A Review of “The Hedonism and Homosexuality of John Piper and Sam Allberry"
Publisher: Burke Publishing
Copyright Date: 2020
Available: On Amazon for around $8
Length: 140 pages
This particular author was unknown to me and if it weren’t for reading another review of this work, it would likely have never been brought to my attention. The title intrigued me, as I’m sure it was designed to, and upon a little investigating I found an offer of a complimentary copy in exchange for a review. A free book with an opportunity to edify Christ’s sheep? How could I refuse!
At a Glance
This appears to be a self-published book, or at least the author owns his own publishing house. Given the title and the content, I am not surprised to see this and suspect that Mr. Burke was unable to find a single “Christian” publisher that would dare touch a work of this nature. Such is the nature in our modern world. The reader should not be put off by the lack of a distinguished publishing house like Zondervan, Crossway, or Moody Press. I fear that we will soon see the day when these houses produce more tripe than treasure.
Let the American reader be warned that Mr. Burke exclusively uses the Authorized Version of the Holy Scriptures. The latte sipping, skinny jeans wearing, ESV toting crowd may spend some time readjusting their decorative lenses as they sift through the old English, yet this remains an approachable and straight forward work.
Upon skimming through this work, I did notice one (in my most humble of opinion) defect: the author uses endnotes. I’m not much a fan of endnotes and would prefer that the sources be listed at the bottom of the page. Other than that, this seemed to be a very interesting read.
Mr. Burke’s premise is clear, concise, and easily found in his introduction. He believes that homosexuality is clearly identified as sin in the Scriptures and that key evangelical leaders are actively softening the edge of the Holy Spirit’s sword on the issue. More than that, he identifies two key individuals (John Piper and Sam Allberry) who have worked to alter Christians’ view of homosexuality to the point that evangelicalism’s view of homosexuality is drastically different than Scripture’s view.
Chapter 1: Before We Begin: Do Words Matter? – This first chapter introduces the reader to John Piper’s doctrine of Christian Hedonism. To Piper, the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him. Mr. Burke engages in two discussions: (1) is it appropriate to allow Piper to use the term hedonism (the pursuit of self-pleasure) without challenging his poor choice of words? (2) Is Piper correct in thinking that man glorifies God by seeking pleasure?
Mr. Burke is quick to articulate the value of human language in general, and more specifically the necessity to carefully read and understand each and every word in Holy Writ. As such, he rebukes Piper’s flippancy. But the argument requires more than this surface level rebuttal and so Burke goes on to do battle against the whole of Piper’s argument. The chief end of man is not to glorify God by enjoying Him, but rather it is to glorify God and enjoy Him. Man can glorify and enjoy God as directed by the Scriptures (p. 21). Near the end of the chapter, Burke notes that Piper looks not to the Bible in defense of his doctrine of Christian Hedonism, but to men that are “smarter and older” than himself, namely C.S. Lewis and Vernard Eller (p. 24). Burke points out that while both of these men hold to very similar ideas regarding Christian Hedonism, neither of them hold to anything that could be mistaken for orthodox faith.
Chapter 2: John Piper: Preaching Mysticism, Not Christ – This chapter examines the idea of authority. Does the Word of God have supreme authority over the Christian or does human emotion have the final say? Does this emphasis upon emotion compare better with biblical Christianity or is it more akin to heathen paganism and Roman Catholicism?
Mr. Burke marks Piper’s emphasis on emotion and labels it a full-blown departure from the authority of Scripture, noting that this move leaves the door open for all manner of heresies. He even goes as far as stating that Piper has no significant grievance with the Roman Pope (p. 43-46) and shares much more in common with the self-proclaimed “vicar of Christ” than he holds in contrast. They both miss the mark on the authority of Scripture and both (at least in practice) deny it.
Chapter 3: Preaching Christ, Not Mysticism – This chapter reveals the shortcomings of hedonistic thinking in regard to the Christian faith. If taking pleasure in God is the hallmark of the Christian’s existence, then what defines a Christian’s conversion and converted life? From what were we saved and how should we live? Does pursuing pleasure differ from pursuing Christ?
Mr. Burke shows that Piper’s understanding of conversion is not in conformity to the Scriptures. He places undue emphasis upon God’s desire for man to feel delight in God (p. 56-60). This differs dramatically from an orthodox understanding that, upon conversion, God changes man’s desires so that man will obey Him. Mr. Burke shows that Piper prefers and emphasizes emotion over obedience. This is of course, a dangerous road to begin down.
Chapter 4: Sam Allberry: Turning Grace Into Lasciviousness – Here the focus shifts from John Piper to Sam Allberry, a former Anglican priest who identifies as “same-sex attracted.” Mr. Burke utilizes Allberry’s book Is God Anti-Gay? as the main source, revealing Allberry’s theology regarding homosexuality. This chapter evaluates Allberry’s position to God’s.
The core of Sam Allberry’s position seems to rest upon the distinction between desire and deed. He sees no reason why he or others can’t be sexually, emotional, and romantically attracted to those of their own sex while at the same time flourish as Christians. Does the Bible make the same distinctions? Does God draw a division between desire and deed to the point where the desire is excused, so long as the deed is not carried through? Is there a difference between being “same-sex attracted” and being a homosexual, or has Mr. Allberry succeeded in pulling the wool over the church’s eyes? Mr. Burke opens the Scriptures and discusses these things.
Chapter 5: Rescuing Grace From Lasciviousness – It is here where Mr. Burke attacks Allberry’s arguments from a scriptural basis. Allberry is quoted and proven to believe and argue that homosexuality is not so much different than any other sin in the eyes of God. He also states plainly that he does not believe there is a connection between rebellion and homosexuality and goes so far as claiming that homosexuals are more or less victims of society rather than rebels inviting God’s wrath.
