Friday, September 5, 2014

The Real Reason behind Victoria Osteen’s “Happy” Doctrine: Christian Hedonism and John Piper?

What I am about to propose to you should not shock you nor come as a surprise, though it will not be what you might suspect regarding an opinion as to why Victoria Osteen, the wife of the very well-known Pastor Joel Osteen (actually Co-Pastor seeing that both husband and wife are the Pastors), said what she said recently about the Christian’s happiness, doing good and God’s relationship to it all. If you are not familiar with assertion or have not even heard of the event, here is what Victoria Osteen recently proposed as proper Christian doctrine and practice:

Victoria Osteen

When we obey God, we're not doing it for God...we're doing it for ourself. Because God takes pleasure when we're happy. Do good 'cause God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you're not doing it for God, really. You're doing it for yourself because that's what makes God happy.
Now my title is rather plain in its giveaway but that is fine. I am not going to do a great deal of elaboration, rather a comparison. Think about what she said and consider how it parallels to many of the statements by John Piper, the originator of the novel theological heterodoxy, if not heresy, he calls “Christian Hedonism”.

  1. The longing to be happy is a universal human experience, and it is good, not sinful.
  2. We should never try to deny or 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 happiness is found only in God.
  4. The happiness we find in God reaches its consummation when it expands to meet the needs of 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.

By Christian Hedonism, I do not mean that our happiness is the highest good. I mean that pursuing the highest good will always result in our greatest happiness in the end. But almost all Christians believe this. Christian Hedonism says more, namely, that we should pursue happiness, and pursue it with all our might. The desire to be happy is a proper motive for every good deed, and if you abandon the pursuit of your own joy you cannot love man or please God - that's what makes Christian Hedonism controversial.

Hmmmm.....has Victoria been reading John Piper’s books?  You cannot “please God” if you don't pursue happiness, says John Piper while Victoria says when you make yourself happy this makes God happy. Granted, they aren’t identical statements but they are kissing cousins at least and so far this is the most plausible explanation I can think of as to where Victoria got her errant pleasure orientation doctrine.


Alexandra McGee said...

The problem with Piper and Victoria's ideas is the focus on "pleasure". Our focus on God should be on relationship, intimacy, knowing each other- not having pleasure. If either of us focus on the pleasure we are using the other person. Pleasure is a byproduct of a relationship- but so are many other feelings... some of them difficult as we work on loving each other- note Jesus weeping in the garden of Gethsemane.

Alex A. Guggenheim said...


Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. And what well formed thoughts they were. Indeed, the by-products of a right relationship will take care of themselves, it is the fellowship we are to pursue.

Alexandra McGee said...

Thanks Alex. :)

Don Johnson said...

Alex, are the five summary statements direct quotes? If yes, do you have a source?

Good point on making the link.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Alex A. Guggenheim said...


The marginalized Five Points and the paragraph a bit later are quotes. And the source for both are Desiring God (John Piper's ministry website) which are imbedded links in the headers preceding the quoted material.


Don Johnson said...

Thanks, I'll check it out. Didn't realize they were links.

Jon Gleason said...

Hi, Alex. The thoughts are very similar, aren't they? But I really, really doubt Mrs. Osteen is reading John Piper.

We live in a culture that exalts me and my pleasure. The Scripture speaks of "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God" and that is all around us.

We don't have to assume there is any direct connection between these two. They merely reflect the spirit of the age.

Victoria Osteen took it a little further than Piper, more explicit in her statement, but it is the same spirit. Driscoll's abusive teachings on marital intimacy were full of that same spirit.

Christians, and those who call themselves Christians, are following the gods of the people round about them, the gods of "me and my pleasure." Just because the gods aren't made of wood and stone any longer doesn't mean it isn't idolatry.

Alex A. Guggenheim said...


Thanks for the visit and thoughts. At first, I, too, was hesitant to consider the influence of Piper a likely possibility but then considered how many charismatic/prosperity gospel big names and lesser names John Piper seems either to deliberately or not, touch. But as you said, the spirit of the age is likely even more greatly the greatest general influence. What is most eye opening is the degree to which those who would identify themselves as "conservative" in some sense, theologically, embrace it willingly share ministry or tolerate without measurable dispute, these ministers/ ministries.


Anonymous said...

huge difference between VOsteen's statement and true Christian Hedonism is VO's motivation is to satisfy self. everything we do is for ourself and God would like it. true Christian Hedonism clearly states that only GOD would provide the best and eternal pleasures, and we would seek those pleasures from God to honor Him.

Alex A. Guggenheim said...

I am quite familiar with John Piper's errant hedonism. When you say "huge difference" you are actually disagreeing with John Piper, himself. He, himself, admitting that G. Osteen was half right! Many Bible Teachers see the same correlation I do. But to each his own. Thanks for stopping by.

Alexandra McGee said...

anonymous: How does "seeking those pleasures from God" honor Him? Why is honoring Him and finding pleasure on the same level? Why are either of them more important than KNOWING HIM? Jesus in His prayer to the Father said "and this is eternal life, that they may know you and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent." That is the ultimate joy. Just knowing Him. Honoring Him is also a by-product. He doesn't need us to worship Him- the angels already do that. But he wants a relationship with us.