Tag Archives: Christian Hedonism

Christian Hedonism in The Idiot (Published 1869)

images“Exactly as is a mother’s joy when her baby smiles for the first time into her eyes, so is God’s joy when one of His children turns and prays to Him for the first time, with all his heart!’ This is what that poor woman said to me, almost word for word; and such a deep, refined, truly religious thought it was—a thought in which the whole essence of Christianity was expressed in one flash—that is, the recognition of God as our Father, and of God’s joy in men as His own children, which is the chief idea of Christ.”

Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin (aka, “The Idiot”), the protagonist in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s, The Idiot, (quote is from the Kindle version).

I just finished reading this work for the first time. Dostoevsky’s portrayal of the Gospel – through a character who sees all people for who they are, loves them regardless of their faults (covering all Ten of the Commandments), takes all faults of others upon himself, is labeled an “idiot” even though he clearly is not, and then is found innocent of all wrongdoing except loving too much – is incredible. It was well worth the time invested in reading it. Thank you Timanda Wertz and Jon Beall for pointing me toward this book, and Timanda for enticing me to read the book with this quote from another version of the text. The quote is found on page 213 of my Bantam Classic edition (1983).


The Gospel in Dostoevsky

The Burden of Vision: Dostoevsky’s Spiritual Art; (original edition)


The Joy of Calvinism!

I am enjoying The Joy of Calvinism immensely! The book’s analysis of the complexity of God’s love is enlightening, fulfilling, and refreshing. I would highly encourage you to get a copy. From the Westminster Bookstore website:

Greg Forster on “The Joy of Calvinism” – An Interview by Justin Taylor from Crossway on Vimeo.

Publisher’s Description: The Bible’s command to “rejoice continually” seems impossible and, frankly, unreasonable. Yet despite the apparent difficulty in fulfilling this commandment, Gregory Forster argues that Calvinism holds the key–namely that “real Calvinism is all about joy.”

Forster passionately holds to this belief, and systematically demonstrates it by addressing popular misconceptions of what Calvinism is and is not. Dismantling negative expressions of Calvinist theology, Forster positively reiterates its fundamental tenents, showing how God’s love is the driving force behind every facet of Calvin’s doctrine of salvation.

Written accessibly, The Joy of Calvinism is an important addition to the conversation surrounding Calvinism and its advocates. Skeptics and those who have had negative perceptions of Calvinism, as well as Calvinists themselves, will find this a helpful resource for clearing up the controversies and grasping the winsomeness of the doctrines of grace.

An Interview with the Author:
Greg Forster on The Joy of Calvinism – An Interview by Justin Taylor fromCrossway on Vimeo.

208 Pages
Published February 2012

About the Author(s): Greg Forster (PhD, Yale University) is the author of five books and numerous print articles, and a regular contributor to First Thoughts, The Public Discourse, and Jay P. Greene’s Blog. His writing covers theology, economics, political philosophy and education policy. He is also a program director at the Kern Family Foundation and a senior fellow at the Friedman Foundation.


Brothers We Are Not Professionals, Day 8: The Hedonism We Need

(The following is a reposting of the next entry in a 31-day blog journey through John Piper’s, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for a Radical Ministry [Broadman and Holman, 2002.] Online one can read nearly the full text of “Brothers, Consider Christian Hedonism.”)

“My life is devoted to helping people make God their God, by wakening in them the greatest pleasure in them.” (p. 46; May we all, as shepherds, make it our aim to be able to say this in sincerity and truth!)

And in the pulpit, brothers, what a difference it will make if we are Christian hedonists and not Kantian commanders of duty! Jonathan Edwards, the greatest preacher-theologian that America has ever produced, daringly said, “I should think myself in the way of my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as I possibly can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with.” (50)

As Christian hedonists we know that every listener longs for happiness. And we will never tell them to deny or repress that desire. Their problem is not that they want to be satisfied but that they are far too easily satisfied. We will instruct them how to glut their soul-hunger on the grace of God. We will paint God’s glory in lavish reds and yellows and blues, and hell we will paint with smoky shadows of grays and charcoal. We will labor to wean them off the milk of the world onto the rich fare of God’s grace and glory.” (51)

I believe that Piper has landed on the center of the Christian life when he says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” The “happiness of God” – as Piper calls it – otherwise recoginized as God’s sovereign freedom flowing in and from his perfect unity in the Trinity – shines forth in this statement. The joy of the believer – “satisfied” – based solely on the grace of God, also comes through in the statement. Both concepts flow right out of Genesis 2, where the Creator commands that man enjoy all things he has provided (and respect the limitations toward evil) if man is to stay in the perfect (i.e., “good”) will of God.

The non-professional pastor is preaching for the maximum glory of God and the maximum freedom of the believer! We are calling our people to the highest happiness, not to fleeting pleasures, and things that are passing away. The only message of such happiness is one that says the highest happiness is found in God alone through Christ by grace through faith. The professional pastor can be tempted with doing work with indifference toward moral good.

Discovering the truth of Christian hedonism changed my life years ago. I did not suffer from a Kantian form of stoic indifference toward good deeds. But I was not able to put together the unifying concept of the Christian life—of how joy motivated all things for those in Christ. (Truthfully, I’m not sure if I could have defined “joy.”) Now that I know, it also shapes my ministry such that I can do nothing other preach Christian hedonism, calling people to the highest joy in Christ.

I want people to be full of pleasure – of the highest pleasure—of God. In Lewis’ concept, I want to invite people to come away from making mud pies to enjoying a trip on a luxury liner on the seas. I want to preach in a way that hell is less appealing than a lump of charcoal.

Update 2011: I love these words:

When Jesus warned His disciples that they might get their heads chopped off (Luke 21:16), He comforted them with the promise that, nevertheless, not a hair on their heads would perish (v. 18). When He warned them that discipleship means self-denial and crucifixion (Mark 8:34), He consoled them with the promise that “whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (v. 35). When He commanded them to leave all and follow Him, He assured them that they would receive “a hundred-fold now. . . with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:28-31).

If we must sell all, we should do it, Jesus said, “with joy” because the field we aim to buy contains the hidden treasure (Matt. 13:44).

By Christian hedonism, I do not mean that our happiness is the highest good. I mean that pursuing the highest good will always result in our happiness. But almost all Christians believe this. Christian hedonism says more, namely, that we should pursue happiness 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. That’s what makes Christian hedonism controversial (46).