Posts Tagged ‘John Piper’

Menter’s Hierarchy of Needs

September 21st, 2010

If you’re a student of psychology (or a student in any field that applies the behavioral sciences), you’ve likely heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow suggested that humans have a collection of fundamental needs, and that these needs are “hierarchical”. That is to say, some needs must be met in order to go on to seek after the “higher” needs.

As per the diagram below, Maslow suggests that physical needs are the base, followed by the need for safety, and then for love/belonging, and then for esteem. At the pinnacle, Maslow has placed “self-actualization”–a vague term for a number of feel-goods ultimately summed up in “reaching one’s potential”.

Maslows Hierarchy of Needs
Image from the Wikimedia Commons, licensed under a CC 3.0 license

Maslow’s theory has been critiqued for its insistence that the “lower” needs be met before the higher needs are sought. Experience teaches us that even a hungry child still seeks love and acceptance (to fulfill a “higher” need). Additionally, while Maslow’s hierarchy may have utility in explaining Western patterns of behavior, it breaks down when applied to Eastern cultures where community is regarded more highly than individuality.

I don’t really care to discuss Maslow’s hierarchy–I’d much rather propose my own.

Enter Menter’s Hierarchy of Needs Induced by the Fall of Mankind:

I propose that the fall of mankind followed a progression–and that the redemption of mankind requires a reversal of that progression.

When Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent, their first step towards sin was to turn their eyes from God to self.

“…the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise…”
~Genesis 3:6a

Having turned their eyes from God, they chose to obey the tempter rather than God.

“…she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”
~Genesis 3:6b

And once they ate, they experienced the consequences of sin.

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked…”
~Genesis 3:7

The fall induced three vital needs in the spirit and soul of every man.

He needs to be saved from self-centeredness, he needs to be saved from the mastery of sin, and he needs to saved from the consequences of sin.

I propose that, at least for most people, the awareness of each of these needs follows the reverse progression.

First, man becomes aware of the consequences of sin–and seeks to escape them. He experiences guilt or shame. He sees broken relationships, physical and emotional suffering. He fears death. And he needs a Savior to free him from these consequences.

He receives Jesus as Savior. “Free me from hell,” he cries.

Get-out-of-hell-free card safely in hand, he discovers his second great need. He becomes aware of his bondage to sin. He wants to do what is right, but he finds himself unable to do so. Even recognizing that he IS freed from sin through Jesus Christ, he still finds himself inclined towards sin. He needs a new master.

He receives Jesus as Lord. “I will submit my life to Your mastery,” he affirms.

Watching his steps carefully, anxious to be obedient to his new master, the man discovers his final need. He is discontent with this. Somehow, this falls short. Is this all there is? he wonders. He might even wonder if it’s worth it. What has he gained by submitting to Christ’s mastery? He needs a new treasure.

And at some point, by the grace of God, he receives Jesus as Treasure. “You are worth everything,” he proclaims.

There, as he is lost in the greatness of the Treasure, his needs disappear. Christ has met them, He has fulfilled them. For really, all of our needs are simply metaphors for our truest need–God Himself.

(This is a reflection on John Piper’s concept of receiving Christ as Treasure, as articulated in the second chapter of Desiring God. For more reflections on Desiring God, see my notes here.)

God’s passion for His glory (Part 2)

September 6th, 2010

At the end of last week, I posed the question:

Is God primarily passionate for Himself, or for people? Is the idea that God is passionate for His own glory contradictory with the idea that God is love?

This week, I’ll share the conclusions I’ve drawn about the subject.

First, comparing God’s purpose to man’s purpose, as Piper does when he states

“The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy Himself forever.”

is invalid. Man’s purpose is to glorify God, whether man consciously decides to do so or not. This is because man is a created being–and the purpose for which he was created was (at least in part) God’s glory (“Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” Gen 1:26). God, on the other hand, is not a created being. He has no “purpose” for existing. Rather, He exists because He exists, because He is. The question then, when referring to God’s purpose, is not about God’s purpose in existing, but His purpose in acting.

Now, to a certain degree, God’s existence is explanation enough for His actions. When questioning any of God’s purposes of acting in a particular way, a perfectly appropriate answer is “He acted in this way because this way of acting is consistent with His nature.” In other words, God does what He does because “that’s just the way He is.”

