of the one consumed with pleasure).

What harms are possible? There are many more potential dangers beyond legalism, greed, and pride. A more in depth exploration can be found by reading What Harm a Little Hedonism?


Question 29.

Isnít the command to delight in God the same as saying we are commanded to "pursue pleasure"?

Answer 29.

First, we need to take inventory. There is no actual passage that says, "God commands you to pursue your own happiness" or "God commands you to make your pleasure a pursuit."

Second, even if such a command were "found" or even construed, such a directive would be only but a minor one, subservient to all the other weightier commands, such as "pursue love," "love God with all your strength," "obey God and keep His commandments." Therefore, attempting to make a pursuit of pleasure so weighty that it deserves to be called "hedonism" or a "philosophy of life" is a gross distortion of revealed Scripture. The pursuit of pleasure, must behave just as all the legitimate commands from Godís Word behave: they must be second to the greatest commandment, love God. Since the pursuit of pleasure is not permitted to rise above all the others in importance, it is a false commandment to say that the pursuit of pleasure is our "highest calling" or our most important duty. Elevating the "pursuit of pleasure" to the rank of a weighty command is the equivalent of majoring in the minors--but that is a topic for a different FAQ.

Context

It is true that there is a passage of Scripture which says in part to "delight in God." However, to quote that fragment of the passage is misleading. The entire thought within that passage is about God making us a promise. Here is a paraphrase of Psalm 37:3-6.

If we cultivate faithfulness toward God,
And if we do good,
And if we trust in the Lord,
And if we delight in Him,
Then He will give us the desires of our heart (which are desires for ourselves to become righteousness and to be safe from evil men)
And He will also give us discernment as enlightened and penetrating as the noon sun.

If one were to hear Christian Hedonists quote a fragment of this promise one might believe that God was placing a premium on delight above other qualities, for which God would reward the obedient soul with everything his heart could desire (gold, jewels, even the birth of children or grandchildren).

But the more proper understanding of this passage is that God desires for us to cultivate and grow our faith, do good, trust in Him more, delight in Him and His Word, and then He will give us discernment to judge between good and evil and He will give us other gifts of spiritual righteousness which we desire. Delight by itself will not accomplish this.

But if we knowingly fragment the passage, and understand that delight alone will not get us the discernment or righteousness we desire, can we still not say that "delight is a command"? This is not a point I am ready to concede, though I understand that some might see doing so as being of small consequence.

Breaking thoughts and promises apart like that, into smaller fragments, then calling each fragment a command is not a very good method for Bible study, nor is it the best exegetical approach. Sometimes fragments must stay within the confines of their broader context. What would only delighting in God accomplish? It would not get you the desires of your heart, nor would it get you the righteousness or discernment you seek. It takes the balanced life focused on godly behavior to gain these things.

An Inferred Command?

All that said, what if we did say that this passage at least implies that delighting in God is a command. Perhaps we can call it an "inferred command". For the moment, let us consider that.

What does delighting in God mean as an "inferred command"? The root word for "delight" in this instance means "to be pliable and soft, ladylike, delicate, and delighted". In context it can just as easily mean we should be pliable and moldable as clay is in the hands of God; ladylike in being subject to Him and taking our orders from Him; delicate and self effacing allowing Him to control and lead us; and allowing His control to be more favorable to us than would be our own attempts at control.

To argue from this passage that it is a full fledged command for us to pursue our own emotionally gratifying pleasures in God is a mighty stretch that brings valid Bible interpretation to a dangerous tearing point. It would be far more proper to interpret this passage as:

"and take comfort in and look favorably upon Godís leading and control, and He will give you what your heart desires: safety and righteousness."

Asking men to take comfort in Godís leading and asking men to look favorably upon Godís sovereign controlling influence is a far cry from calling this passage a "commandment to pursue our own pleasure in God".

Since this passage cannot support, nor really infer, a commandment to pursue our own pleasures and happiness, and since this passage in no way bolsters the idea of elevating the pursuit of pleasure to some weighty commandment, Christian Hedonism must again turn elsewhere for even one passage of Scripture to validate its claim "that we should pursue happiness with all our might."

For more insights into Psalm 37, please consider reading Delight Yourself In the Lord: Command or Promise?


Question 30.

If I find a Bible verse that calls me to be joyful, havenít I proven Christian Hedonism is correct?

Answer 30.

Many times we are called upon by God in His Word to express joy and gratefulness to God for all He has done and for the salvation He has granted us. Expressing joy and gratitude is not hedonism. And being commanded to express joy is not a command to pursue hedonism.

Hedonists in order to get from a command to rejoice to a command to pursue pleasure put the logic together something like this:

  • God tells me to rejoice in the Lord.
  • Rejoicing is emotionally laden and fun.
  • Because rejoicing is fun and pleasant, the command to rejoice is actually a command to have fun and to chase after pleasure.
  • Since God commands me to have fun, pursuing my pleasures is a command from God.
  • Pursuing my pleasures is now the highest calling of mankind and my greatest pursuit.

