Posted by: Tony | April 24, 2007

"God is Most Glorified…When?" by Craig W. Booth

The following is an excerpt from an article dealing with the ‘motto’ of John Piper’s philosophy of Christian Hedonism. The rest of this excellent article can be found here http://www.thefaithfulword.org/mostglorifiedwhen.html. If you have ever been interested in Piper’s teaching or ‘Christian Hedonism’, this critique on the motto is worthwhile reading. My thanks to Craig Booth for allowing me to post this series (yes there will be more) evaluating ‘Christian Hedonism’ in light of Scripture.

A Creed of Men
In recent years a new creed has become a mantra within the Christian world. Recently I found this creed quoted on about 100 web sites. The creed, coined by a popular contemporary author who publicly embraces a quirky mix of modern “signs and wonders” and Calvinism, is this:

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

Dr. John Piper, author of Desiring God–Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, wrote this creed (page 50) and now uses it on some of his published material much as one would use a logo or a motto.

Dr. John Piper, author of , wrote this creed (page 50) and now uses it on some of his published material much as one would use a logo or a motto.Having a logo or a motto is of no concern. But in recent years many pastors and churches have adopted this expression in much the same way a doctrinal creed is embraced. The problem? This creed is not biblical, it is not scriptural, it is not traditional, in fact, it is not even logical. It is nothing more than a newly invented precept of men. (Matthew 15:9, Mark 7:7)

God is Most Glorified…When? When is God most glorified? You can search the Bible for a lifetime and not find the verse that states when God is most glorified. There are certainly many passages that provide statements that show that God is glorified by many things. But none are presented as the one thing that most glorifies Him.

When is God glorified? You can search the Bible for a lifetime and not find the verse that states when God is glorified. There are certainly many passages that provide statements that show that God is glorified by many things. But none are presented as one thing that glorifies Him

………………………………………..

The concept of “God is most glorified when” is extra-biblical. Trying to fill in that blank does not place one on a higher spiritual plane, it simply means that one is ignoring the Bible, unwilling to accept that God has not revealed His entire mind to the human race. There are mysteries that God has chosen to keep for Himself about Himself (Romans 11:34, 1Corinthians 2:16).

Conclusion “God is most glorified when” is a phrase and a concept God has purposely chosen not to reveal to us in the pages of scripture. Dr. Piper’s expression is not only unbiblical and illogical, it is speculative and therefore dangerous. Used as a creed it becomes a “precept of men” which God hates (Hosea 5:11, Isaiah 29:13, Jeremiah 8:6-9, Matthew 15:9, Mark 7:7, Colossians 2:22, Titus 1:14). When taught to our impressionable children, as if it were somehow a quote from the Bible, we impose on our children the leaven of the Pharisees (Matthew 16:12) who Christ vehemently condemned because they taught “the precepts of men” as if they were also scripture (Matthew 15:9).

“God is most glorified when” is a phrase and a concept God has purposely chosen not to reveal to us in the pages of scripture. Dr. Piper’s expression is not only unbiblical and illogical, it is speculative and therefore dangerous. Used as a creed it becomes a “precept of men” which God hates (Hosea 5:11, Isaiah 29:13, Jeremiah 8:6-9, Matthew 15:9, Mark 7:7, Colossians 2:22, Titus 1:14). When taught to our impressionable children, as if it were somehow a quote from the Bible, we impose on our children the leaven of the Pharisees (Matthew 16:12) who Christ vehemently condemned because they taught “the precepts of men” as if they were scripture (Matthew 15:9). 

Read the entire article at http://www.thefaithfulword.org/mostglorifiedwhen.html

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Responses

  1. I can’t help but wonder if you have ever heard John Piper speak or have ever read anything he has written. For one thing, in your attempt shred Piper’s philosophy, you overlook the two little words “in us.” I think it is inarguable that God certainly is most glorified IN US (in our lives) when we are most satisfied in Him.

    What do you think God wants? Are we supposed to go through life as sour-faced suffering servants? Does it bring God pleasure when we begrudgingly perform our Christian duties with no desire to be happy and fulfilled?

    “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). That’s “Christian hedonism” in a nutshell. We are to find pleasure in the Lord. He should be the source of our joy. And if we are “most satisfied in him,” who do think is the One giving us that satisfaction?

    Jesus says in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Why does he say that? Because Christ is the only one who can satisfy.

    If we’re supposed to take issue with the phrase “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him,” then what are we to do with the commands to be happy and satisfied in the Lord? Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” In Psalm 100:2 we read, “Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” In doing so, are we not fulfilling the commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27)?

  2. My poor misled friend. Kindly open your Bible to 2 Thessalonians 1:9-12 and slowly read 5 times so as not to miss the message.

    Pastor John is a friend of mine. I have known him for years and I do not know of a more humble man living today. (I’m sure he may deny this.) He is also one of the most joyous Christian I have ever met. Every part of the ministry of Bethlehem Church in Minnesapolis is done to glorify the LORD.

