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E-mail Regarding Christian Hedonism


Having studied Christian Hedonism over the past few years, there has been opportunity to exchange correspondence with those who are self-described converts to Christian Hedonism. With no intention of being unkind or unduly critical, some intriguing and generally common threads woven across these correspondences from hedonists seem to be:
To be sure, these are generalizations and would likely not hold true for all those who have written embracing this philosophy. These obvservations do, nonetheless, appear to apply to the few exchanges shown below.

These extracts from e-mails and letters are in no way meant to be derogatory or derisive. They are presented here as an opportunity for the reader to gain a flavor for the various types of arguments offered by adherents to the philosophy of Christian Hedonism. Fellowship is accomplished in large part through the open discussion of God's Word. When God's Word is set aside in favor of discussing philosophies or modern books (to the exclusion of discussing Scripture) fellowship is broken and is replaced with silence or mere bickering.

Scriptures inform us that those who teach without reference to the Word, or who teach falsely, and those who speculate about the Word instead of teach it, are those who are the quarrelers (2 Timothy 2:23). Therefore, we wish to help encourage a cessation of the quarreling and return again to godly dialogue and fellowship. It is only by confronting the quarrelers with accurate Scripture that they will abandon their misconceptions and, if you will pardon a controversial phrase borrowed from Scripture, "come to their senses" (2 Timothy 2:25,26). It is with this attitude of restoration we explore the debating posture adopted by some via e-mail instead of seeking a biblical dialogue around specific Scripture.

Attached are the texts of several such communications. The names and dates have been purposely removed to assure the anonymity of the correspondents.

Dialogue 1 E-mail discussion between two church acquaintances, one hedonist, one not. Dialogue 2 Letter from Dr. Piper’s staff counseling repetitious readings of Desiring God as a means of overcoming Scriptural objections to hedonism. Dialogue 3 E-mail discussion between older couple (non-hedonists) and a younger hedonist couple. Younger hedonist couple, unable to support their hedonism from Scripture, abandon the relationship. Dialogue 4 Discussion Forum exchange reposted here. Core to the exchange is whether Christian Hedonism is correct that both God and humanity have only one real motive for every choice they make: the pursuit of pleasure. The non-hedonist argues that the Bible is replete with examples of varied motives, most of which are not pleasure-driven, with the Scriptures calling some pleasure-centered motives “evil.” The hedonist argues that Blaise Pascal is more correct than Scripture and that multiple motivations are an illusion and that only the pursuit of pleasure guides God’s and man’s choices and actions.

Editorial Comment on Dialogue 1
This first e-mail of the dialogue is an inquiry from a believer who is not a hedonist to one who is. The non-hedonist wrote an analysis of Bible verses that seem to contradict Christian Hedonism. He gave that analysis to the hedonist at the request of the hedonist. The hedonist never responded to or aknowledged the analysis paper, nor any of several other e-mails from the non-hedonist.

Through the entire e-mail exchange the non-hedonist is attempting to get the hedonist to use Bible verses to explain his views.

The Non-hedonist writes: The evening we shared dinner together, you indicated you would be excited and desirous to engage in Christian conversation around difficult topics. However, when I gave you the early draft of my thoughts on Christian Hedonism, you did not respond. When I sent you the e-mail about Dr. Piper and his [non-cessationist] views on the signs and wonders movement, you did not respond. When I sent you the e-mail about [the] sermon, you did not respond.

While I have no grim interest in quarrels or arguments, I would very much have been interested in understanding what you viewed as being incorrect about my own doctrines. The invitation still stands to dialogue.

The hedonist responds:
Thank you first of all for remembering my fondness for good Christian conversation/debate. I apologize that to this point I have possibly communicated to you that I have no desire to engage in discussion with you.

Regarding the early draft of your thoughts on Christian Hedonism, I did not assume that you were looking for me, specifically, to respond. When I received that paper, I thought that you were just giving me a more detailed explanation of your thoughts concerning our discussion after our dinner together. Please accept my apologies.

Regarding the [e-mail] on Signs and Wonders, I was instructed [by church authorities] not to respond.

Regarding the…sermon, I thought that a response would have been useless. It has become obvious to me that any mention of finding pleasure in God is an abomination to you (that is admittedly a bit of an exaggeration). I do not see "desiring God" as the end-all in Christianity (as Piper seems to), but I do see that those who really love God and seek to glorify and obey Him will in-turn find joy and pleasure in doing so.

I would be happy to continue this discussion if you would like.

The non-hedonist replies again:

Your kind, and thoughtful, response is very much appreciated.

Would I like to continue the dialogue? Of course. Most specifically, I would very much like to understand what is wrong (and maybe right?) doctrinally with my study on "Christian Hedonism". The original paper I gave you is now somewhat obsolete as it contained my first-blush and disorganized thoughts on the matter. Over time it has become a bit more thoughtful. I will [give you an updated copy].

You must believe that I am not offended when someone points out a doctrinal error within my writings or thinking. I do tend to be less positive when someone says, "I disagree", but has no biblical explanation for doing so. Somehow, in your case, I do not think this will be an issue.

Sadly, if I have left you with the impression that I have overlooked the many passages of scripture that invite us to be joyful in all that God has done for us, then I apologize. Indeed, the Christian life should be full of joy, for it is a fruit of the Spirit.

I do not believe that the pursuit of joy is the aim of life or Christianity. Nor is it the ultimate destiny of mankind, for most men will suffer in hell for eternity.

God gave us all the emotions, and all the fruits of the Spirit, to be used to serve Him and each other. Biblical balance is the name of the game. If you believe that, by definition, that eliminates one from being a Christian Hedonist.

Yes, by all means let us get together and discuss doctrine. The Word is the sustenance of my own spiritual life as well as my wife's.

Finally, concerning the quotes on "signs and wonders" -- there is no need to respond, all those quotes are freely available on the web at DESIRINGGODMINISTRIES.COM

Regrettably the hedonist never did respond to the written biblical analysis of hedonism and chose to discontinue the dialogue and the e-mail exchanges.

Editorial Comment on Dialogue 2
A sincere Christian wrote a letter to Dr. Piper showing how the book Desiring God appears to abridge some key verses, take some passages out of context, and misinterprets specific verses in order to "prove" Christian Hedonism. The following is the response he received from an associate of Dr. Piper.

Please take note of the lack of any Scripture, lack of Scriptural analysis, and the reliance on repetitious readings of Dr. Piper's material.

Thank you for your letter for John Piper of [date removed] expressing your disagreement with Christian Hedonism. John is getting a tremendous amount of mail, so John and I must plead for your merciful understanding. He would love to be able to write you personally, but the numerous demands on his time simply do not permit it.

While we regret that we do not have the time and resources to provide a specific reply, I am enclosing a sermon manuscript which may help demonstrate to you more fully where we are coming from. I would also encourage you to take another look at Desiring God, where John defends the truth that happiness in God is indeed our chief end.

Thank you for understanding about Pastor John's time constraints. I pray that the glorious, all-satisfying God John writes and speaks about so often will be your portion and treasure and hope and strength. And please pray for John as he continues to seek the Lord for guidance in determining pastoral priorities.

