Second Rebuttal to John Piper's rebuttal
of his defense of the term "Christian hedonism"
from his books "Desiring God" and "Future Grace"
by Sandy Simpson, 5/02

Some people have asked me why this exchange is on my site that deals primarily with the Third Wave.  First of all it is in the "Other Articles" section.  But the reason it is on the site is that the subject of "hedonism" in the church is very much a Third Wave issue also, and John Piper's books have given much fuel to the fires of the Third Wave whether he intended them that way or not.  I stand by my comments in my first rebuttal, and I will show you why in this second rebuttal.  This will be my last comment on this subject as there are many more important issues for me to focus on rather than to try to convince and author to recant what he wrote in a number of books.  But when the English language is mangled, for example when the word "mistake" is used in place of the word "sin" in many churches, it is important to define terms.

I will render John Piper's first defense in red, my first rebuttal comments in purple, Graham's rebuttal to my first rebuttal of Piper's defense of the term "Christian hedonism" in blue, and my second rebuttal comments in black.  I know this is getting confusing, so if you want my comments just skip to the black portions of this paper.

(The following letter is taken from our response to the essay, "A rebuttal to John Piperís defense of the term Christian Hedonism," which appears on the Holy life of Jesus web-site. The essay seeks to respond to Piperís defense by refuting him point-by-point. We have taken their lead and respond to their rebuttal point-by-point. Text in Italics is taken from Piperís defense and the smaller type is from the "rebuttal."

(1) The term "hedonism" means "a living for pleasure". If the chief end of man is to enjoy God forever, then we should live our lives for pleasure -- the pleasure of knowing God.

John Piper cannot rewrite the English language. Here are the definitions for the terms "Christian" and "hedonism" from the Merriam Webster Dictionary: "CHRISTIAN: one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ" "HEDONISM: the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life. The ethical theory that achieving one's own happiness is the proper goal of all conduct." Now, even with the worldly definition of "Christian" from a dictionary, we can begin to see a problem. If a "Christian" by the narrow definition given here is a person who believes in the teachings of Jesus Christ, then it follows that a "Christian" believes Jesus' teachings such as: Mt 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Mt 23:25 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. By the very definition of "hedonism", and even by this narrow dictionary definition of "Christian" we can see clearly that the term "Christian hedonism" posited by John Piper is an oxymoron. The two cannot exist together, for to obey Christ is to abandon hedonism, and to embrace hedonism is to become a hypocrite like the Pharisees.

Dr. Piper is not re-writing the English Language, he is merely noting itís constant evolution. Websterís Dictionary is not the only place to provide a definition of "Hedonism". Hedonism can very often just mean "The pursuit of Pleasure" which is very clearly how John Piper uses the phrase.

How can you claim to not be attempting to redefine the English language for your purposes when that is exactly what I have already proven you are doing?  You can't just make up your own definitions, especially phrases that contradict.  We are all governed by standard English definitions and should stick to them if we want to be able to accurately convey any idea, and especially the truth of God's Word.  Let me state it again ... the idea of "Christian hedonism" is by definition an oxymoron.

We would question whether "Christian Hedonism" is an oxymoron and can only assume that you mean that it is contradictory. Yet to go on and say that "to obey Christ is to abandon hedonism" is to beg the very question that we are attempting to answer. If obeying Christ will bring us the greatest joy imaginable, would that be an abandonment of hedonism?

Yes, because hedonism is defined as "happiness (being) the sole or chief good in life".  Happiness is not an end in this life for a Christian.  Were the first century martyrs and millions of others along the way hedonists?  No, they were concerned about serving the Lord Jesus Christ, not their own fleshly desires and pleasures.  This idea is anti-Bible, yet is a driving force today in the Third Wave.  Somehow this idea has crept into the Church ... that to dance around, get slain in the spirit, laugh uncontrollably, and generally act like an idiot is pleasing to God.  I'm not saying John Piper has been doing this, but this is what hedonism is all about by definition.  What is pleasing to God is obedience, and out of that come all the emotions of life, all dedicated to serving the Anointed One.

What about obeying Godís commands in passages such as Psalm 34:7 and Php. 4:4? Is that obedience an abandonment of hedonism? We cannot see it that way.

