My response to Steve Camp

The other day I noticed that Steve Camp wrote this on his Twitter, “Shallow, self-employing & non-biblical. Perfectly hedonistic…” which was in response to a post titled, “Five Statements That Summarize Christian Hedonism” on the Desiring God blog.

The five statements are familiar because they are found in the introduction to the book, Desiring God. You can find them closer to the bottom of this chapter which is online. They are–

  1. The longing to be happy is a universal human experience, and it is good, not sinful.
  2. We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse. Instead we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction.
  3. The deepest and most enduring happiness is found only in God.
  4. The happiness we find in God reaches its consummation when it expands to meet the needs of others in the manifold ways of love.
  5. To the extent we try to abandon the pursuit of our own pleasure, we fail to honor God and love people. Or, to put it positively: the pursuit of pleasure is a necessary part of all worship and virtue.

I asked Steve to explain how the statement “The deepest and most enduring happiness is found only in God” is un-biblical. He responded, “Happiness is not the NT word or thot which sums up our devotion to God. Rather joy. Happiness is fleeting, joy is eternal. Hedonism is temporal; Christianity is eternal.”

I agree with Mr. Camp in part. I think joy is the more common biblical term. However, all over the Psalms we read, “Blessed is the man”, one example being in Psalm 1:1. Jesus used the Greek equivalent of that word in Matthew 5:3-11. The equivalent of this word is also used in James 1:12. Earthly happiness is fleeting indeed, like Steve says, but I don’t think Jesus or James (or John Piper) is speaking about earthly happiness. Additionally, Piper uses happiness and joy interchangeably in the book.

I could see a problem the word hedonism or hedonist. However, I think Piper does a good job of explaining why he uses the word, and he always uses it along with the term, Christian. I’d recommend reading Appendix Four for Desiring God. It includes this statement which may clarify

“Finally, by attaching the adjective “Christian” to the word “hedonism,” I signal loud and clear that this is no ordinary hedonism. For me the word Christian carries this implication: Every claim to truth that flies under the banner of Christian Hedonism must be solidly rooted in the Christian Scriptures, the Bible. And the Bible teaches that man’s chief end is to glorify God BY enjoying him forever.”

Additionally, at the last paragraph of the Introduction for Desiring God says,

“This book will be predominantly a meditation on Scripture. It will be expository rather than speculative. If I cannot show that Christian Hedonism comes from the Bible, I do not expect anyone to be interested, let alone persuaded. There are a thousand man-made philosophies of life. If this is another, let it pass. There is only one rock: the Word of God. Only one thing ultimately matters: glorifying God the way he has appointed. That is why I am a Christian Hedonist. That is why I wrote this book.”

And I’d recommend Mr. Camp take Piper’s challenge.


About clydeblogs
I am husband to my sweetheart Lisa, and we are parents of our sweetheart Claire Renae and the curiously cute Evan. I wish I could say that I speak a little, and think a lot, but I think I speak a lot and think less than I should.

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