Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Worldview: The Problem of Hedonism

"People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, … not lovers of the good, … lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:2–4).

Many modern people have never heard the word hedonism, but few have not experienced its impact. As a world view, hedonism has as its basic principle the belief that the good and the evil are defined in terms of pleasure and pain. Man’s ultimate purpose for living is to be found in enjoying pleasure and avoiding pain. Hedonism is not new. Historically, its roots go to the earliest of recorded history. We could trace it to the Garden of Eden. In formal philosophy, however, hedonism is traced to the ancient Greeks, to the school of the Cyrenaics in the late fourth century B.C. The Cyrenaics were what we might call “crass hedonists,” indulging in orgies of drunkenness and sex.

The Epicureans of antiquity represented the second stage of hedonism, what we can call “refined hedonism.” They saw that the excesses of Cyrenaic hedonism led to frustration, disease and other undesirable consequences. Thus, they called for a search for peace of mind. This they sought through an avoidance of pain and a moderate pursuit of pleasure.

Hedonism, a philosophy of feeling, pervades our culture. People no longer say, “I think we should do such and such,” but “I feel we should do such and such.” People live by the slogan, “If it feels good, it must be good.”

For the present, God may call us to endure suffering. But we must say that Christianity does not call us to seek suffering or to pursue pain or to flee from what is pleasant. There is no sin in enjoying the pleasant and in being free from pain. In fact, the optimum of pleasure is in the kingdom of God. Christians believe that the ultimate good will bring us the maximum pleasure and the elimination of pain—in the long run. For God has declared that there will be no pain, sin or suffering for His redeemed in heaven.

Try counting the number of times you see or hear the words feel and feelings in one week. Then consider how the word feeling functions in our culture. Catch yourself when you use it. Feelings are a very important part of our lives, but faith is not a feeling. Christians live first of all by faith and obedience.