John Piper recently spoke at Google on the topic, Jesus Christ Egomaniac? The impetus for that question is the astounding number of prominent people who have explicitly rejected Christianity because they have perceived God (or Jesus) as being an egomaniac. While Piper seems to think that these rejections are based on a misunderstanding of God's love, I'm going to argue that these people are actually rejecting God because of their adopted morality of altruism. But let's start with the four noteworthy instances of such rejections which Piper recounts. ...continue reading
Piper's recent article on armed Christian self-defense has stirred up a lot of controversy, primarily because, in it, he sheds a lot of doubt on whether and when it is ever appropriate for Christians to physically defend themselves––particularly with a weapon. While the points in his article offer a much needed Biblical emphasis on trusting and glorifying God in the midst of tribulation, the article doesn't seem to leave much room (if any) for glorifying God through self-defense. However, I would like to submit the bold idea that Piper's position might be altered if he were to think a little bit more like a Christian Hedonist about this issue.
In a recent interview with Collin Hansen (above), Dr. John Piper explained why he didn’t gravitate toward the language of color-blindness. At his Church (Bethlehem Baptist -- which is where I currently attend), his successor, Jason Meyer, just preached on the annual emphasis of racial harmony. In light of these events, and of course, Martin Luther King Jr. day, I thought this would be a good opportunity to flesh out my views on the issue. ...continue reading
"Gay Marriage" is an abomination. So is the attempt to outlaw it.
With Senator Rob Portman recently coming out as the first Republican Senator to support “Gay Marriage”, there has been a lot of approving noise in the media, and a lot of disapproving noise from Christian leaders - unfortunately none of the noise seems to be getting to the heart of the issue. Many in the media (and on the left in general) approve because they heartily condone the “morality” behind “Gay Marriage” - and many Christian leaders (such as John Piper in a recent podcast) disapprove because they condemn the morality behind “Gay Marriage”. All seem to forget that we are not just talking about morality in general, but about legality in particular - and that makes a huge difference. The militant Gay Activist movement does need a strong corrective from the Church, but the Church also vitally needs a corrective on the role of the state.
THE ABOMINATION OF “GAY MARRIAGE” - Correcting (Christian) Gay Activists
Marriage, like every other institution, is designed by God for His glory. Atheists will shudder at such a claim, but I am not (primarily) speaking to Atheists here. I am speaking to Christians - who should know better. The atheist is certainly welcome (and encouraged) to read along though. He might learn something - maybe even more than the Christian.
Christians should know that God exists; that He rules over everything; that He has designed everything; and that He aims to be glorified in everything - including marriage. God created Man and Woman in very specific ways, and He gave them a very specific relationship with each other in order to communicate and reflect the glories of His perfections through them. Marriage (and sex!), like every other good thing, is ultimately about God - and only secondarily about us and our desires. I do not mean that it is about God apart from us and our desires; that would be gnostic nonsense. I mean that our role, and the role of our desires are logically subordinate to the role of God’s glory. I mean that God’s glory ruling over us as the ultimate motive in all that we do is the ideal. I mean that all that we do - including sex and marriage - is only ever fully idealized, consummated, rational and pleasurable when it is done “for His great Name!”.
To alter His design is not only to corrupt your own pleasure (and how it corrupts your pleasure!); it is also to alter and corrupt His image, which was meant to be displayed in His design. Therefore, the attempt to alter His essential design in marriage is an abomination. Likewise, altering His essential design in sex is an abomination. I do not say that lightly. I am by no means “sexually pure”. Homosexual desire is twisted - I know it first hand. Homosexual activity is depraved - I’ve tasted the bitter fruit of it’s empty promises more than I care to remember. But, I do not take random and fleeting desires as moral absolutes. I do not, as so many tragically do, conclude from some homosexual desires that I am homosexual or that homosexuality is therefore moral -- just like I do not conclude from the desire to lie that I am a liar and that lying is therefore moral. I do not stubbornly rebel against objectivity on the basis of my subjective whims. I prefer, rather, to prostrate myself before Him - pleading for His mercy concerning my abominable desires - and, having obtained His mercy, to discover objective morality, allowing the power of its superior pleasure to progressively and overwhelmingly transform my desires. Such is the only proper response for one who finds himself to be an abomination - which means such is the only proper response for every sinner.