God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.



Editorial Comment on Dialogue 3
This exchange is between an older non-hedonist Christian couple and a younger hedonist couple. When the younger couple discovered the older couple did not find Christian Hedonism to be biblical, they withdrew fellowship from the older couple without telling them why. The older couple wrote persistently attempting to re-open the dialogue, to at least find out what the young couple believed, and which Scriptures they used to support their beliefs. The younger couple resisted for quite some time until this exchange.

The older non-hedonist couple write:

A month ago you expressed concern that you were unable to supply a scriptural answer to our doctrinal questions. Have you had sufficient time to study and provide an answer to this one question?

Do you agree with Dr. Piper's statement, "Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the kingdom of God."? If you do, what Bible verse says this statement?

The younger hedonist couple respond:

After receiving counsel from our pastor I will give you a short answer on our position. Yes, [we] have studied this topic in much detail over the past couple years and do uphold it. We find Scripture to clearly teach the pursuit of pleasure in Christ and in Him alone. However, I can understand how you could misinterpret Piper's phrases to mean something unscriptural. For an explanation I would ask that you read the 4th appendix in "Desiring God." Ps. 34:7, Matt. 13:44 are just two verses that also support these ideas.

There is much that I could say in addition to this, but if you find you do not even agree with this appendix as a starting point, there really is nothing more I could add for the purpose of changing your mind.

I realize that you will most likely disagree with us on this position, but we do not desire to engage in a prolonged conflict. We believe that these arguments are detrimental to our relationship with you and dishonor our Lord.

The older non-hedonist couple respond:

This is an excellent first step to developing meaningful dialogue and a genuine relationship. Only through God's Word will we ever be able to edify or encourage one another. Let us build on this foundation alone for our communication with one another.

Thank you for sharing with us the Bible verses you feel establish the doctrinal statement, "Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Unfortunately we did not understand the reference back to Psalm 34:7, we assume that perhaps you meant to use Psalm 37:4?

In context Psalm 37:3-6 is a fine example of a conditional promise that states:

If you trust in God
And if you do good
And if you cultivate faithfulness
And if you delight in God
And if you commit your way to God
And if you trust in Him,
Then God will give you the desires of your heart, and those desires are deeds of "righteousness" and the ability to apply "discernment" (godly judgement)-verse 6.

I admit my inability to see in this promise the necessity of becoming a hedonist (putting the pursuit of joy above all other pursuits). Please do not take offense at my admitted lack in this matter. I would consider it a favor, an act of brotherly love and mercy, if you would more plainly explain how you see this promise as a requirement for one to become a hedonist in order to be saved?

Matthew 13:36-53, as you point out, is also a wonderful passage of the Bible. In verse 44 Jesus does indeed point out that the kingdom of heaven is more to be valued than all our earthly possessions. Here, I can see why it would be tempting to draw an assumption that if the man in Jesus' illustration was joyful in discovering his field, that it is good for all men to be motivated by joy in order to be saved.

Forgive me again for being slow to understand how this one verse requires us to make the pursuit of joy our highest calling in order to be saved? Some men may well be motivated to salvation through joy. Some men are motivated to salvation (to sell all and buy the field) because of the enormous value of salvation (verse 46). Some men are motivated to salvation by their fear of God (Deu.8:5,6; Psalm 25:12-14, Isa.8:12). Even before delight comes wisdom, and before wisdom comes fearing the Lord (Psalm 111:10). Some men are motivated to salvation by the warning from Jesus to fear God (Matt.10:28, Luke 12:5) Some men are motivated to evangelize others because they fear God (2 Cor. 5:11).

Still other men are motivated to salvation by their love for God (James 2:5). Some men are motivated to salvation just because God calls them and for no other reason (Ephs. 2:8-10). Some men, or most men?, are motivated to salvation out of simple sorrow over their sins (2 Corinthians 7:10).

My apologies for such a lengthy response, however, studying God's word, even with those who are in disagreement, is a passion of mine. Knowledge of the word leads not just to understanding, but to salvation itself (2 Timothy 3:15).

If you would be gracious yet one more time and help us better understand if you have any other verses that you feel clearly articulates the doctrine that one must be born again into a Christian Hedonist before he can be saved?

It is my sincere hope that we can keep all our conversations rooted and grounded in the study of God's Word. For it is here that we come to understand the hope of our salvation and to increase our faith (Romans 10:17).

The young hedonist couple respond:

We enjoyed reading your previous email and were encouraged by it. For the past week I have been praying about how to respond and actually wrote up our interpretation of Psalm 37. However, I hesitate to send it.

We desire to have a growing relationship with you both, because we love you. We do not desire to avoid certain topics with you, but we will not enter into a prolonged discussion on these issues either. We believe that these arguments are detrimental to our relationship with you and dishonor our Lord.

Over four years have passed since these e-mails were exchanged. The young hedonist couple persists in shunning (withholding spiritual fellowship from) the older Christian couple. And though the hedonist couple repeatedly promised to explain how Psalm 37 proves one must be born again into a Christian Hedonist before one can be saved, they have declined to share their exegesis of Psalm 37 with the older couple. As a result of the shunning, over the years, all fellowship and human contact have evaporated, crushing the hearts and spirits of the older Christian couple.



Editorial Comment on Dialogue 4

This dialogue, between myself and a gentleman who I understand to be an attendee of Dr. Piper’s church, did not transpire via e-mail, but primarily via the discussion forum hosted by this web site (that forum has since been discontinued due to a technical incompatibilty with the new host server). Given that the gentleman himself chose to publicly post his own full name and e-mail address on the forum, I have left his first name visible, though I did delete his last name, and removed his e-mail address.

While I discontinued posting illustrative e-mail exchanges such as this years ago, this exchange was somewhat unique, and frankly, encouraging as it often sparked a need for me to study afresh some areas of Scripture. Chris posted first on the discussion forum, then followed up with a personal e-mail and a posting on this site’s guest book, asking to open a public dialogue regarding some observations he had. His desire was for the discussion to be entirely public so that an acquaintance of his could follow the discussion for himself. Through this discussion I was prompted to renew some Bible study into the subject matter and found myself knee-deep in reading and studying Solomon’s writings. The results of that study can be found by reading the article, Pursuing Pleasure and Pursuing the Wind--Solomon’s Lesson on Hedonism.

 
Original Posting
Posted by Chris on 22:51:24 3/17/2005
I have read your articles and discussions of "Christian Hedonism" here. I think you are very mistaken in your assessment of our enjoyment of God through Christ.

You are separating the "pursuit of pleasure" from motivation as if they were different. But, a motivation is merely a desire to do something because you WANT to. No one does anything unless he wants to (even when a gun is put to his head - he wants to avoid a bullet at that moment).

A person who does something without truly wanting to in his heart is a hypocrite and two-faced. God is not honored by those who speak His name but whose hearts are far from Him.

And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.'"(Mark 7:6)

That is why the state of our hearts in relation to God is so critical - so that we aren't being total hypocrites.

