Truth or Happiness

Do we want to live true lives or happy lives? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, I wrote about reading James Rebel Jamias’s book, which I did enjoy, and one idea that stuck with me on there was something that I have recently concluded. Our culture consists of people who care about happiness more than they care about truth. Aristotle began his Metaphysics by saying all men by nature desire to know. Today, the modern equivalent would say that all men by nature desire to feel.

We can all relate to this on some level. There have been times all of us have had something that we want to avoid being true because of the pain that we will feel, a state we call denial. My first major encounter with death was a sunday school teacher who I had a close relationship with. To this day, I can still remember being at the church for his funeral service and thinking, “This still has to be a joke. He’s going to jump up and tell everyone the truth soon. He has to.”

Sometimes, this can even be lethal. How many people have avoided going to a doctor because they think they might have a condition and they don’t want to hear that they have it? In reality, they do and it goes untreated and it becomes something untreatable and fatal when if it had been caught early, it could have been treated.

This also has severe moral consequences. With marriage, which I have been writing on, how many people are entering into marriage and doing so because the goal is that marriage is meant to make them happy? It is all about them. Now don’t get me wrong on something. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be happy and there is nothing wrong with wanting a good for yourself in marriage, but it’s not just about you.

Hence, too often when the feeling fades, which it will, we think the marriage has faded and it’s time to move on. It’s not about a greater commitment to something beyond ourselves. Instead, it’s about what is expedient for us at the moment. When divorce is too easy an option, it is the option that will most often be chosen.

In many of the daily lives of people today, it’s not often asked “What is the good thing to do here?” Instead, we are asking what will bring us the most happiness at the moment. When was the last time you heard someone talking seriously about virtue?

Is our Christian community any different in the West? Hardly. If anything, most of our emphasis seems to be on how we feel in our relationship to God. If we feel good, yay! Christianity is true and God is real and we want to worship and praise! If we don’t, then Christianity could be false and God might not exist, but if He does exist, He hates us, and why bother with worship and praise?

In reality, a Christian life is supposed to have all of these. You are not meant to be happy in all of your Christian walk. Jesus wasn’t and it’s the height of arrogance to think we should have something that Jesus never did. Jesus was sad sometimes. Jesus was also happy, but if we look at Isaiah 53, Jesus was a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering.

This is not to say bad feelings and emotions don’t matter. It’s not to say that for chronic problems you shouldn’t consider therapy and possibly in addition medication. With my divorce, I have both going on. Definitely if you are experiencing strong suicidal feelings, get help right away.

One great hope for our culture is when we all strive to be people of truth. In our religious debates, it’s easy to claim the other side is going with emotions. There are emotional benefits to each side. If you’re a Christian, you can claim you will get to live forever and that you will see loved ones and never die and spend eternity in a place of joy and happiness. I think even a lot of atheists would like for something like that to be true.

On the other hand, a Christian can say an atheist has reasons for them to not want God to be real. One big reason could be a life of sexual liberty in that you get to pursue sexual happiness and do what you want in that area. Another could be one doesn’t want to live under the authority of God. One could also not want to believe in something the rest of their social group will consider foolish. There are many more on both sides we can think of.

Also, in both groups, there are sadly people who don’t really care about truth and don’t want it. These are people who only read what agrees with them and base their arguments for their position on how they feel about something. The first question we should ask about Christianity is not if it makes us feel good or if we like it or if it’s beneficial to society. The first question we should ask is “Is it true?” If it is, then we should believe it even if all the other questions are answered no. If it isn’t true, then we shouldn’t believe it even if all the other questions are answered yes.

It is my hope that we can begin working more on a truth quest instead. Our emotional quests are more often centered on looking within and finding something for ourselves. When we look for truth, we are looking for something outside of ourselves and what we can submit to and ultimately, what we can live our lives based on.

It’s up to you which you choose.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

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