This post is about a book that I am reviewing for Multnomah’s Blogging for Books program. The book is by John Piper – “The Pleasures of God”. While this book is easy to read and a great book for growing in knowledge of what is pleasing to God, this will likely be a difficult read for those not looking for an academic exercise. John Piper is a great teacher, pastor, and writer. He is a reformed pastor who teaches from a Calvinistic perspective. While I would not adhere to those ideas, I still respect his teachings and writings nonetheless. So I hope you enjoy this review. Maybe it will stir these big ideas in your own heart.
Reviewing a Classic
Offering a review of a book that has now survived three revisions may seem about as beneficial as paying compliments to a superstar quarterback. With that said, I offer these words of reflection not to validate this work. That has already been done by countless readers over the years. Instead, I offer this review to simply draw attention to this work of which many are still not aware.
As John Piper begins this classic work, he establishes “The Pleasure of God” as “the worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love”. And so this book sets out to discover the object of God’s love and delight. And because this focuses on the glory of God, Piper urges the reader to take this in slowly. So while I am offering a review based upon a single reading of the text, Piper has written this material with the intent of the reader taking it in slowly over an extended period of time.
Layout of the Book
The layout of the book begins with the first six chapters being what Piper calls “God-focused”. Following that study of the pleasures of God, the focus in chapter seven and following turns toward how God is pleased in us.
This is classic Piper in so many ways and it’s likely that many picking up this book will already be well versed on his “Christian Hedonism” that pervades all his writings. That is certainly present here in this reprinted book. Piper is going to argue for the glory of God and the pleasure of God in what brings Him glory. And for the one that chooses to invest the valuable time in digesting this book – you will walk away with a higher and more holy view of God.
Overview of the Book
While I do not want to give an exhaustive overview of the entire book, I will offer some general observations of a number of the chapters so that you have a glimpse of the book prior to purchasing it for yourself or prior to your own reading of the book.
Piper begins by establishing the pleasure of God in the Son. Hidden in the opening chapter is a great section on Arianism and others that question the deity of Christ. I believe Piper does a great job of simply establishing the joy and happiness of God – a much needed reminder in our somber services!
As the book continues, Piper speaks to the fact that God is pleased in what God does. Since He cannot act outside of His will and perfect plan, God is pleased in His actions. But as Piper speaks on God’s pleasure in His actions, he also takes an opportunity to offer a defense of Calvinism. On that topic, having been a long fan of Piper and not in full agreement on his Calvinistic beliefs, I believe he handles these points with the grace and respect that have typified Piper for years. Therefore, if you find yourself not in line with this doctrinal persuasion as I am not, keep reading because there is much still to be discovered!
While there are obvious issues that need to be wrestled with throughout this topic of God’s Pleasure, Piper spends a great deal of time wrestling with the question of whether God is an idolater for loving the world. As I read this section, I wondered if Piper was wading into questions that no one was asking. It may stir the academic circles, but it did seem a bit trivial and clearly answered. But, having said that, in the end I will concede that Piper’s answer is worth establishing because he acknowledges that God loves creation because creation exists to glorify the Father.
Another area of focus within the book is the pleasure of God as it relates to the fame of God’s name. Piper points out that he went back and forth between calling this one chapter either fame or name, but acknowledged that God sets out to make His name known. This chapter ties in well the call of missions and observes the various “waves” of missions in history. To connect this chapter with missions, Piper uses several quotes from David Brainerd – an individual that missionaries throughout history have looked to for inspiration.
On more than one occasion, Piper utilizes this topic to share his convictions in Calvinistic teachings. It’s his book – so he gets to do that! I must say that having read many of Pipers books and sermons, he typically treats these doctrines with the care needed for a potential dividing line among Protestants. But this is a much more intense discussion and promotion of these beliefs. Along those lines, Piper stirs the pot as he argues that unconditional election is a philosophical idea and not a biblical one (p. 130-131) – an idea that will certainly find strong disagreement among those not adhering to Calvinistic teachings. Even still, I have great respect for his treatment of these often hotly debated beliefs.
Overall, this is a classic Piper book. He approaches topics with a depth that is not common among Christian writers today. Given that fact, I often find many who, even though they disagree with aspects of his teaching, have a great respect for John Piper just as I do. His depth of study and discussion is an inspiring effort. If you are seeking out resources that will stretch your thinking and not simply off a devotional thought, then this is a great resource.
Note: There is a discussion guide included at the conclusion of the book for group study. This book would lend itself well to a weekly discussion among a small group.
*WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided this book to me in exchange for this honest review as part of their Blogging for Books program.*