I am still unclear how the logic step is taken to get from "pursuing my pleasures is a command from God" to "pursuing my pleasures is now the highest calling of mankind and my greatest pursuit".

Suffice it to say that the hedonistís logic is faulty and that God does not command us to "pursue pleasure" when He commands us to "rejoice in the Lord."

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you. (Philippians 3:1)

.

Why rejoice? Why "be full of cheer" (Gk: chairo)? In this case because Epaphroditus did not actually die and was able to minister to Paul, completing the ministry that the Philippians had left unfinished with regard to taking care of Paul. And rejoice that Paul is able once again to provide instructions that will safeguard the flock. So rejoice that the Lordís church is thriving and that the Lord guides and protects.

This rejoicing is not a personal command for the Philippians to pursue pleasure. This rejoicing is to be an expression of positive gratitude (and relief) to God that Paul and Epaphroditus are well and working for the Lord. It is not a command to pursue pleasure so that they can be filled up with good sensations, it is a command to acknowledge that God is good.

What is the difference? The goal is different. "Pursue your own pleasure and happiness so that you feel good" is different than "rejoice in the Lord because Paul and Epaphroditus are able to do the Lordís work." Not only are the goals different, but the outcomes are different. When one rejoices in order to feel good, he ends up focusing on himself, striving for ever more exciting feelings and sensations. When one rejoices for the purpose of praising God with thankfulness, the focus is on the Lord and the fact that the person may feel some pleasure in that is simply the natural human response. Since pleasure is not the goal, the celebrant is not so concerned about filling themselves up with ecstasy as they are on thanking God and pleasing Him.

While it is sloppy scholarship to equate "rejoice in the Lord" to "pursue your own hedonistic pleasures" it is unconscionable to equate "rejoice in the Lord" to "pursuing my pleasures is now my highest calling and my greatest pursuit."


Question 31.

You quoted Dr. Piperís writing well enough, but the quote does not really communicate what he really wanted to say.

Answer 31.

This is similar to the often noted objection, "Dr. Piper did not actually mean what it appears he said", or, "he was actually just using hyperbole to make a point."

Some have told me Dr. Piper really did not mean that experiencing the pleasurable sensation of joy was really the goal of worship, though that is what he appears to have said. Others have told me that Dr. Piper did not really mean that one must become a Christian Hedonist to be saved, though that is what it appears he has written. Still others have told me that he does not actually believe that the pursuit of pleasure is manís highest calling, even though his writing certainly says this.

To me, this is an odd type of apologetic. Dr. Piper clearly writes that Christian Hedonism is about the pursuit of oneís own pleasure with all oneís strength as oneís highest calling and chief end which is a prerequisite for salvation, yet, those who would adhere to this philosophy of hedonism argue that its founding author did not understand English well enough to write just exactly what he meant by the term. Could it be that he did just miswrite all those concepts? I am unconvinced.

There is another possibility available to us. Perhaps the would-be adherents to hedonism are simply so embarrassed by the actual tenets of the philosophy that they wish that these comments had not been penned, and they simply and desperately desire them to be inaccurate representations of their adopted philosophy.

It must be kept in mind that the philosophy of Christian Hedonism is over 20 years old, and that there have been three re-printings of the book Desiring God (each with edits and new material added), and one publication of a condensed version of Desiring God called The Dangerous Duty of Delight (2001). If the above quotes were genuinely misstatements, written in error, and did not communicate what the author intended to say, they would most surely have been corrected by now.

The quotes stand, they mean what they convey. The philosophy is what it advertises itself to be. Dr. Piper must have meant and understood what he wrote.

If one is going to call themselves a Christian Hedonist, why not gladly embrace the above premises of the philosophy and be done with it? Why deny that the philosophy is what it is? And if one is inclined to feel that the above quotes are simply improper Christian doctrine, then why not gladly abandon the philosophy of Christian Hedonism?

Whatever the case, Dr. Piper wrote what he wrote, he has not modified his stand over the decades, his words are clear, and he has defined the philosophy as it is. Denying he means what he writes does nothing but a disservice to all individuals involved.


Question 32.

So Piper pushed the pendulum back to the other side, away from dead unemotionalism, whatís wrong with bringing some emotional balance back to the churches?

Answer 32.

When this question comes up, and it comes up a lot, the Christian Hedonist most often explains to me that the only way to correct the dull, boring, dead, joyless church services of today are by energizing them with a new peppy philosophy of ministry and life. "Sure," they tell me, "Dr. Piper has taken liberties with certain Bible texts and invented a few new shocking phrases, but it is for the purpose of correcting the joyless attitude in churches today. In this case, an infusion of joy-seeking and pleasure-craving that will drive the church forward." They then tell me, "You see, itís like a clock pendulum, it has swung all the way to the side of being anti-emotional and all Piper has done with hedonism is to swing it back to the other side."

Let us proceed with that analogy for a bit. If we were to go into a clock makerís workshop and tell him:

"Hello. My grandfather clock runs quite rapidly and so it keeps poor time. Can you correct this for me?"

The clock maker congenially answers back:

"Well, yes, I can add a bunch of extra weight to the pendulum and that will really slow the thing down, heh, you wonít see it strike but 4 hours in any given day."