God demonstrates mercy because He is merciful. He exercises justice because He is just. He displays His glory because He is glorious.

Perhaps the idea of God being passionate for His own glory is merely another way of saying “God’s purpose is to be Himself–that is, to be gloriously Himself.”

But Piper’s thesis–and I daresay Scripture itself–would suggest that God’s passion for His own glory is not merely a way of saying “When God acts in accordance with who He is, the result is God’s glory–therefore, God is passionate about His own glory.” No, it seems that Piper, and Scripture, would say that this is indeed a driving passion that influences God’s activity. It implies that just as I read out of a passion for learning, God acts out of a passion for being glorified.

Which brings us right back to the initial problem of God being self-seeking.

But what if God, though one in deity, were three in person? What if God were triune (which He is, indeed)–and each member of the Trinity were passionate not for His own glory, but for the glory of each other member of the Trinity? What if the Father’s supreme end was to glorify and delight in the Son and the Spirit? What if the Son’s supreme end was to glorify and delight in the Father and the Spirit? What if the Spirit’s supreme end was to glorify and delight in the Father and the Son?

If that were so, then God’s “self-love” would not be self-seeking. The paradox would be resolved. God could be both love and passionately God-centered.

And I think this idea has Scriptural support.

In John 8:49-50, Jesus states that He does not seek His own glory, but that He honors His Father. John 16:14 states that the Spirit glorifies the Son. In John 17, Jesus prays that the Father would glorify Him (the Son) so that He (the Son) might glorify the Father. In Hebrews 5:5, we read that Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but that God the Father “promoted” Him to that position.

God can be at once both gloriously God-centered and gloriously un-self-centered. For each member of the Trinity submits to the others’ will, and each wills the others’ glorification–with the end that God glorifies God and enjoys Himself forever.

(This is a reflection on the first chapter of John Piper’s Desiring God. For more reflections on Desiring God, see my notes here.)

God’s passion for His glory (Part 1)

September 3rd, 2010

God is uppermost in His own affections, John Piper would say. God’s supreme and driving passion is for His own glory.

It’s perhaps the most provocative and uncomfortable of all of Piper’s statements.

It’s been the source of a dozen heated discussions between myself, my sister, and my dad. Anna and I take Piper’s side; Dad argues that Piper can’t be right. God is love (I John 4:8,16) and love does not seek its own (I Cor 13:5). Surely the whole of Scripture, the redemptive story reveals that we are uppermost in God’s affections, that God’s supreme and driving passion is for our redemption.

I don’t like to admit it to my dad, but I sympathize with his argument–an awful lot. (Believe it or not, even “perfect” homeschooled daughters like myself have difficulties admitting that they agree with their parents!)

I see Piper’s point and agree with it. God is certainly jealous for His own glory. It is certainly in man’s best interest that God be glorified rather than man. God’s glory is undoubtedly a major theme of Scripture.

But God is love. And love does not seek its own.

Piper’s response to this–that it is in man’s best interest that God be glorified rather than man–does not fully address this issue. Basically, it says that “love does not seek its own” except when we’re talking about God’s love. The rules are different for God because God’s self-seeking is for our best.

I don’t really buy that. The rules aren’t different for God–the rules exist because of who God is. Love isn’t self-seeking because God, from whom love is defined, is not self-seeking.

I’ve wrestled with this question on and off for years–and while I can’t claim to have come to a full understanding, I do feel that I have come to a position that I have some degree of peace about.

I’ll discuss my wrestlings, and the conclusion I’ve come to, a bit more next week–but first, I want to hear what you think about the topic. Is God primarily passionate for Himself, or for people? Is the idea that God is passionate for His own glory contradictory with the idea that God is love?

(This is a reflection on the first chapter of John Piper’s Desiring God. For more reflections on Desiring God, see my notes here.)

Inciting Passion

September 2nd, 2010

This year, I have been concentrating on exercising my mind towards the things of God.

