The intellectual pursuit of God is out of vogue. Many have expressed that the study of great doctrines makes our view of God and our world smaller. I, however, have found exactly the opposite. When I read the works of some of the most thoughtful pastors and theologians of our day, I’m not taken with profundity of their words. Instead, I come to a new realization of the greatness of our God. The more I learn, the more I see that our God is unfathomable.
When I first read John Piper’s flagship work Desiring God his central theme gripped me. Piper’s concept of Christian Hedonism asserts that “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him.” He explains that our joy and God’s glory are not two separate occurrences; they are irrevocably intertwined. We must not jettison joy and fulfillment in order to glorify God in our lives. To the contrary, Piper argues that we cannot glorify God unless we experience supreme joy in Him.
Christian Hedonism is a freeing concept. As I wrestle with Piper’s teaching, I realize that God has hardwired each of us with desires, skills, and abilities that are essential. He planned each of us to uniquely experience complete fulfillment in Him and this fulfillment brings him the most glory. We run hard after God with all of our gifts and desires not in spite of joy but because of it. When we pursue the greatest source of our delight, we are at the same time glorifying God.
Christian Hedonism is a profound and a beautiful truth that helps me see God for who he really is. It also changes the way I look others. Not only was I made to pursue joy, but others are too. They are created with gifts, skills, and abilities that allow them to glorify God by being exactly who they were made to be.
Great discoveries are not made in spite of the Bible. They are made because of it. They are made by examining the profound treasures written within it. They are made by standing on the shoulders of long departed thinkers like Augustine, Calvin, Wesley, and Lewis who have explored these depths before us. By partaking in the ideas of thoughtful believers we get a fuller picture of who God reveals himself to be.
We must always remember that only the Bible is inspired. We cannot become so committed to a particular teacher that we value their words above holy writ. But we can drink from the wells they’ve dug and join our voices alongside theirs proclaiming the greatness of our God.
We will never agree completely. Ideas will impact us differently depending on our background, culture, family, and life experiences. We will all interpret the word and we will often come to different conclusions.
However, let’s not fear those who have abused doctrine in the past. Let us not assume because some have valued their doctrines over love that doctrine is our problem. If we read carefully, we will see that it’s our hearts, not only our minds, that betray us.
Let us instead study the word and know it. Let us be fully persuaded in our own minds what we believe and express that belief through rich and meaningful doctrines. Let our words drive us toward a God of justice and mercy who defines love with his very being. Let us come to know him more fully through these endeavors. And let us live our lives with joy and purpose as we come to know, experience, and reflect a God who made us for this very task.