    I would suggest that until you have attained the level of faith and stewardship of my friend John Piper, that you keep your mouth shut and your hands off the keyboard.

    • Amen!

  3. In response to Lee Shelton’s ungracious words in the comments he left,

    Lee, I find it interesting that your adherence to Christian Hedonism has left you perhaps a bit short of some degree of grace toward Chistian brothers. Your “defense” of hedonism is prefaced largely by accusing brother Booth of not having read “anything” that Piper has written and by accusing him of having the motive to “shred Piper’s philosophy.”

    Attacking the character and integrity of a Christian brother with allegations such as “he hasn’t even read what Piper wrote” offers no value to the debate, it just impugns another’s character. Also, do you really believe that the author’s motive is really just to shred philosophies for no apparent good reason? Did you ask brother Booth what his motive was before you wrote your comments about him? Is his motive perhaps, just perhaps, to help other Christians realize they are making invalid statements about Scripture, in other words, to edify?

    Brother Booth’s article calls into question whether it is biblically accurate to use the word “most” when talking about God’s glory. It correctly points out that saying “God is most glorified” in us, or in anything we do, is mere speculation. As brother Booth points out, there is no Scripture that says “God is most glorified in us when…” So, is he wrong to point this out? Is he wrong that the Bible never informs us what does “most” glorify God?

    If he is not wrong in those two points, then why do you attack his character? Perhaps God would be more glorified if we were more gracious to one another?

    As a friend of John Piper, perhaps you might want to ask him personally whether he agrees with these words which you wrote about brother Booth, “that until you have attained the level of faith and stewardship of my friend John Piper that you keep your mouth shut and your hands off the keyboard.”

  4. Hmm… Seems like someone is over-interpreting here. If you simply use common sense and consider the context (including who Piper his, and his general beliefs, writings, and other statements), rather than trying to read something into his words that aren’t there, one would get something like so:

    That among us and within us, God is most glorified when we are satisfied in him.
    It’s not comparing glorification of God within/among persons with other means of God glorifying himself, nor does it endorse any sort of ego-centric spirituality (note the “in him”). Just a simple biblical truth. That’s how a normal person would read it, and how I as a linguist would explain it.

    Also, C.S. Lewis’s writings included discussion of a biblical approach to pleasure (“hedonics” in his terms). So what’s the big deal here?

  5. Just so there isn’t any confusion, I’m Lee Shelton IV. My father is Lee Shelton III. I left the first comment on your blog–though after reading your mischaracterization of what John Piper believes based on what someone else believes, I would certainly go along with what he said.

  6. Dear Lee,

    First off let me congratulate you on all of your blogs and websites. I perused many of them and thoroughly enjoyed it. With all of your writing, you fingers must hurt (like mine). Now on the topic of Christian Hedonism, John Piper’s teachings are like all of ours, sometimes good sometimes bad. I have heard Piper speak numerous times, have read many books from him and have on occasion been blessed by his biblical insights. However, when it comes to his teaching on his philosophy of Christian Hedonism, he strays far from the biblical teaching. I won’t go into detail of even the core problem of Christian Hedonism now because I would like to focus on the motto itself in light of Scripture.

    I believe the problem with the motto is it’s use of the term ‘most’, making the statement into either an absolutely true or absolutely false statement. For example, I would agree with the following statement “God is glorified in us when we are satisfied in Him”. True enough, but to say ‘most’ glorified in us, is to say there is no possibility for any other way for God to be glorified in us that could be any higher. Where does the Bible say God is ‘most’ glorified in us (yes, even ‘in us’). I don’t see anywhere where it states this plainly.

    For example, if I were to say that the ‘most’ important commandment is to love God, could I back that up with Scripture? Of course. If I said that the thing we should seek ‘most’ is the kingdom of God, does the Scripture plainly state this? Of course. How about if I said that the ‘most’ important thing in life is to delight yourself in the Lord? Does the Bible say this? No. It does command us to delight ourselves in the Lord, but it doesn’t epitomize it, it doesn’t say this is the foremost commandment.

    Unfortunately Piper has a very real tendency of overstating things. But we all do this some of the time. The danger is that Piper realizes exactly what he is saying and does not believe it is an overstatement. In other words, I would say that to make an absolute (over)statement like “God is most glorified in us when…” is going beyond the bounds of Scripture. If you read the entire article by Craig Booth you will see that he gives three examples of when God might potentially be most glorified. Of course he can’t prove any of them definitively just like Piper can’t prove his thesis from Scripture.

    Basically, if we would recognize that Piper has overstated the case for his Christian Hedonism ‘motto’, we would be well on our way to think critically and biblically about his entire thesis of Christian Hedonism (which future articles will deal with).

    P.S. To not follow Piper’s philosophy of Christian Hedonism does NOT mean that we are to be nothing but “sour-faced suffering servants”. But more on that later. Please try to keep comments on this post to Piper’s motto.