Christianity, the following of Christ, is itself an abandonment of hedonism.  It is not an abandonment of joy, peace, love, but it is also not an abandonment of sorrow, suffering, pain and death.  We abandon the pursuits of selfish pleasure when we pick up our cross and follow Christ ... to death!  You can't just pick out certain verses of Scripture and focus on them to the exclusion of others.  We have to take the whole package, yoke ourselves to Christ, and follow His lead.  That lead goes through the valleys and over the mountains, and everywhere in-between.  The idea of "Christian hedonism" is directly counter to the idea of obedience to Christ.

(2) The term does not refer to a single, pagan philosophy but is a generic term that has been applied to a wide variety of philosophies that elevate the pursuit of pleasure. For the Christian hedonist, it includes the idea of pursuing the greatest pleasure, not in the short term, but maximized over eternity.

Again, Piper has built his case on a false foundation. First, the term "hedonism", though admittedly used to mean the general pursuit of pleasure in the popular idiom, is still a term that is as intensely self oriented as any term in existence. The pursuit of pleasure is a pursuit that is, at its most basic, a pursuit of fleshly gratification for the benefit of self. There is nothing more self-serving than hedonism. Second, for a Christian to pursue the idea of an eternity of self gratification is unthinkable by very definition. The reason is that the two ideas, by definition, cancel each other out. If a Christian is pursuing hedonism for the greatest pleasure maximized for eternity, then that Christian will never spend eternity in a place where he can gain such pleasure. This is because: Ro 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Sin is death. Self gratification, no matter in what form, is still sin because its aim is not the love of God but the love of self. There are many today who, in God's name, act as though they are worshiping God. But their worship is, in the end, self-indulgent hedonism. 2Ti 3:4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God 2Pe 2:13 ... Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you.

You make some interesting statements here. Firstly, that the pursuit of pleasure is "the pursuit of fleshly gratification for the benefit of self." This once again begs the question.

It begs no question, for there is no question to beg.  The facts are that Christian hedonism is an oxymoron and should not be used by a true believer in Christ to define our walk with Christ.

It also reveals that you may not have fully grasped the meaning of "Christian Hedonism." In his Five Points at the beginning of Desiring God, Piper attempts to summarize the main elements of what he later goes on to call "Christian Hedonism." Points 2 & 3 state :

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.

We simply cannot see why you would equate the pursuit of pleasure with the pursuit of "fleshly gratification.". What Dr. Piper is saying - fairly clearly in our opinion - is that Hedonism for the Christian is not merely about enjoying ourselves but going after the greatest pleasure imaginable - God himself.

But Piper is attempting to redefine the English language to try to define what he is talking about.  That doesn't work.  Abandon the term and we have a lot of common ground.  Don't abandon the term and we must object.

To demonstrate that some people seek their pleasure in ungodly places is to do nothing more than show that not all people are consistent Hedonists. To be sure, they are seeking pleasure - they're just not seeking enough pleasure!

Our goal as believers is to satisfy God's criteria, to bring Him pleasure.  To do that we not only must display the fruit of the Spirit of joy, but also of self-control and many others.  Hedonism is, by definition, a seeking after pleasure to the abandonment of all other pursuits.  Christianity is a seeking after God and His will to the abandonment of all other pursuits.  There is a great difference between stirring up the flesh and living in the Spirit.  The moment you get your eyes on how you feel, assuming that if you don't feel happy and pleasurable there is something wrong with your Christianity, you have your eyes on yourself and not on God.  Get them back on God, let Him take care of your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, and learn that God created us to laugh, cry, feel pain, feel pleasure, be depressed and be elated.  We are not created to be mystics forever in the pursuit of pleasure, nor are we created to be ascetics forever in the pursuit of mortifying pain.  We are to be normal human beings living in Christ, crucified with Christ.

(3) Many wise, old Christians have chosen to describe the Christian life in these terms. C. S. Lewis and Soren Kierkegaard are among them.

John Piper now uses Kierkegaard descriptions as a model for what a Christian life should be. Kierkegaard though a Christian, lest some forget, was also the father of modern existentialism. He emphasized the "subjective nature of existence over objective nature." Rightly, then, he is the father of the new post-modern thought of today that is so pervasive in every aspect of life. "Luke, trust your feelings". "Your truth may be different from my truth." Existentialism has also crept into the church by way of the subjective experience gnostic revival movements out of RHEMA, Toronto and Brownsville. If Kierkegaard is a "wise old Christian" then his wisdom will be the ultimate downfall of the church. True Christians serve an objective God and His infallible objective Word. C.S. Lewis wrote on many subjects but certainly would never have used a term like "Christian hedonism" in sermons such as "The Weight Of Glory".

