October 13, 2018

Tim Keller Rejects Core Concept of John Piper's Christian Hedonism

John Piper's book Desiring God was first published in 1986. So basically 32 years after it was first published a popular Christian leader is finally acknowledging what scores of less popular Christians have been showing for decades, that the basic concept of Piper's Christian Hedonism is false.

My skepticism began to grow about Piper as I read various criticisms against John Piper's teachings, and God also gave me some personal insights as to why it is a false doctrine. E.S. Williams has compiled a list of some critiques of Piper at his website TheRealJohnPiper.com and I was glad to see that Williams published a book that focuses on the scripture twisting and scripture censorship that runs throughout Piper's published work: Christian Hedonism?: A biblical examination of John Piper's teaching

The first sign to me that Keller was beginning to break from Christian Hedonism was the title of his book, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy. The basic idea of the book is that a sense of self-forgetfulness is a good thing and we should not try to consciously connect every experience in our lives as Christians with how it affects us and our feelings. A quote from Keller's Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness offers, “the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.”

Jesus taught that joy is mainly paradoxical, and the idea of self-forgetfulness is in keeping with Christ's teachings on the subject. This is contrary to Piper's core (false) belief that places prime importance on self-interest and seeking personal pleasure. This is worded in various ways, such as this quote: "The desire to be happy is a proper motive for every good deed," -found in Piper's summary article of Christian Hedonism, as reviewed in the article titled Five Heresies of Christian Hedonism.

The second sign to me from Keller came with the following Tweet from October 3, 2018:

"Until you follow God expecting no personal benefit, you're' not really following God."

This statement is diametrically opposed to Piper's core concept of self-interest found in Christian Hedonism. In this quote, Piper claims that pursuing personal benefits is central to pleasing God: "You cannot please God if you do not come to him as rewarder." Another quote by Piper emphasizes self-interest: "Christian Hedonism says more; namely, that we should pursue happiness, and pursue it with all our might."

While Piper claims that we should seek God for pleasure and reward as a basis for our motives, Keller says that we must expect no personal benefit from God. Looking at the subject more closely it can be shown that neither view is accurate. The Bible does show that we will have rewards in heaven based on what we do with our lives, and it is appropriate to look forward to these benefits. However, any rewards and benefits from God, or in God, shouldn't supersede the value of our prime personal relationship that we have with God by grace and the prime authority God has over us by design.

If a child is told she'll receive a reward such as an allowance for doing good deeds for her parents, then it's perfectly acceptable for the child to expect a personal benefit from her parents and to be joyful about this. However, it's bizarre and unhealthy for a child to live and act mainly for the motive of the joy of receiving benefits from parents, more so than valuing the intimate and dynamic relationships with the parents, and acting also with respect to their authority and their happiness.

A biblical view takes rewards into consideration (Hebrews 11:6) as well as our covenant grace relationship as the higher value (Romans 8:15). According to this children's allowance analogy, both Keller and Piper are off in their extremes. The higher truth of our grace relationship with God does not cancel out the lower truth that we can seek and enjoy rewards. However, in the case of Piper, the prime focus is on seeking benefits.

It seems that Keller's own studies led him to a conclusion that Christian Hedonism is false, even though he probably was not considering Piper's doctrine directly. If Piper and Keller oppose each other on the basic motive of Christianity, then The Gospel Coalition has become a "house divided" that may not long stand as is. But there are other serious problems at The Gospel Coalition.

Tim Keller has recently come under fire for his own apparent promotion of a social gospel with Marxist tendencies that is more focused on social change than spiritual salvation and the Great Commission. This type of approach is responsible for many concerned Christian leaders publishing a Statement on Social Justice And The Gospel.

Someone also pointed out to me that there is a doctrinal problem at TGC with regard to the question of homosexuality and other questions of gender. Their positions do not appear to be biblical: "The Gospel Coalition and the ERLC have a homosexual priest, Sam Allberry, write for their publications. The message of Revoice and those in the New Calvinism movement is very clear; being gay is a part of who you are..." Opposing the TGC position are hundreds of "Christians in the Freedom to March Movement who exemplify 1 Corinthians 6:11, who were homosexuals but who have now been set free indeed by the power of the Holy Spirit."

The Old Testament and New Testament both oppose gender fluidity, even referring to the embracing of "effeminate" men as unacceptable and damnable: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind," (1 Corinthians 6:9 KJV)

Because Jesus said that lusts in our minds and hearts are in a sense equal to carrying out physical sexual acts (Matthew 5:28), and gender fluidity is defined as damnable (1 Corinthians 6:9), then to promote Christian LGBTQ romance and lust is a damnable heresy.

The widespread promotion of the Social Gospel, Piper's idolatrous Christian Hedonism, and damnable positions on homosexuality, all beg the question as to whether the pure gospel can be salvaged at The Gospel Coalition. The overriding theme of The Gospel Coalition is that we are all at the mercy of our humanistic instincts, whatever they might be. This is contrary to scripture and is heretical to the degree that we are admonished to avoid teachers that promote this view:

"Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." (2 Timothy 3:5)

In reality, scripture admonishes us to walk by the spirit and not to entertain the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16), and scripture explicitly states that we are not mere victims to whatever our humanistic lusts might urge.

"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 KJV)

A problem with Keller is that he is ashamed of the phrase "born-again" which, in reality, signifies that true believers are regenerated and are new creatures in Christ. Keller associates the regeneration Jesus described as critical in John 3:3 with "fanaticism" in his book Reason for God (Pgs. 56-57, as described at the New Calvinist website:

‘Many non-believers have friends or relatives who have become “born again” and seem to have gone off the deep end. They soon begin to express loudly their disapproval of various groups and sectors of our society – especially movies and television, the Democratic Party, homosexuals, evolutionists… When arguing for the truth of their faith they often appear intolerant and self-righteous. This is what many people would call fanaticism.’

It seems that there is a need at the Gospel Coalition to refocus on the pure milk of the word of God: "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" (1 Peter 2:2 KJV). John Piper is a prime member of The Gospel Coalition and speaks at many events. As one of the apparent founding members of TGC, Tim Keller holds more authority than John Piper does, and so he is a key person with regard to possible improvements. But if Keller does not take his own heretical tendencies seriously, it's unlikely that he will question the doctrine of anyone else at TGC in a plain and straightforward manner.

I'm hoping that Piper will acknowledge that his doctrine of Christian Hedonism is based on false premises and repent for teaching this idolatrous view for decades. But this would take a lot of humility. I am hoping that popular Christian teachers will become open to discussions and debates on the important subject of true doctrine, as opposed to mainly communicating past each other with books, articles, and Twitter posts. I welcome discussion and debate on my blog and on Twitter because I believe that embracing the true gospel is critical.

Twitter Backlink to Keller
Twitter Backlink to Piper
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Tags: Keller opposes Piper's doctrine of Christian Hedonism on Twitter, Keller ashamed of born-again regeneration, false doctrines at The Gospel Coalition, false teachings from The Gospel Coalition, an example of a house divided, heresies at The Gospel Coalition, Keller contradicts Piper, Christian Humanism

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