Thatís not what we want at all! Thatís not what anyone wants. We donít want to add so much weight that the pendulum is unbalanced in the other direction. What we want is perfect balance. Precisely accurate time keeping. We only want to add what was missing, not force the pendulum to swing wildly back the other direction.

Hedonism is so extreme (pursue pleasure with all your strength) that it swings the pendulum of doctrine so hard the other way in such an unbalanced fashion that it fairly well smashes through the clockís cherry cabinet and ruins the entire thing.

Theology is not a clock mechanism. Theology is not tuned by use of exaggerations and hyperbole. Exaggeration and hyperbole when made about Scripture are really just inaccuracies and falsehoods, unsound doctrine. One cannot correct the behavior or doctrine of the church universal by overemphasizing the need for some other quality because eventually it too will need correcting. And once bad doctrine becomes believed and entrenched, it is notoriously difficult to unseat, even with the best of teaching.

Accurate Bible exposition is required. Always. It is required by book writers, by pastors, by Sunday School teachers. If joy seems to be lacking in a congregation it cannot be "restored" or "balanced out" by inventing hedonism and imposing that philosophy as if it were just another run-of-the-mill doctrine. Christian Hedonism is an imprecise, inaccurate caricature of the doctrine of "rejoicing in the Lord." As such it can do nothing to bring real joy to the congregation and will ultimately lead to other imbalances and problems.

If joy seems to be sincerely lacking (and how would someone even know with any degree of certainty?) it becomes necessary to embark on a truthful and painstakingly accurate study of the concept of joy and emotions in the Word. What emotions are described in the Bible? How are emotions to be used? Why did God give us emotions? After such a careful and in depth study, and only then, should the congregation be more properly instructed. And when this occurs, the effects of legitimate study will be manifested because the Word, when correctly studied, accomplishes its mission and changes the believer from the inside out. The Word has power to change men for righteousness; hyperbole and exaggeration have the power to confuse and eventually destroy.

Has the pendulum swung too far in one direction? It cannot be corrected by overcompensating. It can only be repaired by precision balancing, adding back only that weight that was missing. So it is with doctrine and behavior. Poor behavior can only be rightly corrected with sound doctrine accurately taught from the very Word of God. Once precision has been restored the pendulum will not swing wildly to any one side or the other.


Question 33.

Werenít C.S.Lewis and the Apostle Paul both Christian Hedonists?

Answer 33.

It is somewhat insincere, and even a bit academically reckless to apply a label to a dead celebrity and thereby assume him into a modern special-interest community which did not exist during his lifetime. Imposing your label onto someone who is no longer able to speak for themselves is an inappropriate means of establishing a constituency.

"Christian Hedonism" as a philosophy did not appear until the publishing of a book a little over twenty years ago entitled, Desiring God--Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. At the core of the philosophy is the premise that God wants men to pursue pleasure in Him as their highest calling--pursuing that pleasure with all their might--and that the true goal of worship is the attainment of pleasure ("I came to see that it is unbiblical and arrogant to try to worship God for any other reason than the pleasure to be had in him." -- Piper, Desiring God, page 16, 1996 edition).

So, was C.S. Lewis a Christian Hedonist who believed that pursuing pleasure in God was our highest calling and most important duty? C.S. Lewis did in fact use the word "hedonism" once when discussing the concept of pleasure in a personal correspondence (these correspondences have been published as a book called Letters to Malcolm). However, Lewisí definition of hedonism was very different from the way Christian Hedonism uses the word.

In Letter Seventeen we read that Lewis found that it was sufficient in this life to simply happen upon a lawfully pleasurable experience and then to ascribe to God the honor for having generated that glimpse of glory for us. Lewis did not go looking for pleasurable experiences (as we will see later the idea of actually pursuing pleasure was repulsive to him) but he desired to trace each pleasure back to its source, God, so that he could imagine the experience to be a sort of "sensing" of the glory that is God. "I have tried Ö to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration" (Lewis, Letter 17, Letters to Malcolm). This ascribing to God glory and thanks for every pleasurable experience was what Lewis postulated might be a form of hedonism.

Lewis also found that all pleasure was "in God". There were not sacred spiritual pleasures which were somehow different from worldly and sensual (sensory-based) pleasures. All pleasures of this Earth are "in God" and to attempt to differentiate between sensuous (corporeal) and aesthetic (spiritual) pleasures was pointless.

I was learning the far more secret doctrine that pleasures are shafts of the glory [corporeal displays of the glory of God] as it strikes our sensibility. As it impinges on our will or our understanding, we give it different names--goodness or truth or the like. But its flash upon our senses and mood is pleasure. Ö

You notice that I am drawing no distinction between sensuous and aesthetic pleasures. But why should I? The line is almost impossible to draw and what use would it be if one succeeded in drawing it? (Lewis, Letter 17, Letters to Malcolm)

All pleasures of this life, according to Lewis, are "in God". This is the same understanding we take away from Godís Word. Every good thing is a gift from God, is not to be rejected, and is to be received with gratitude; every pleasure is from God and in God.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17)

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:4,5)

C.S. Lewis did not stop there. He warned against pursuing pleasures as if they were goals. He feared Christians would become greedy and petition God for repetitive pleasures.