  7. Tony,

    We use extra-biblical words and phrases all the time to describe scriptural truths. For example, Calvinists believe in “Total Depravity,” “Unconditional Election,” “Limited Atonement,” “Irresistible Grace,” and the “Perseverance of the Saints.” Those exact terms do not appear in the text, but that doesn’t make them less true. “Trinity” is an extra-biblical term, but we use it all the time to describe one of the most blessed, fundamental truths in all of scripture. Are we to do away with all man-made creeds (e.g., the Westminster Catechism’s statement, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”) simply because the exact wording cannot be found in the Bible?

    And don’t let the fact that Piper “overstates” something stand in the way of understanding the truth he is communicating. Jesus often “overstated” things to make a point–unless, of course, you think he really meant that we should gouge out our eyes to keep from sinning (Matthew 5:29), that self-defense is a sin (Matthew 5:39), or that we must literally hate our own families in order to follow him (Luke 14:26).

    If, as you said, the “most important commandment” is to love God, then is it not reasonable to assume that God is “most glorified” when that commandment is kept? Well, what exactly does it mean to “love God”? Think about that as it relates to Piper’s statement. The very basis of “Christian Hedonism” is loving God. I wish everyone, myself included, could learn to love God the way John Piper does.

  8. Hi Lee,

    Thanks for the open-hearted discussion. I agree with your sentiments on extra-biblical words and phrases, although I do try to keep my language in line with the biblical text as much as possible. I do think you hit on a couple of key concepts in your reply though. The fact that you recognize that Jesus used hyperbole and metaphoric language to communicate truth is well and good.

    The difference between Piper’s motto “God is MOST glorified in us when we are MOST satisfied in Him” and Jesus’ statement to “gouge out your eyes” is that Piper’s motto is NOT meant as hyperbole (or as a metaphor). In other words, it is a true overstatement (he literally means the words he uses), an absolute statement that becomes absolutely false because it cannot be proved from the Bible that absolutely nothing can be more glorifying to God in us than what Piper claims.

    If only Piper’s motto were “God is glorified in us when we are satisfied in Him” I believe it would be a tremendous help to folks who do not understand that truth, who really are sour-faced suffering servants all day long and need to realize that we are commanded to rejoice in the Lord, that it is our duty to delight in God.

    This latter truth of our delight in God being our duty is a profound concept that Piper has greatly expounded on and rightly so. If his motto were “It is our duty to delight in God” or “Delight yourself in the Lord” that would be Excellent. But in effect his motto is taking a truth, but epitomizing it in such a way that it is no longer true. For example if his motto were “The foremost command of God is to delight yourself in the Lord” that would be false, an overstatement. Taking truth and distorting it so that it becomes false.

    I know that it is hard to find fault in a man whom God has used mightily in your life. I’m not saying he’s devilish or any such outlandish thing, I’m simply trying to judge public statements and creeds by the Scripture. His motto is simply an overstatement. Unfortunately because of the absolute language he uses, the statement really becomes conjecture, a man’s personal opinion.

    I completely agree with your last sentiment that since the most important command is to love God, then wouldn’t it be reasonable to say that “God is most glorified in us when we love God most”. Yes, it would be reasonable, but still hard to prove ‘without a doubt’ from Scripture. I would say this motto would be very much better than Piper’s current motto though. The reasons being discussed in the article by Craig W. Booth called “Satisfied in the Lord – A Re-examination of the Motto”. Mainly the difference between love being others-centered and satisfied being self-centered. But read the article for a better understanding.

    All of us have feet of clay, we all have our own Achilles heel. John Piper certainly has been used by God in tremendous ways, but nobody is perfect and, of course as we all know, we follow Christ and not men.

    P.S. I REALLY like your website http://www.EverVigilant.net A real blessing, I’ve bookmarked it.

  9. […] Did you like this brief introduction? Find out about it in full detail here. […]

  10. It would be better simply to let John Piper defend himself and his use of this phrase (which I have found to be Scriptural)…

    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Articles/ByDate/2006/1797_We_Want_You_to_Be_a_Christian_Hedonist/

    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Articles/ByDate/1995/1538_Christian_Hedonism/

  11. So what does truly glorify our God?
    If not serving Him joyfully becuase we see Him to be the source of all good things and we treasure Him above all, then what?

    It is much easier to object to Piper’s teaching then it is to provide an alternative framework for Christian living.

  12. thanks for all your insights!

    i really like “God is glorified in us, when we are satisfied in Him.”
    it expresses a conditional ‘now’ statement, takes away any superfluousness emphasis and is really the most demanding in any and all given circumstances in life. it requires a diligence and acknowledgement of God above ourselves, points to him as our source and song. as a result of experiencing God’s glory, everything else – the pleasures offered in the physical life – will take second place in life.

    it brings together lee and ramsek’s agreements and possibly will help booth not dislike piper so much.

  13. “God is most glorified in us when we love Him above all else because He is all good and deserving of all our love.” -Me


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