God is honored when true things are spoken of Him. But, He is more honored when our hearts are near to Him. The more right desires we have, the more He is honored and glorified.

I would be glad to receive a response.
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C. W. Booth's Follow-up to Original Posting
 
Posted by C. W. Booth_Site Manager on 10:41:55 3/19/2005
In reply to: Infinite Joy posted by Chris on 22:51:24 3/17/2005
Dear Chris,

Thank you for taking the time to read the articles on Christian Hedonism and for posting your observations on the discussion forum and guestbook. If you would like to discuss the matter in more depth than what will be covered here, I will be happy to dialogue via e-mail.

Chris posted: "I think you are very mistaken in your assessment of our enjoyment of God through Christ."
Chris, If you would mind quoting a specific statement I have made regarding assessing enjoyment of God it will help me better understand your concerns.

Chris posted: "You are separating the ‘pursuit of pleasure’ from motivation as if they were different."
Chris, I am not aware of where I may have done or said that. What I do remember having said is that the "pursuit of pleasure" is not a motivation that Scripture elevates to our highest priority. In fact, there are no explicit passages that say, "Christian, thou must pursue pleasure for thyself." There are passages that say, "pursue love."

Chris posted: "But, a motivation is merely a desire to do something because you WANT to. No one does anything unless he wants to (even when a gun is put to his head - he wants to avoid a bullet at that moment)."
Chris, I do not believe I can accept your understanding of "motivation" as it relates to duress. For example, the Bible tells us that no seeks God and that unless God draws a man, they would never come, yet, God is honored when we come. What sinners want is to stay away from God, what God makes them do is come. Similarly, those who are condemned to walk to their death chambers do not go to the gallows because they "want" to but because they have no other choice.

Your assumption is that the philosophers are correct that the "pursuit of pleasure" is the genuine motive for all choices in life and that man never does anything contrary to that "law." Here is the challenge: What passage of Scripture says that the pursuit of pleasure is, and should be, the greatest genuine motive for all choices in life?

Chris posted: "God is not honored by those who speak His name but whose hearts are far from Him. And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROMME.'"(Mark 7:6)

This is a common error, building a doctrine on a partially quoted statement which Jesus made. Here is the more complete statement: "This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men."

How does man honor God with his lips while his heart is far from God? By teaching their own invented philosophies (precepts) as if they too were real doctrines from Scripture.

Chris posted: "That is why the state of our hearts in relation to God is so critical - so that we aren't being total hypocrites."
Yes, but what is to BE the STATE of our hearts? Certainly it is not a good state of our hearts to pursue our own pleasures through the act of worship as if that were the true and only purpose for worship. Rather, the STATE of our hearts is to be one of loving God as our highest priority and greatest command. Of course, I would be pleased to reconsider this if you would cite a Scripture that says the highest state of our hearts is not love for God, but love for our own pleasure.

Thank you again for initiating this dialogue. May God be glorified through all that is said, and may your own life glorify and please God.
In Christ’s Service,
C. W. Booth
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Second Posting by Chris
 
Posted by Chris on 23:55:30 3/21/2005
In reply to: Re: Infinite Joy posted by C. W. Booth_Site Manager on 10:41:55 3/19/2005
Thanks for responding Mr. Booth. I am glad for your committment to the Word. I can tell that you value it highly and are watching your doctrine carefully.

I guess we have a number of points that we could branch off into based on your responses to me. I'm not sure if you prefer to stick to one specific topic or would rather try to tackle all of them at once. So, I'll respond to a few of your points and, also, make a suggestion for one specific topic to continue on with.

C. W. Booth writes: "This is a common error, building a doctrine on a partially quoted statement which Jesus made."

One of the problems with e-mails and limited time is that, in order to explain ourselves quickly, we have to make a choice between using many words to fully explain our positions and selecting one or two quick "sound bites" so that a reader will get a taste and actually take the time to read the whole e-mail.

I definitely don't build my doctrine on this verse nor a passage that I haven't fully quoted. My aim in selecting just that portion of the text was to make the connection between "a hypocrite" and someone who does something when their heart is not in it. You are correct in pointing to the rest of the verse. I agree with you that it provides additional understanding of the first part of the verse.

That said, I would like to focus on the topic of motivation. In all my conversations with individuals who have concerns and reservations about pursuing pleasure/enjoyment/satisfaction, I find the topic of motivation to be the least understood point.

C. W. Booth writes: "Your assumption is that the philosophers are correct that the "pursuit of pleasure" is the genuine motive for all choices in life and that man never does anything contrary to that "law.""

Blaise Pascal said it this way, "All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves." (Pascal's Pensees, #425)

Jonathan Edwards said it this way, "Jesus knew that all mankind were in the pursuit of happiness. He has directed them in the true way to it, and He tells them what they must become in order to be blessed and happy." (A sermon on Matthew 5:8 entitled, "Blessed are the Pure in Heart")

This is also my assumption. I find it at work in every choice that I ever make. Whenever I choose something, I often am pulled in two directions.

For example, I want to eat the cake because it's my favorite kind and it looks so good, but I also want to lose weight because I know that I have been gaining fat.

What do I choose? If at that moment my desire is more toward losing weight, then I will pass on the cake. And, if at that moment my desire is more toward enjoying the taste of my favorite cake, then I will eat the cake. Both desires are very real, it just comes down to what I want MORE at that moment of decision.

And, sometimes, it may even be that this battle of desires I just described is spontaneous and not drawn out in my mind - I just do what FEELS BEST at that moment without thinking all that much about all my competing desires.

But, no matter what, I am always choosing based on some desire, appeal, draw, pleasure, motivation, etc. I believe that these are all synonyms.

C. W. Booth writes: "Similarly, those who are condemned to walk to their death chambers do not go to the gallows because they "want" to but because they have no other choice."

I want to invite you to try to think of ANY situation where a person does NOT act based on their desires/motivation/pleasure/ etc. I am inviting this because I will argue that the rest of "Christian Hedonism" depends on this point.

In your first situation with the death row inmates, I want to describe why I think you are quite mistaken here.

These individuals, if they really are walking, have made a choice. These individuals actually have MANY options. They could sit on the ground and choose to not move their legs. They could have grabbed on to the nearest handhold (if there was one) and hung on as tight as possible. They could have held their breath until they passed out. They could have tried to fight off their guards. They could have done any number of other things depending on their specific circumstances. Or they could have followed along without any resistance whatsoever and walked peacefully to the death chamber.

So, why would these individuals choose one of these alternatives over any of the others? My position is that every one will do what he wants most at that moment.

Does he want to avoid the chambers more than he wants to avoid causing trouble? He will resist and cause trouble.

Does he want to avoid causing trouble more than he wants to avoid the chambers because he WANTS to be dignified in his last moments? He will walk peacefully.

C. W. Booth writes: "What passage of Scripture says that the pursuit of pleasure is, and should be, the greatest genuine motive for all choices in life?"

Again, I equate a motive with a pursuit of pleasure or a desire or an appeal or a drawing toward something or a seeking after something. And I believe that the source of this is my heart.

Jesus said this, "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart." (Luke 6:45)

I assume we can agree here that what I SAY comes directly from whatever is filling my heart at that particular moment.

