Having Fun For God’S Sake

Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, by John Piper (Multnomah, 281 pp.; $12.95). Reviewed by James Hoover, academic editor for InterVarsity Press.

John Piper, former Bethel College professor and current pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, has written a book bound to stir controversy. Indeed, within InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Piper’s ideas have sparked such strong yet diverse reaction, that when news of the book’s publication was received, a special task force was appointed to study the book and evaluate its ideas.

In our sex-saturated, materialistic, if-it-feels-good-do-it society, Piper calls us to adopt a new philosophy of life, one he brazenly calls “Christian Hedonism.” (Hedonism, it would seem, is the last thing we need Christian apologists calling us to, whether they label it Christian or not.)

But don’t judge too quickly. Piper claims a lot of support from men like C. S. Lewis, Jonathan Edwards (whom he mentions more than two dozen times), Blaise Pascal, and, more important, Paul and Jesus. Christian Hedonism, if it is to be justified, must be justified from Scripture.

Just to set the record straight, Piper notes early on that Christian Hedonism “does not mean God becomes a means to help us get worldly pleasure,” nor does it “make a god out of pleasure,” nor does it “put us above God when we seek him out of self-interest.”

Rather, Christian Hedonism recognizes that “the longing to be happy is a universal human experience” and proclaims that that longing is most deeply and enduringly satisfied only in God. “The chief end of man,” says Piper with a slight twisting of ...

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