Your comment against the "subjectivism" of Kierkegaard is slightly confusing. Piper is not saying that Kierkegaard was accurate in all that he said or infallible in his opinions. Nor is he saying that the wisdom of Kierkegaard is best expressed though his existentialism. In fact, the only statement that Piper says relating to the wisdom of Soren Kierkegaard is :

"Other people smarter and older than I am, have felt themselves similarly driven to use the term "hedonism" in reference to the Christian way of life." (He also later calls the parables of Kierkegaard "great").

Which is my point.  Kierkegaard, being the father of existentialism, did not understand rightly our relationship to God or His creation, evidenced by his ideas of subjectivity.  God and His Word are totally objective, as is His world.  Therefore to use a term like "hedonism" by a man who saw our lives as relative and existential is not proper.  If you are going to quote true believers, I challenge you to find the word "hedonism" in essays by Spurgeon, Tozer, Edwards and other church fathers.  I challenge you to find it in the Bible.  I challenge you to find one place where the Apostles taught the concept of "Christian hedonism".

I would have to echo Dr. Piperís conviction that Kierkegaard is smarter than I am. Of course, in one sense - he is not. The Fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and if you are suggesting that Kierkegaard did not fear God (which for the sake of argument, I am willing to accept) then I guess he is not Wise. However, I don't think that this is how Piper is talking about wisdom. The only point that Dr. Piper is making - in relation to Kierkegaard - is that he described the Christian life in Hedonistic terms before John Piper.

Are we supposed to stand up and cheer now?

Piper openly admits that he is only repeating the thoughts of those who have gone before him (like Soren Kierkegaard and C.S. Lewis); those he describes as "smarterÖthan I am". We suspect that at this point you are playing "guilt by association". Much of what Kierkegaard wrote was unhelpful and existentialist, but this not make Piper or Christian Hedonists subjective or existentialist.

Then I suggest if you don't want to be unfavorably compared to people you cite as being smarter than you (mentors?), then next time quote from people who can bear up under scrutiny.  Just a tip.  Also, I highly doubt there is ONE QUOTE that can be found where a true Christian teacher is promoting "hedonism" in any form.

We fail to see the reason for your confidence that Lewis "certainly would never have used a term like "Christian Hedonism". It is unclear if this is because you feel that he would not have believed in such a thing, or if he would - but would choose to express it in a different manner. In case it is the former, we have provided the following quotes from Lewis :

"We are told to deny ourselves and take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire."

This is talking about the desire to follow Christ, not the desire to be hedonistic.  Next!

"Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak."

Desires to serve, to preach the gospel, to disciple all nations, to lay our treasure up in heaven not on earth.  No mention of Christian hedonism at all.  Next!

"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea."

This is the "joy" of eternal life, worshipping Jesus Christ.  He is not talking about hedonism, to be sure.  Any more?

"We are far too easily pleased."

We are far too easily satisfied with not accomplishing anything, being lazy, etc.  This is not talking about becoming any type of hedonist.

All of the above quotations were taken from "The Weight of Glory." The following is from "Letters to Malcolm."

Nice try.  Now find the term "Christian hedonism" and you will really have a case.  Up to this point you don't.

"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? If this is Hedonism it is a somewhat arduous discipline."

This is ridiculous.  Hedonism is self-indulgence.  Serving Christ is the opposite of hedonism in any definition of the English or any other language.   Yes, there are people who are given to the outright pursuit of indulging their emotions today.  Outside the church they are called Hedonists, and if you look on the web you will even find them taking solace in Piper's books.  Inside the church they are called "Third Wavers".  They have redefined going to church to be a place where they can get a buzz and feel like they are really holy and happy.  The problem is that while they are spending all their time in that pursuit, pretending to be doing it for the Lord, the world is dying in their sins.  I'm sure glad the early church fathers didn't spend their time hanging around churches doing "carpet time".  I'm also glad they didn't read Piper's new books.

(4) The term has a jolting effect. This is appropriate for a philosophy that has a life changing effect on its adherents. Furthermore, this philosophy can be extremely threatening to nominal adherents of Christianity, since it focuses on the motives of the heart rather than superficial actions.

