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John Piper Says Our Love for Jesus is “Erotic to the Core”

by | Mar 11, 2024 | News, Opinion, Religion, Social-Issues, The Church, Theology, Video | 0 comments

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You may remember last year when The Dissenter published an article denouncing the deeply erotic and nearly pornographic nature in which a TGC author, Joshua Butler, described Christ’s relationship to the Church. While his description was extremely graphic, comparing Christ’s relationship to the Church with a graphical description of a man’s sexual relationship with his wife, the root issue is a distinct misinterpretation of the kind of love that differentiates the two scenarios.

The New Testament primarily uses three Greek words to describe love: agape, philia, and eros. Agape is often described as the highest form of love, a selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love, prominently featured in the Christian scriptures. Philia refers to brotherly love, friendship, or affection. Eros, traditionally understood, refers to romantic or passionate love, often associated with physical attraction and desire.

This past week, John Piper, at John MacArthur’s Shepherd’s Conference, while not in such graphic detail, mangles the doctrine of Christ’s love for the Church and our love for Him in just the same way. In a clip of his sermon, Piper states:

What are we after in our people’s lives? And everybody said, obedience. So did I, amen. But you had already quoted, if you love me, you will obey me. So I’m thinking, I’m after love, folks. And you are too.

And because that love, that love is not equal to obedience and that love is not equal to agape, that love is erotic to the core. That’s an overstatement. Eros means I find pleasure in you, Jesus. I find pleasure in you, Jesus.

You are my preciousness. And there comes obedience.

Piper’s use of “erotic” to describe our love for Jesus is at the very least unconventional and it seems that his intention is to emphasize the intensity and personal nature of our love for Christ—not in a physical or sexual sense, I don’t think, but in the depth of passion and desire for closeness and communion with Jesus. He appears to be attempting to reclaim the term “eros” to illustrate a deep, consuming love for Jesus that seeks pleasure in the joy of communion with Him. But that isn’t biblical, and that is the problem.

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Not only does the New Testament never once use the term “eros” to describe the love between Christ and the Church, but the biblical portrayal of our love for Jesus is deeply relational, characterized by agape—selfless, sacrificial love. It is not typically associated with the English term “erotic,” due to its contemporary connotations.

John Piper’s error in labeling our love for Jesus as “erotic” is a manifestation of a deeper theological misinterpretation concerning the Christian’s relationship with Christ, deeply entrenched in what he terms “Christian Hedonism.” This doctrine, which posits that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him,”—a doctrine by which his entire ministry revolves around—fundamentally misinterprets the essence of Christian joy and our pursuit of God.

While the desire to find satisfaction in God is biblically sound, the framing of this pursuit as “hedonism”—a term historically associated with the pursuit of pleasure as the highest good—skews the biblical portrayal of self-denial, sacrifice, and the taking up of one’s cross to follow Christ (Luke 9:23). By equating our deepest, most righteous desires for God with a term laden with connotations of self-centered pleasure-seeking, Piper’s theology shifts the focus from God’s glory to our own emotional satisfaction.

This fundamental error in understanding leads to problematic assertions, such as the controversial use of “erotic” to describe our love for Jesus. It’s also how we get strange, even heretical, doctrines like “final justification” when worked out to their logical conclusions.

In Scripture, our relationship with Christ is depicted as one of deep adoration, commitment, and reverence, encapsulating joy, peace, and fulfillment in serving Him and living according to His will. However, these experiences of joy and satisfaction in the Christian life are the byproducts of our obedience and submission to God’s will, not the primary goal of our faith journey. Piper’s “Christian Hedonism” elevates the pursuit of personal joy over the pursuit of holiness, obedience, and the sacrificial love modeled by Christ and it distorts the nature of true Christian discipleship, which calls for a focus on God’s sovereignty, righteousness, and the joy that comes from selfless love and service, rather than an undue emphasis on personal fulfillment.

The question that I continue to see popping up around the Shepherd’s Conference and other conferences is “why is John Piper even there?” It is a good question, indeed. It’s like Tim Keller—he is elevated to the status of “great thinker” and “superb theologian” when, in reality, so much of what they say is reduced to mere sophistry and casuistry. God is not the author of confusion, and so much of what John Piper says is, at best, confusing—and at worst, blatant false teaching.

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