Drinking Deeply

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 at 12:58 AM

Book Review: The Pleasures of God

I had the delight the past few weeks to read through John Piper's The Pleasures of God. I found a treasure. Piper works carefully through why the message of God being a happy God is so awesome (we share in His joy!). He talks about God and His joy in Himself, beholding His Son and His obedience. He talks about God and the pleasure he takes in creation, in sovereignly ruling over it (all of it), in the praise of His name/fame, in the sacrifice and crushing of His Son on the cross, in doing good to us (whoa!), in our faith, and in our obedience.

I found the book to be well written, both readable and packed with solid exegesis (often I find that there is a trade-off). It is books like this one that I find to be much more helpful as a devotional than those general devotional books (not that those are "bad" per se, but just they always seemed so superficial). It is when I read about how God delights in His creation, in creating it, forming it, putting it together, in letting it point us to Him, and even in delighting in that creation that we cannot and may never ever see, that's when my picture of God gets so much bigger and my heart is moved to worship. This book awakens the soul and lifts the gaze up to see a God who is eternally joyful, and one that delights to overflow in joy to His creatures. Simply wow.

I have no complaints with this book and would highly recommend it to everyone. Theologically, it sounds the same note that Piper has been sounding forever, so some people who have already read a lot of Piper may do well to read something else, lest they get sick of him, but I would highly recommend reading through it just once at least sometime.

There is one thing in particularly that I want to point out, and this is something I thought Piper did extremely well and other authors would do well to emulate.

Within the book, Piper, sometimes after giving the positive presentation (for example, in favor of the sovereignty of God in electing His people), he defends the positive presentation with a negative one (against the idea that God does not irresistibly draw us but rather only makes us able to choose and leaves it "up to us"). This was great. I have read a number of books that are focused around (mostly) a negative presentation, saying that some view of Christianity was wrong, and while the positive presentation was there, it seemed secondary. Piper makes clear that the positive presentation was the focus (the negative was often left to the footnotes, which on one occasion, spanned 2.5 printed pages). With this it was possible to (more clearly) see just how the glory of God was at stake. Yes, trinitarian heresies are heresy, but they are so because they strike at the very joy of the eternal God and the center of the Gospel. Yes, in the same way, open theism, a rejection of substitutionary atonement, and even arminianism1 deface the glory of God. And it's because the very joy and nature of God are at stake that those errors are so dangerous.

So all in all, this was an excellent book, one that I would recommend for everyone. With this book, I've gained a newfound appreciation and anticipation of the verse, "come enter the joy of your master."

1 - Piper does say, and I agree, that Arminianism isn't a heresy, but just horribly inconsistent. One example is when it pleads with God to "soften their hearts" or "bring someone into their lives" (but doesn't that violate their will too? How much violating is ok?). But praise God for those inconsistencies. I'd much rather have an inconsistent Arminian than a consistent one, who so firmly believed that God would not violate anyones will that he'd refuse to pray at all.

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