The term certainly jolted me. The question that immediately came tumbling our of my mind was this: "Why do Christian authors feel the need to jolt people all the time?" The answer is: it sells more books! Sometimes a jolt can be good, as in giving a kick to a football. Sometimes a jolt can be bad, such as accidentally touching live 220 volt wires. Attempting to coin a term that is an oxymoron does more harm than good. The term "Christian hedonism" can be misunderstood in so many ways, even after reading John Piper's books. A good example is a quote from a misguided individual on the Internet who read "Desiring God".

"As I live this hedonistic lifestyle, myself a little Christ, I become more aware of the Ultimate Hedonist, and his full nature. And I dig it, man! My wish is for every Christian to realize his/her hedonistic nature, and for every hedonist to find Christ." (

Not only can the term be threatening to nominal Christians, it can and is threatening to ALL Christians and non-believers. Hedonism is never something that should be the pursuit of Christians. Perhaps Christians should ask themselves this question: "Do I want my pleasure now or later?" The reason is that our worship of God is not worship at all unless it is, to the best of our ability and for the right motives guided by the Holy Spirit, a selfless act. Why is this? Because our real reason to worship God is for HIS PLEASURE. For our part, we worship God for the following reasons:

Isa 46:4 Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. " Isaiah hits a home run again! God deserves our worship because He made us, He sustains us, and He rescued us. What other reason do we need to worship God than the fact that HE DID IT ALL? Want a New Testament reference? Col. 1:15-20 "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fulness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. "

Isn't the cross enough to bring us into unselfish worship of God? Why do we need gimmicks and jolting catch phrases? Why do we need the promise of some kind of cosmic bargain made by a god who says: "You give me worship and, in return, I guarantee pleasure for you right now!"

Christian authors feel the need to jolt people some of the time, because people sometimes need jolting.

How about using the written Word of God to jolt them, which is Truth that cuts to the marrow, instead of misguided attempts at rewriting the English language.  Just a thought.

Your answer that it sells more books, is slightly unfair. It appears that you are questioning the motives of Dr. Piper in his writings when there is no valid reason to do this. Perhaps he feels that he is serving the Lord and the Church in this way (and just happens to see things differently to you)?

I question the motives of any Christian who, when showed they are using an oxymoron to try to prove a point they respond by being offended.  Shock value is best left to Hollywood.  Truth is what Christians use, not deception (2 Cor. 4:2).  I'm glad he "feels" he is serving the Church, but the reason I wrote my rebuttal is because I "think" he is not.

The irony in this charge is that DGM have a "Whatever you can afford" policy on all of their products and "Desiring GOD" itself is available on-line. This does not seem a very good idea if someone is trying to make money. Of course, you have not claimed that Piper is trying to make money, only that he is trying to sell books. Why is this a problem though? If you wrote a book with (what you believed was) a valuable message for the church, would you not want to "sell" as many books as possible?

I don't have a problem with the sale of merchandise for as low a price as possible.  I do have a problem with the repeated use of a phrase that is only good for shock value, but no good for polemics.   I also don't believe the books he has written on this subject are a help to the church at all, especially at a time when it is still reeling from effects of the "holy laughter" movement.

You assume that oxymoronís are unhelpful which strikes us as a strange assumption. Your quote from the "misguided individual" does not seem to be completely fair as you are well aware that all of our teachings can be abused and adapted to fit with heresies. Who would like to reject Calvinism simply because it has been used by some as an excuse to avoid Evangelism? Or who would reject the Ministry of Jonathan Edwards because it attracted a few crack-pots?!

The quote was just to let you know that your books have spawned all kinds of heretical and unbiblical behavior.  The presentation of the truth doesn't do that.  Oh yes, it can be misused and misquoted, but the individual I quoted was quoting directly from your book.  That should give you pause to rethink your position.  Jonathan Edwards has been misquoted many times, but it is easy to go back and show that he was used out of context.  This was done by Richard Riss and subsequently put to rights by many apologists.  But it would be hard to disprove the misuse of Piper's new books by a secular "hedonist" or a Third Waver because so much of it goes right along with their agenda.  That alone would give me pause to wonder if something was wrong with my premise.  But perhaps not.   And by the way, I do reject a number of Calvin's and Arminius' points.  See my paper here on that subject.