"Greed. Instead of saying, ĎThis also is Thou,í one may say the fatal word Encore." (Lewis, Letter 17, Letters to Malcolm)

He was not opposed to happening upon a pleasurable experience and then ascribing to God adoration for that event, but he was against saying, "Encore, God give me that pleasure again and again." In simple words, he did not believe it was right to pursue pleasure in God.

Deadly concerned that Christians would see the pleasure found in a simple event (like eating a piece of buttered bread) and ascribe to it a glimpse of Godís glory and then at the same time judge himself as a superior Christian because he has found God in a simple event while others do not even find the same experience overly pleasant, Lewis urgently warned against spiritual elitism which he called "conceit". In his mind, focusing on lawful pleasures, no matter how well intentioned the act, makes one predisposed to pride when they begin to compare their experiences to others.

"There is also conceit: the dangerous reflection that not everyone can find God in a plain slice of bread and butter, or that others would condemn as simply Ďgreyí the sky in which I am delightedly observing such delicacies of pearl and dove and silver." (Lewis, Letter 17, Letters to Malcolm)

Lewis was also very frightened that someone might use his concept (that all lawful pleasures can sensually show a bit of Godís glory no matter how tiny these pleasant experiences may be) and develop a philosophy around the pursuit of pleasures. He told Malcolm that there was in fact more to be pursued in life, more to be "wanted," than merely seeking out these infinitesimally small pleasures. For this reason Lewis cautioned against turning the wanting of pleasurable experiences into a philosophy.

"One wants a great many things besides this Ďadoration in infinitesimalsí which I am preaching. And if I were preaching it in publicÖI should have to pack it in ice, enclose it in barbed-wire reservations, and stick up warning notices in every direction. Donít imagine I am forgetting that the simplest act of mere obedience is worship of a far more important sort than what Iíve been describing (to obey is better than sacrifice)." (Lewis, Letter 17, Letters to Malcolm)

Since C.S. Lewis, in his own writings, was against pursuing pleasures (he called this greed) and was worried that focusing on pleasure would lead to pride (he called that conceit), and since he felt that experiencing pleasures in God was infinitesimally trivial in comparison to even the "simplest act of obedience" it is surely a leap of the worst kind of logic to imagine that Lewis would have adopted for himself the label of "Christian Hedonist."

Finally, it is clear that Lewis did not see any difference between lawful pleasures "in God" and lawful pleasures "in nature." This being true, with Christian Hedonism calling men to pursue pleasure in God as their greatest duty, this pursuit of pleasure could have been of any or all lawful pleasures--they are all the same. It is my opinion (and merely my own opinion) that Lewis would have found chasing pleasures as the chief end of life to be a distraction to the real business of worship (which is obedience), and for that reason he would have been morally opposed to "Christian Hedonism."

Was the Apostle Paul a Christian Hedonist? Once again we wrestle with the tangible fact that he never called himself by such a label and that the very philosophy itself was not even in existence in his lifetime. Therefore, a more adequate question would be, "Did Paul in his writings ever endorse the statement Ďpursue pleasureí as if it were a command?" And, "Did Paul ever state that Christians should pursue their own happiness with all their might?" Finally, "Did Paul leave any evidence that he believed that the goal of worship was to seek our own pleasure?"

Such quotes as would lend evidence to answer any of these questions in the affirmative are pointedly absent in any of his epistles. In fact, some of his inspired comments might actually be construed as being in conflict with the principles of Christian Hedonism.

For example, Christian Hedonism teaches that all "acts of virtue" have as their foundation the self-interest of the pursuit of pleasure as the driving motivation. Yet Paul seems to find such thinking selfish. He cares so little for his own self-interests when compared to his love that had it been possible he would have traded places with his Jewish countrymen and gone to hell in their stead so that they might have gone to heaven. This is pure love.

Paulís Philosophy Statements

Christian Hedonismís Philosophy Statements

On Love:

I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sonsÖ (Romans 9:1-4a)

 

"[Love] is not a resolute abandoning of oneís own good with a view solely to the good of the other person." (Piper, Dangerous Duty, page 45 )

On Self-Interest:

"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." Philippians 2:3,4



"Christian Hedonism answers: the pursuit of pleasure is an essential motive for every good deed. If you aim to abandon the pursuit of full and lasting pleasure, you cannot love people or please God." (Piper, Dangerous Duty, page 39)

On the Pursuit of Pleasure:

For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me. Romans 15:1-3

 

Christian hedonism says more, namely, that we should pursue happiness with all our might. (Piper, quoted from www.desiringgod.org on May 29, 2003)

"The radical implication is that pursuing pleasure in God is our highest calling." (Piper, page 21, The Dangerous Duty of Delight)

On the Goal of Worship:

What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1 Corinthians 14:26)

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 12:1)



"Christian Hedonism does not put us above God when it makes the joy of worship its goal." (Piper, Desiring God, page 85, 1996)

"I came to see that it is unbiblical and arrogant to try to worship God for any other reason than the pleasure to be had in him." (Piper, Desiring God, page 16, 1996 edition)

 

Paulís summary philosophy of all that the Bible teaches might have been expressed this way:

and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:9b,10)

Paul felt the summary of all that God taught through thousands of years of history is that we must love God and love our neighbors--love is the fulfillment of the law, our highest calling. Paul nowhere allows that the pursuit of pleasure is even a valid pursuit much less elevating it to our highest calling as Christian Hedonism does.

