Summary & Review: Desiring God by John Piper, Chapters 1-2

posted in: mother | 4

Originally read and written in March 2011.

Summary of Desiring God by John Piper at Simply Convivial

Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist

  • Part 1: Introduction & Chapters 1 & 2 – Happiness & Conversion
  • Part 2: Chapter 3 – Worship
  • Part 3: Chapters 4-6 – Love, Scripture, & Prayer
  • Part 4: Chapters 7 & 8 – Money & Marriage
  • Part 5: Chapters 9 & 10 – Missions & Suffering

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Own.

Elly and I read this, and I would like to discuss it, both with her and with anyone else who has read it. I thought I’d summarize the chapters, adding in a bit of my own comments here and there. Then I started writing and hit 2,000 words when I was about halfway done. So, this will come in installments, because my husband tells me blog posts are supposed to be 500 words or less.

I tell him my readers have better attention spans than the general populace. :)

Overarching Premise

This book is Piper’s first development of his slogan “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” In the introduction he sets forth his propositions which he intends to develop in each chapter, each chapter focusing on a different area of life. I have abbreviated them, but am quoting Piper:

  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.
  3. We should seek to intensify, not resist, our longing to be happy by nourishing it with that which provides the deepest and most enduring satisfaction.
  4. The deepest and most enduring happiness is found only in God. Not from God, but in God.
  5. Happiness in God reaches its consummation when it is shared with others.
  6. If we abandon the pursuit of our own pleasures, we fail to honor God and love people; the pursuit of pleasure is a necessary part of all worship and virtue.

And to those propositions, I assent, and I think it is a valuable contribution to state them and develop them. Unfortunately, I was disappointed multiple times along the way by Piper’s development. I think his overarching idea is an important and powerful one, but not only did I sometimes disagree with his outworking of his idea, but unfortunately oftentimes his writing got in the way of his idea, I think. He is wordy and repetitive and many of his illustrations were more confusing than helpful, at least to me. Wordiness is a pet peeve of mine, and it is my belief that a good editor should never let an author get away with wordiness. We should strive for brevity and conciseness because it forces us toward accuracy and logic. Especially after I read the epilogue where Piper writes one paragraph summarizing each chapter (and did so very well), I believe this book would have been much, much improved if it was half the length.

Anyway, here goes the summary. Please dive on in and talk to me about it! :)

Happiness

Thesis: God is happy. God’s happiness & satisfaction is in Himself; it is self-sufficient. He is sovereign.

  • What God does is for His own name’s sake. God’s end in all He does is to get glory for Himself. He derives happiness from receiving praise and honor and glory, and He works out all His purposes to the end that He receives praise and honor and glory.

  • Since everything God does is for His Name’s sake, everything we do should be for His Name’s sake.

And all I have to say is amen.

Conversion

Thesis: Gospel summary. Faith — a gift from God — miraculously converts, but repentance is an act of the will that must accompany saving faith.

  • In conversion, God grants us new tastes, new appetites.
  • You must seek your pleasure & satisfaction in God alone to be saved. I doubt I actually disagree with Piper on this point, but I think he stated his case too strongly and too pointedly. I think he confounded conversion/justification and sanctification in his section that said you must be “born again as a Christian Hedonist” to be saved. Satisfaction and joy in God through Christ is something that we grow in as we mature in Christ, not something that is automatically and always strong. I am not fond of speakers or authors who encourage introspection to determine if one’s feelings are really, really, real. The hard of heart will assume that they are, and the tender of conscious will be thrown into self-doubt and dismay.

Of course, being a baptist, the revivalistic tendencies like the above are to be expected. It makes me so grateful for the covenant.

Overall, though, the chapter was a good summary of the gospel and a reminder that belief and faith is more than intellectual assent.

4 Responses

  1. Willa
    | Reply

    Hi Mystie,

    I haven’t read the book, and I am not a Baptist either, but I was really interested in your second point. I agree with your caveat. At the same time, I think it’s possible to have joy and satisfaction in God in a non-emotional way. In that way I think it’s rather key to ‘seek’ joy and satisfaction in God alone, because there is rationally no other option. Augustine talks about how we are on a journey and only God is a resting place, a destination. Everything else is either a way post or a distraction. Of course, to qualify — neither Augustine nor I would think we can do anything at all to move towards God — this would be His grace in operation. I’m just saying that seeking joy and satisfaction in God is ultimately reasonable — emotion may or may not be in touch with the reason or will. But I guess perhaps Piper may be almost using emotion as a litmus test as to whether one is truly born again or not? That wouldn’t seem biblically supported.

    I love your book reviews!

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      If I recall correctly, it seemed Piper was holding a certain emotional response up as a goal to seek. Certainly we are called to and sanctification develops joy and satisfaction in God, but that’s not always going to look or feel the same in different people or different seasons. Piper was riffing off Lewis’ bit about training the affections, but Lewis’ brief essay was much clearer than Piper’s book-length development. :)

  2. ~Julie
    | Reply

    “his writing got in the way of his idea, I think. He is wordy and repetitive and many of his illustrations were more confusing than helpful, at least to me. Wordiness is a pet peeve of mine, and it is my belief that a good editor should never let an author get away with wordiness. We should strive for brevity and conciseness because it forces us toward accuracy and logic. Especially after I read the epilogue where Piper writes one paragraph summarizing each chapter (and did so very well), I believe this book would have been much, much improved if it was half the length.”

    Amen! I’ve read another of Piper’s books (Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions) and his writing style totally put me off. I thought it was just me not being spiritual enough.

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      I’m afraid Piper can come off (unintentionally, I’m sure) as making those of different temperaments feel less spiritual. His writing, though, is simply too wordy and repetitive; I got a couple Piper books and after making it through Desiring God, I don’t think I can handle any more. :)

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