The problem of pleasure

The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup post made me recall a C. S. Lewis quip, which together formed this thought:

If the problem of pain is a difficult philosophical and theological problem–how could a just God allow the existence of so much pain in the world?–surely there must also be an equally difficult problem of pleasure: How could a just God allow the existence of so much pleasure in the world?

What does it mean that God gave us our senses, that He created colors and made us to perceive flavors (such as chocolate and peanut butter, sweetness and savoriness), a universe filled with beauty, a course of ordinary life filled with so many satisfactions? Yes, we also experience pain, but if this is supposed to be a vale of soul building, shouldn’t our lives be harder than they usually are? Why does He insist on being so good to us?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • organistsandra

    Since He really is the essence of love, He relates to us lovingly, daily giving us good gifts. The other stuff just doesn’t come as naturally.

  • organistsandra

    Since He really is the essence of love, He relates to us lovingly, daily giving us good gifts. The other stuff just doesn’t come as naturally.

  • Orianna Laun

    V4 of “In the Cross of Christ I Glory”:
    “Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure
    By the cross are sanctified;
    Peace is there that knows no measure,
    Joys that through all time abide.”

  • Orianna Laun

    V4 of “In the Cross of Christ I Glory”:
    “Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure
    By the cross are sanctified;
    Peace is there that knows no measure,
    Joys that through all time abide.”

  • Bruce Gee

    For a truly holistic answer to this question, read Martin Franzmann’s commentary on Matthew, FOLLOW ME.

  • Bruce Gee

    For a truly holistic answer to this question, read Martin Franzmann’s commentary on Matthew, FOLLOW ME.

  • Jonathan

    O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
    For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (Rom. 11:34-36 ESV).

    I “think” the perfect love of the Triune God must have spun off a little bit for creation. It’s a glimpse of the foretaste of the feast to come.

  • Jonathan

    O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
    For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (Rom. 11:34-36 ESV).

    I “think” the perfect love of the Triune God must have spun off a little bit for creation. It’s a glimpse of the foretaste of the feast to come.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    God is beyond our abilities of comprehension. He is just. He is also love. The good things of this life he gives even to all evil people out of love. I for one think he has quite spoiled me. I must be spoiled because I keep asking for more like a spoiled little brat, and often don’t appreciate the wonderful things he has given me. But I do try to remember the counsel of Ecclesiasties, all is vanity, there is no purpose to life, just go enjoy it already.
    I have come to think that true more and more. There is no meaning to life, no purpose, there is just life to be enjoyed as God meant it to be. There is however extreme value to life. It is a precious gift of God to be enjoyed and treasured. If one does not see the value in it, then they should look at the cross where Christ ransomed it with his own blood, much more valuable that gold or silver.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    God is beyond our abilities of comprehension. He is just. He is also love. The good things of this life he gives even to all evil people out of love. I for one think he has quite spoiled me. I must be spoiled because I keep asking for more like a spoiled little brat, and often don’t appreciate the wonderful things he has given me. But I do try to remember the counsel of Ecclesiasties, all is vanity, there is no purpose to life, just go enjoy it already.
    I have come to think that true more and more. There is no meaning to life, no purpose, there is just life to be enjoyed as God meant it to be. There is however extreme value to life. It is a precious gift of God to be enjoyed and treasured. If one does not see the value in it, then they should look at the cross where Christ ransomed it with his own blood, much more valuable that gold or silver.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Actually, life at its best is a hard struggle with a lot of pain involved, which if overcome can lead to rich pleasure. Otega Y Gasset in The Revolt of the Masses put its well with: All life is a struggle, the effort to be itself. The difficulties which I meet in order to realize my existence are precisely what awaken and mobilize my activities, my capacities.”

    God never meant for life to be easy. The pleasure of necessity comes as a corollary to the hard pain that must be suffered. Those who deny this are the lame ones who try to overcome the pain with excessive food, drink, drugs, fantasies, and loose sex.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Actually, life at its best is a hard struggle with a lot of pain involved, which if overcome can lead to rich pleasure. Otega Y Gasset in The Revolt of the Masses put its well with: All life is a struggle, the effort to be itself. The difficulties which I meet in order to realize my existence are precisely what awaken and mobilize my activities, my capacities.”

    God never meant for life to be easy. The pleasure of necessity comes as a corollary to the hard pain that must be suffered. Those who deny this are the lame ones who try to overcome the pain with excessive food, drink, drugs, fantasies, and loose sex.

  • fws

    “…, but if this is supposed to be a vale of soul building,…”

    Interesting and common assumption. This looks like the “life as school of hard lessons” paradym. As in: “God allows suffering so that we can grow and mature and learn to be a better person.”

    This is wrong. This sounds like remodeling rather than demolition.

