Comment on Jay-Z, Beach Chairs, and Happiness – III. The Structure of Happiness … and Fish


My thoughts today come via Jay-Z, Beach Chairs, and Happiness – III. The Structure of Happiness.

I encourage you to read the blog I am “pressing” here before going further. the main point I take away from it is that happiness is not as subjective as we post-moderns suppose. Maybe the classicists, like Aristotle, Aquinas, etc. are right. Ultimately, truth and our own thriving is an objective end that doesn’t blow with the winds of individual tastes.

I am reminded of the analogy that Lewis makes of a fish in water that might long to be out of water. One the one hand, the water limits the fish. It can’t enjoy life out of the water,though it longs to experience it. The fish is, therefore, limited and unhappy in its watery “prison”.

I think many of us would characterize our unhappiness in this way, but I am not talking about such temporary objects of our unhappiness, like financial difficulties, hunger, a desire to be grown up, and the like. These things are not changes in our environment, and they also aren’t ultimate things.

We all know that temporal satisfaction is fleeting. (Or we should know it.) On the most basic level, we hunger; we eat and are full; but we will hunger again. We might think that having enough money to meet all our needs would provide the happiness we desire, but experience tells us that we usually want more even when we have enough.

Our desires are such that they might never be sated. They are apt to expand and keep on expanding (without some intervention). This “truism” might be evidenced by the fact that some people who seem to “have it all” nevertheless commit suicide. Actors, millionaires, etc. are not immune from the kind of unhappiness that leads them to take their own lives.

These examples might also be evidence that temporal satisfaction isn’t the same as ultimate satisfaction. We have a longing for some object that transcends the temporal things to which we gravitate for satisfaction and happiness.

Thus, I attempt to distinguish between temporal objects of our satisfaction and happiness and ultimate objects of our satisfaction and happiness. When we seek temporal things as our most prized object, we are bound to be disappointed, unsatisfied and unhappy.

I am not sure I can “prove” it, but my intuition (for lack of a better term) tells me, as with the blogger whose post I am sharing, that our ultimate satisfaction and happiness lies in some objective and ultimate object. The subjective ones we often spend most of our energy and lives pursuing can’t ultimately satisfy us or make us happy.

Continue reading “Comment on Jay-Z, Beach Chairs, and Happiness – III. The Structure of Happiness … and Fish”

What is the Nothing Out of which the Universe Emerged


On a typical Sunday morning, I am contemplative, thinking about God, the nature of the world and other ultimate things. I have gotten home from church. The distant rumbling of thunder portends more rain to add to the buckets (more like vats) that came down earlier this morning. (We’ve had an unusual amount of precipitation in the Chicago area for about a year now.)

Though sunlight threatens to break through the clouds, despite the rumblings to the contrary, it’s a good day for reading and thinking.

In that vein, I raed an article from Forbes magazine that came up in my Google feed: Ask Ethan: Can We Really Get a Universe From Nothing? Ethan, is Ethan Siegel, a Forbes contributor. He is an astrophysicist, author and “science communicator” according to the short bio at the end of the article.

It just so happens that I spent my Friday evening this week with another astrophysicist, Hugh Ross, a brilliant man who is a Christian, and also a man of science. In fact, it was science that led him to his belief in God. But I digress. (You can hear the story of how science led Hugh Ross to God in his own words here.)

My meeting with Hugh Ross isn’t really relevant to the topic, other than the fact that our conversation got me thinking about science and ultimate things, things that science doesn’t really address (or hasn’t yet answered). Does God exist? Where did the universe come from?

The article suggests an answer to one of those ultimate questions: where did the universe come from? It suggests that the universe didn’t really come from nothing – at least not the kind of nothing that we usually imagine when we think of nothing. It entices the reader with a title that suggests an ultimate answer, but it doesn’t deliver.

Continue reading “What is the Nothing Out of which the Universe Emerged”

Nothing New Under the Sun

The writer of Ecclesiastes said about 1000 years before Christ that “there is nothing new under the sun”. People in the post modern world may disagree but there is one thing hasn’t changed.

