Monday, January 26, 2009

Book Review: Desiring God by John Piper

This is a re-read. I read this book several years ago. At that time, I thought the content was good but I didn't like the style of the writer. It is interesting the difference a few years can make. I can now say that I think the content is great and I like Piper's style. So what's the difference? I think the biggest difference is how much I have come to appreciate the ministry of John Piper.

I really benefited from the plethora of resources to be had at both Desiring God as well as Many of those resources have been mp3s of John Piper preaching. I enjoy Piper's take on the whole gamut of Christianity; he plays hardball. I think that appreciation has carried over to his writing. I know it's the same book so I must have changed.

When I first read Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist the concept of the book was fairly new to me. If one could sum up a book of such weightiness in one sentence it would be the oft repeated line from the Westminster Catechism that Piper has tweaked for his book. The line reads "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever". Piper alters it ever so slightly by changing a word: The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever. And from here Piper dives into Christian Hedonism.

According to Piper, "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. We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse.
  2. 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.
  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. (p28)
This was a novel and exciting concept when I first read it. The re-reading of it has exposed the depth and grandeur of Christian Hedonism. Though I don't live the idea the way I should, I have come to terms with the author in a more authentic manner than when I first read it.

Another idea from the book that shattered a preconceived idea was this: "it is unbiblical and arrogant to try to worship God for any other reason than the pleasure to be had in him"(p18). You see, I used to think along Kantian lines that: "the goodness of my moral action was lessened to the degree I was motivated by a desire for my own pleasure" (p18). But Desiring God turns that concept on its head.

Piper's magnum opus is so full of enriching exposition of scripture and thought-provoking teaching that I don't know where to begin or how to proceed in order to do the book justice. So, here is my solution: I'll share a few of my favourite quotes from the book and hopefully entice you to read it your self.

Speaking of God's love of His own glory: He himself is uppermost in his own affections. A moment's reflection reveals the inexorable justice of this fact. God would be unrighteous (just as we would) if he valued anything more than what is supremely valuable. But he himself is supremely valuable. If he did not take infinite delight in the worth of his own glory he would be unrighteous. For it is right to take delight in a person in proportion to the excellence of that person's glory.(p42)

Piper on worship: Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of his worth. This is the ideal. For God surely is more glorified when we delight in his magnificence than when we are so unmoved by it we scarcely feel anything, and only wish we could. Yet he is also glorified by the spark of anticipated gladness that gives rise to the sorrow we feel when our hearts are lukewarm.(p96)

And what of prayer: Prayer pursues joy in fellowship with Jesus and in the power to share his life with others. And prayer pursues God's glory by treating him as the inexhaustible reservoir of hope and help. (p182)

I could keep going with this until half of the book was repeated on the pages of this blog. Suffice it to say; read the book!

No comments:

Post a Comment