Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sunday Reflection: Happiness

Modern man is determined to be happy, but he is determined to obtain it quite independently from God. It has been held from the Philosophes of the Enlightenment to the Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins of our own day that God, his religion, and his followers are the chief impediments to human happiness. If men are to be happy, they must find it in this world and by their own efforts.

What makes modern man modern is science: experimental, technological science that is oriented toward what Francis Bacon called “the relief of our estate” or, in a word, happiness. Bacon, the original architect of the modern scientific project, wrote the New Atlantis to present his vision of a world transformed by the scientific conquest of nature. The people in that tale declare, “Happy are the people of Bensalem.” (The name of this technological paradise means “son of peace.”) Bacon’s message was that if we would only reorient our societal resources toward research and development, the benefits in terms of comforts and conveniences for the broad mass of people would be seemingly limitless. But 400 years later, though we are comfortable, are we happy? By contrast, Jesus offers the gospel of peace. He is the Prince of Peace. He says, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.” His promise is Shalom, happiness in the most profound sense. “And the peace of God that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” That peace is rest for the soul in the enjoyment of God, the summum bonum, forever.

So between modern man and the Son of Man, whither do we look for happiness? How are we to know who is happy and who is not? Do we look at spending patterns, divorce rates, drug and alcohol abuse, endorphin levels? Statistics would no doubt be inconclusive between Christians and materialists. I suggest, however, that if you examine those who seek their happiness in the fruits of science and who enjoy them most fully, viz. the self-indulgently Western wealthy, you will find that they are also the most miserable. By contrast, I expect that if you consider those who are not only self-identified as Christians, but also most centered in Christ, those who are most advanced in godliness, you will find people who are unusually content, joyful...happy. They will tell you, however, that their fullest happiness is yet to come!

It was a sermon by the great London preacher of this last century, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, "Reason and Revelation," that put me on this train of thought. Alas, it appears to have disappeared from

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