While it is possible to lay claim to any dead person as if they were always a card-carrying convert to someoneís modern philosophy movement, in the case of C.S. Lewis and the Apostle Paul the weight of historical and written evidence argues against posthumously enlisting them into the ranks of Christian Hedonism.


Question 34.

Wasnít Jesus motivated to redeem mankind because He was seeking His own joy?

Answer 34.

What was the motive that induced Jesus to sacrifice Himself for us? Was it really just for the sake of His own joy, as Christian Hedonism teaches?

Motive 1: for the profit of others

Paul teaches that his own motivation for ministry is based on imitating Jesusí motive for ministry: the profit of the many.

Just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. (1Corinthians 10:33,11:1)

Motive 2: a servantís heart of selflessness

Further, Paul teaches that Christ did not go to the cross looking only to please Himself by obtaining joy, but His going to the cross was not even self-pleasing but was selflessly motivated.

Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me. Romans 15:1-3

Motive 3: a sense of duty toward God

Jesus taught us that he was motivated to minister and to die out of a sense of duty to God.

Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word." (John 8:42,43)

but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here. (John 14:31)

Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. (John 4:34)

And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will." Ö He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done." (Matthew 26:39,42)

And He was saying, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will." (Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42)

Motive 4: Jesus was moved to action by a heart full of mercy

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:5,6)

For He [Jesus] had been saying to him, "Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!" He said to him, "Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you." (Mark 5:8, 19b)

When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" And Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road. (Mark 10:47, 52)

Mary prophesied in song regarding the motive behind why Jesus was to be born: "AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM." (Luke 1:50)

Zacharia prophesied over Jesus also saying the two motives for Jesusí life were mercy and to guide mankind into the way of service and peace: "To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS; To give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins, Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, To guide our feet into the way of peace." (Luke 1:74-79)

Even the Apostle Paul said one of his motives for serving in the ministry was that he had received mercy from God, which is why he did not lose heart:

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart. (2 Corinthians 4:1)

Motive 5: Compassion

When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?" But when Jesus heard this, He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:11-13)

Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." (Matthew 9:35-38)

When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14)

Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, "I am willing; be cleansed." (Mark 1:41)

When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. (Mark 6:34)

Motive 6: Love

Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. (John 13:1)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34,35)

"He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." (John 14:21)

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) (Ephesians 2:4-5)

Even though Jesus did not come on His "own initiative", but was under orders from God, He did get the commandment from God that He had free choice as to whether to lay down His own life for the sheep. Out of love for the sheep and motivated by duty to the Father, Jesus laid down His own life and then took it up again.

"For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father." (John 10:17,18)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35,38,39)

Motive 7: Future Joy

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:12)

A Motive "Beyond All These Things"

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. (Colossians 3:12-14)

Certainly it is acceptable to be motivated in part by the anticipation that God will reward good behavior and that this will result in joy. But it would be silly and naïve to assume there is only one biblical motive behind all actions and thoughts. God was, and is, motivated by a rich diversity of reasons, affections, emotions, responses, and desires (love, compassion, mercy, duty). Men too are capable and blessed by similar, but imperfect, diverse motivations.

In truth, those who act only out of consideration for their own pleasure are to be pitied, for they are missing the vast array of affections and godly motives that swayed our Lord to act, and therefore, they are missing a tremendous number of opportunities to serve others and the Lord. Similarly, I confess to being angered by the teachings of some which contradict the Word when they claim that Christ had but one motivation and that we too should have only one motivation.

There is not generally much written in the Bible telling us to examine our motives. In those comparatively few instances where we are told to look within ourselves to determine why we do what we do, the motive most often cited as being "bad" and improper (so as to root it out of ourselves) is selfishness and literally hedonism, doing things for our own profit or pleasure. This is perhaps the ultimate irony: Christian Hedonism calls us to always act on the basis of seeking our own pleasure with all our strength as our highest motive, yet, the Scriptures do not often ask us to consider our motives, and when they do, hedonism (pleasure seeking) is the one thing that is most strongly condemned as an improper motive.

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3)


Question 35.

If I just substitute the word "joy" for "pleasure" doesnít Christian Hedonism become biblical?

Answer 35.

To test this hypothesis, compare the original published defining claims of Christian Hedonism to the same claim re-written as it would appear if "pleasure" and "happiness" were replaced by the word "joy."

Original Claim

Same Claim Made for "Joy"

"Christian Hedonism answers: the pursuit of pleasure is an essential motive for every good deed. If you aim to abandon the pursuit of full and lasting pleasure, you cannot love people or please God." (Piper, Dangerous Duty, page 39)

Christian Hedonism answers: the pursuit of joy is an essential motive for every good deed. If you aim to abandon the pursuit of full and lasting joy, you cannot love people or please God.