"For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man." (Mark 7:21-23)

And I assume here we can agree that what I DO comes directly from whatever is filling my heart at that particular moment.

Jesus said, "for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:21)

Please read the surrounding context on your own...but, I hope we can agree that Jesus is telling us that our heart IS wherever our treasure is.

So, to recap, we SPEAK based on the state of our heart at that particular moment. We ACT based on the state of our heart at that particular moment. And the state of our heart at any particular moment is based on WHERE OUR TREASURE IS (I'm not shouting, just emphasizing this point! :)

Our treasure. Isn't that really the same thing as saying "that which we find pleasure in" without quite so many words?

I could go on with others, but I'll give you time to respond to all this. Feel free, but my suggestion is to start with this sticking point about motives and motivation for the things that we do...which will eventually include that great and lofty goal of loving God with "all our hearts" and "pursuing love" toward our neighbor just as much as we are (already) pursuing it for ourselves, and doing this without being hypocrites.

Thanks for the interaction and the committment to God's Word!
Chris
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C. W. Booth's Follow-up to the Second Posting
 
Posted by C. W. Booth on 22:20:34 3/23/2005
In reply to: Re: Infinite Joy posted by Chris on 23:55:30 3/21/2005

Dear Chris,

Thank you for considering my response to your first post. My foremost difficulty with Christian Hedonism is that it rests solely on a foundation of philosophies, cobbled together not from Scripture, but from various men, some of them noted Christians. My opinion is that the resulting philosophy contradicts Scripture on some major fundamental doctrines, and therefore ought to be treated as a curiosity rather than a model for Christian living and faith--as should any invention of man that clashes with God’s revealed Word.

Chris posted: "My aim in selecting just that portion of the text was to make the connection between ‘a hypocrite’ and someone who does something when their heart is not in it. … And, sometimes, it may even be that this battle of desires I just described is spontaneous and not drawn out in my mind - I just do what FEELS BEST at that moment without thinking all that much about all my competing desires."

We probably do not agree on the use of Mark 7:6,7 for the purpose you specify. The word "heart" means "all that comprises me--the repository of the consequences of all my actions: my thoughts, my intents, my will, my intellect, my good purposes, my bad purposes, my skills, my gifts, my personality (good traits and bad). I may be misunderstanding you, however, it appears you mean to make "heart" to be synonymous with "emotions" or "desire". The word is simply not that narrow in most of its uses throughout the Scriptures.

Chris, your comment, "I just do what FEELS BEST at that moment without thinking all that much about all my competing desires" is the phrase that drives to very core of this discussion. King Solomon was the ultimate hedonist (read a little about that in the article "List of Bible Verses that Challenge Hedonism" [or the article "Pursuing Pleasure and Pursuing the Wind--Solomon’s Lesson on Hedonism"]). He did not withhold from himself any pleasure or any desire. He did just as he felt like doing, and he found this philosophy to be "vanity" which also led him to great apostasy. So very much of Scripture advises us NOT to indulge our feelings (Ephesians 2:3) but to use our mind’s "sound reasoning" to overcome the desires of our hearts (Titus 2:6). Actions must be based on clear biblical judgements and discernment, not on what feels good.

Chris, you refer to "hypocrisy" as doing something you do not "feel like" doing, even if the thing you do is Scriptural and is meant to be beneficial to someone other than yourself. Chris, that is "love" and "obedience," not hypocrisy. Paul said, he desired (had feelings of desire) to give up his salvation so that other Jews would be saved because of his great love for them (of course God did not allow him to do so, yet, this is the decision he would have made if he could have made it, but his desire was not hypocrisy, it was love)--see Romans 9:3.

Paul also said he would prefer to die and be at home with Christ for that is where his final rewards were and that is where his greatest joys would be. Yet Paul chose to dismiss his "feelings" and continue living, to continue enduring persecution, jail, beatings, illness, and suffering. Why? For the benefit of the Philippians (Philippians 1:23,24). Even though being in heaven would have been "very much better" for Paul (his words), he chose to stay alive on Earth, not out of hypocrisy, but out of love for his kinsmen and love for Christ.

Jesus died on the cross, not to please Himself but to bend to the will of the Father (Romans 15:3). This was love, not hypocrisy. When Jesus said, "not my will but yours" (Luke 22:42), this was not a statement of hypocrisy, but of loving obedience.

People are not animals, driven solely by their emotions, feelings, and genetic programming (instincts). To argue that human decisions are only made based on "lust for pleasure" is an ages old fallacy. That idea is nowhere taught by the Scriptures as a doctrine. It is a humanistic philosophy taught by men, not taught by God.

Men rise above hedonism when they decide with their heart (intellect, spiritual discernment, and wisdom) to chose to do good for another at the expense of pleasure for themselves. This is called "love" in 1 Corinthians 13:5. Doing something other than what we most "desire" so that someone else may attain genuine good is what separates man from the animals, and possibly separates the saved from the unsaved. Certainly, it is what separates those who love from those who hedonistically pursue their own pleasure.

Making a choice motivated by love (to bring someone else "good" even if I get little or nothing in return) requires the ability to bring all manner of tools and judgments to the decision. Is this the "right" thing to do according to God’s Word (Ephesians 6:1)? Will this please God (1 Thessalonians 4:1)? Am I capable of doing this (Luke 14:28)? How will this be good for the other person (1 Thessalonians 5:15)? Will it be good for them even if it causes them pain and is not pleasurable (Hebrews 12:9-11)? Deciding to act out of love is almost never a question of, "what will give ME the most pleasure?"

On the other hand, saying I will act out for the sake of love, yet actually taking action based on what will give me pleasure is in fact the true definition of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is saying one thing but doing something different. Hypocrisy is not feeling one way, but suppressing that feeling in favor of doing something better than my feelings would have led me to do.

If all choices are morally contingent on the primary consideration of "how will this bring me the most pleasure?", which is exactly what Christian Hedonism teaches, please quote the Bible passage that actually teaches that doctrine.

Christ posted: "So, why would these individuals choose one of these alternatives over any of the others? My position is that every one will do what he wants most at that moment."

Permit me to offer this observation, your main argument has become inconsistent with your last quote. No longer are you saying, "men ONLY do what brings them the most pleasure," which was your main thesis up till now, but now you have changed your thesis to: "men ONLY do what they want most at the moment." Logically, you must mean that all men "most want" pleasure at any given moment, otherwise, your contention that men ONLY do what brings them the most pleasure is admittedly incorrect. For the two statements would ordinarily be in conflict.

Do not feel badly, for In fact, that is the problem with "hedonism." It starts with the extra-biblical premise that "men ONLY do what brings them the most pleasure." But this is an obvious deficiency for it is well documented that men are genuinely motivated by an entire plethora of motives and feelings (love, hate, sorrow, duty, sympathy, anger, depression, righteousness, empathy, pride, patriotism, etc). But the idea that men only choose pleasure as the only motive for every decision and every action ever taken is inconsistent with the Scriptural commands to "do nothing from selfishness" (Philippians 2:3,4) or "love does not seek its own good" (1 Corinthians 13:5) or "even Jesus did not please Himself" (Romans 15:3).

