Monday, 15 February 2010

Christian Stoicism

Like many good reformed baptists, I was brought up to know the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: "What is the chief end of man?" Like many of my contemporaties, I seemed to forget at least half of the answer.

This isn't a wild assertion, I've tested it many times. Most people I've asked seem able to get as far as "Man's chief end is to glorify God", but many stop there. However, the correct answer is "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever."

I find it telling that I majored on the glorifying God part but overlooked the enjoyment of God bit. The first time I heard the term "Christian Hedonism" it was accompanied by a sharp intake of breath. I doubt that that person even knew what John Piper meant by the term. I certainly didn't.

I've since heard Piper dismissed as a one act show, but again, I doubt such people really understand what he was saying. It was a long time until I was introduced to the Desiring God website and heard Piper's famous summary of Christian Hedonism for the first time:

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

This little phrase made an instant connection by scratching my long-term itch. It's so simple, but so profound.

I'm not a great reader because I'm a very slow reader and I tire quickly. But I would recommend watching and/or listening to sermons from the Desiring God website (also available as free podcasts from Apple's iTunes Store). I've also become a big fan of The Dangerous Duty of Delight, a short and very accessible version of the book Desiring God (like many of Piper's works, also available as a free download in PDF format).

I must confess that I've been scared off many good Christian books in the past because, instead of seeing them as a means of learning how to glorify and enjoy God better, I've seen them as underlining what a big failure I am, and making me feel even further from God.

But Piper writes very carefully and graciously, not as one who has arrived, but as one who is dissatisfied with where he is, and who is thirsty for more. Once I understood that the enjoyment of God was for my good and for His glory, I started to become more thirsty too.

"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." -- Psalm 16:11 (ESV)

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