Although most of us have probably never bothered to write down our
personal philosophy, we all have ideas about how the world operates and
how we should go about finding meaning and satisfaction in life.
However, without the proper framework for evaluating what is truly
meaningful and satisfying, we are bound to be frustrated and
disappointed. I believe my philosophy provides a framework for
understanding life that is both personally compelling and consistent
with objective reality.
I call my philosophy Christian hedonism. (To those who may be
suspicious that the term "Christian hedonism" relates to some sort of
aberrant approach to Christianity, let me be quick to say that this is
not the case. I am merely using this term to highlight a particular
way of looking at the Christian life that is completely compatible with
an orthodox Christian perspective. Click on
Christian hedonism for
further justification of this term from a Christian perspective.) This
philosophy acknowledges up front that the desire for personal
satisfaction and meaning is legitimate; in fact, it claims that this
pursuit is inescapable. As Blaise Pascal noted:
All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different
means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going
to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended
with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this
object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those
who hang themselves. (Pensees #425)
The problem is not that we pursue our own pleasure; the problem is that
we do not pursue it enough! We are too easily satisfied. We settle for
a comfortable life, a few friends, and maybe a few short-term thrills.
We have become so accustomed to such minimal pleasures that we have lost
our capacity for true satisfaction. Only God himself can provide the
satisfaction that we were made for.
The satisfaction God offers is first of all the supreme joy of knowing
the creator of the universe. God designed us specifically for fellowship
with him. As the old Westminster Shorter Catechism states, "Man's chief
end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever." To seek our highest
satisfaction through other avenues is to insult God and to deny who we
are -- and ultimately to fail to achieve any lasting satisfaction.
This is the grid through which I look at the world and make my personal
decisions (or at least try to!).
This philosophy has implications in a number of areas, including the
A very nice overview of Christianity is
Why & What: A Brief Introduction to Christianity
by Douglas Jones.
Written for the non-Christian or new Christian, this booklet aims to outline
the challenges and features of the Christian worldview. Beginning by
undermining non-Christian outlooks, it traces the Gospel through creation,
the Fall, and redemption, along the way discussing such subjects as God's
sovereignty, covenants, justification, holiness, and the future.
- The need for
reconciliation with God: Without a proper relationship
with our Creator, we are doomed to be frustrated and unsatisfied in our
pursuit of pleasure in God. We cannot possibly hope to enjoy God if
our relationship with him is broken. We must seek a right relationship
with God on his terms.
- The need for a
divine revelation: A philosophy of hedonism is a recipe
for disaster and disappointment if it is directed by our own fallible
notions of what brings pleasure. We cannot know on our own what course
is most pleasurable unless we try all reasonable options. Solomon,
considered to be the wisest of men, tried to use his own wisdom to
direct himself in the pursuit of pleasure and concluded that it was futile.
(To read it in his own words, click
here.) The problem is that we need
an eternity to evaluate long-term satisfaction experientially, and this
leaves no time to actually enjoy what we discover! Divine revelation
provides the ultimate boon to a hedonist -- a guide to the highest
possible long-term satisfaction written by the only one who is in a
position to know how to achieve it.
Philosophy of work: Is work merely a necessary evil and a distraction
in our pursuit of satisfaction? Or is it the ultimate source of
satisfaction for responsible and moral people? I say neither.
Christianity and science: If science is right, doesn't that make the
pursuit of pleasure in a supernatural being an exercise in fantasy?
Not at all. In fact, Christianity rightly understood is a great
encouragement to the scientific enterprise, as many Christian scientists
through the centuries attest.