Pleasure Was God’s Idea

standing on beach

Pleasure is designed to
raise our sense of God’s goodness,
deepen our gratitude to him,
and strengthen our hope of
richer pleasures to come.

–J. I. Packer

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Pleasure and Pain

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Pleasure and pain are, in a word, the positive and negative poles between which flow the currents of human life. Detach one pole, and this life will cease. People who ask for a painless world don’t truly know what they are asking for.

–Dallas Willard
The Allure of Gentleness

Published in: on 04/23/2015 at 21:50  Leave a Comment  
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Made for another world

the_garden_of_hope 2If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.

If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.

I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.

― C. S. Lewis
Mere Christianity

The Giver of gladness

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Every spring-fountain of gladness about us is his making and his delight. He tends us and cares for us; he is close to us, breathing into our nostrils the breath of life, and breathing into our spirit this thought and that thought to make us look up and recognize the love and the care around us. . . . To recognize and know this loving-kindness, and to stand up in it strong and glad; this is the ministration of God unto us.

–George MacDonald
(1824 – 1905)

Image: Henri Martin

Inventor of pleasure

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In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you, they would have not been at all.

— St. Augustine

The problem of good

man-walking-on-beach

We have spent centuries of philosophy trying to solve “the problem of evil,” yet I believe the much more confounding and astounding issue is the “problem of good.” How do we account for so much gratuitous and sheer goodness in this world? Tackling this problem would achieve much better results.

–Richard Rohr
Immortal Diamond

 

The best things

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The best things are nearest:
breath in your nostrils,
light in your eyes,
flowers at your feet,
duties at your hand,
the path of God
just before you.

–Robert Louis Stevenson

A trail of bread crumbs

Path-through-the-woods-covered-with-copper-colored-leaves

Whenever we experience
something truly beautiful,
it’s as if someone is leaving
a trail of breadcrumbs to the place
where we are fully known and fully loved.
Our task is to follow the bread crumbs
to see where they lead.

–Jonathan Martin
Prototype

The pleasure and the pain

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There is nothing life-denying or teetotaling or pleasure-eschewing about authentic Christianity; it embraces the joys of human existence with great enthusiasm. However, let me make at least a nod in the direction of the Puritans. Since pleasure – like all good created things – can become an attachment, it too must be disciplined if we are to stay rooted in the center.

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To stand with Christ is hardly to embrace a hedonistic campaign of marching from delight to delight; rather it is to do the will of the Father even when that costs dearly, even when it conduces to the cross. Therefore the centered person must be ready for pain as well as pleasure, for deep sadness as well as contentment, clinging neither to one nor the other.

–Robert Barron
The Strangest Way

One day we shall ride

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To shrink back from all that can be called Nature into negative spirituality is as if we ran away from horses instead of learning to ride. There is in our present pilgrim condition plenty of room (more room than most of us like) for abstinence and renunciation and mortifying our natural desires. But behind all asceticism the thought should be, ‘Who will trust us with the true wealth if we cannot be trusted even with the wealth that perishes?’

Who will trust me with a spiritual body
if I cannot control even an earthly body?

These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys. We must learn to manage: not that we may some day be free of horses altogether but that some day we may ride bareback, confident and rejoicing, those greater mounts, those winged, shining and world-shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King’s stables. Not that the gallop would be of any value unless it were a gallop with the King; but how else – since He has retained His own charger – should we accompany Him?

–C.S. Lewis
Miracles

The quest for happiness

Amanecer màs alla de las colinas

The Christian doctrine of suffering explains, I believe, a very curious fact about the world we live in.

The settled happiness and security
which we all desire, God withholds from us
by the very nature of the world:
but joy, pleasure, and merriment,
He has scattered broadcast.

We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose . . . our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency.

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Our Father refreshes us on the journey
with some pleasant inns, but will not
encourage us to mistake them for home.

―C. S. Lewis
The Problem of Pain

Published in: on 04/21/2013 at 5:48  Leave a Comment  
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The problem of pleasure

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Why is sex fun? Reproduction surely does not require pleasure: some animals simply split in half to reproduce . . . Why is eating enjoyable? Plants and the lower animals manage to obtain their quota of nutrients without the luxury of taste buds. Where are there colors? Some people get along fine without the ability to detect color. Why complicate vision for all the rest of us?

It struck me, after reading my umpteenth book on the problem of pain, that I have never seen a book on “the problem of pleasure.” Nor have I met a philosopher who goes around shaking his or her head in perplexity over the question of why we experience pleasure. Yet it looms as a huge question: the philosophical equivalent, for atheists, to the problem of pain for Christians. On the issue of pleasure, Christians can breathe easier.

A good and loving God would naturally want
his creatures to experience delight,
joy and personal fulfillment.

1280_Tree and the Sunset copy

Christians start from that assumption and then look for ways to explain the origin of suffering. But should not atheists have an equal obligation to explain the origin of pleasure in a world of randomness and meaninglessness?

. . . Where does pleasure come from? Chesterton settled on Christianity as the only reasonable explanation.

Moments of pleasure are
the remnants washed ashore
from a shipwreck, bits of Paradise
extended through time.

We must hold these relics lightly, and use them with gratitude and restraint, never seizing them as entitlements.

. . . Evil’s greatest triumph may be its success in portraying religion as an enemy of pleasure when, in fact, religion accounts for its source: every good and enjoyable thing is the invention of a Creator who lavished gifts on the world.

–Philip Yancey
Soul Survivor

One draught of living water

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I may, I suppose, regard myself, or pass for being a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets – that’s fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Internal Revenue – that’s success. Furnished with money and a little fame even the elderly, if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions – that’s pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time – that’s fulfillment. Yet I say to you – and I beg you to believe me – multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing – less than nothing, a positive impediment – measured against one draught of that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are.

