The back cover of this book asks, “Isn’t it true–we really don’t know someone until we understand what makes that person happy?” While I may not agree with the absoluteness of the sentence, I do think there is a lot that can be learned about a person by studying and understanding what makes that person happy. This book seeks to do just that: nine chapters, each one focusing on a different aspect of what makes God happy. The first six chapters focus on aspects of God and His actions, and the latter three look at human responses that God finds delightful. The way Piper looks at it, and I completely agree, is that everything is theocentric. God is theocentric: His pleasures and delights are at the center of attention. He glorifies Himself through the inevitable fulfillment of those pleasures and delights.
As with “Desiring God,” Piper is methodical and biblical in his writing. He really puts the “logical” in “theological.” Everything has a strong biblical basis and foundation. References and texts are in ample supply, and exposition is prevalent. One thing that I am coming to love about John Piper’s writing and thinking style is that his work is intellectual–not solely so, but the mind is not abandoned in pursuit of truth and affections. He will introduce a mainly logical way of arriving at a truth and arrive at it again using exposition to show how the two methods are consistent. I think in a similar fashion, so it is appealing to me to see him do so. It is a great service to the readers, and logical thinking is also a great tool in exposition. It creates a system of theology that is internally consistent and self-referencing, and far from being a bad thing, it demonstrates a grand, unifying, overarching theme to the Bible–in this case, the pleasures and delights of God.
Two things to note. The first is that this book, without stating so, is unapologetically reformed in its theology. Being reformed myself, I have no issue with it. Arminians and other non-Reformed folks should know that the book devotes an entire chapter to “The Pleasure of God in Election,” which talks not only about unconditional election, but also limited atonement and particularly irresistible grace. I think Piper does an excellent job in his defense of the doctrine, but also in showing how support of the doctrine is God-glorifying rather than simply dogmatic. I think that whoever you are, you should read the chapter to see a good effort in focusing reformed theology on the glory of God. Bits and pieces of Calvinist thinking are inevitably strewn through the book. (Again, it has to do with a consistent system of theology.) Regardless, I think this book is valuable and God-glorifying enough that anyone should read it.
The second thing is that, as a matter of personal preference and location in my walk, I was more captivated and helped by “Desiring God.” As such, I would recommend this book as an excellent supplement to that one, since the two cover the same ground of God, His pleasures, and our pleasures. What my opinion comes down to is that “Desiring God” is more detailed and explicit about why God is our greatest delight. I found it more personally affecting, but “The Pleasures of God” is no less worshipful or God-glorifying. They are simply different.
I think the real culmination of this work is to show that “grace is the pleasure of God to magnify the worth of God by giving sinners the right and power to delight in God without obscuring the glory of God” (8). What a glorious truth! How incredible it is that one of the pleasures of God includes our worship, however imperfect it is in our fallen state. Piper draws forth a threefold worship: first in acknowledging the righteousness of God that His delights are the standard for the universe, second in realizing the power of God that all His delights come to pass, and third in deep gratitude that God allows (and transforms!) us to delight in the very things He delights in. I am thankful to John Piper, as always, for writing such a biblically based book that leads me to meditation and worship.
(This book was provided free for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, but the opinions contained herein are solely my own.)