No doubt my longer-term readers have noticed the emphasis of this blog shifting from anecdotes to thinking and theology. Those who have seen my book lists have seen weightier books appearing more often on my lists–and have seen a greater emphasis on critical evaluation in my reviews. Those who know me personally have likely seen or heard some of my intellectual struggles of this past year as I’ve wrestled with the role of the miraculous gifts in today’s church, with what might appropriately induce someone to leave a church, with the role of Christians in government, with non-violence as a Christian virtue, and more.

Now, as I return to the classroom, teaching again, I still intend to exercise my mind towards the things of God–but to that I add one more goal.

I would like to stir up my passions towards God.

I want to incite within my soul such a thirst for God that I find the murky waters of this world unfulfilling. I should like to develop such a taste for God that I will turn aside from every trifle this world offers. I would like to desire God so deeply, so fully that the desire for Him drowns out every desire for any other person or thing. I should like for Him to become my consuming passion, my deepest longing, my forever quest.

I am reading John Piper’s Desiring God–and as I read, I am crying:
“Lord, awaken my hunger. Lord, awaken my thirst. Lord, awaken longing. Awaken my desire–for You.”

“I know of no other way to triumph over sin long-term than to gain a distaste for it because of a superior satisfaction in God.”
~John Piper, Desiring God

O Lord, I desire to find such superior satisfaction in You!

“…it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us…We are far too easily pleased.”
~C.S. Lewis, quoted in Desiring God

O Lord, may I not be easily pleased by the small joys this world offers.

“…This persistent and undeniable yearning for happiness was not to be suppressed, but to be glutted–on God!”
~John Piper, Desiring God

O that I may be glutted on You!

“God is glorified not only by His glory’s begin seen, but by its being rejoiced in.”
~Jonathon Edwards, quoted in Desiring God

May my life bring You glory as I rejoice in You.

“The pleasure Christian Hedonism seeks is the pleasure that is in God Himself. He is the end of our search, no the means to some further end.”
~John Piper, Desiring God

O, that I might delight in You, not as a means to my heart’s desire, but because You are my heart’s desire.

(This is a reflection on the foreword and introduction to John Piper’s Desiring God. For more reflections on Desiring God, see my notes here.)

Pleasure seeking

September 1st, 2010

To be human is to be a pleasure-seeker.

We are fond of thinking of the dissipated fellow partying all night, drunken, sleeping around, and experimenting with drugs as a pleasure-seeker. We are not likely to think of the sturdy fellow who goes to school, gets a job, and raises a family as a pleasure-seeker. Instead, we call him a level-headed chap. Then there are the philanthropists and volunteers. We call them altruistic. Certainly they are not pleasure-seekers. And finally, there is the missionary who travels to a different land to face certain death. He cannot be a pleasure-seeker, we say. We either call him crazy or a hero for his self-sacrifice.

Yet each of these is a pleasure-seeker.

Pleasure seeking does not distinguish one man from another, for pleasure seeking is a trait common to man. What separates one man from another is not that he seeks pleasure, but what he seeks pleasure in.

Furthermore, what separates one man from another is his relative success at not only seeking but finding pleasure.

The dissipated man is forever chasing a fleeting pleasure, a buzz that quickly fades. The steady man may have traded these “buzzes” for the pleasures of stability and comfort. The altruistic man has denied the buzz of the dissipated man–and perhaps even the stability and comforts of the stead man–for the pleasures of “doing the right thing” or the laud of other men.

All of these are pleasure-seekers, seeking pleasure in a variety of things. Each man trades some form of pleasure for another, depending on what he feels most likely to bring him long term pleasure. Some pleasures last longer than others. None of these last forever.

The Christian does the same thing. The difference is that while all these other pleasures are earthly and momentary, the Christian knows the source of true eternal pleasure.

The Chinese believers who face certain death as they seek a way into North Korea to share the gospel of Christ crucified and risen–they do so in pursuit of pleasure. They deem Christ the highest pleasure t be found–and are thus willing to forgo even fleshly life itself in order to chase after Him.

Crazy?

Only if God is not the eternal source of pleasure.

Heroes?

Perhaps.

Or maybe just the ultimate in pleasure-seekers.

God-seekers

(This is the beginning of my notes and reflections on Desiring God by John Piper. See other notes on the same topic by clicking the Desiring God tag.)

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