Thursday, September 16, 2010

Christian Hedonism

It's only mid-September and already I've felt the first signs of the onset of winter. I relish this day every year, the first time I can really anticipate winter nights tucked away from the elements, book and drink in hand. I like pleasure. In a better world, there would be no need to say this, but Christianity has an unfortunate history of regarding pain as inherently virtuous, pleasure as probably evil. A better theology of creation regards pleasures as good gifts of God, pain as the unfortunate byproduct of sin, but a problem that will soon be overcome. My prescription for Christian hedonism:

-An attitude of thanksgiving: We recognize that everything that we enjoy is a manifestation of God's grace. We give thanks to God for what he has given us.

-A practice of moderation: We recognize that certain pleasures can become vices, and lead us to foolishness, laziness and neglect of our responsibilities, and so temper our indulgence. We abstain when we are not capable of moderation. We recognize that by statute and by God's command, there are restrictions about when it is right to enjoy some things.

-A willingness to work for enjoyment: We recognize that some pleasures, particularly aesthetic pleasures, require concentration and exertion to enjoy. We recognize that faculties of enjoyment are themselves gifts of God, and are most glorifying to him when fully developed. We concede that we must sacrifice easy pleasures for difficult ones, but we are hopeful that difficult pleasures are more enriching and satisfying than easy ones.

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