    The confessions point out to us that suffering (aka the ‘fruit’ of God´s ‘other/foreign work in the law’) is to

    a)kill the flesh and b) to grind us down (the literal meaning of the word “contrition”) and so

    b) cause us to despair of any hope apart from Christ and so

    c)prepare us for God´s proper work in the gospel.

    Life is death.
    The Death on Good Friday is our faith through the water of baptism.
    Now just-ified, we live to die in faith.

  • fws

    “…, but if this is supposed to be a vale of soul building,…”

    Interesting and common assumption. This looks like the “life as school of hard lessons” paradym. As in: “God allows suffering so that we can grow and mature and learn to be a better person.”

    This is wrong. This sounds like remodeling rather than demolition.

    The confessions point out to us that suffering (aka the ‘fruit’ of God´s ‘other/foreign work in the law’) is to

    a)kill the flesh and b) to grind us down (the literal meaning of the word “contrition”) and so

    b) cause us to despair of any hope apart from Christ and so

    c)prepare us for God´s proper work in the gospel.

    Life is death.
    The Death on Good Friday is our faith through the water of baptism.
    Now just-ified, we live to die in faith.

  • fws

    i experience pain and muscle soreness from lifting weights and that feels pleasurable to me (imagine a cat stretching to get the idea here….).

    Also there is a congenital disease that some are born with where they can feel no physical pain and this causes unimaginable problems (kids with this poke out their own eyes because it doesnt hurt to do it for example…)

    so maybe pleasure, pain and suffering are false categories that will disappear in the resurrection.

    We imagine a “perfect” new creation which we define as no birth “defects”, blindness, or “abnormalities”. Maybe these ideas are symptoms of our of our fallen state? Did Jesus forget things in the incarnation? Did he make mistakes when he built things of wood? Was Jesus good or perfect.

    The parables seem to me about an unreasonably good God who is outrageously and over-generously good rather than just. Maybe that is a glimpse of the feast to come?

    deep stuff…

  • fws

    i experience pain and muscle soreness from lifting weights and that feels pleasurable to me (imagine a cat stretching to get the idea here….).

    Also there is a congenital disease that some are born with where they can feel no physical pain and this causes unimaginable problems (kids with this poke out their own eyes because it doesnt hurt to do it for example…)

    so maybe pleasure, pain and suffering are false categories that will disappear in the resurrection.

    We imagine a “perfect” new creation which we define as no birth “defects”, blindness, or “abnormalities”. Maybe these ideas are symptoms of our of our fallen state? Did Jesus forget things in the incarnation? Did he make mistakes when he built things of wood? Was Jesus good or perfect.

    The parables seem to me about an unreasonably good God who is outrageously and over-generously good rather than just. Maybe that is a glimpse of the feast to come?

    deep stuff…

  • fws

    #5 bror

    you nailed it brother!

    lilies of the field, birds of the air…. son of man with no career path…first adam spreading manure and content to do so.

  • fws

    #5 bror

    you nailed it brother!

    lilies of the field, birds of the air…. son of man with no career path…first adam spreading manure and content to do so.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,#7
    I am beginning to understand you a little. As my old TI would say, “sucks to be you.” When is the struggle over? That is not the plan for life I find when I read the Bible, so I would atleast bring a few Bible passages to bear if I were going to pass this off as God’s word.
    That there is pain in this world and this life is due to nothing but the effects of sin and death in this world. It is not a quasi ying yang thing like you describe above. It is the result of sin and death. There is no symmetry to it. We are perfectly capable of living without pain, without death, and enjoying life without any corollary to either of those. And I, for one, look forward to the day when we are restored to this state of life in its full glory without death, pain or sin looming over us.
    The people who end up on drugs etc. are normally ones who share your world view, but realize how bad they are at living it.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,#7
    I am beginning to understand you a little. As my old TI would say, “sucks to be you.” When is the struggle over? That is not the plan for life I find when I read the Bible, so I would atleast bring a few Bible passages to bear if I were going to pass this off as God’s word.
    That there is pain in this world and this life is due to nothing but the effects of sin and death in this world. It is not a quasi ying yang thing like you describe above. It is the result of sin and death. There is no symmetry to it. We are perfectly capable of living without pain, without death, and enjoying life without any corollary to either of those. And I, for one, look forward to the day when we are restored to this state of life in its full glory without death, pain or sin looming over us.
    The people who end up on drugs etc. are normally ones who share your world view, but realize how bad they are at living it.

  • Leif

    The last paragraph of Gasset from #6 is where it jumps the shark.

    I’d love to believe that pain, suffering, etc. could just be overcome if we try hard enough and possibly self-realize our own pleasure but that simply isn’t true. And Bror is more than correct on the statement “The people who end up on drugs etc. are normally ones who share your world view, but realize how bad they are at living it.”