Christian hedonism says more, namely, that we should pursue happiness with all our might. (Piper, quoted from www.desiringgod.org on May 29, 2003)

Christian hedonism says more, namely, that we should pursue joy with all our might.

"The radical implication is that pursuing pleasure in God is our highest calling." (Piper, page 21, The Dangerous Duty of Delight)

The radical implication is that pursuing joy in God is our highest calling.

"Christian Hedonism does not put us above God when it makes the joy of worship its goal." (Piper, Desiring God, page 85, 1996)

"Christian Hedonism does not put us above God when it makes the joy of worship its goal."

"I came to see that it is unbiblical and arrogant to try to worship God for any other reason than the pleasure to be had in him." (Piper, Desiring God, page 16, 1996 edition)

I came to see that it is unbiblical and arrogant to try to worship God for any other reason than the joy to be had in him.

"Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John Piper, Desiring God, page 55)

"Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John Piper, Desiring God, page 55)

"Could it be that today the most straightforward biblical command for conversion is not, 'Believe in the Lord,' but, 'Delight yourself in the Lord'?" (John Piper, Desiring God, page 55)

"Could it be that today the most straightforward biblical command for conversion is not, 'Believe in the Lord,' but, 'Delight yourself in the Lord'?" (John Piper, Desiring God, page 55)

"The pursuit of joy in God is not optional. It is not an 'extra' that a person might grow into after he comes to faith. Until your heart has hit upon this pursuit, your 'faith' cannot please God. It is not saving faith." (John Piper, Desiring God, page 69)

"The pursuit of joy in God is not optional. It is not an 'extra' that a person might grow into after he comes to faith. Until your heart has hit upon this pursuit, your 'faith' cannot please God. It is not saving faith." (John Piper, Desiring God, page 69)

"Christian hedonism says more, namely, that we should pursue happiness with all our might. The desire to be happy is a proper motive for every good deed, and if you abandon pursuit of your own joy you cannot please God." (quoted from www.desiringgod.org on May 29, 2003)

Christian hedonism says more, namely, that we should pursue joy with all our might. The desire to be filled with joy is a proper motive for every good deed, and if you abandon pursuit of your own joy you cannot please God.

As it becomes clear from the above side-by-side comparison, all that happens by swapping the word "joy" in the place of pleasure is that one unprovable presumptive set of claims is replaced by another set of assumptions. In some instances, the claim does not change one bit. With every claim, there is not one concrete Bible verse by which to uphold and establish the claim. Christian Hedonism, whether it elevates joy or pleasure, is improper when it places "our pursuits" of joy and pleasure with all our might ahead of Godís commandment for men to instead pursue love "with all our strength."

Now, it is true that joy is a fruit of the Spirit, whereas "pleasure" and "happiness" are not. By that single measure, the "pursuit of joy with all our might" appears closer to the standard of being biblical than did the expression "pursue pleasure with all our might". Still, neither expression quite meets that standard.

As always, it is necessary to point out that several times the Word does tell us to be thankful to God for His gifts and His mercy and therefore to rejoice. Rejoicing as it is presented to us in the Bible is usually a mechanism of praising God, outwardly demonstrating our appreciation to God. The "pursuit of joy" as Christian Hedonism authors this odd precept, defines it as a taking in of pleasure, an attainment and internalizing of pleasurable feelings for the benefit of the rejoicer. So in the eyes of Christian Hedonism, pursuing joy is more focused on experiencing the joy as a pleasurable event and less focused on the act of praise as a way of showing gratitude. This is the very key to understanding why Christian Hedonism so often phrases it as oneís own "pursuit" instead of simply agreeing with Scripture that men ought to rejoice as a way to praise God for His works.

The Bibleís command to rejoice as a way of praising God is Godward directed. The Christian Hedonist command to pursue joy is a man-directed craving for good feelings and pleasurable sensations in God.

The "pursuit of joy" is still not an actual precept or literal command of Scripture. By way of comparison the expression "pursue love" and "love God with all your strength" are genuine commands, literal precepts, and overt statutes of the Word (1 Corinthians 14:1, 1 Timothy 6:11, Mark 12:28-31).

"Pursue love with all your strength" meets the standard of "being biblical" while "pursue joy with all your strength" remains speculative, a presumption which ought not to be imposed on man as if it were a command from God the Almighty.


Question 36.

Isn't the doctrine of the Trinity similar to Christian Hedonism in that it is a label and a doctrine not explicitly taught in the Bible but is nonetheless true?

Answer 36.

Many people have compared the speculative philosophy of Christian Hedonism to the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. The comparison is born on the assumption that extra-biblical labels may be freely created to apply to biblically derived doctrines. This assumption is acceptable enough. The comparison then continues using the logic that since labels are acceptable inventions (albeit they are not found in the Word) Christian Hedonism must be just as acceptable a doctrine as the Trinity because both are loosely based on Scripture, and are therefore both biblical concepts described by "artificial" labels. It is here that the logic of comparison is faulty.

