Isnt the doctrine of the Trinity similar to Christian Hedonism in that it is a label and a doctrine not explicitly taught in the Bible but is nonetheless true?
Many people have compared the speculative philosophy of Christian Hedonism to the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. The comparison is born on the assumption that extra-biblical labels may be freely created to apply to biblically derived doctrines. This assumption is acceptable enough. The comparison then continues using the logic that since labels are acceptable inventions (albeit they are not found in the Word) Christian Hedonism must be just as acceptable a doctrine as the Trinity because both are loosely based on Scripture, and are therefore both biblical concepts described by "artificial" labels. It is here that the logic of comparison is faulty.
Use of the Trinity as an analogous situation for Christian Hedonism is a false analogy because the Bible very clearly and explicitly teaches us the doctrine of one God consisting of three persons who are also called God. These tenets of the Trinity are based on explicit Bible verses that individually teach us that God is One, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Three make the One, or, Three in One (Trinity).
In contrast to the doctrine of the Trinity, Christian Hedonism fails to find such specific Bible verses for its primary tenets: the pursuit of ones own pleasure with all ones might is an actual command of Scripture, the pursuit of ones own pleasure is ones highest calling, one must become a Christian Hedonist to see the Kingdom of God and be saved, and the very goal of worship is attaining the pleasure which is found while worshipping God.
Perhaps it can be said another way. The "Trinity" is a very polite label for a gathering of specific Bible verses. It is not a label for a general idea or philosophy. Whereas Christian Hedonism is a philosophy that is not built from specific verses but from a system of logic and assumptions based loosely on abstract interpretations of a wide ranging set of passages that do not actually state or directly teach the very tenets of hedonism.
To "prove" the doctrine of the Trinity, you need to demonstrate that the Bible calls God "One God" and not three gods. Then you need to demonstrate that the Bible calls the Father "God", the Son "God", and the Holy Spirit "God".
In fact, the Word does just that. The four tenets of the doctrine of the Trinity are:
: God is One, not Three; God alone is the Alpha and the Omega (the First and Last God)there are no other Gods but He
"Jesus answered, "The foremost is, HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD." (Mark 12:29)
"Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me. " (Isaiah 44:6)
"I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last. I am He. " (Isaiah 41:4)
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son." (Revelation 21:6,7)
"My glory I will not give to another. Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He, I am the first, I am also the last. " (Isaiah 48:11b,12)
: The Father is God
"the Father, God, has set His seal." (John 6:27b)
"I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God. " (John 20:17b)
: The Son is God (the child who is born is actually God Eternal, the first and the last)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (John 1:1,14, 17)
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. I, Jesus", (Revelation 22:13, 16a)
For a child will be born to us, a son
will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6,7)
: The Holy Spirit is God; and He, as God, appoints gifts to the saints as He wills
"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)
But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:11)
But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. (1 Corinthians 12:18)
And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28)
And perhaps the best summation passage that aligns the worship of the Father with Jesus being worshipped as the Mighty God Who has all authority, which then is aligned with the fact that all believers are baptized (made to identify with) the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit is Matthew 28:17-20.
When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
While the label "Trinity" may be a polite "made-up" label that describes a deep truth of plain Scriptures, each of the four tenets of the doctrine of the Trinity are expressly supported by direct Scripture. God says that only God is called "the first and the last", yet Jesus calls Himself by that title. We find that Isaiah calls the Son of God, who is born on the Earth, by the name Eternal Father and Mighty God. We read that God is the only One Who assigns the gifts as He desires, but we read that the Holy Spirit is the One who assigns the gifts as He wills.
This is not a game of logic or a philosophy lesson. The names God chose for Himself are equally applied to Jesus and the Holy Spirit in numerous verses that explicitly say these things. A person does not have to work at trying to find subtle connections between the Son and the Father, and it is not necessary to jump through loops of loosely tied threads of logic to see some minor insight that might lead in the right direction. Scripture spells out the doctrine plainly. Gods name is Eternal Father and His Son is to be called, Eternal Father. God is He Who gives out spiritual gifts, and God is the Holy Spirit who decides what person is to get which gifts. Each tenet of the doctrine is plainly corroborated by a very plain statement from Scripture.
Christian Hedonism Lacks Such Proof Verses
Now compare this to the philosophy of Christian Hedonism. To prove Christian Hedonism you need to demonstrate that the Bible calls devotion to pleasure the greatest pursuit and highest calling of mankind, and you must demonstrate that the Bible commands that one must be converted to Christian Hedonism to be saved, and that the worship of God is only valid when the goal of worship is to attain pleasure.
Tenet One of Christian Hedonism
: the pursuit of your own pleasure in God is a command from the Bible
Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
[Note: nowhere in this verse are the words "pursue pleasure" found, nor is it proper to use logic to construe "delight yourself in the Lord" to infer a command to "pursue your own pleasure in God"see
Tenet Two of Christian Hedonism
: the Pursuit of Pleasure is the greatest pursuit and highest calling of believers
"The radical implication is that pursuing pleasure in God is our highest calling." (Piper, page 21, The Dangerous Duty of Delight)
[Note: Christian Hedonism offers no Bible passages to support this tenet, so we offer this quote from Dangerous Duty.]
