Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Desiring God, a Review

John Piper's Desiring God is one of the most influential books in Christian non-fiction.  First released in 1986, Piper burst into the scene with his radical idea of Christian Hedonism, a term specifically chosen.  Now, twenty-five years later, Piper's fourth edition of Desiring God has found its way into my hands for review.  I already owned the 3rd edition, though I had not progressed past Chapter One of the book.  This time around, I made my way through Piper's elegant writing and beautiful theology.

Desiring God is a collection of ten essays, dealing with a different element in Christian lifestyle.  Piper devotes a chapter each to happiness, conversion, worship, love, scripture, prayer, money, marriage, missions, and suffering.  He also includes a thorough appendix and study guide in the back of the book to assist the reader.

As Piper says in the Introduction, the purpose of Desiring God is to help the reader understand how Christian Hedonism should not only be pursued, but that its pursuit is biblical and ultimately satisfying to God.  Piper turns the Westminster Shorter Catechism on its head by substituting the word by in place of and, yielding the thesis for Desiring God:

The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.

Much of Desiring God deconstructs modern thinking with clear biblical examples.  Truly, Piper's desire to share his joy is not exhaustive, though it is rather thorough.  There were times when I was scratching my head after re-reading a paragraph three times and still confused.  Other times I was shaking my head and silently amen-ing.  And more, the evidence as proposed by Piper does in fact seem biblical and liberating. 

This book has not redefined my views as much as Kevin DeYoung's powerful Just Do Something did, but still, there is wisdom to be found in the pages.  I can imagine a world filled with Christian Hedonists, running around and acting like Christians ought.  I daresay that if more Christians acted like they ought--like the bible prescribes--and if more Christians had joy in their lives then we would have more people coming to God.  To that end, Desiring God teaches a vital message.

A time or two it felt like Piper's firm belief in TULIP* (and his being a 5-point Calvinist, as much as I hate to use labels) was shining through his writing.  It wasn't a pounding over the head as some are wont to do, and I do not fault Piper for letting his belief's influence his writing, though some surely do.  As such, I care not one jot for Calvinism and Arminianism and I find this endless debate tiring and detrimental to the gospel Jesus preached.  Thankfully this has very little to do with Piper's book.

In the end, Desiring God is an excellent book that has affected many, myself included.  It would be a great book for a Sunday School class to discuss, or a discipleship group to meditate on.  It's not an easy read, and it definitely requires a critical mind (and possibly a dictionary), but its teachings are worth the effort.  Anything that pursues glorifying God is worth the effort, and if you're looking for some savvy non-fiction Christian thought, this book is perfect for you.  Or, conversely, if you're curious about Christian Hedonism and its tenets, I can easily recommend John Piper's Desiring God.

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Piper explains at the end of the book how he receives no royalties from Desiring God and that any money made from it goes to a fund to further the gospel by providing various resources for free.  A number is listed to contact Desiring God Ministries for free resources, including this book, as well as many others.  Also, Desiring God can be read for free on the DGM website, or also downloaded as a pdf and/or ebook.  Finally, as with other great books, if anyone would like my copy of Desiring God, shoot me an email or leave me a comment and I'll get the book to you.

Like Piper, anything I can do to help spread the good news of Jesus (and further glorify the Father) I will do, and I would love to give you this book to that end.


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*If you are not aware of this centuries old debate, then I don't recommend you educate yourself about it.  It's ultimately disheartening and has caused way too much conflict within the world of Christianity.

FTC Thingy:  The 25th Anniversary Edition of Desiring God was provided to me for free by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  I am not required to endorse the book, and my doing so was of my own volition.  There was no hypnosis.


4 comments:

contemplatrix said...

a very thoughtful review, and a very helpful one. beautifully done.

~L

contemplatrix said...

a very thoughtful review, and a very helpful one. beautifully done.

~L

Carl V. said...

"I daresay that if more Christians acted like they ought--like the bible prescribes--and if more Christians had joy in their lives then we would have more people coming to God"

Boy isn't that the truth! If less time was spent arguing the finer points of doctrine or publicly bashing "sinners" and more time was spent loving others and living like God says we should I doubt we could hold back the flood of people rushing to accept a Jesus that they would finally see as real.

logankstewart said...

@L: Thank you.

@Carl: Good old fashioned love. It's what we can strive for, eh.