Use of the Trinity as an analogous situation for Christian Hedonism is a false analogy because the Bible very clearly and explicitly teaches us the doctrine of one God consisting of three persons who are also called God. These tenets of the Trinity are based on explicit Bible verses that individually teach us that God is One, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Three make the One, or, Three in One (Trinity).

In contrast to the doctrine of the Trinity, Christian Hedonism fails to find such specific Bible verses for its primary tenets: the pursuit of oneís own pleasure with all one's might is an actual command of Scripture, the pursuit of oneís own pleasure is oneís highest calling, one must become a Christian Hedonist to see the Kingdom of God and be saved, and the very goal of worship is attaining the pleasure which is found while worshipping God.

Perhaps it can be said another way. The "Trinity" is a very polite label for a gathering of specific Bible verses. It is not a label for a general idea or philosophy. Whereas Christian Hedonism is a philosophy that is not built from specific verses but from a system of logic and assumptions based loosely on abstract interpretations of a wide ranging set of passages that do not actually state or directly teach the very tenets of hedonism.

The "Proofs"

To "prove" the doctrine of the Trinity, you need to demonstrate that the Bible calls God "One God" and not three gods. Then you need to demonstrate that the Bible calls the Father "God", the Son "God", and the Holy Spirit "God".

In fact, the Word does just that. The four tenets of the doctrine of the Trinity are:

Tenet One: God is One, not Three; God alone is the Alpha and the Omega (the First and Last God)--there are no other Gods but He

"Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD." (Mark 12:29)

"Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: 'I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me.í " (Isaiah 44:6)

"Ö'I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last. I am He.í " (Isaiah 41:4)

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son." (Revelation 21:6,7)

My glory I will not give to another. Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He, I am the first, I am also the last.í " (Isaiah 48:11b,12)

Tenet Two: The Father is God

the Father, God, has set His seal." (John 6:27b)

"Ö'I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.' " (John 20:17b)

Tenet Three: The Son is God (the child who is born is actually God Eternal, the first and the last)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Ö And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. Ö For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (John 1:1,14, 17)

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Ö I, JesusÖ", (Revelation 22:13, 16a)

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6,7)

Tenet Four: The Holy Spirit is God; and He, as God, appoints gifts to the saints as He wills

"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.
And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.
There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:11)

But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. (1 Corinthians 12:18)

And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28)

And perhaps the best summation passage that aligns the worship of the Father with Jesus being worshipped as the Mighty God Who has all authority, which then is aligned with the fact that all believers are baptized (made to identify with) the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit is Matthew 28:17-20.

When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

While the label "Trinity" may be a polite "made-up" label that describes a deep truth of plain Scriptures, each of the four tenets of the doctrine of the Trinity are expressly supported by direct Scripture. God says that only God is called "the first and the last", yet Jesus calls Himself by that title. We find that Isaiah calls the Son of God, who is born on the Earth, by the name Eternal Father and Mighty God. We read that God is the only One Who assigns the gifts as He desires, but we read that the Holy Spirit is the One who assigns the gifts as He wills.

This is not a game of logic or a philosophy lesson. The names God chose for Himself are equally applied to Jesus and the Holy Spirit in numerous verses that explicitly say these things. A person does not have to work at trying to find subtle connections between the Son and the Father, and it is not necessary to jump through loops of loosely tied threads of logic to see some minor insight that might lead in the right direction. Scripture spells out the doctrine plainly. Godís name is Eternal Father and His Son is to be called, Eternal Father. God is He Who gives out spiritual gifts, and God is the Holy Spirit who decides what person is to get which gifts. Each tenet of the doctrine is plainly corroborated by a very plain statement from Scripture.

Christian Hedonism Lacks Such Proof Verses

Now compare this to the philosophy of Christian Hedonism. To prove Christian Hedonism you need to demonstrate that the Bible calls devotion to pleasure the greatest pursuit and highest calling of mankind, and you must demonstrate that the Bible commands that one must be converted to Christian Hedonism to be saved, and that the worship of God is only valid when the goal of worship is to attain pleasure.

Tenet One of Christian Hedonism: the pursuit of your own pleasure in God is a command from the Bible

Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

[Note: nowhere in this verse are the words "pursue pleasure" found, nor is it proper to use logic to construe "delight yourself in the Lord" to infer a command to "pursue your own pleasure in God"--see FAQ 29]

Tenet Two of Christian Hedonism: the Pursuit of Pleasure is the greatest pursuit and highest calling of believers

"The radical implication is that pursuing pleasure in God is our highest calling." (Piper, page 21, The Dangerous Duty of Delight)

[Note: Christian Hedonism offers no Bible passages to support this tenet, so we offer this quote from Dangerous Duty.]

Tenet Three of Christian Hedonism: one must be converted to Christian Hedonism to be saved

"Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John Piper, Desiring God, page 55)

"Could it be that today the most straightforward biblical command for conversion is not, 'Believe in the Lord,' but, 'Delight yourself in the Lord'?" (John Piper, Desiring God, page 55)

"The pursuit of joy in God is not optional. It is not an 'extra' that a person might grow into after he comes to faith. Until your heart has hit upon this pursuit, your 'faith' cannot please God. It is not saving faith." (John Piper, Desiring God, page 69)

[Note: Christian Hedonism offers no legitimate Bible passages to support this tenet, so we offer these quotes from Desiring God.]