BEIT SHEAN,ISR – JUNE 17: Visitor walks near Pillars in Ancient Beit Shean on June 17 2009. Beit She’an is one of the most ancient sites in Israel: it was first settled 5-6 thousand years ago.

“Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.”[1]

This was the explanation for the philosophers wanting to hear what Paul had to say when he was in Athens. They brought him to the Areopagus so they could hear “the new teaching” he was explaining in the synagogues and market places.[2] They wanted to hear what he had to say, presumably, because it was new.

I have a friend who is always looking for a new way of looking at things. He is a very philosophical and thoughtful person, but he thinks he would be bored in heaven (as he imagines the heaven of clichés would be – clouds and harps… and he is probably right about that[3]).

But the writer of Ecclesiastes said about 1000 years before Christ “of the writing of many books there is no end”; yet “there is nothing new under the sun”.[4] Ironic, isn’t it, that my friend who is always looking for some new thought to chew on is no different than the Athenians in Paul’s day who were interested in “nothing except telling or hearing something new” (nearly 2000 years ago), and 1000 years before that people were doing the same thing.  Yet, what is there that is really new?

Another good friend of mine, Gary Hill, who is a chief author of the Discovery Bible (an incredible NASB Bible packed with scholarly resources for the serious Bible reader[5]), described to me how seminaries require doctoral students to choose theses that have never been covered before. The pressure to come up with something new encourages people to go searching for premises that often stray from the the narrow path that Jesus talked about, who is in his very nature the way, the truth and the life.

The desire for something ever new is nothing new under the sun. It is an age old desire that the writer of Ecclesiastes criticized 1000 years before the Athenians idolized new ideas 2000 years before post modernists championed the idea “that truth is relative and truth is up to each individual to determine for himself.”[6] The idea that each individual can manufacture his or her own truth is simply an extension of this lust for something always new.

Though the writer of Ecclesiastes said about 3000 years ago that there is nothing new under the sun, the Athenians were still looking for something new 1000 years later.  Two thousand years after that, one thing hasn’t changed: people in the current, postmodern world are still looking for something new .

Oh that people would long for truth, rather than novelty, for faithfulness rather than change for the sake of change.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[1] Acts 17:21

[2] Acts 17:19

[3] In reality, heaven is something we couldn’t even imagine. “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,

And which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

[4] See Ecclesiastes 12:12 and 1:9

“That which has been is that which will be,

And that which has been done is that which will be done.

So there is nothing new under the sun.”

[5] The philosophy behind The Discovery Bible is to empower people to appreciate the rich beauty of Scripture contained in the original Hebrew and Greek languages by gleaning insights from the original languages that don’t translate well into English. The Discovery Bible maps out all the emphasis in the original languages of Scripture.  It contains a symbol system for marking the original verb tenses that are quite different from English, adding depth and understanding of the word of God, along with other features.

[6] Postmodernism as described at http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/postmodernism.htm

It Is All Relative

On the application of scientific theory to theological constructs.


I encourage reading the post I am reblogging (https://wp.me/p13zfD-1zB) if you like science and faith, or just thinking generally. I firmly believe that science and faith are not only reconcilable, they are intricately synergistic. One informs the other. Whether we study the special revelation of the Word of God or the natural revelation of the creation of God, we learn something of our Creator in the process.

I have often played (only played) with the thought that we misunderstand God and sin and judgment when we see them primarily through a moral filter. It’s not necessarily that the type of filter is the problem so much as our perception of that filter, perhaps. In western thought, we tend to view moral absolutes as ideals that exist in and of themselves. Thank you Plato.

We view moral absolutes as stand alone ideals, independent of God and, therefore, applicable to God. We get caught in the undertow of the Euthyphro dilemma because of this misconception. (Are morally good acts willed by God because they are morally good, or are they morally good because they are willed by God? (See God’s Love is Not Platonic)) There is no way out of the construct, but the construct, itself, is wrong.

