Happiness and Fuilfillment Apart from Holiness

Status
Not open for further replies.

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Happiness and Fulfillment Apart from Holiness

Sometimes, sinners without God in Christ believe they are just as happy and fuilfilled as the Christian. Apparently, there was even a "scientific" study (I was not given a citation) that showed that those who identify as homosexual can live as happy and fulfilled a life as those who identify as heterosexual.

We know that happiness leads to holiness and full satisfaction can be found in God alone through Christ alone; and we know that sin leads to misery, but what do we make of these claims of sinners? If you look at them, they seem happy enough to provide evidence that their claim to fuilfillment is not an empty claim. (For the purposes of this thread, I will ignore the obvious question of defining "fuilfillment" and measuring it in a "scientific" way, which would be needed for the alleged to study to have any weight.)


Here is my solution. Thoughts on it? Further thoughts on the question?

While it is true that sin brings misery, it also often brings pleasure with it. Sinners who claim to be happy and fulfilled (or studies that show such) are mistaking pleasure for happiness and fulfillment. Furthermore, having lived in sin, it is possible for a sinner's conscience to become so hard that the sinner does not existentially realize something better exists; hence, happiness and fulfillment are claimed for the empty pleasures of the world that the sinner experiences.

Difficulties with my solution: (1) While sin often brings pleasure, doesn't it also bring misery? How do we appropriately parse these things? (2) If sinners become so hardened that they do not realize there is something better, how then does the Christian know that there is not something better? (Perhaps it is objected that the Christian has gotten used to some standard of "happiness" even as the Christian says the hardened sinner has.) (3) If sin brings misery, how can sinners actually become so hardened that they mistake pleasure for happiness? Shouldn't there always be a nagging sense of emptiness and misery as they live in their sin, if sin does indeed bring misery? And then shouldn't this sense of misery cause the sinner to not profess or appear to be happy and fulfilled?
 
Last edited:

brendanchatt

Puritan Board Freshman
One point is that a proud person would not attribute his unhappiness to (his) sin, but rather blame or be frustrated.

Brendan
OPC
Florida
 

Justified

Puritan Board Sophomore
Don't concede that sinners are happy. The man who walks in the way of the Lord is blessed when he doesn't walk in the way of the wicked (Psalm 1). Allow me to give a plug for Aristotle, Augustine, and the eudaimonistic tradition. Happiness is not a subjective feeling of euphoria, but rather is a kind of flourishing. Human beings flourish insofar as they act in conformity to the nature that God gave them.
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
I think Psalm 73 pretty much summarizes the phenomenon and sets the sober reality before us.

Many are at ease in life, fulfilled even, in the sense of being satisfied in self and their circumstances, etc.

Until...."I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end."
 

kainos01

Puritan Board Senior
I think Psalm 73 pretty much summarizes the phenomenon and sets the sober reality before us.

Many are at ease in life, fulfilled even, in the sense of being satisfied in self and their circumstances, etc.

Until...."I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end."

This.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
I think Vic is spot on: Psalm 73 is key here.

This psalm teaches us that the wicked may enjoy prosperity and ease while the saint suffers and struggles. The wicked, though at ease here, will one day wake up in hell if they continue in their rebellion. The righteous can get twisted around about this, but when they are consciously abiding in the Lord, they have the right perspective on this, recognizing what the end of the wicked is.

As Abraham said to Dives, "Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish" (Luke 16:25). Such enjoyment as the wicked have, they have in this life (there is the pleasure of sin for a season, Hebrews 11:25). Though the righteous may suffer here in ways the wicked never does (the wicked doesn't battle remaining sin but is simply under sin's dominion), in the intermediate state and in the coming age, the righteous will know the comfort of being "with Christ" and the never-ending joy of a new heavens and a new earth.

Yes, here and now, we can know "joy unspeakable and full of glory" in a way that the unbeliever never can. But we can also know suffering that the unbeliever never will here below. We await that great "gettin' up morning" (as the slaves used to sigh for) in which our battle with the devil, flesh, and world is over and there will be no more sorrow or sighing, no more tears.

We have a basis for joy here (and it is part of the fruit of the Spirit) that no unbeliever does; but there are plenty of unbelievers who are outwardly prospering in ways that the saints aren't (Ps. 73:3-12). Here's the truth about them, though: "Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms" (Ps. 73: 18-20).

I agree with Evan that we should not concede their true happiness, which only develops from holiness. But clearly there is some kind of pleasure, wealth, and ease that the godless may enjoy before they are ultimately destroyed in judgment. This is a biblical perspective.

Peace,
Alan
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Thanks, these are useful thoughts. It seems you all have agreed with the distinction between happiness and pleasure. I do wonder still: if sin brings misery, why do not all sinners realize this? Perhaps this is where Evan's point needs to be made: they might not feel misery, but they are not flourishing, so they are objectively miserable?
 

