Tuesday, April 9, 2013

We ought to love our own happiness

In Charity and Its Fruit, famed theologian Jonathan Edwards writes about a very interesting idea concerning happiness. In the chapter entitled 'The Spirit of Charity the Opposite of a Selfish Spirit' he argues that though there are many instances of self-love that are inappropriate, the love of our own happiness is not one of them. That is, love of our own happiness cannot be too great. This is a facet of Christian Hedonism which requires and deserves serious contemplation. Consider,
First, that the inordinateness of self-love does not consist in our love of our own happiness being, absolutely considered, too great in degree. — I do not suppose it can be said of any, that their love to their own happiness, if we consider that love absolutely and not comparatively, can be in too high a degree, or that it is a thing that is liable either to increase or diminution. For I apprehend that self-love, in this sense, is not a result of the fall, but is necessary, and what belongs to the nature of all intelligent beings, and that God has made it alike in all; and that saints, and sinners, and all alike, love happiness, and have the same unalterable and instinctive inclination to desire and seek it. The change that takes place in a man, when he is converted and sanctified, is not that his love for happiness is diminished, but only that it is regulated with respect to its exercises and influence, and the courses and objects it leads to. Who will say that the happy souls in heaven do not love happiness as truly as the miserable spirits in hell? If their love of happiness is diminished by their being made holy, then that will diminish their happiness itself; for the less anyone loves happiness, the less he relishes it, and, consequently, is the less happy.
Let me draw out a few ideas from this excerpt that Edwards suggests:

  1. We cannot love our own happiness too much.
  2. Love of happiness is not a result of the fall but is God-given and necessary.
  3. Our love of happiness results in us desiring and seeking it.
  4. A regenerated man loves happiness appropriately and with balance.
  5. The less we love happiness, the less we relish it, and the less happy we are.

Ultimately, what Edwards would indicate is that we can love happiness because we are most happy when we are in relationship with God as He intended. Thus, loving our happiness is loving our God.

It is clear to me that Edwards thought on an entirely different level than me.

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