Homosexual desire is not the only sexual abomination though, and neither is “Gay marriage” the only marital abomination. Getting married because the other person is rich is an abomination. Getting married because the other person is famous is an abomination. Adultery is an abomination. Not leading your wife like Christ is an abomination. Not respecting your husband is an abomination. All of these are “marital” abominations - and all deserve the same moral disdain as the abomination of “Gay Marriage”. But marital and sexual abominations are not the only types of abomination either.
Lying is an abomination. Stealing is an abomination. Cowardice is an abomination. Envy is an abomination. Murder is an abomination. Cheating is an abomination. Slothfulness is an abomination. Hopefully you’re beginning to see a puzzling picture. There are tons of abominable actions and desires in the world - but only some of them are against the law. There are laws against theft and murder, but not against slothfulness or envy. Christians want laws against “gay marriage” but not against pretentious marriage for wealth or fame. What is the proper role of governmental law in regard to all of these various abominations?
THE ABOMINATION OF OUTLAWING “GAY MARRIAGE” - Correcting the Church
In addition to all of the abominations listed above, there is one abomination which I did not mention - the one (and only one) with which the state is designed to deal: the abomination of initiating force. Pay very close attention: I did not say that it is abominable to use force, per se. I said that it is abominable to initiate force, and that is a very crucial distinction. To initiate force against someone is the attempt to obliterate the image of God in them (however marred it may have been already); to enslave them to your will; to reduce them from a living person to an inanimate object - wholly subservient to you and to nothing else. The initiation of force is a particular kind of abomination. It does not only distort God’s image. It wipes it out. God, therefore, designed an entire earthly institution meant to counter the initiation of force: He created the state.
The state, as designed by God, is the only proper institution of force on earth. The state does all that it does by force (or by threats thereof), and it is therefore uniquely suited to respond to abominable initiations of force (or threats thereof). The state is designed to respond with force to any and all initiations of force. But notice that, as an agent of force, the state cannot -by definition - do anything apart from force. Everything done by the state is done by force. Every law that is passed gets upheld by force. When a decision of the state is enforced, it is done so by force. This means that if the state ever does anything which is not in response to the initiation of force, it will - by definition - be initiating force. Read that again, carefully. The state does everything by force. It either responds to the initiation of force, or it initiates force. Those are its only alternatives. It either fulfills its design as the defender against initiations of force, or it becomes that which it was meant to defend against - an initiator of force. The state, itself, becomes an abomination the second that it is used for anything other than defending against initiations of force.
But it is not just the state which becomes an abomination in such a situation - for the state is run by and reflective of the people. People - individuals - advocate for certain functions of the state, and therefore those individuals are guilty of those abominations performed by the state. It is an abomination to initiate force against someone - whether you do it yourself, hire someone else to do it, or advocate for the state to do it. To advocate for laws against anything (no matter how abominable) which are not initiations of force, is to advocate for the initiation of force - and therefore to become an abomination, yourself. “Gay Marriage” is abominable, but it is not an initiation of force. Murder is. Sexual promiscuity is abominable, but it is not an initiation of force. Rape is. Envy is abominable, but it is not an initiation of force. Theft is.
For some insane reason, Christians have got it into their heads that to properly denounce something as immoral, it must be made illegal -- which means to properly communicate moral disdain, we must initiate force; to tell you I disapprove, I must hold a gun to your head. Make no mistake. That is the essence of passing a law. You may not be the one holding the gun, but you fully instructed the policeman who is. In fact, the Church has so closely tied the use of force with moral condemnation on this issue that it is automatically assumed that those who do not wish to initiate force against homosexuals must necessarily condone the morality of homosexuality. Such is the disgustingly barbaric state of modern Christian "morality". The Church must regain the ability to pronounce moral condemnation apart from using force, i.e. apart from passing laws, lest it become infinitely more abominable than that which it condemns.