I suspect that God is not after our self-less worship one little bit. To be sure, the verses you quote are more than enough to drive us to our knees in awe-struck wonder, but is such an act more desirable if it stems from self-less motives? I cannot see why. In fact, when teaching the Samaritan woman about Worship, Jesus appeals to her desire for satisfaction in order to motivate her to worship in Spirit and Truth (Jn. 4:10-14). It would have been possible for her to worship God in Truth with her lips, whilst her heart was far from him (cf. Is. 29:13), but this was not what the Father was seeking.

The ultimate worship of God embodies our realization of how much He has ALREADY done for us.  We then worship Him in Spirit and in truth.  Our whole lives should be a testimony of God's grace.  But that doesn't mean we go through life seeking pleasure, but it means we have the deep fruits of the Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control and a whole host of other qualities including obedience, forgiveness, etc.  We weep with those who weep and laugh with those who laugh.  We bear up under persecution, we trust the Lord through pain.  I'm glad Job wasn't in the business of hedonism because if he was God would have lost and we would not have had such a wonderful example of emotions brought into subjection to God.  I'm glad Jesus Christ didn't jump off the Temple when Satan was tempting Him just to prove he was joyous.  I'm glad Paul and Silas sang in their chains.  I'm glad the early Christians were thrown to the Lions giving testimony all the way to their faith in the Lord.  As you can see, there are all kinds of emotions wrapped up in even these few examples.  Deep joy is one thing, hedonism is another.  We need seek to experience the fruit of joy because all we need to do is trust the Lord and remember His promises to experience it.  But when we begin to seek after pleasure we always end up in the sins of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

"Which glorifies God moreÖ1) a worship experience that comes to climax in the wonder of God, or 2) an experience that comes to climax in a noble attempt to free itself from rapture in order to make a contribution to the goal of God?" (Piper, DG, P.74).

In the former, I appear as a helpless fool, crawling around in the desert in search of a pool of fresh water (which, when I find I simply fall into, lapping up the water in delight). However, in the second, I am pictured as a competent suitor more than able to provide God with what he needs. Which glorifies God more? Which brings him most pleasure?

Neither.  We worship God with our lives, not necessarily by doing things in church "worship" times.  The second example sounds like New Age mysticism.  Worship is only an "experience" as we obey the Lord.  The "experience" is secondary.  "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey."

(5) Although the word definitely has a pagan connotation in most circumstances, Scripture itself uses words with normally negative connotations to teach positive truth. For instance, Jesus compared himself to a thief in the night. He also commended the shrewdness of an unrighteous steward. Surely, a word that is in essence quite neutral can be used to express the truth that we should find our highest delight in God!

The first mistake in the above paragraph is to say that the word "hedonism" is a neutral word. A neutral word would be a word devoid of any definable meaning. The second mistake is to compare Jesus' use of the phrases "thief in the night" and "unrighteous steward" to the new term Piper is trying to coin "Christian hedonism". Jesus was not trying to coin a new word or add a new phrase to the language of His day. He was using common terms to teach concepts via parables. Jesus may have used shocking phrases and words, but they were always used with their definitions still intact.

According to your definition of a neutral word, we can not think of any.

What I meant to say was that it is a word that can be used however you want to use it, so perhaps my use of the term "neutral" was misplaced.  I should have rather called it a word that Piper seems to think has not defined meaning and one which anyone can change at any time.   Words have meanings.  So we can all make mistakes.  But ultimately it's the one who recognizes his mistakes, repents, prints retractions (or whatever needs to be done),and walks the right way who will be blessed of the Lord.

If Jesus was "not trying to coin a new word or add a new phrase to the language of his day", are we to understand that when he returns he will steal all our valuables and escape in silence, leaving us to carry on with our (now slightly deprived) lives?

This is called an illustration by way of example, and He is not coming as a thief for believers in any case.  Christians will be ready. Those who are not will experience Him as a thief.

If he always used words "with their definitions still intact," then he has no right to invade our homes and take what he wants - he is a Thief.

Again, the example of a "thief" is an illustration and a proper use of the term.  "Christian hedonism" is an oxymoron, thus improper.  If you used the terms "Christian obedience" and "sinful hedonism" then you would be using English properly.  If you use the words "Satanic salvation" or "wonderful sin" you would be using an oxymoron that makes no sense.

