Question: Have you heard of John Piper’s philosophy of “Christian Hedonism”? It is becoming more and more popular (especially among Christian youth) and I believe it to be a very dangerous teaching. Is Piper’s philosophy biblical?
Response: Piper writes, “Those who know me best know that I am a Christian Hedonist...my desire to be happy is a proper motive for everything I do. I do what I do because I think it will make me happier in the long run.” This is the ultimate selfishness and it contradicts the Bible!
Christ said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Mt 22:37-38). If I love God because it will make me happy, that is not love at all. I must love God for who He is and because of His infinite love for me (“We love him, because he first loved us”–1 Jn:4:19) in paying the penalty for my sins in the purchase of my redemption.
Christ said we cannot be His disciples unless we deny ourselves, take up the Cross, and follow Him (Mt 16:24-25). How can I deny myself to make myself happy? That is like Buddha, whose greatest desire was to escape desire. For Piper to say that our highest goal is to make ourselves happy undermines loving God and denying self.
Yes, God has designed us and His law so that if we obey Him we’ll be happiest. But if we obey God because it will make us happy, we have prostituted obedience to self. Piper’s “Christian Hedonism” makes the pursuit of pleasure and joy the highest commandment and says that God punishes those who fail to make the pursuit of joy their highest priority.
Piper justifies his theory not from the Bible but from the Westminster catechism: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” But the Bible never talks about “enjoying God,” much less that this is why man was created. Solomon says that to “fear God, and keep his commandments...is the whole duty of man” (Ecc:12:13). Not a word about “enjoying God” being the “chief end of man.”
To replace loving God with pursuing one’s own joy as the first and greatest commandment makes man more important than God and will ruin those who adopt this philosophy. It takes little knowledge of Scripture, and little common sense, to realize that anyone who makes his own joy his highest motive will make the wrong choices in life!
Piper’s “Christian hedonism” won’t fit Job’s “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job:13:15). The Psalmist’s “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God...” (Ps:42:1-2) becomes rank selfishness if the legitimate reason for seeking God is personal happiness. “Christian hedonism” will not help those struggling with fleshly lusts that seem so much more desirable at the moment than any “joy” that might result from resisting temptation.