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Renowned Pastor and Theologian, Dr. John Piper, has very eloquently articulated throughout his career the theology and morality of Christian Hedonism: “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him”. The chief end of Man, Piper argues, is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. Similar to Ayn Rand, Piper rightly understands and argues for Man’s pursuit of happiness as an absolutely essential aspect of true morality. Both Rand and Piper agree that the moral aim of Man is to pursue his highest rational pleasure. Piper (rightly) sees the pursuit of one’s happiness as a properly Christian virtue because one’s highest happiness will always ultimately be found in God. Therefore, he reasons, to the extent that a man truly seeks his highest pleasure, he will find it in God and God will thus be glorified through the happiness (satisfaction) which that man finds in Him. In other words, “because God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him”, therefore – for the sake of His glory – you should eagerly seek satisfaction in Him.
With this infinitely valuable theological recovery of morality, Piper pierced through the immensely thick veil of the morality which has suffocated the Church and the world for the past few centuries; he pierced through the morality of Immanuel Kant. Kant advocated the morality of altruism and held that an action is moral only to the degree that the actor does not benefit from the action in any way. In other words, Kant held that action for one’s own benefit (“selfishness”, “hedonism”, “self-value” – call it what you will) is the essence of evil and that self-denial is the essence of the good. Sound familiar? This morality (altruism) is at the core of most moral assumptions in the culture today (especially within the Church). Piper, in one of the first messages of his that I listened to, once said that he is on a campaign against Immanuel Kant and the stoics. He is not alone.
Ayn Rand, more than any thinker in the modern era, ruthlessly and comprehensively decimated the morality of altruism in her writing and in her philosophy. She was an avid Atheist (mostly due to the evil morality and irrationality presented to her by modern day Christianity), but God used her as a passionate and devout advocate of truth in every other area of thought – particularly in morality. And it is to her morality that we must now turn.
If Piper’s morality is summarized by the two words “Christian Hedonism”, then Ayn Rand’s morality is summarized by the two words “Rational Egoism”. Man, she held, ought to pursue his own rational values, because to do otherwise is to contradict his nature and to defy justice. Contrary to Kant, Rand held that an action is only moral to the extent that it does benefit the actor because the alternative is unjust. And she was right: It is unjust for one to not benefit from one’s own action. Justice demands that the one who does the acting benefit from the action. She also taught that Man ought to value himself because apart from such self-value, no other values are possible. And here again, she is also correct. A man who does not value himself is not capable of valuing anything else. This is because to value is necessarily an activity of the self. A non-self cannot do anything – let alone value. Further, to value is to seek that which one considers valuable to one’s self - but if the self is not to be valued, why should it seek that which is valuable to it.
In other words, If I am not to value myself, why should or would I pursue anything that is valuable to me? And if I don’t pursue anything that is valuable to me, then how and why would I pursue God in a way that glorifies Him? And now, hopefully you are beginning to see the connection (and this is just the beginning of the connection): If –according to Piper – pursuit of my happiness (my values) is essential to glorifying God, and if value for my self is essential to the pursuit of my values, then value for my self is essential to glorifying God. I cannot love God (or anything else for that matter) if I do not value myself.
Allow me to flesh this out: If I do not value my God-given mind, I will not cherish it and train it in a way that enables me to see God and His glory clearly. If I do not value my God-given affections, I will not jealously examine them and test them in order to ensure that they accord with what is due to God and His glory in creation. If I do not value my God-given will, I will not discipline it and use it in a way that speaks of the glory of who I am meant to be: an Image of God. If I do not value myself, as an Image of God, I will not passionately pursue the multitude of possibilities to image Him forth in my life. And If I do not value my life, I will not guard it from being wasted.
All of morality hinges on one’s pursuit of one’s own rational happiness. And therefore, all of morality hinges on one’s truly and rationally valuing one’s own self. God will not be glorified if I do not seek to delight myself with what is supremely satisfying – and I will not seek to delight myself with what is supremely satisfying if I do not value being satisfied; if I do not value my life and my self.