The threads are coming together in the book Reordered Love, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness which I purchased and began chiefly on the strength of the title. Of course I checked out the author and a few reviews, but the title had me and I’ve not been disappointed.
Virtue is Happiness
Virtue is my word of the year for 2015, and it popped back up in this book.
We tend to think of happiness as a mere feeling, something nice but unnecessary, something transient and superficial. However, happiness has always been a topic of deep interest to philosophers, and there is a long Christian tradition of both what happiness truly is and also how important it is.
Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Pascal, Lewis – all agree that what people are searching for is happiness. And that is not a sinful search, but a proper one. We were created to live in perfect harmony and happiness with God and man, and we long for what we have lost in the Fall. Thus, only God satisfies the search for happiness, a search we should all make because it does lead us to God:
Happiness is the condition of genuine human fulfillment and flourishing rooted in a relationship with God, whose mercy and grace demonstrated in Jesus Christ reorders our loves and lives in righteousness and virtuous ways so that we are able to enjoy – indeed, to relish – all aspects of life and creation appropriately in Him.David K. Naugle
We were made to flourish, to be happy in Him, and as John Piper likes to point out, happiness is part of obedience.
[The Christian faith] encourages believing people to discover what it means to be fully and truly human, to live exuberantly and fruitfully as God’s creatures abiding in God’s creation that was, and is, very good.David K. Naugle
It is not simply that happiness is required of us – a grateful heart delights to obey – but happiness is also the fruit of obedience. Naugle, in contrasting Edenic and Hedonistic visions of happiness, points out six ingredients of God’s original blessing of a happy life in Eden:
- fulfilling work
- free enjoyment of food
- rest & play
- beautiful surroundings
These six conditions, six provisions, composed human life before the fall.
To the extent that we can develop all six in our lives (and our homeschools, for that matter), we will find true happiness.
Bear with this quote by Augustine, on rightly ordering right loves for virtue and thereby happiness:
But the title happy cannot belong either 1) to him who has not what he loves, whatever it may be, or 2) to him who has what he loves it is is hurtful, or 3) to him who does not love what he has, although it is good […] I find, then, a fourth case, where the happy life exists: when that which is man’s chief good is both loved and possessed.Augustine
Thus, let us seek our chief good, which is, of course, to glorify God.