Men have the ability to put "pleasure" aside as a decision-making criteria by a simple act of their will, and focus instead on what is good for someone else. Animals cannot do this, but men can. When men put the good of others ahead of their own pleasures, they are acting beyond selfishness. What these unselfish men will themselves to do is act out of love, not act out of pleasure. Therefore it is a fallacy to argue that the following two expressions are the same: "men ONLY do what brings them the most pleasure," and "men ONLY do what they want most at the moment."

What some men want most at the moment is to give their bodies to be struck by a car so as to bring good to another by moving the stranger out of the way of harm. Such men are not acting with pleasure as their motive-of-the-moment, but acting selflessly, demonstrating love. Putting aside pleasure, their greatest want is to please God by loving others even though it cost them the pleasure of using their legs for a lifetime. The "want" that motivates men to act is simply not always pleasure. Further, the Bible says pleasure is not what should drive us: "The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure." (Ecclesiastes 7:4).

At one point, Chris, I asked: "What passage of Scripture says that the pursuit of pleasure is, and should be, the greatest genuine motive for all choices in life?"

Chris posted: "Again, I equate a motive with a pursuit of pleasure or a desire or an appeal or a drawing toward something or a seeking after something. And I believe that the source of this is my heart. Jesus said this, ‘The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.’ (Luke 6:45)"

Chris, I am sorry, but I must respectfully profess that in no way do I see Luke 6:45 teaching the doctrine "that the pursuit of pleasure is, and should be, the greatest genuine motive for all choices in life."

When you said you interpret Luke 6:45 by first applying this formula, "I equate a motive with a pursuit of pleasure or a desire" you approach Luke 6:45 with a presupposition that is simply unproven. The "pursuit of pleasure" is not the basis for all choices or desires. It is because of that unproven assumption that when you read Luke 6:45 you see it inferring a "pursuit of pleasure."

What Luke 6:45 teaches, along with the other passages you cite, is that if a man’s heart (the cumulative consequences of all he has done or thought, his will, his intents, his loves, his studies, his God/gods) are evil, then his words will be evil as well. If a man’s heart is saved, redeemed, and immersed in righteousness then his mouth will speak righteousness. The heart is the repository of all that a man is, not only what he finds pleasant.

Chris posted: "Our treasure. Isn't that really the same thing as saying ‘that which we find pleasure in’ without quite so many words?"

Actually, no. A careful exegesis of the passages you cite would uncover that the word "treasure" is not quite what you have indicated it is. In Matthew 12:35 the word "treasure" (Greek "thesauros") simply means "an accumulation of things." These could be of great value, or none, they could be pleasurable, or they could be heartbreakers. What we have stored up for ourselves, within ourselves, in fact the very essence of what we have become including the "consequences" of what we have done, are both good and evil, pleasant and unpleasant.

That which has pleasure is not innately valuable. Satan gives much pleasure, and even his form is pleasing, yet he is not innately valuable to the Christian.

That which has value is not innately pleasurable. A blazing multi-colored sunset over Las Angeles may be pleasurable to the eyes of some, but often it is only "pretty" because the choking poisons of intense air pollution are refracting the light--and there is no innate value in carcinogenic air pollution.

Why is God of value? Is it because He gives pleasure? Or is it because He is the fearful Creator who molds us into His image, for His name’s sake, so that we might become righteous? I would argue that God is "of value" because of Who He is, whether people see pleasure in Him or not. Pleasure is at best a weak indicator of value or worth.

This has gone on quite long. Please permit me to wrap up with this request:

If the Bible teaches that all decisions in life are to be morally acceptable only if one makes his first consideration the question of "how will this bring ME the most pleasure?" then please quote the Bible passage that actually teaches that doctrine.

In Christ’s Service,
C. W. Booth

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Third Posting by Chris

 

Posted by Chris on 19:16:12 3/24/2005

In reply to: Re: Infinite Joy posted by C. W. Booth on 22:20:34 3/23/2005

You are asking for a passage that explicitly teaches the "doctrine" that we SHOULD always acts out of the motivations and desires of our heart.

It doesn't work that way. It isn't a question of SHOULD or SHOULD NOT. It is merely a statement of THE WAY THINGS ALREADY ARE.

Let's stick to one point here for a little while because I don't think you are seeing the forest through the trees.

C. W. Booth writes: "Permit me to offer this observation, your main argument has become inconsistent with your last quote. No longer are you saying, "men ONLY do what brings them the most pleasure," which was your main thesis up till now, but now you have changed your thesis to: "men ONLY do what they want most at the moment." Logically, you must mean that all men "most want" pleasure at any given moment, otherwise, your contention that men ONLY do what brings them the most pleasure is admittedly incorrect. For the two statements would ordinarily be in conflict."

This is exactly what I mean.

To say "I want to go to the store" means "I would be pleased to going to the store" not "I am indifferent about going to the store."

To say "I want to rob a bank" means "I would be pleased to rob a bank" not "I don't care about robbing a bank."

To say "I want to go help that person" means "I would be pleased to go help that person" not "I am neutral as to whether I help that person."

You bring up the agony of our Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane which is very appropriate since today is Maundy Thursday.

Of course, Jesus said "not my will but yours." But He didn't go off and stomp His feet to the cross like a little child who was just told to go clean up his room...

"...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who FOR THE JOY set before Him endured the cross" (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Now, this enduring of the cross is the greatest act of LOVE ever performed. It was also the greatest act of OBEDIENCE or DUTY ever performed. But the clear teaching in this passage is that Jesus did it FOR THE JOY set before Him. He WANTED to do it even though He didn't WANT to do it.

Jesus wanted to do it for one motivation (saving sinners, being obedient) even though He didn't want to do it for another motivation (being momentarily forsaken by God). And, guess what, the strongest motivation resulted in Jesus' choice accordingly.

This is the same thing for every choice that we make to do or say anything. We always do what we want most at that moment, which is the same as saying we always do what is MOST pleasing/agreeable/desirous/motivating/attractive/etc to us at that moment.

If I jump in front of a bus to push a stranger out of the way, it didn't come from a desire to avoid pain or else I wouldn't have jumped. It came from a desire to save someone. I wanted to save someone. I was pleased to save that person. It would bring me joy to save that guy. I wanted to save him. And so I jumped in front of the bus. If I didn't have these feelings or if I was even merely neutral about it, I wouldn't have done it.

If I seek to obey God, it didn't come out of neutrality or indifference toward God. It came from my desire to obey God. I am pleased to be obedient to God. I am displeased to be disobedient toward God. If I had opposite feelings or were merely neutral, I would not seek to obey God.

This is because I wouldn't WANT to...without a desire, there is no WANT.

