The Dangerous Duty of Delight, chapter 1

Treating Duty as a ‘Delight’

Today we continue to reflect on Chapter 1. The book can be purchased here. The first two chapters are available as a free download here:

Understanding Piper’s definition of ‘Christian Hedonism’ is essential to grasping the significance of the book. He argues that he is not playing tricks with words to gain attention, but that he really means what he says (as readers, we might reserve judgment on this matter until we’ve completed the book!). He means that pursuing Christian Pleasure in God is a matter of obedience to the word of God. Flipping that coin over: Obeying God’s word requires pursuing pleasure in God.

To support his argument, Piper draws out several bible references and quotes from some Christian ‘greats’. When investigating any proposition, Christians are always weary of Bible ‘proof-texting’ that serves only to illustrate an author’s prior assertion. Instead, we want to ensure that, in context, the Bible is saying what the author claims. With this in mind, let’s consider the Biblical basis of Piper’s assertion that faithful Christian obedience and joyful happiness MUST come together; that they are a unified whole. Here are some of the passages (in wider context) to which Piper draws our attention:

1    Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. 2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3 Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Psalm 100

11    “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:11-12

9    “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

John 15:9-12

4    Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

For Reflection

Do you agree with Piper’s view of ‘Christian Hedonism’; that joy is part of obedience to God? In Piper’s words, this would mean that joy is more that a by-product of obedience to God, joy is commanded of the Christian– and so it is included within ‘obedience’.

What difference might your conclusion make to your daily relationship with God?

2 thoughts on “The Dangerous Duty of Delight, chapter 1

  1. Stuart March 3, 2022 / 10:12 pm

    Hi Stew.
    Agree with your suggestion of a nuanced definition of ‘joy’– including that we may not always be frothing and deliriously happy in our joy and in our obedience. No, I’m not really familiar with the controversy surrounding ‘Christian Hedonism’, although I’m guessing that it would be resolved with a careful definition of ‘joy’.

    Appreciate your comments.

  2. stewiross March 2, 2022 / 11:53 am

    I think I would agree that Joy is part of obedience – but not that Joy is always a feeling of happiness necessarily. Maybe if we are feeling discouraged in life the Joy found in obedience can take the shape of contented obedience. Having joy as integral to obedience would help safeguard against ritualism or empty works done in service. It’s always mentioned as very controversial-I don’t really see it? Or who thinks it is controversial? I just want to hear their side of it as well

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