Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Is Happiness The Goal?

C. S. Lewis, author of the Narnia series and Christian apologist, once observed, “I haven’t always been a Christian. I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”(1) In another essay, he wrote,
We are defending Christianity; not ‘my religion’….The great difficulty is to get modern audiences to realize that you are preaching Christianity solely and simply because you happen to think it true; they always suppose you are preaching it because you like it or think it good for society or something of that sort. Now a clearly maintained distinction between what the Faith actually says and what you would like it to have said or what you understand or what you personally find helpful or think probable, forces your audience to realize that you are tied to your data just as the scientist is tied by the results of the experiments; that you are not just saying what you like. This immediately helps them to realize that what is being discussed is a question about objective fact—not gas about ideals and points of view.(2)
It all depends on whether we start with what we have decided to be our greatest need or with the God in whose presence we discover needs we never knew we had.

If we begin with ourselves and our felt needs, we may have room for a spirituality that assists us in our self-realization and success in life, but the chief question will be how we can justify God in a world so obviously out of whack. If we begin with God—his holiness, justice, and righteousness as well as his love, mercy, and grace—then there will be a very different question: How can I , a sinner, be justified before this God? Describing his own process of conversion, Lewis explains, “I was the object rather than the subject in this affair. I was decided upon. I was glad afterwards at the way it came out, but at the moment what I heard was God saying, ‘Put down your gun and we’ll talk’…I chose, yet it really did not seem possible to do the opposite.”(3)
Westminster Writings

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