Mr. Burke opens the Scriptures to counter all of these arguments and argues that homosexuality is indeed, by its very nature, a most egregious act of rebellion against God and takes Sam Allberry to task over his mishandling and twisting of Romans 1. Did Paul intend to simply indicate that humanity is fallen and imperfect or that all men are actually guilty of sin? Is the gospel of Jesus Christ capable of transforming reprobates into righteous sons and daughters, or is it not? Sam Allberry’s position is not at all compatible with God’s.
Chapter 6: Holiness not Hedonism – It is here where Mr. Burke completes the circle that connects the hedonism of John Piper to the homosexuality of Sam Allberry. It is the ridiculous idea that God has called Christians to pursue pleasure that leaves the door wide open for all kinds of wicked self-gratification. Christ has called his bride to holiness, a pursuit of purity unstained by the world, and not hedonism.
Some may balk when Mr. Burke plainly calls John Piper a false teacher. If the first five chapters were not enough to validate this claim, Mr. Burke offers additional evidence. Our Lord said that we will know false teachers by their fruits (Matt. 7:15-20). Two fruits that have been produced by Piper’s “ministry” come in the form of men, Mark Driscoll and Joshua Harris. If you are unfamiliar with these two men, then this chapter will enlighten you. Chapter 7: Taking a Look at Ourselves – This final chapter is the most sobering of all. It is here that Mr. Burke plainly states that we, the church, has utterly failed. We have failed to call out false teachers, hiding behind the lie of ignorance. We have failed to care about our people, our doctrine, and our God whom we serve. We have failed to act by spotting the wolves and running them off and by refusing to call Christ’s sheep away from danger. The battle is the Lord’s and so it is not lost. The gates of hell will never prevail against Christ’s church (Matt. 16:18). But if the church is to be revived in our lifetime, we must refrain from passively allowing the enemy to have his way and answer the call to arms.
The Argument – Mr. Burke’s argument is fluid and logical. Each chapter begins with a new agenda which he clearly outlines and then follows through to defend from Scripture, history, and sympathetic modern voices. This linear manner of thinking and writing makes it easy for the reader to follow and comprehend the author’s intention. Mr. Burke’s use of Scripture is accurate and voluminous. His use of historical and contemporary theologians are always in support of the biblical text that he presents. It is ever so annoying when men defend statements of dead men rather than working with theologians of the past to simply defend the Scriptures. Mr. Burke does not fall into this trap but simply lets the Word of God speak to the topic at hand.
There are times when Mr. Burke is close to making the fallacy of impugning motives to his opponents. Some will undoubtedly make this claim; that Mr. Burke reveals evil intentions that are simply not there. To that I would counter that even if Piper and Allberry’s intentions are completely other than what Mr. Burke supposes (a huge if), those who read and listen to these men understand them to mean exactly what Mr. Burke suggests. It might be debatable if Mr. Burke accurately represents the intentions of these men, but then again, the road to hell is paved with the best of intentions. The objectivity of what they have said and the reality of how the church has understood these things is plain for all to see. Mr. Burke understands their words and represents their meaning very well.
Use of Sources – Concerning his opponents, it must be noted that Mr. Burke does not cherry pick his sources. He lists numerous sources from John Piper over the last decade and allows Piper to articulate his position in his own words. As for Sam Allberry, he lists full paragraph length quotations from his book, articles he has written, as well as from various speaking engagements. Mr. Burke cannot be said to have built caricatures of these men. He simply puts forth what they have said themselves.
Mr. Burke has made great use of other sources in support of his points. He utilizes men from the broadest scope of faithful ministers ranging from the reformer Martin Luther, the Puritans who comprised the Westminster Divines, American theologians like Charles Hodge and Jonathan Edwards, to more contemporary men like Louis Berkhof and Anthony Hoekema. Mr. Burke is far from being misinformed or ill-equipped.
Use of Logic – This is not a hit-piece. Too many people cry “foul” whenever a strong objection to their claims or ideas arise. It has become common to take attacks upon our ideas as attacks upon our persons. We’re not used to receiving any push back. Mr. Burke pushes back hard, yet I have found nowhere in this work anything that can realistically be called a personal attack on either John Piper or Sam Allberry. As a writer, Mr. Burke has used the words and deeds of these men and placed them beside the Word of God in order to determine their truthfulness, accuracy, and profitability. If they have been found wanting, it is only because they (the words and actions of these men) are lacking conformity to God’s Word.
This is an excellent critique of John Piper’s doctrine of Christian Hedonism and Sam Allberry’s unrepented sin of homosexuality. Mr. Burke is both thorough and biblical in his approach and execution. This work goes well beyond pointing out the shortcomings of two men to reveal the disastrous trajectory they have purposefully set for unwitting Christians. The counsel of this book must be heeded.
Yet, I find myself doubting that this book will convince many people who claim the name of Christ but in reality, seek for themselves teachers who tickle their ears (2 Tim. 4:3-4). This book exposes a lie with the light of God’s truth, yet men hate the light and do not comprehend it (John 1:5). I do not doubt that the Word of God can and will bind Christ’s church to Christ Himself. I doubt very deeply the genuine conversion of those who call themselves “Christian.” Why do I doubt? Because it has taken several decades for a work like this to come to light and expose the wolves in our ranks. I pray that I am wrong, and the Lord will use this work to awaken His Bride and that she will separate from such wickedness (2 Tim. 2:19). I commend Mr. Burke for his labor of love; a love for his King and a love for the King’s bride. In either case, I also pray that our Lord Jesus will come quickly, and that His name will no longer be blasphemed among the heathen (Rom. 2:24). Soli Deo Gloria!