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C. W. Booth’s Follow-up to the Third Posting

 

Posted by C. W. Booth on 21:26:14 3/25/2005:

In reply to: Re: Infinite Joy posted by Chris on 19:16:12 3/24/2005

Chris Posted: "You are asking for a passage that explicitly teaches the ‘doctrine’ that we SHOULD always acts out of the motivations and desires of our heart. It doesn't work that way. It isn't a question of SHOULD or SHOULD NOT. It is merely a statement of THE WAY THINGS ALREADY ARE. … all men ‘most want’ pleasure at any given moment…This is exactly what I mean. … We always do what we want most at that moment, which is the same as saying we always do what is MOST pleasing/agreeable/desirous/motivating/attractive/etc to us at that moment."

Chris, I appreciate your honesty with regard to this teaching from Christian Hedonism. As you point out, there is no passage, or set of passages in God’s Word which teach men SHOULD always be motivated by a lust for pleasure.

So where does this teaching by Christian Hedonism originate? If not from Scripture, then the doctrine must come from the world and its philosophical system. And in fact, many (most?) people do give in to the temptation to do all that they do from a desire to maximize their pleasure. But should they act this way?

Your argument is that Christians have NO CHOICE but to act from a single motive of self-interest (or to be more specific the pursuit of their own pleasure). You said it is "the way things already are." In short, Christian Hedonism teaches there is but one single motive for all decisions and actions made by mankind, and that this is good and proper, in fact, this is just the way God made us so we should exploit that attribute, make the most of it, and not fight it. Let us compare with Scripture that foundational assumption (that men can only act from one motive: self-interest, and that this self-interest is always the "pursuit of their own pleasure").

"You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures." (James 4:3)

"All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives." (Proverbs 16:2)

"Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God." (1 Corinthians 4:5)

"Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives" (Philippians 1:15-17a)

We see from these verses that some Christian motives are right, and some are wrong. This means that God’s Word disagrees with the foundational assumption of hedonism. There actually are more motives than just one.

Moreover, the motive of "pursuing one’s own pleasure" (hedonism) is the WRONG motive to have, at least according to James 4:3. Philippians 1:17 even calls this wrong motive of hedonism, "selfish ambition."

"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3)

"For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing." (James 3:16)

Here again, what must accurately be called a "wrong motive" is identified. And one more time that wrong motive is hedonism. "The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, While the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure." (Ecclesiastes 7:4)

Since we know by our readings from the Word that there are truly such things as wrong motives, and since we know that the pursuit of one’s pleasures is one of those "wrong motives," what might we say are right motives?

"Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter DO IT OUT OF LOVE" (Philippians 1:15,16a);

And so we know, by the authority of God’s own Word, that motives may be good (such as the motive of love) and motives may be evil (such as the motive of seeking pleasure for self). Let God be found true, though every man and every philosopher be found a liar when they reject the Word and claim that men and God are motivated by but one solitary passion: the pursuit of their own pleasure.

Regarding your other point, Chris, I am aware that Christian Hedonism uses Hebrews 12:2 as a form of philosophical "trump card", implying that no matter what motives Jesus thought He had for sacrificing Himself, his "real reason" all along was to soak up all the joy he could for Himself.

"fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2)

This is a false conclusion that Christian Hedonism makes based on isolating this passage from all the other Scriptures that also describe Christ’s motives. Had this been the only passage in all the Bible that mentioned Christ’s motives, hedonism’s argument may have had some substance. But it is unethical to ignore all the other passages that describe why Jesus did what He did. Hedonism also makes numerous unfounded assumptions about the meaning of Hebrews 12:2.

First, let us acknowledge that this is not the only passage that speaks of Christ’s motives for sacrificing Himself. There are many such passages that show a wide range of motivations for all that Jesus did:

"Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even CHRIST DID NOT PLEASE HIMSELF; but as it is written, The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me." (Romans 15:1-3) -- motive: neighbor’s good, neighbor’s edification

"Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having LOVED His own who were in the world, He LOVED them to the end." (John 13:1) -- motive: love of the saints

"But God demonstrates His own LOVE toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) -- motive: love of sinners

"Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I HAVE NOT COME ON MY OWN INITIATIVE, but HE SENT ME. Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word.’ " (John 8:42,43) -- motive: duty and obedience

"but so that the world may know that I LOVE the Father, I do exactly as THE FATHER COMMANDED Me. Get up, let us go from here." (John 14:31) -- motive: love, duty

Christ had so many good motives: duty, love, obedience, selflessly seeking the edification of others instead of pleasing Himself. So many motives.

So then, what does it really mean "for the joy set before Him"? Consider, was this joy all for, and only for, Jesus Himself? Or was it the joy that the Father would experience seeing His Son be dutifully obedient? Or was it the joy that the angels would experience at seeing one sinner repent? Or was it the joy that the elect would experience upon attaining salvation? Or was it all these unselfish joys that Jesus envisioned before Him?

For anyone to think that the phrase "for the joy set before Him" means Christ died only to satisfy His personal lust for His own pleasure, such a person simply lacks appreciation for all that the Scriptures do say about why Jesus did what He did. Jesus was motivated by love for His elect, by duty, by holiness, by the joy the Father would get (this would also be considered a motivation of love for the Father), by the joy the angels would experience, and probably He was partially motivated by the joy He Himself would experience after it was all over.

For a more full explanation of what motivated Jesus, and what motivates God, please consider reading: http://www.thefaithfulword.org/isgodahedonist.html (article: Is God a Hedonist?), and also reading, http://www.thefaithfulword.org/chfaqspage2.html#Q34 (Christian Hedonism FAQ 34: What motivated Jesus?). In fact, Scriptures indicate Jesus was "motivated" by love for men, duty, mercy, compassion, and yes, even by the joy that others would experience and perhaps even partly motivated by the joy He too would experience.

Chris, I started this posting with some quotes from your last post. Here are some of your words again: "You are asking for a passage that explicitly teaches the ‘doctrine’ that we SHOULD always acts out of the motivations and desires of our heart. It doesn't work that way. It isn't a question of SHOULD or SHOULD NOT. It is merely a statement of THE WAY THINGS ALREADY ARE. … all men ‘most want’ pleasure at any given moment…This is exactly what I mean. … we always do what is MOST pleasing…to us at that moment."

It is my hope that from our miniature study of God’s Word we have both seen that:
- Scriptures teach that the world’s philosophers are wrong and that there are many more than just one motive in life, and that the Word says some motives are morally right and some morally wrong
- Morally wrong motives often involve the pursuit of one’s own pleasure (hedonism is never spoken well of in the Bible)
- Right motives most often involve acting selflessly for the sake of loving others and for the sake of being obedient to God

Therefore, instead of adopting worldly philosophies and converting them into the doctrines of the church, we ought to bring our thinking into agreement with the revealed Word of God. We should then profess along with the Scriptures that men are motivated in many ways, that man can and should rise above hedonism (the selfish pursuit of one’s own pleasure) as a motivational base, admit that hedonism is one of the worst motives to employ, and concur with the Bible that pursuing love is one of the holiest of motivations.

Chris, thank you again for posting. May God grant us all a deeper understanding of His Word and may our faith grow as we study His Word so that we may serve Him with boldness and humility.
C. W. Booth

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Fourth Posting by Chris

Posted by Chris on 23:46:29 3/26/2005

In reply to: Re: Infinite Joy posted by C. W. Booth on 21:26:14 3/25/2005

Brother C. W. Booth, you are so close to understanding this rightly. But, in so much of your discussion you are setting up a straw-man argument that is easily knocked over and called unbiblical and worldly and wrong.

