This post has been moved to my new theology blog.
“Gospel doctrine matters because the good news is so full and rich and wonderful that it must be opened like a treasure chest, and all its treasures brought out for the enjoyment of the world. Doctrine is the description of these treasures. Doctrine describes their true value and why they are so valuable. Doctrine guards the diamonds of the gospel from being discarded as mere crystals. Doctrine protects the treasures of the gospel from the pirates who don’t like the diamonds but who make their living trading them for other stones. Doctrine polishes the old gems buried at the bottom of the chest. It puts the jewels of gospel truth in order on the scarlet tapestry of history so each is seen in its most beautiful place. And all the while, doctrine does this with its head bowed in wonder that it should be allowed to touch the things of God.”
– God is the Gospel, p. 22 (free download)
There are a lot of theological questions out there, and some of us aren’t particularly interested in theology. Why, then, should we pay attention to the question of Christian hedonism: whether or not emotions are an essential part of Christianity?
The Great Commandment says that “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” It also says that “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” That probably means that if you get the Great Commandment wrong, you will get every other commandment wrong.
This is why the question of Christian hedonism is so important: it addresses what it means to love God and love your neighbor. A prevalent view in the church says that “love is not a feeling – it’s a commitment.” In this view, focusing on feelings is at best pointless, and at worst destructive. Christian hedonism, by contrast, says that emotion is an essential part of love. In this view, if you say you love God and your neighbor, but you don’t feel anything for them, you aren’t loving them. In this view, focusing on feelings is absolutely essential.
Therefore, Christian hedonism and its alternative have very different interpretations of the Great Commandment, which will lead to very different approaches to the whole Christian life. It’s therefore essential to come to your own decision about what scripture says about these two views.
As always, I recommend the Desiring God Resource Library for more information on Christian hedonism.