Was Jesus not in fact using common word-pictures to paint a completely new portrait? Is the LORD like a man awaking from the stupor of wine (cf. Psalm 78:65)? In one sense, yes. In another sense, no - he is quite the opposite.

Opposite uses are fine as illustrations.  Your term "Christian hedonism" is not being used as an illustration, but as a new term and something, you claim, every Christian should aspire to.  Are we led to think that we must be drunk to be like the Lord?  No because the Bible says we are not to be drunk with wine but filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).  Is every Christian that reads your book thinking he needs to be a Christian hedonist?  I bet you hope so.  Therefore your example doesn't hold water.

So, if such a word-picture is acceptable, can it not be valid to refer to the Christianís pursuit of God as "hedonistic"?

No because the Lord Jesus Christ expects us to be self-controlled and deny self (Titus 2:11-14, Luke 9:23).  You expect Christians to put self above all else in searching out the pleasure of joy.

Well, in one sense - the sense in which you appear to be using the term "hedonism" - no. Yet, in another, I can hardly think of a more appropriate term. Is Piper not merely "using common terms to teach concepts"?

As stated above, no.  He is trying to get people to become that term.  But it is the worst possible thing they should become.  It is, frankly, anti-Gospel and anti-Spirit.  We are to put on the new man (Col. 3:10), not put back on the old.  We don't live for pleasure (Titus 3:3, James 4:3), we live for Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:21).  We don't live for joy, we experience joy as we live for and in Christ (Phil. 1:26).  What I'm trying to do is bring Piper back to biblical definitions.  We preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:2), not from our own philosophies (Col. 2:8).

(6) Finally, the word "Christian" as a modifier of the term "hedonism" signals loud and clear that this is no ordinary hedonism. It is controlled and defined by the Christian revelation, the Bible. Only by submitting ourselves to the authority of Scripture can we know what is everlastingly most pleasing.

How can a "Christian hedonist" say he is "controlled" by the Bible when the act of hedonism is damned by it?

Once again, you appear to be begging the very question you are attempting to provide an answer for. If we accept your claim that the act of hedonism is "damned" by the Bible, then we still wonder why you fail to accept the modifier "Christian." This is clearly referring to a different type of hedonism than that condemned in Scripture.

I don't accept the modifier because it is an oxymoron by definition.  Simple as that.  What's to understand?  It seems so simple, but apparently too many books have been written, too many messages have been preached, to abandon the fallacious and unfortunate use of this term.  Isn't that always the way of things?

Finally, the reason why a true Christian (not "hedonist" this time) submits themselves "to the authority of Scripture" is not so they can know what is everlastingly pleasing, unless they are talking about pleasing God. One wise man when asked the question "What is the meaning of life?" said: "To please God." This is our aim. We do not aim to please ourselves but to please God. Our reward is coming someday and then we can share the glory with Christ. But only if we have been faithful and obedient now. That obedience does involve a joy and "peace that passes all understanding" in serving others before ourselves, loving others as we love ourselves. This is a lifelong work that the Holy Spirit works in us. True Christians don't have time to waste on hedonism of any kind.

We would share your conviction that the meaning of life is to glorify God, but feel compelled to ask how God is most glorified. If I have a reward coming someday, am I not permitted to look forward to that?

Now who is begging the question?  I have stated over and over that joy is part of our Christian life, and hope is too.  It is part of our witness of the Gospel.  Denial of the erroneous term "Christian hedonism" does constitute a denial of Christians enjoying their Christianity.  Do you deny us our love of the truth, and our stand against the abuse of Christian teachings?

Is not the possession of that joy a Scriptural motivation for the Christian life (cf. Heb. 11:24-6; 12:2)? Does the prospect of joy to come not fill us with joy unspeakable in the here and now (cf. Psalm 16:9-11; 1 Peter 1:3-9)? Must I choose between joy now and joy then? Do I dare to make such a choice (Deut 28:47-8; Psalm 37:4; Php. 4:4)?

There is no choice.  If you are a believer, you have joy now and then.  You also have sorrow and pain now, not then.  You have faith now, no need for it then.  You have love now and then.  Welcome to the life of a normal Christian.


We have not sought to provide a complete defense of the concept of Christian Hedonism, but merely to respond to your point-by-point refutation. For a more thorough presentation of the teaching, you might care to visit our essays page.

