Skip to main content
"The Hedonism and Homosexuality of John Piper and Sam Allberry" - Book Review

Scripture repeatedly warns Christians about false teachers who are like wolves in sheep’s clothing, men who creep into churches and secretly bring with them destructive heresies. These men are not outwardly ravenous but, as Christ reveals to us, inwardly ravenous. Christians are commanded by Jesus Christ to beware of these false prophets and false teachers. Yet we are often caught off guard by such men because we fail to scrutinize their teaching, being satisfied with what appears to be good and godly conduct and teaching.

Among those false teachers, we find John Piper and Sam Allberry. In his book The Hedonism and Homosexuality of John Piper and Sam Allberry: Turning the Grace of God Into Lasciviousness, author Enoch Burke closely examines John Piper’s doctrine of “Christian hedonism,” and shows how it has helped create a theological environment conducive to the kind of teaching found in Sam Allberry’s writing and in the sermons, sadly, of many churches who admire Piper and accept his doctrine of Christian hedonism. Burke focuses in on Piper’s loose use of language, emotionalism, and repackaged mysticism. Piper’s elevation of desire for God over against obedience to God subtly changes the degree to which certain sins are worse than others, by transforming how much one desires God into the basis of self-evaluation. If the highest goal man has is to have joy in God, then the worst sin is one’s failure to achieve that highest goal. Thus, sins that God has declared to be abominable – e.g. homosexuality – are less sinful than not having God as one’s highest desire.

As Burke explains –

Ultimately, Piper’s argument is that the affections are a better test of Christianity than decisions of the will. The import of his words is to move Christians away from an examination of their obedience to God’s commands to a nebulous fixation on their emotions. (58)

Consequently,

Piper’s weak view of obedience has consequently led to his followers neglecting or even rejecting duty, and instead judging their parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and other church members for their ‘lack of emotion’ in Christian service. (60)

Piper’s theology, argues Burke, is not cited as the source of Allberry’s unorthodox doctrine regarding homosexuality, but it nevertheless has yielded the same rotten fruit (see, pp.72-73).

Like Piper, Allberry seeks to subtly alter orthodoxy by introducing new concepts/doctrines that are completely at odds with Scripture. For example, Allberry reduces the severity of homosexuality’s wickedness by arguing that we are all ‘sexually broken’ (91). Rather than explicitly repeat what Scripture teaches about homosexuality – namely that it is an unnatural abomination to which sinful men are given over by God – Allberry states that his ‘[homosexual] desires are not right because the world is not right’ (97), thereby exonerating the homosexual.

Burke, thankfully, reminds us that there is a proper mode of living in the world that Scripture teaches – the way of holiness, not hedonism. The Scriptures teach us that the Christian’s duty is not to engage in the hollow practices of Piperian mysticism but to know God and live in accordance with his revealed will. He also articulates seven ways we can ‘save ourselves,’ as Paul encouraged his protege Timothy to do (139-140).

Throughout this book, Burke’s attention to the language of Piper and Allberry helpfully underscores the subtle nature of deception that sneaks into churches and seeks to destroy the body of Christ. I recommend reading the book for its content, as well as for understanding the methodology employed by Burke in his scrutinization of Piper and Allberry’s writing and public speaking. There is much to be learned from this book, doctrinally and practically.

Comments