Bethlehem College & Seminary Chancellor and Desiring God founder John Piper recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of when he discovered a concept he calls “Christian hedonism.”
In a column posted to DesiringGod.org on Friday, Piper described how 50 years earlier he came to realize that he could reconcile the idea of pursuing happiness and pursuing the Glory of God.
According to Piper, this came with his first semester in the fall of 1968 at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, and a course taught by the son of the seminary’s founder.
“I had never heard before about the relationship of divine glory and human happiness. Fuller pointed me to Jonathan Edwards, Blaise Pascal, C.S. Lewis — and the Bible,” wrote Piper.
“This was new to me. I knew about my duty to live for the glory of God. But I had never heard that God lives for the glory of God. I had never heard that God’s command that I glorify Him was an invitation to join Him in His zeal for His own glory.”
Piper went on to recall that the moment it all clicked for him was on Nov. 16, 1968, specifically at Vroman’s Bookstore on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, while reading The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis.
“This was a wind from another land,” Piper explained. “It was the exact opposite of the counsel from T.W. Manson. Manson told me not to live for the sake of Christ’s promised reward. Lewis told me that I wasn’t living for the reward enough!”
“The problem is not the desire for happiness, but that we settle for mud pies when we are promised paradise. The great problem with mankind is that we don’t desire happiness with nearly enough knowledge and passion.”
Piper explained that he didn't consider himself the “best example of Christian hedonism,” but nevertheless he was “a witness” to the spiritual practice.
“… we do not make a god out of joy. We show, rather, that whatever we find greatest joy in is our God. And the greater the joy in Him, the greater the glory we give,” noted Piper.
A longtime champion of the concept of Christian hedonism, Piper defined the term in a 2015 piece as "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him."
He has credited various Christian intellectuals as well as his own father as being the ones who led him to embrace the concept.
"My father was probably the happiest man I have ever known, and yet he was filled and consumed with the glory of God," wrote Piper at the time.
"So there was this both-and in my father's life that had to have a resolution or explanation someday. Abundant joy and total commitment to the glory of God had to go together in some way."
In their entry on the topic of Christian hedonism, the website Got Questions identified the theological concept as "biblical" and having "much to commend it."
"Christian hedonism is not the pursuit of our own happiness as the greatest good; rather, Christian hedonism is the pursuit of the highest good (God's glory), which will ultimately result in our greatest happiness," noted Got Questions.