Though you claim to merely be refuting Piperís defense of the term "Christian Hedonism," we feel that you have gone further than this and thus felt compelled to write this letter. In a number of places you have questioned the motivation behind Piperís teachings - and have provided your own (unfavorable) explanation. You also take the opportunity to question the doctrine of Christian Hedonism, but do not appear to really give it a fair hearing.

I think I have been very fair.  You need to be fair with the Scriptures.  Find the words "Christian hedonism" in the written Word of God, find even that concept as that phrase implies, and we will give you a fair hearing.  But as we have stated over and over again, "Christian hedonism" is the worst kind of oxymoron because it presents a Christianity that is not biblical.

In fact, I have to confess that I wonder if you have taken the trouble to actually read either Desiring God or Future Grace. To refute an Appendix to a book, seems rather unusual if you have not sufficiently digested the book beforehand. Piperís defense is explicitly offered as an Appendix and must only be read in that light.

Why did Piper have to defend his use of a term he has used over and over again in an Appendix?  Couldn't he explain his usage of that term in the body of his books?

The term "Christian Hedonism" does not down-play the tougher aspects of Christian living (Desiring God contains chapters on both Missions and Suffering), neither does the concept fail to do justice to the full body of Scriptural teaching. What it does is present the Biblical teaching on Christian motivation, the Lordship of Christ and Religious Affections in an exciting, fresh, Scripturally-sound and God-centered way.

Sorry, but using an oxymoron to teach is not proper, and it is not sound, either historically, culturally, philosophically or Scripturally.  Anything that is presented as "fresh" today has to meet biblical criteria.  This usage does not meet that criteria.

In this, Piper is simply mimicking those who have gone before who are "smarter and older than I am" :

"God loves a cheeful giver." (Apostle Paul)

This is really ridiculous.  Talk about bad hermeneutics.  Okay, let's get into these quotes he uses to justify his continued teaching on "Christian hedonism".  Is there anything hedonistic about giving unselfishly from the heart with joy?

"God is glorified not only by his glory's being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart. God made the world that he might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory; and that it might [be] received both by the mind and the heart. He that testifies his idea of God's glory [doesn't] glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation of it and his delight in it." (Jonathan Edwards)

Our glory is in bringing glory to the Lord.  We rejoice in the glory of the Lord not so we can get a happy thrill, but because of the knowledge we have of who our benefactor is.  God's glory is Who He is.  We share in that glory because we have been made adopted sons.  This has nothing to do with hedonism.

"If joy were more general among the Lord's people God would be more glorified among men. The happiness of the subjects is the honour of the Sovereign." (Charles Spurgeon)

The fruit of joy is a powerful witness of the Lord.  So are the other fruits.  Christians are deeply joyful people.  But they don't always laugh, and they certainly don't make joy an end in itself, which is the definition of hedonism.  Spurgeon is not talking about hedonism.

"I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord." (George Mueller)

Coming from this man we ought always to seek to live in the joy of the Lord.  But we don't seek joy as an end, but in the Spirit who gives it.  This has nothing to do with self-seeking hedonism.

"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea."  "It is a Christian duty, as you know, for everyone to be as happy as he can." (C. S. Lewis)

I don't believe that a Christian needs to be "as happy as he can".  A Christian needs joy, but also needs to react appropriately in every situation.  There is a time for joy, a time for mourning, a time for laughter, a time for tears.

Ecc. 3:1-8 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

There is a time and purpose for everything under heaven.  Let's not be one dimensional creatures, but fully mature in Christ (Eph. 4:13).  Still, C.S. Lewis is not talking about hedonism.

"But the sole motive of Christian simplicity is the enjoyment of God himself (and if that be Hedonism, letís make the most of it!)Ö" (Vernard Eller)

The fact is: it "be" not "Hedonism", because Hedonism is the self pursuit of pleasure.   Who is Vernard Eller anyway?   If this is the only quote you can find to back up your theology, then it is based on sinking sand.

"God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy." (Jeremy Taylor)

God threatens terrible things if we will not obey.  Happiness is not some kind of means to salvation.  Those who love the Lord obey His commands (John 14:15, 23).  One of those commands is to not to use deceptive means in discipling people (Col. 2:8).  The use of the term "Christian hedonism" is deceptive and can really confuse the issue of true joy, a fruit of the Spirit.

Titus 2:11-14  For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hopeó the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.