A Glimpse at Christian Hedonism

After discovering John Piper’s sermons (via a youth leader in my high school youth group), round about my sophomore year, I became a Christian Hedonist. At the time, I did not know what Hedonism was, but learned, via context, that “Christian Hedonism” was a bit of a radical/controversial doctrine. Piper sums it up most concisely like this:

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

The idea of our “satisfaction” being central to life’s purpose, to ‘worship’ and to God was apparently counter to what most religious people believed. Me, personally, being early in my faith and walk, soaked it up. It seemed to make perfect sense to me, we were created to have pleasure (think: taste buds).  And that quickly, I became a Christian hedonist.

Now, you can read Piper’s summaries of Christian Hedonism, but for the purpose of this discussion I’ll try and summarize it in my own words.

Basically, the idea is that following and seeking our intended purpose will lead to the most fulfilling life. Piper believes that our purpose is to glorify God and we do that through following the scripture and mandates laid out in the Bible. So, we are ultimately seeking our own happiness and satisfaction through Biblical calls to “deny yourself” and “love one another” and give to those in need and so on and so forth.

I think one of the things I connected with so strongly with this view is it is, again, something that most people, regardless of religious background can relate to. We all want to be happy. We all want purpose in life and to fulfill that purpose.  I had discovered this and then sought after it within the context of the Christian faith. And so far, despite faith struggles, I haven’t found the need or desire to seek it elsewhere.

One of the reason I think I’ve carried this doctrine or view with me for so long is that I think it had a huge impact on my turning many of my convictions in my early college years. As I read the Bible and began to see with my own eyes so much of this radical love you enemies and care for the poor sorts of commands, I did not hesitate as much as I might have without this Christian Hedonism view. For me, I’d come to believe following those mandates would lead to the most fulfilling life and so if there was clear and obvious commands like “love your enemies” then it was best to follow those.

And that’s where it leaves me. I know others might find this semi-heretical and still others might find it makes a great argument for ditching Christianity and seeking many other hedonistic routes. I’d like to hear opinions from all sides. What I wrote above is some reflection on where I have been, I’m comfortable holding loosely to those views and open to hearing others.

2 thoughts on “A Glimpse at Christian Hedonism”

  1. As a father, don't you want what is best for your children? Is it correct to assume that God wants that for us? His invitation is to the best way of living. So, then, loving your enemy, is an acceptance of that invitation, an invitation to living better. Hedonism huh? Hmmm, not sure I agree with that label. I'll think more about that.

    I'm assuming yes, but have you heard of Clarence Jordan? Just did for the first time today. I think I like that guy.

  2. Agreed, it is an invitation.
    As to the label, considering I never knew it first outside of the
    context of Piper's Christian Hedonism definition, I've easily accepted
    and embraced it. I can see how others might not.

    Clarence Jordan didn't ring a bell but a quick browse of the wikipedia
    entry and I know I've heard of the guy before. Don't know much about
    him or his views or anything, but had heard of him in connection with
    Koinonia Farms.

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