Tenet Four of Christian Hedonism: the goal of worship is to attain pleasure in God

"I came to see that it is unbiblical and arrogant to try to worship God for any other reason than the pleasure to be had in him." (Piper, Desiring God, page 16, 1996 edition)

[Note: Christian Hedonism offers no legitimate Bible passages to support this tenet, so we offer this quote from Desiring God.]

In fact, the Word says none of those things, anywhere. You cannot even find one passage that acknowledges that there is such as thing as "the pursuit of pleasure", except where that pleasure is utterly lewd and detestable in the sight of God.

Given you cannot find even one passage that elevates pleasure to a valid pursuit of any kind, much less our greatest pursuit (hence the label "hedonism"), it is an even harder task to imagine a Bible verse--much less find one--that requires conversion to hedonism as a condition of salvation.

And finally let us consider the tenet of Christian Hedonism that states that the worship of God is only valid when the goal of worship is to attain pleasure for the worshipper. Again, the diligent Bible student will discover that worship is valid or authentic when it aims to be verbally edifying (1 Corinthians 14:26), calls others to repent from sin (1 Corinthians 14:23-25), and causes us to put our physical bodies into motion serving God and one another (Romans 12:1-13).

It should also be pointed out that worshipping God involves praising Him, and this is often called "shouting with joy to the Lord". Even some of our labors of worship are to be done with "cheer" and with "joy". Yet, what is the purpose or goal of worship: to experience joy and cheer, or, to praise God, edify the saints, and serve one another? The Bible states the goal of worship is to praise God, sometimes accompanied by the expression of joy; edify the saints, sometimes with the heart of cheerfulness; and to serve one another. The goal, according to plain Scripture, is never so that we can experience pleasure, experience joy, or experience cheer. Such experiences are attitudes that can accompany worship, but they are neither the goal nor the test for authenticating worship. Worship may be conducted in fear, in great sadness, or even in depression, and it will still be valid and God-honoring worship.

Consider Psalm 42. The Psalmist said his soul panted for God. Why? Because God had cut off His presence and His temple worship from His people when they were driven into exile by God for their sins. The Psalmist was not giving some romantic notion about his soul desiring a mystical rapturous pleasure of a hedonistic encounter with God as if that were some kind of normative event. The Psalmist was here worshipping God in deep depression that God had withdrawn Himself from him and the people because they had sinned. The Psalmistís soul was panting for forgiveness from God, his desire was to quench his sorrow over his sins for which he cried night and day (verse 3). He longed to be able to go to temple again and to have his prayers heard and his sins covered by sacrifice again (verse 4).

Was the Psalmist in Psalm 42 worshipping God any less because his attitude was one of grief and sorrow instead of rapturous pleasure? No. In fact, Jesus, in a parable (Luke 18), said of the tax collector who worshipped in anguish at the temple that his worship caused him to be proclaimed righteous whereas the man who stood up in his self-righteous pleasure and worshipped in his zeal left still in his sin. Such men who worship to attain pleasure and to attain the pleasure of being seen ought to consider with wise discretion and discernment what Jesus said about those who seek their spiritual rewards while still on Earth (Matthew 6:1-6).

When we begin to think and to teach that the worship of God is so that we can attain heights of pleasing emotions we miss the point of worship entirely. It is true that sometimes pleasing emotions accompany or result from praising God or serving others, yet that is not why we are told to serve. God's motives for giving us these commands is for the edification of others, for meeting the needs of others, for demonstrating to God our dependence and gratitude toward Him.

Worship is outward focused on those who are greater and more important than ourselves. When we get the silly notion that the worship is "for me" we begin quite literally worshipping ourselves.

Doctrine Comes From the Word, Philosophies Have No Such Burden

Christian Hedonism fails the biblical test on all four of its primary tenets. Unlike the doctrine of the Trinity, the philosophy of Christian Hedonism finds no evidential support in the Word. It is entirely a human idea based on human philosophy and human desires. It is made into a religion only when men give its secular foundation religious intent. They then run the risk of repeating the error of the Pharisees, which is elevating oneís own ideas to a level of importance even above the plain commands of Scripture, eventually becoming experts at this newly established "tradition" instead of experts at obeying the Word.

For a more in-depth exploration behind whether the philosophy of Christian Hedonism is read out from biblical passages (exegesis) or whether the ideas are read into the Scriptural text (eisegesis) you are invited to read FAQ 30.


Question 37.

Is God a Hedonist?

Answer 37.

Please read the article entitled: Is God a Hedonist?


Click here to read the answers to questions 1 through 20 sequentially.

Click here to read the answers to questions 21 through 37 sequentially.

Click here to read the answers to questions 38 through the final question sequentially.


If you have a question about the philosophy of Christian Hedonism, please send your question to the contact specified below.



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