Tenet Three of Christian Hedonism
: one must be converted to Christian Hedonism to be saved
"Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John Piper, Desiring God, page 55)
"Could it be that today the most straightforward biblical command for conversion is not, Believe in the Lord, but, Delight yourself in the Lord?" (John Piper, Desiring God, page 55)
"The pursuit of joy in God is not optional. It is not an extra that a person might grow into after he comes to faith. Until your heart has hit upon this pursuit, your faith cannot please God. It is not saving faith." (John Piper, Desiring God, page 69)
[Note: Christian Hedonism offers no legitimate Bible passages to support this tenet, so we offer these quotes from Desiring God.]
Tenet Four of Christian Hedonism
: the goal of worship is to attain pleasure in God
"I came to see that it is unbiblical and arrogant to try to worship God for any other reason than the pleasure to be had in him." (Piper, Desiring God, page 16, 1996 edition)
[Note: Christian Hedonism offers no legitimate Bible passages to support this tenet, so we offer this quote from Desiring God.]
In fact, the Word says none of those things, anywhere. You cannot even find one passage that acknowledges that there is such as thing as "the pursuit of pleasure", except where that pleasure is utterly lewd and detestable in the sight of God.
Given you cannot find even one passage that elevates pleasure to a valid pursuit of any kind, much less our greatest pursuit (hence the label "hedonism"), it is an even harder task to imagine a Bible versemuch less find onethat requires conversion to hedonism as a condition of salvation.
And finally let us consider the tenet of Christian Hedonism that states that the worship of God is only valid when the goal of worship is to attain pleasure for the worshipper. Again, the diligent Bible student will discover that worship is valid or authentic when it aims to be verbally edifying (1 Corinthians 14:26), calls others to repent from sin (1 Corinthians 14:23-25), and causes us to put our physical bodies into motion serving God and one another (Romans 12:1-13).
It should also be pointed out that worshipping God involves praising Him, and this is often called "shouting with joy to the Lord". Even some of our labors of worship are to be done with "cheer" and with "joy". Yet, what is the purpose or goal of worship: to experience joy and cheer, or, to praise God, edify the saints, and serve one another? The Bible states the goal of worship is to praise God, sometimes accompanied by the expression of joy; edify the saints, sometimes with the heart of cheerfulness; and to serve one another. The goal, according to plain Scripture, is never so that we can experience pleasure, experience joy, or experience cheer. Such experiences are attitudes that can accompany worship, but they are neither the goal nor the test for authenticating worship. Worship may be conducted in fear, in great sadness, or even in depression, and it will still be valid and God-honoring worship.
Consider Psalm 42. The Psalmist said his soul panted for God. Why? Because God had cut off His presence and His temple worship from His people when they were driven into exile by God for their sins. The Psalmist was not giving some romantic notion about his soul desiring a mystical rapturous pleasure of a hedonistic encounter with God as if that were some kind of normative event. The Psalmist was here worshipping God in deep depression that God had withdrawn Himself from him and the people because they had sinned. The Psalmists soul was panting for forgiveness from God, his desire was to quench his sorrow over his sins for which he cried night and day (verse 3). He longed to be able to go to temple again and to have his prayers heard and his sins covered by sacrifice again (verse 4).
Was the Psalmist in Psalm 42 worshipping God any less because his attitude was one of grief and sorrow instead of rapturous pleasure? No. In fact, Jesus, in a parable (Luke 18), said of the tax collector who worshipped in anguish at the temple that his worship caused him to be proclaimed righteous whereas the man who stood up in his self-righteous pleasure and worshipped in his zeal left still in his sin. Such men who worship to attain pleasure and to attain the pleasure of being seen ought to consider with wise discretion and discernment what Jesus said about those who seek their spiritual rewards while still on Earth (Matthew 6:1-6).
When we begin to think and to teach that the worship of God is so that we can attain heights of pleasing emotions we miss the point of worship entirely. It is true that sometimes pleasing emotions accompany or result from praising God or serving others, yet that is not why we are told to serve. Gods motives for giving us these commands is for the edification of others, for meeting the needs of others, for demonstrating to God our dependence and gratitude toward Him.
Worship is outward focused on those who are greater and more important than ourselves. When we get the silly notion that the worship is "for me" we begin quite literally worshipping ourselves.
Doctrine Comes From the Word, Philosophies Have No Such Burden
Christian Hedonism fails the biblical test on all four of its primary tenets. Unlike the doctrine of the Trinity, the philosophy of Christian Hedonism finds no evidential support in the Word. It is entirely a human idea based on human philosophy and human desires. It is made into a religion only when men give its secular foundation religious intent. They then run the risk of repeating the error of the Pharisees, which is elevating ones own ideas to a level of importance even above the plain commands of Scripture, eventually becoming experts at this newly established "tradition" instead of experts at obeying the Word.
For a more in-depth exploration behind whether the philosophy of Christian Hedonism is read out from biblical passages (exegesis) or whether the ideas are read into the Scriptural text (eisegesis) you are invited to read FAQ 30.
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