Friday, January 6, 2012

Christian Hedonism?

Desiring God, Christian Hedonism
A friend asked me about this movement, Christian hedonism. I hadn’t heard of it before, I am blessed with ignorance concerning many movements in American Evangelicalism. The whole reason I became a pastor was so I wouldn’t have to be subjected to that junk, and actually preach the gospel for a few others to hear, you know the good news that Christ died for their sins. That they are forgiven, yes even now, yes even though they took communion last week, and found themselves sinning Sunday afternoon, and probably harbored resentment for their family while taking communion, you get the picture. We are forgiven, Christ forgave you. And I’ve always thought that Christianity should be about joy. I mean, I always found it to be a joyful thing when my Baptist neighbors weren’t harassing me about drinking beer and talking to the cute girl across the street washing her car in a bikini. Seriously, what does one do in that situation? Then I found out about "in statu confessionis," and it took fun to a rather hedonistic level, (I mean I totally abused it, but had fun lighting up a cigarette whenever a Baptist would talk about how smoking was ruining your body God’s temple. Silly me, I thought God somehow enjoyed the aroma of smoke in his temple given the Old Testament and all. Or drinking a beer, or four or five when someone would express objections to this.)

But upon reading up on “Christian Hedonism”, just a skim really, it came to my attention that now, not only were Calvinists sucking the joy out of being Christian, they were taking all the fun out of being a hedonist. Quips aside though, this is really dangerous stuff. It is in a word legalism. Calvinists can’t seem to get out of the trap! I don’t mean for this to be a long piece. I’ll just quote this from the Desiring God Website, and then comment on where it goes frightfully wrong.

“My shortest summary of Christian Hedonism is: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
We all make a god out of what we take the most pleasure in. Christian Hedonists want to make God their God by seeking after the greatest pleasure—pleasure in him.
By Christian Hedonism, we do not mean that our happiness is the highest good. We mean that pursuing the highest good will always result in our greatest happiness in the end. We should pursue this happiness, and pursue it with all our might. The desire to be happy is a proper motive for every good deed, and if you abandon the pursuit of your own joy you cannot love man or please God.“

These are just the first two paragraphs of this essay. But really? Notice first that the onus is on you to make God your god. You are to do this, by what? By trying to find your greatest pleasure in him. This seems to me that it just begs for all sorts of soul torture, and misconceptions. This is the kind of stuff that tortures the hell out of girls and boys who find quite suddenly, that perhaps they like hanging out with the opposite sex more than going to church. I’m sorry, I find great pleasure in God, I do. At least at times. I love reading his word, and studying it. Most think I’m somewhat of a kook for the joy I find in studying God’s word. I thank God for his gifts, and realize he gave them to me, and others are not going to find the same joy in reading the Bible they find in working on a car. They enjoy working on cars, and it is a good indication that God meant for them to be auto mechanics. I am thankful God gave them the gift of being an auto mechanic, not the least because I find myself in need of them especially in pursuit of other things that give me great pleasure. I need my jeep in working order so that I can spend time with my son, who though he enjoys going to church, does these days find trips to Topaz MT. to be slightly more enjoyable than Sunday School, which he often finds boring. I also like it to be in good working order when pursuing chukar and coyotes in the West Desert with my mechanic. I’m also thankful for gunsmiths, and game wardens in that regard. Can I say, I’m really appreciative of whiskey makers, brewers, and the designers that make dresses for my wife? And I’m glad they pursue these vocations with the same joy in which I pursue the reading of God’s word. God has given it to them to enjoy, and enjoying these they do the will of the Father.

But the problem with the above two paragraphs goes further. The onus is on us to make God our god, by finding our greatest pleasure in him. We are supposed to “Desire God.” Sure, but telling someone to desire God does not make one desire God. It does the opposite. The Biblical message is a bit different, even Augustine’s theology which Piper is trying to injudiciously rip off here, is just a bit different than that. The fact is, God is our god. And he certainly doesn’t need us to do anything to make that happen. God’s glory is not diminished in the least by our inability to be satisfied in him. His “glory” doesn’t depend one wit on a damn thing we do, and they are all damn things apart from his grace and mercy through which he revealed his true glory forgiving our sins on the cross. No one gets pleasure from desiring something. They get pleasure from attaining it.

Now attaining something can happen in a few different ways, you can work for it, or it can be given to you. And that is just it. God gives himself to us. That is he gives us our righteousness. He gives us himself. We don’t have to sit around desiring him. He is ours, just as we are his. That is what the cross was about. And in my mind he did this so we could get on with life, and enjoying the things he has given us to enjoy, which according to Ecclesiastes, are four fold: the toil of our hands, wine, bread, and breasts, the ones belonging to the wife of your youth.

So rather than sitting around and talking about how much one should desire God. Why don’t you just give them God. Give them Jesus. Forgive them their sins as God commands you to do, so that they can all go about the things they enjoy, the things God has given them to enjoy, like fixing my guns, and Jeep, making great whiskey and wine, preparing good food, and loving on their wives, in true hedonist fashion.


Brigitte said...

Nice. I haven't read too much on this and am a little confused still.

What sticks in my head are such translations as this one:

"Jesu, meine Freude,
meines Herzens Weide,
Jesu meine Zier."

we get in English:

"Jesus priceless treasure
font of purest PLEASURE
truest friend to me."

--which is not the same thing.

Really it would go:

"Jesus, my joy,
the meadow of my soul,
Jesus, my adornment."

But then it goes:
"Ach, wie lang ach lange,
ist dem Herzen bange
und verlangt nach dir,
Gottes Lamm, mein Brautigam,
ausser dir soll mir auf Erden
nichts sonst liebers werden."

"Oh, how long, so very long,
my heart is pining,
and seeks for you (desires you).
Nothing shall be more precious to me than the lamb of God, my bridegroom."

So, we have here the analogy of the bride waiting for, desiring, the bridegroom. But, the desire is for the bridegroom, not for enjoyment or desiring or longing. It's like wanting to be in heaven to be with God, not to enjoy heaven. There is a difference.

Bror Erickson said...

Yes I think there is a difference. And I do believe that the desire the Bride has for her groom, turns to torture when she is standing at the altar, and the groom doesn't show...
I meant there are all sorts of analogies that could be done concerning a joy that accompanies desire, at least when what is desired is attainable. Indeed some males, get so rapped up in "the chase" that they hardly know what to do with themselves when it is over, and begin to chase again.
But of course the biblical message is not one of us chasing God... and we are the bride as the church, and to keep telling the bride that her desire should be for her husband, when her husband never shows, well that is recipe for disaster now isn't it. But then this is the problem with reformed theology, it is intent on keeping God at bay, keeping him away, they will not hear his voice, it will kill them, they trust not its ability to raise a new man in place of the Old Adam that is slayed.

Steve Martin said...

Desire God?

Not too much, and not too often.

We want what we want. We are in love with the self.

John Piper drives me crazy with all this 'desiring God' stuff.

His "preaching" just lays the lash on you for not feeling a certain way.

It's another religion.(as Luther said)

Bror Erickson said...

You really need to learn to love God... Like I do....