Rather, God is God and everything flows from Him. Goodness is good because it is God’s nature and character. Good is only determined relative to God. The article that I am reblogging quickly reviews the book, Faith Across the Multiverse, by Andy Walsh. Walsh applies scientific theory to theological principals with some interesting illumination. Among those scientific theories is the theory of relativity and what it might illuminate about faith. If you like thinking about these things as much as I do, you will like the article and may want to buy the book.

Commitment to a Worldview

The commitment to atheism can be as dogmatic as any other belief.

From the Unbelievable! discussion involving John Lennox vs Peter Atkins – Can science explain everything?

In a recent discussion on theism and atheism with the Oxford professors, John Lennox and Peter Atkins representing both ends of the spectrum, the dialogue stopped, and a time of questions and answers began. One person, a scientist, wrote in saying that he is an atheist, but his commitment as a scientist to follow the evidence suggested to him that God does exist. For him, the issue isn’t the evidence, but his own feelings, instincts and emotions.

When this question was put to the two guests to respond, the answers were very intriguing. John Lennox, the Christian, suggested that the man should continue to question and research and to test the position (that God exists) personally, not from afar. The response of the atheist, Peter Atkins, was simple: stick to your “commitment to rationality” (which to him presupposes atheism).



Think about it. Would you suppose the answer, to stick to your commitment, would more likely come from the Christian or the atheist? I would. I think most people would expect that answer to come from the Christian, but it doesn’t in this case. It’s the atheist sticking dogmatically to a presupposition.

Continue reading “Commitment to a Worldview”

God’s Love is Not Platonic

The love that God offers is relational, intimate and personal.


John the Apostle, a Hebrew from a remote province in the Roman Empire, lived a long life. The other apostles died premature deaths, but John, a typical Hebrew, lived long enough to be elevated out of his provincial Jewish world by the God who created it. His writing, as much as any of the New Testament authors, has a strong philosophical theme, but that philosophical theme is no abstract intellectual construct.

John the one-time fisherman became familiar with the greater Greco-Roman world by which the Palestinian province of his birth was governed and influenced. That familiarity is reflected in the Gospel that bears his name.

His gospel begins philosophically: “In the beginning was the Word”, the Logos.  (John 1:1)  The word, logos, carried poignant philosophical meaning in the Greco-Roman world. John’s use of that word to open his account of the life and message of Jesus shows that John, the provincial Hebrew, familiarized himself with that world and its thought.

This is in keeping with the instruction from Jesus to his followers to go into all the world explaining the message Jesus gave them. To go into the world, we have to become familiar with it and conversant with the thought that predominates in the world to which we go.

Though John’s Gospel begins philosophically, focusing on the loaded word, logos, he didn’t have the abstract notions of philosophy in mind. John’s use of that word pointed outside the Greco-Roman world and transcended it.

Continue reading “God’s Love is Not Platonic”

The Intersectionality of Jesus Christ

Intersectionality is the focus of my Christmas thoughts this morning.


A recent podcast hosted by Justin Brierley, Debating the Statement on Social Justice – Jarrod McKenna and James White, sparks my thinking this morning. One might wonder what social justice has to do with Christmas Eve that I should be thinking about it. Quite a lot actually.

Before tying up that loose end, though, I feel the need to comment on the discussion. James White was a drafter of the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel. The express purpose of the Statement is to clarify the meaning of the Gospel in order to guard against false teachings creeping into the Church through modern “sociological, psychological, and political theories”. Certainly, concern over false teachings and false gospels is a theme we find as far back as the Gospels, themselves, and the Pauline letters. We are right o be concerned.

On the other hand, as I listened to the discussion, another concern occurred to me. Yes, we are not of the world, but we are in the world, and the world is our mission field. Jesus left the 99 to search for the one lost sheep. Paul was a Jew to the Jews and a Greek to the Greeks, becoming all things to all people so that he could reach them with the Gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) Though Paul was concerned about false gospels creeping into the Church, he was also concerned about relating to the lost world.

Continue reading “The Intersectionality of Jesus Christ”