You summarized this discussion as follows:

"It is my hope that from our miniature study of God’s Word we have both seen that:
- Scriptures teach that the world’s philosophers are wrong and that there are many more than just one motive in life, and that the Word says some motives are morally right and some morally wrong
- Morally wrong motives often involve the pursuit of one’s own pleasure (hedonism is never spoken well of in the Bible)
- Right motives most often involve acting selflessly for the sake of loving others and for the sake of being obedient to God"

Mr. Booth, you are wrong that pursuing pleasure is unbiblical. The problem here is discernment of motives.

You say that Jesus was "by love for men, duty, mercy, compassion, and yes, even by the joy that others would experience and perhaps even partly motivated by the joy He too would experience"

You are correct on all accounts. But Jesus WAS PLEASED to show love toward men - He enjoyed showing love toward men - and was not merely neutral and unpassionate about it.

Jesus WAS PLEASED to be obedient and fulfill His duties - He enjoyed obeying His Father - and was not merely neutral and unpassionate about it.

Jesus WAS PLEASED to be merciful and compassionate - He enjoyed displaying these attributes of God to all of humanity on that cross - and was not merely neutral and unpassionate about being merciful.

The Scripture calls us to LOVE mercy not to just DO mercy. That is not neutral selflessness...LOVING mercy is a state of the heart.

I am so glad that you quoted all those verses about wrong motives in your last posting. Yes, God primarily judges the motives and weighs the heart. THAT IS WHY WE NEED TO FOCUS ON OUR MOTIVES AND OUR HEART.

Do we really LOVE mercy or are we following the worldly advice of the Nike Corporation - JUST DO IT!

The Scripture verses you quote obviously call out the wrong motives of seeking the pleasures of this world, which are "hedone" in the Greek.

I am not advocating that we get all excited about attempting to redeem the word "Hedonism" by tacking "Christian" on the front of it.

And I am not advocating pleasure for the mere sake of pleasure - which is exactly where "hedone" stops.

I am accurately pointing out that WE ALWAYS DO WHAT APPEALS TO US THE MOST AT THAT MOMENT.

And here's the kicker that ought to help you in your search for Biblical support...THE WHOLE BIBLE ASSUMES THIS TO BE TRUE.

Come on, Mr. Booth. The verses you keep calling out are NOT condemning the fact that everyone acts out of motivation. They are condemning the things that humans are motivated by.

Why do you obey? Do you obey WITHOUT really WANTING to obey? Then you dishonor God with hypocrisy. Are you merely neutral about obedience toward God? You still dishonor Him. Do you LOVE to obey God? Is it your PASSION? Do you LOVE mercy? Are you a CHEERFUL giver? To truly honor God with your mere dutiful, selfless obedience....you must.

As I said in my last posting, I think you are not seeing the forest through the trees here. Motives are all over the Bible, and they always result in a person doing WHAT HE WANTS TO DO MOST AT THAT MOMENT.

Did Jesus WANT to be foresaken by His Father and experience excruciating pain for the sake of experiencing pain? No way. Did Jesus WANT to be merciful and compassionate and obedient and loving? Absolutely and with great PASSION. He LOVES to show God's mercy! So, there were competing desires going on, and clearly the strongest desires/pleasures/motives carried the day - as they always do in every choice that you ever make.

The Bible assumes this because it is true. The Bible does NOT condemn making choices because you WANT and ENJOY what you choose. It only condemns evil, temporary, second-rate, worldly-centered desires. And it condemns legalistic "obedience" whereby a person does not LOVE mercy or give CHEERFULLY rather than under compulsion.

Why don't you show me just one situation in the Bible where someone does something without really WANTING to do it for ANY motivation whatsoever - perfect emotional neutrality on all accounts.

As I said way back at the beginning of this discussion thread in my first post to you - "You are separating the "pursuit of pleasure" from motivation as if they were different."

This has been the WHOLE POINT of my discussion throughout all my postings, and I think you have missed it altogether.

I don't see where you have addressed my point. Perhaps I have missed it amidst your many words about SHOULDs and SHOULD NOTs.

Is not motivation a desire? a want to? an attraction to? an appeal towards? a bent towards?

And are not these motivations my own? So how could there ever be such a thing as a selfless motive?

WHAT IF I <ENJOY> BEING SELFLESS AND SHOWING LOVE TOWARD OTHERS?

AND, IF I DON'T <ENJOY> LOVING THEM, AM I TRULY LOVING THEM?

So, I'll restart at square one and draw as much focus as I can to my whole point in writing to you in the first place:

"You are separating the "pursuit of pleasure" from motivation as if they were different. But, a motivation is merely a desire to do something because you WANT to. No one does anything unless he wants to (even when a gun is put to his head - he wants to avoid a bullet at that moment)"

Thank you for hearing my concern with your teaching. I love you as a brother even though I don't know you. I share your concern for bad doctrine in the church. And I am mainly attempting to explain where I believe you have gone wrong in your assessment of pleasure/happiness/motivation/desires/etc.

May God help us to be of one mind and one Spirit,
Chris

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C. W. Booth’s Follow-up to the Fourth Posting

 

Posted by C. W. Booth on 22:28:43 3/27/2005

In reply to: Re: Infinite Joy posted by Chris on 23:46:29 3/26/2005

Chris posted: "in so much of your discussion you are setting up a straw-man argument that is easily knocked over and called unbiblical and worldly and wrong."

Chris, I confess to some additional confusion by your assertion that my statements have been "straw men" as well as "unbiblical and worldly." I was unaware I was putting forward a straw man at all. Indeed, I am not proposing any new theory or philosophy for which a straw man would be required. What I have proposed is that Scripture does not command the "pursuit of pleasure," and where the Bible does make reference to someone who was engaged in the pursuit of pleasure, it is never extolled as a favorable motive. Perhaps I am mistaken, as is often the case, but citing one’s case from Scripture is probably not properly called "a straw man."

Chris posted: "Mr. Booth, you are wrong that pursuing pleasure is unbiblical."
Often I am wrong, and on so many different topics, I must add. To be precise in this specific circumstance, however, it should be noted that my objection is primarily centered on the tenet of Christian Hedonism that states that God commands us to pursue our pleasures as our highest calling. Regarding this alleged command (to be devoted to a lifestyle of pursuing pleasure as our highest calling), I continue to search for a Bible passage which would make such a thing, "biblical." Until I find such an unambiguous and authoritative passage, I cannot accept that I am "wrong" on this particular point (you are invited to read "Christian Hedonism--A Wake-up Call to the Church" http://www.thefaithfulword.org/wakeupcall.html to further explore the emphasis that Christian Hedonism places on the assumed command to "pursue pleasure").

Chris posted: "Jesus WAS PLEASED to be merciful and compassionate - He enjoyed displaying these attributes of God to all of humanity on that cross - and was not merely neutral and unpassionate about being merciful."

