Christian Hedonism vs. Narcissism

There is a big ‘to do’ swirling around Thomas Schreiner’s forthcoming book New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ. Schreiner makes the point that the most basic theme of the New Testament is, “God magnifying himself through Jesus Christ by means of the Holy Spirit.”

Ben Witherington weighed in on the matter by leveling the charge of narcissism. Witherington wrote an article entitled “‘For God so Loved Himself?’ Is God a Narcissist?”. He concludes the article in this manner: “I suppose we should not be surprised that in a culture and age of narcissism, we would recreate God in our own self-centered image, but it is surprising when we find orthodox Christians, and even careful scholars doing this.”

This is a pretty beefy charge laid upon the doorsteps of Christian Hedonism. I recommend to you the article reposted below written by James White. I also suggest you follow the links below to see the article that was posted by Ben Witherington, and then read the rebuttal argument as posted by John Piper.

For further articles in the blogdom about this issue you can look at the links compiled by Timmy Brister.

To the Praise of His Glorious Grace
James R. White

Theology matters. The substance of what God in His infinite wisdom has revealed to His creatures is the marrow of the joy of the believer’s heart—and mind. Theology matters because theology is possible because of God’s initiative in revelation. What God reveals is, by definition, important, central, vital, life-changing, heart-enrapturing, for all in whom the Spirit dwells. And thanks be to God, when one is absorbed in seeking to think God’s thoughts after Him, the resultant joy cannot be touched by all the enemies in the world.

Theology matters. If your theology is focused upon God, His glory, and His purposes, you will see man as a creature—the only creature made in the image of God, the only creature into whose existence God Himself in the person of the Son has entered—but still very much a creature, very much on the “created” side of the chasm that separates all of creation from the Uncreated, the Eternal, the Self-existent. If you are God-centered in your theology, as, I believe firmly, the Bible teaches us to be, you will start with a perspective that is completely beyond anything accessible to mankind outside of divine revelation. You will see all of human history, all of mankind, and every event therein, bathed in the glow of God’s purpose, God’s decree, God’s power, God’s glory. The resultant consistency and harmony thrills the soul, and comforts the afflicted.

Bad theology matters, too. If your theology is first and foremost upon the creature, you will inevitably have to “edit” God down to allow something as small as man to have center-stage. The results can range from the inevitable inconsistency that comes from such a theology honestly trying to deal with all of Scripture (a rarity, sadly), to the complete catastrophe of man-centered false religion. We can be thankful that many who start with a bad case of tradition and a focus that is off of God do not take their traditions to their logical conclusions, but we must likewise say that not only is God not honored by such theologies, but there is truly no logical, consistent “stopping point” along the spectrum of such teachings before one falls into the pit of heresy.

If you would like a great example of this, see these two blogs: first, Ben Witherington’s very Arminian-originated reaction to Thomas Schreiner’s biblical and sound assertion that the core of New Testament theology is “God magnifying himself through Jesus Christ by means of the Holy Spirit.” Witherington’s comments should shock you, given how prolific an author he is, but they are helpful in that they point out just how far removed, foundationally, Reformed theologians and teachers are from those who openly embrace their Arminian roots. And second, John Piper’s response to Witherington.

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