It occurred to me recently that John Piper's Christian Hedonism is going to have a hard time dealing with two famous statements by Moses and Paul. For those unfamiliar with Christian Hedonism, see my Christian Hedonism and Wink's Why I Am No Longer a Piperite. The short of it is that Piper thinks true morality consists only and exactly in finding our eternal enjoyment in God. Consider, however, Moses' conversation with God after the golden calf incident:
The next day Moses said to the people, "You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin." So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin -- but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written." [Exodus 32:30-32, TNIV]
Moses seems to be volunteering to have himself prevented from enjoying God, assuming he had some inkling of what blotting out of the book means. He must have had some, or he wouldn't have said it, even if he didn't have a full-blown concept of an eternal afterlife. He must have thought of it as involving something like a removal of God's blessing and a severing of the kind of relationship he had with God. This seems quite contrary to Piper's view of what Moses' moral obligation should be. Moses' willingness to atone for his people in this way is generally viewed as so honorable that no one should ever be expected to make such a terrible self-sacrifice. Piper has to see it as the most immoral of actions. According to Piper, he should have been seeking to enjoy God forever, and yet he's willing to violate the most fundamental obligation he has. Christian Hedonism leads to a very strange analysis in this case.
Consider also Paul's similar statement:
I speak the truth in Christ -- I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit -- I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen. [Romans 9:1-5, TNIV]
If there's any doubt whether Moses understood the implications of what he was saying, I can't see how the same could be said of Paul. He should have been fully aware that he was wishing he could give up his own eternal enjoyment of God for the sake of the Jewish people who had rejected the Messiah. He's fully aware that such a transaction would lead to his being unable to do the very thing that Piper says is our highest duty. Now it's not really as if Piper has nothing to say here. He could say that Moses and Paul had a lapse, and they didn't realize that what they were saying was evil. Paul does seem to suggest that what he's considering isn't truly possible. That perhaps minimizes the full effect of my point. But it's hard to take into account the tone of this passage while thinking anything bad in Paul's willingness to sacrifice his eternal salvation, were such a thing possible, for the sake of his fellow Jews.
I don't see how Piper can see anything good in such a desire, whereas it seems to me that what motivates Paul and Moses is the purest of hearts. That means that at least something has got to be wrong with Christian Hedonism as it's standardly construed. The purest of motives surely will usually involve seeking the fulfillment of our desires in the only one who can fully satisfy them, the one who created our desires so that he could fulfill them to the utmost. But it's got to be more complicated than simply identifying morality with that enjoyment of God.