Chris, perhaps it is as you say, that Jesus did find pleasure displaying God’s attributes while hanging from the cross. Though what I fear is that you are intimating that the ONLY reason that Christ went to the cross was to please Himself, in other words, He experienced personal feelings of pleasure as His primary motivation for service and all other reasons were unnecessary or "secondary" considerations at best. Certainly that is what you meant when you said, "WE ALWAYS DO WHAT APPEALS TO US THE MOST AT THAT MOMENT."

Do you not think it odd that instead of commanding us to "pursue pleasure" as our driving motivation to do all things, instead, God wrote to us over and over, " ’What commandment is the foremost of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, 'Hear, o Israel! the Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these.’ " (Mark 12:8-31)

Love is the greatest motivation we have. And love is the motivation that the Bible commands us to have. (For a more thorough discussion on being "controlled by the love of Christ" please read: http://www.thefaithfulword.org/livingforchrist.html ). There is no godly motivation which is greater than love, unless one looks outside the Bible for some supposed "higher" authority.

Christian Hedonism attempts to replace biblical "love" (doing good for the benefit of others) with "self-interest" (I will ONLY do good for others if there is a sufficiently high payback for me of pleasurable feelings). To accomplish this, Christian Hedonism relies entirely on philosophers, and not on the Word, to demonstrate that all human actions must be motivated by self-interest. Therefore, any action or Bible verse one may find that says someone did something out of a motivation of love, the hedonist calls out, "But no, my philosophy book says he only fooled himself into thinking he was doing it for the good of others, in reality he would never have done it if he did not expect to get an even larger return in pleasurable feelings." Through this materialistic logic all acts of goodness, virtue, and love, are magically transformed into mercenary acts of self-pleasing.

Not only does the Scripture not support alchemizing the word "love" to reverse its nature into "self-interest", but doing so allows the baser aspects of the world’s philosophies to become our "Scriptures." When we adopt this secular world’s definitions and change the sweet nature of "love," the very word God calls our greatest commandment, to be the same bitter poisonous meaning as the word "selfishness", we render such passages as Philippians 2:3 meaningless: "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves." Not "as important as yourself," but "more important."

For indeed, if love is truly nothing more than being selfish by pursuing our own pleasurable feelings in all that we do, then, the only way left to us to be "selfish" would be to do something for the good of another for which we expected nothing in return. At such a time we would finally have done what God warns against, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20)

Nonetheless, I believe better of us all, and most certainly I believe better of Christ’s sacrifice. When the Word says He did this because He so loved the world, I do believe it. And when Paul said he desired to see the Jews saved and himself go to Hell, I do believe it (Romans 9:3). And when Paul claimed that death would be better for him than life, yet the reason he did not succumb to death was for the benefit of the Philippians, I do believe it (Philippians 1:23,24). Had these motives been more grounded in the self-interest of pleasurable feelings than in love, I should have expected the Word to tell us so.

Chris posted: "WE ALWAYS DO WHAT APPEALS TO US THE MOST AT THAT MOMENT. And here's the kicker that ought to help you in your search for Biblical support...THE WHOLE BIBLE ASSUMES THIS TO BE TRUE."

Chris, I must reject this assumption. If every human author of the Bible inspired by the Holy Spirit assumed that men only did what most pleased them at any given moment and could not do otherwise, I would expect to see such an assumption stated overtly, if for no other reason than to complete the doctrines of holiness and love. Even the most foundational of all assumptions, that God exists, is stated overtly in the Word. The Word talks about selfishness and it talks about selfless love (love that does not seek its own interests--1 Corinthians 13:5), how is it that an assumption like, "love is really the pursuit of pleasure" was not recorded?

Permit me to also address another observation about this assumption that men only do what most gives them the most pleasure at that moment and that they cannot do otherwise. Such a law of behavior would mean that I am incapable of doing anything except out of selfishness or selfish ambition. According to this "law of pleasurable behavior" there are no real choices for me to make. I cannot choose between good and evil because I will always choose that which is most pleasurable at that very moment. All that the Bible tells us about making wise decisions instead of sinful ones is of no account because I am incapable of choosing good over and above feelings of pleasure. Scripture tells us to weigh our decisions on the basis of what will please God, not what will please us (1 Thessalonians 4:1); the Bible knows nothing of this "law of pleasurable behavior" which supposedly works innately in us and is inviolate.

It is no shortcoming or defect that the Bible neglects to describe a "law of pleasurable behavior" as being what drives all human thought and actions, for such a law is a figment of the philosopher’s mind and a godless invention of psychologists such as Maslow. We have a choice, we can choose righteous behavior because we love God, or, we can choose selfish behavior because we love ourselves and we are devoted to pleasure more than we love God.

Chris posted: "As I said way back at the beginning of this discussion thread in my first post to you - ‘You are separating the ‘pursuit of pleasure’ from motivation as if they were different.’ This has been the WHOLE POINT of my discussion throughout all my postings, and I think you have missed it altogether. I don't see where you have addressed my point. Perhaps I have missed it amidst your many words about SHOULDs and SHOULD NOTs. Is not motivation a desire? a want to? an attraction to? an appeal towards? a bent towards?"

Forgive my naivete, but I had assumed that the primary goal of your postings were to show that the "pursuit of pleasure" is the only motivation a person ever genuinely has, the underlying assumption of the entire philosophy of Christian Hedonism. If I misunderstood your intents in posting, I am sorry.

It has been my purpose all along to demonstrate through the use of these many Scriptures that God Himself along with all Christians have more than just one discretionary motive on which to decide to act. For men, some are good motives, some evil. Regarding man, the "pursuit of pleasure" is just one rather sad and weak motive for undertaking an act of worship or service. Regarding God, does it not strike the Christian Hedonist the least bit odd that the Word says that "God is love" (1 John 4:8) and not that God is a hedonist, implying that God is most strongly motivated by love and not by pleasure-seeking?

As one of my dictionaries states, "motive" means: a reason to act, a stimulus working on the will to prompt a decision. It defines some reasons (motives) as internally derived from our value systems and intellects, and some as externally applied as "goads--a motive that keeps one going against one's will or desire." The pursuit of pleasure is just one possible motive for action, not THE motive for ALL action.

In short, in the face of a whelming preponderance of Bible passages that describe many motives for both men and for God, with love being the greatest, and with love being defined in the Word as doing good for another without the necessity of self-interested expectations, and with absolutely no command from that same Word of God to "pursue pleasure" as our greatest motive and highest calling, I must continue to reject the philosophy of Christian Hedonism as being unbiblical. Christian Hedonism, for all its many books and reliance on the writings of so-called philosophers, is predicated on assumptions which the Bible simply does not substantiate.

Chris, I wish for you only goodness and righteousness as you pursue love for God and love for your neighbors.


C. W. Booth




Concluding Editorial Comment
Again, it would be wrong to be derisive of those who call themselves hedonists or to belittle those who resist using God's Word to explain their position. Similarly, it would be inappropriate to withhold from them the correctly interpreted Word of God. Share with them lovingly and gently, but be persistent. The Word never returns void.


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