an interesting point

Alex Guggenheim raises an interesting point at his blog, here. A video has been circulating around the internet where Joel Osteen’s wife Victoria exhorts Christians to be ‘happy’ because when you are happy, God is happy.

But it’s not just Victoria Osteen who thinks this way.

John Piper on defining his bizarre notion of Christian hedonism:

  1. The longing to be happy is a universal human experience, and it is good, not sinful.
  2. We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse. 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 expands to meet the needs of 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. Or, to put it positively: the pursuit of pleasure is a necessary part of all worship and virtue.

And then there is this:

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 greatest happiness in the end. But almost all Christians believe this. Christian Hedonism says more, namely, that we should pursue 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 – that’s what makes Christian Hedonism controversial.

(All emphasis is mine.)

What are we to make of all this? Alex suggests that Victoria Osteen may be reading Piper. She is at least ‘channeling’ him.

Many people have criticized and mocked Mrs. Osteen. Will they say the same of Piper? Is his notion substantially different from hers?



  1. Rod says:

    Why is it Don, that so many Christians cannot see the red flags and warning signs of apostasy? It’s so prevalent in churches everywhere and even good fundamental churches are falling prey to it.

    Romans 1:21 – Because that, when they knew God, they glorified [him] not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

  2. Brian says:

    Thanks Don, no one of note will criticize John Piper, he’s too much of the darling amongst evangelicals and a certain segment of so-called fundamentalism. His book has been in print since 1986 and I’ve yet to see a review by a sound source (maybe there is one out there but I’ve not come across it). I recently picked up a used copy of the original edition and sat in disgust as I read his introduction (which is where your quote is from), and haven’t yet picked it back up to try to finish it. The more I hear Piper or read Piper the less I am inclined to believe that this is a man whose books we should read and promote. Instead, theses kinds of errors are to be warned against.

    • Thanks for the comments, Rod and Brian. I don’t know why these things are so hard to see. After posting this, I noted that Scott Aniol had posted on Religious Affections on the same topic. Of course, he defends Piper (and Jonathan Edwards) as somehow being different from Victoria Osteen.

      In any case, one must not touch sacred cows, or else you will get stoned.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  3. Thanks, Don. You nailed it. I’ve never been able to get through “Desiring God,” and you’ve pointed out why. One’s happiness should not be the lens for any Bible-believing Christian. It should be knowing, loving, and obeying God.

    • well, Alex is the one who nailed it, I think. I saw it on his site and thought it was worth repeating.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  4. d4v34x says:
  5. d4v34x says:

    I’ll go on to say that (it seems to me) Piper’s cheif errors in this Hedonism thing are 1) the conflation of joy and happiness, and 2) an over-emphasis of temporal vs. eternal.

    I stop short of saying he focuses too much on the creature rather than the Creator, because I believe God did create us, at least in part, to enjoy communion with Him, and in so doing we do glorify Him.

    Now the (minor) push-back: I do think there is a distinction in articulation (not to mention the stark difference in the full thrust of the ministries of Piper vs. the Osteens), and you can see it in this portion of the quote above:

    I mean that pursuing the highest good will always result in our greatest happiness in the end.

    I don’t think the sacred cow jab was fair (especially if you’re implicating Scott there). Who’s throwing stones?

    • Fair enough on the last point, Dave. I am much too prone to snarkiness.

      I think that there is doubtless some difference between the Osteen’s and Piper in terms of their overall ministries. I am not really that familiar with either group, however. My experience with evangelicals in general leads me to suppose that the difference might be one of degree but not of kind. In other words, the Osteen materialism is held in muted degrees in the evangelical world to a large degree.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

    • Brian says:

      D4v, why isn’t the “sacred cow” jab fair? When anyone has brought up questions about Piper (or other Evangelical darlings), they tend to get shouted down, ad hominem attacks, etc., etc. The content is dismissed and the “sacred cow” upheld at all costs. I personally find that analogy quite fitting at times without being snarky, but that’s my opinion.
      Don, I know you can get snarky but I wasn’t seeing this as a snarky comment. But then that’s me.

      • Fair or not, it is probably more effective to be dignified. A standard hard to attain!

        Don Johnson
        Jer 33.3

        • Brian says:

          Don, I don’t want to sidetrack the thread, but I get the idea that people are tepid to the use of strong language at times. The Scriptures are saturated with prophets and our Lord Jesus Christ using strong language to denounce. The precedent has been clearly established. But in our day, it seems, woe to the person who even bucks the politically correct mindset of offending no one with your words (unless of course you don’t agree with the PC mindset, then you’re fair game for their harsh words).

          Post if you wish, if you don’t I understand, as I said I don’t want to sidetrack this thread since this is a tangential issue.

          • Yes, but knowing when to use strong language is the key. Swift to hear, slow to speak.

            Don Johnson
            Jer 33.3

  6. d4v34x says:

    Well I’ve been known to snark on the not so rare occassion, so I find that understandable. :)

    It seems to me that the differences between the problems manifested in the Osteens, Pipers, and fundamentalists are indeed degree rather than kind, i.e. materialsim of one form or another. So I guess I agree, but go you one better. No snark intended.

  7. Don

    First, thanks for the stop-by at the blog and noting the comparison at the article I posted.

    Regarding Scott Aniol, Piper acolytes and defenders and John Piper’s own view on Mrs. Osteen’s assertion.

    Scott, in his article, goes to great lengths to disestablish a connection between Christian Hedonism which claims an Edwardian cause, and Gloria Osteen’s statement by insisting, “No, she wasn’t close to the truth. Not close at all.”

    However, as I have read, John Piper apparently tweeted semi-affirmation of Mrs. Osteen’s thought in stating (I understand this was “tweeted”) that she was, “half right”.

    My point underscores what many observe about students of Piper and what was alluded to earlier, that they are grossly vested in Piper to the point that they exceed anything he, himself, says, all to create a defense for something he, apparently, affirms, in part, that Gloria Osteen was half right.

    Ultimately this speaks to an observable unwillingness by many followers and sympathizers to reflect, objectively, regarding the problematic nature of John Piper’s proprietary teachings.

    • Exactly. Grossly vested – a much more dignified term than I used!

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3