Our Belief in Christian Hedonism


Christian Hedonism

"Christian Hedonism" almost sounds like a contradiction in terms, doesn't it? If the term makes you squirm, we understand. But don't be too quick to pass us off as heretics or just another ease-obsessed American theology. Probe a little further. We are simply stating an ancient, Biblical truth in a fresh way.
All of us seek our own happiness. In other words, everyone is a hedonist. No matter what we say, we only act on what we think will make us the most happy ultimately, or the least miserable. We will gladly forego short-term pleasures if we believe the long-term benefits far outweigh the sacrifice. And we will ignore long-term consequences if we believe short-term pleasures are worth the risk.

On the surface, this sounds as though we want the universe to revolve around us. What about God? To answer this question we need to understand a crucial truth about pleasure-seeking (hedonism): we honor most what we delight in the most. Pleasure is a gauge which indicates how valuable we consider someone or something to be. Pleasure is the measure of our treasure. We know this intuitively. When a friend says to us, "I really enjoy being with you," we do not get angry and reply, "Stop being so selfish! Is your enjoyment all that matters to you?" We realize that we are honored by our friend's delight in us. Our "worth" is "glorified" by his satisfaction in us. The same is true of God. If we delight ourselves most in God, as the Bible commands (Psalm. 37:4), we demonstrate that God is our most precious treasure. Sin is simply delighting in someone or something else more than we do God.

Therefore, a Christian Hedonist seeks the supreme pleasure which is in God himself. He does not try to turn God into a means for gaining worldly pleasures. That would be idolatry. And it would be settling for "molehill" pleasures rather than "Mount Everest" pleasures! Nor does a Christian Hedonist sink back from suffering for Jesus in this world, but gladly counts his life as loss that he might gain Christ (Philippians 3:8).

John Piper (Introduction, Desiring God, Multnomah, 2nd ed. 1996, p. 23) explains it this way. "Christian Hedonism is a philosophy of life built on the following five convictions:

  1. The longing to be happy is a universal human experience, and it is good, not sinful.
  2. We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse. Instead we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction.
  3. The deepest and most enduring happiness is found only in God. Not from God, but in God.
  4. The happiness we find in God reaches its consummation when it is shared with others in the manifold ways of love.
  5. To the extent we try to abandon the pursuit of our own pleasure, we fail to honor God and love people. Or, to put it positively: the pursuit of pleasure is a necessary part of all worship and virtue. That is, the chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying him forever. Another way of saying it is,

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