Jeri Tanner

Administrator
Staff member
I've thought and wondered about these things a lot, too. It seems from Scripture that there is at least a certain class of unregenerate (and non-elect, since they are to be brought to desolation?) who will live life pretty much at ease, not made miserable by their sin. Some I love are not believers yet, and I do think there is guilt over their wrong-doing, and certainly misery associated with the consequences of their sins (just as with believers), but they must simply cast about for relief and a solution apart from God, which gives no real relief and no solution, though they can't recognize or acknowledge that. Maybe the idea of objective misery is the right one. May the Lord grant those we love and are praying for to feel the weight of their true misery and sin, and go to Christ for pardon!
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
People lost in their sins and sin natures do not even realize that they are doing anything "wrong", as they are used to giving in to their lusts of the flesh, and desires, and gauge life on how much they can do and get.

Sin is pleasurable for a season, but in the end, will carry a real heavy cost, but many have the darkened mindset to do whatever it takes to get what they want from life.

And except to those whose minds are totally given over to sinful desires, even they do sense some times an empty feeling, that there has to be more from life than just serving ourselves first.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

ThomasT

Puritan Board Freshman
Are we overlooking the power of natural grace in this discussion? We know that there is no real happiness outside of God, and we know that outside of God everything is ultimately derelict, but the (temporary) approximation of happiness in those endowed with an unusual share of natural grace can result in the experience, in a shadowy way, of the real hope of the elect. God bestows his grace, in ways that confound us, even on the lost. One Reformed pastor -- and of course I forget his name -- mentioned that before his conversion he was an "extremely happy pagan." Let's not assume that the experience of the unelect in this life is one of either base hedonism or crushing despondency. Perhaps God raises up the real and substantial satisfactions of elevated and noble pursuits (philosophy, philanthropy, etc) only to show their fatal hollowness...
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
I don't know about natural grace in this discussion. Good things do bring pleasure. Evil things are corruptions of good things and so bring pleasure. But happiness and satisfaction? I am not sure. If sin brings misery, one would think that its misery would cast a shadow over whatever "happiness" the sinner experiences; one need not assume the sinner is living a life of "base hedonism" or "crushing despondency."

We keep talking about "real" and "true" happiness and satisfaciton. I wonder how one distinguishes between that and the "happiness" and "satisfaction" that the sinner finds with sin? It seems "objective misery" might still be the key to understanding this.
 

ThomasT

Puritan Board Freshman
I don't know about natural grace in this discussion. Good things do bring pleasure. Evil things are corruptions of good things and so bring pleasure. But happiness and satisfaction? I am not sure. If sin brings misery, one would think that its misery would cast a shadow over whatever "happiness" the sinner experiences; one need not assume the sinner is living a life of "base hedonism" or "crushing despondency."

We keep talking about "real" and "true" happiness and satisfaciton. I wonder how one distinguishes between that and the "happiness" and "satisfaction" that the sinner finds with sin? It seems "objective misery" might still be the key to understanding this.


Misery is subjective. I'm miserable watching a certain movie; the person next to me is in the tenth heaven. There's nothing "objectively miserable" about the experience of watching this movie just because I hate it -- or even because (we'll say) God hates it. If a sinner doesn't know he's miserable, then he isn't. Now it's true that misery is sometimes understood as a condition of being (squalor, ignorance, ignominy, etc) rather than the absence of happiness per se, and in this sense I suppose we could say that sinners are objectively miserable. But the happiness of sinners is what this thread is concerned with, and so misery for our purposes -- the absence of happiness -- really can't be objective.

Sin produces ultimate misery, but a huge share of natural grace (kindness, loyalty, justice, temperance, prudence, etc), along with an exceptionally well ordered mind, can make the life of a sinner less miserable than the life of the average Christian, who is (probably) painfully conscious of his sin, and who may not necessarily have a mind quite as well ordered as some of his non-Christian fellow creatures. The Christian's misery may be mitigated by a consciousness of God and a hope for the next world, but these things co-exist with his misery rather than replace it.

In the end, temporal happiness will come to nothing. But let's not assume that temporal happiness for the lost, while it lasts, is purely illusory. Grace touches the elect and the non-elect, and grace is a powerful thing even when it doesn't lead to justification.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
ThomasT said:
Misery is subjective.
When I made the statement about misery being objective, I was running off the idea brought up earlier that "happiness" is "flourishing."

Anyway, the Scriptures do state that there is blessedness in keeping God's commands, even in the present. If happiness can be had without keeping God's law, how does one reconcile that with the Scriptures? Or what about the catechism, which speaks of sinners being in an estate of misery? Or the old phrase that "happiness is holiness" (suggesting that sin is misery)? (Edit: Framing the question of the OP in this way suggests to me the answer might lie in something like Boston's Fourfold State of Man.)
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top