[Note: I've post a slightly fuller, more philosophically detailed version of this post at Prosblogion.] Reading the reviews of Sex and the Glory of God, co-edited by John Piper (see Stefan Matzal's review, and then follow the links at the bottom for more) has gotten me thinking about what Piper calls Christian hedonism. Wink also told me recently that he has stopped believing in Christian hedonism after having been convinced by Piper that it's correct. So I've been trying to figure out exactly what sort of hedonism Piper endorses, because it seems to me that it simply isn't any of the positions philosophers have called hedonism. I'm aware of four distinct theses philosophers refer to as hedonism, each a kind of hedonism with respect to a different issue. I do think Piper holds one of them, but I don't think it's equivalent to what he calls Christian hedonism, which doesn't seem to me to be a kind of hedonism at all.
First, here is Piper's account of what Christian hedonism is (this is all directly quoted from Desiring God, p.23):
1. The longing to be happy is a universal human experience; it is good, not sinful. 2. We should never try to resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse. Instead we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction.
3. The deepest and most enduring satisfaction is found only in God. Not from God, but in God.
4. The happiness we find in God reaches its consummation when it is shared with others in the manifold ways of love.
5. To the extent we try to abandon the pursuit of our own pleasure, we fail to honor God and love people. Or, to put it positively: the pursuit of pleasure is a necessary part of all worship and virtue. That is, the chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying him forever.
I don't think this view is hedonism according to any of the standard philosophical views I know of that are called hedonism. (It's clearly not hedonism in the popular sense, but I'm concerned about the philosophical views called hedonism, which are what Piper had in mind in choosing the term.)