–Malcolm Muggeridge
(1903 – 1990)

His pleasure is to give

It is written that God has “created all things for His pleasure.” At first thought that sounds selfish, until one realizes that His pleasure is that of giving His all. He’s not looking for something to get from us to fulfill His desires or to please Himself, but rather His pleasure is to give.

–Christopher Bernard

Rumors of another world

I began to listen to my own longings as rumours of another world, a bright clue to the nature of the Creator. Somehow I had fallen for the deception of judging the natural world as unspiritual and God as antipleasure.

But God invented matter, after all,
including all the sensors in the body
through which I experience pleasure.

Nature and supernature are not two separate worlds, but different expressions of the same reality.

–Philip Yancey

Becoming more “ordinary”

The churches I attended had stressed the dangers of pleasure so loudly that I missed any positive message. Guided by [Gilbert] Chesterton, I came to see sex, money, power, and sensory pleasures as God’s good gifts. Every Sunday I can turn on the radio or television and hear preachers decry the drugs, sexual looseness, greed, and crime that are “running rampant” in the streets of America.

Rather than merely wag our fingers at such obvious abuses of God’s good gifts, perhaps we should demonstrate to the world where good gifts actually come from, and why they are good.

Evil’s greatest triumph may be its success in portraying religion as an enemy of pleasure when, in fact, religion accounts for its source: every good and enjoyable thing is the invention of a Creator who lavished gifts on the world.

Of course, in a world estranged from God, even good things must be handled with care, like explosives. We have lost the untainted innocence of Eden, and every good harbors risk as well, holding within it the potential for abuse. Eating becomes gluttony, love becomes lust, and along the way we lose sight of the One who gave us pleasure. The ancients turned good things into idols; we moderns call them addictions. In either case, what ceases to be a servant becomes a tyrant…

“I am ordinary in the correct sense of the term,” says Chesterton, “which means the acceptance of an order; a Creator and the Creation, the common sense of gratitude for Creation, life and love as gift permanently good, marriage and chivalry as laws rightly controlling them . . .” Under his influence I too realized the need to become more “ordinary.”

I had conceived of faith as tight-lipped,
grim exercise of spiritual discipline,
a blending of asceticism and rationalism
in which joy leaked away.

Chesterton restored to me a thirst for the exuberance that flows from a link to the God who dreamed up all the things that give me pleasure.

–Philip Yancey

The problem of pleasure

Why is sex fun? Reproduction surely does not require pleasure: some animals simply split in half to reproduce, and even humans use methods of artificial insemination that involve no pleasure. Why is eating enjoyable? Plants and lower animals manage to obtain their quota of nutrients without the luxury of taste buds. Why are there colors? Some people get along fine without the ability to detect color. Why complicate vision for the rest of us?

It struck me, after reading my umpteenth book on the problem of pain, that I have never even seen a book on “the problem of pleasure.” Nor have I met a philosopher who goes around shaking his or her head in perplexity over the question of why we experience pleasure. Yet it looms as a huge question: the philosophical equivalent, for atheists, to the problem of pain for Christians. On the issue of pleasure, Christians can breathe easier.

A good and loving God would naturally want
his creatures to experience delight, joy,
and personal fulfillment.

Christians start from that assumption and then look for ways to explain the origin of suffering. But should not atheists have an equal obligation to explain the origin of pleasure in a world of randomness and meaninglessness?

. . . Where does pleasure come from? After searching alternatives, (Gilbert) Chesterton settled on Christianity as the only reasonable explanation for its existence in the world.

Moments of pleasure are the remnants washed ashore from a shipwreck, bits of Paradise extended through time.

We must hold these relics lightly, and use them with gratitude and restraint, never seizing them as entitlements.

–Philip Yancey

Rumors of paradise

These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the heart of their worshippers.  For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

–C. S. Lewis

On the road to disgrace

The gods had given me almost everything. But I let myself be lured into long spells of senseless and sensual ease… Tired of being on the heights, I deliberately went to the depths in search for new sensation. What the paradox was to me in the sphere of thought, perversity became to me in the sphere of passion. I grew careless of the lives of others. I took pleasure where it pleased me, and passed on. I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character, and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber, one has some day to cry aloud from the house-top. I ceased to be lord over myself. I was no longer the captain of my soul, and did not know it. I allowed pleasure to dominate me. I ended in horrible disgrace.

–Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)

Waterfalls of joy

God will close the curtain
on sin, Satan and suffering,
and we will step into the waterfall
of the joy and pleasure that is the Trinity.
Better yet, we will become part of
a Niagara Falls of thunderous joy
as “God is all and in all.”

–Joni Earekson

Published in: on 04/29/2011 at 12:59  Leave a Comment  
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Live while you live

Live while you live, the Epicure would say,
And seize the pleasures of the present day.
Live while you live, the sacred Preacher cries,
And give to God each moment that flies.
Lord, in my view, let both united be,
I live in pleasure if I live to thee.

–Philip Doddridge (1702 – 1751) 

Published in: on 04/06/2011 at 13:27  Leave a Comment  
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Torrent of pleasure

The faint, far-off results of those energies which God’s creative rapture implanted in matter when He made the worlds are what we now call physical pleasures; and even thus filtered, they are too much for our present management.

What would it be to taste
at the fountain-head that stream
of which even these lower reaches
prove so intoxicating?

Yet that, I believe, is what lies before us… As St. Augustine said, the rapture of the saved soul will “flow over” into the glorified body. In the light of our present specialized and depraved appetites, we cannot imagine this [torrent of pleasure], and I warn everyone most seriously not to try.

–C. S. Lewis

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