    But I suspect my biggest issue lies with the assumption that “God never meant for life to be easy.” and I suppose I’m splitting hairs here but just what are we defining as “easy”? Living forever in a garden? or being cast out of said garden to toil and struggle in pain until you die? If the former is true than I assume God did mean for life to be “easy” but since the latter has happened then something must have changed so as to alter the course–sin.

    To run with what Bror has said: There is no symmetry here. The whole of karmic forces, the yearning for balance, or the “triumph of the will” notion that we can just overcome is just a lame run-a-round trying to make sense of the broken machine. Those paths more often then not lead to an even more broken result. Drugs, suicide, despair, etc.

    I figure it this way. I work and struggle and plant an orchard. I maintain that orchard for years and finally it bears fruit. I press the fruit and make some cider. I drink the cider and enjoy it (my pleasure out of pain). Since I have drunk the cider, I’m now out of cider–the pleasure is gone and the cycle starts over. That is life. Enjoy your work, enjoy your path, but always let your hope rest in something better.

  • Leif

    The last paragraph of Gasset from #6 is where it jumps the shark.

    I’d love to believe that pain, suffering, etc. could just be overcome if we try hard enough and possibly self-realize our own pleasure but that simply isn’t true. And Bror is more than correct on the statement “The people who end up on drugs etc. are normally ones who share your world view, but realize how bad they are at living it.”

    But I suspect my biggest issue lies with the assumption that “God never meant for life to be easy.” and I suppose I’m splitting hairs here but just what are we defining as “easy”? Living forever in a garden? or being cast out of said garden to toil and struggle in pain until you die? If the former is true than I assume God did mean for life to be “easy” but since the latter has happened then something must have changed so as to alter the course–sin.

    To run with what Bror has said: There is no symmetry here. The whole of karmic forces, the yearning for balance, or the “triumph of the will” notion that we can just overcome is just a lame run-a-round trying to make sense of the broken machine. Those paths more often then not lead to an even more broken result. Drugs, suicide, despair, etc.

    I figure it this way. I work and struggle and plant an orchard. I maintain that orchard for years and finally it bears fruit. I press the fruit and make some cider. I drink the cider and enjoy it (my pleasure out of pain). Since I have drunk the cider, I’m now out of cider–the pleasure is gone and the cycle starts over. That is life. Enjoy your work, enjoy your path, but always let your hope rest in something better.

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    But nobody thinks pleasure is a problem!

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    But nobody thinks pleasure is a problem!

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bror, you might try the book of Job for a Biblical confirmation of life as a struggle. You could, also, reflect on the Cross.

    The trouble here is that many pietistic Americans tend to be rather romantic in their essential view of life.

    The last paragraph of my post at #6 is mine, not Ortegas, due to an improper closing of Ortega’s quote.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bror, you might try the book of Job for a Biblical confirmation of life as a struggle. You could, also, reflect on the Cross.

    The trouble here is that many pietistic Americans tend to be rather romantic in their essential view of life.

    The last paragraph of my post at #6 is mine, not Ortegas, due to an improper closing of Ortega’s quote.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    I never said that there wouldn’t be pain or suffering in life. I think I recognized that there is plenty of that in life, and it is due to sin and death. And there are struggles in life. But to say All Life is a struggle is a bit of a stretch. And when you see life as primarily a struggle to overcome, you have lost sight of what Christ did for you on the cross.
    I figured the last paragraph was yours. It sounds like you. And that isn’t much of a compliment.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    I never said that there wouldn’t be pain or suffering in life. I think I recognized that there is plenty of that in life, and it is due to sin and death. And there are struggles in life. But to say All Life is a struggle is a bit of a stretch. And when you see life as primarily a struggle to overcome, you have lost sight of what Christ did for you on the cross.
    I figured the last paragraph was yours. It sounds like you. And that isn’t much of a compliment.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    Forgot to address your comment about the book of Job.
    Tell you the truth, Job’s life in that book looks to be anything but a struggle. It records a struggle, or to be more precise, a period of suffering in Job’s otherwise very enjoyable life. This book illustrates everything that is wrong with all theologies of glory such as the one you espoused above. So it blows my mind that you would use it. Job is quite clear that the evil do enjoy life, that the “Good” do suffer, and die young. Even as the Evil do prosper in this life. And it doesn’t take a genius to see that this is so. Look at the world.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    Forgot to address your comment about the book of Job.
    Tell you the truth, Job’s life in that book looks to be anything but a struggle. It records a struggle, or to be more precise, a period of suffering in Job’s otherwise very enjoyable life. This book illustrates everything that is wrong with all theologies of glory such as the one you espoused above. So it blows my mind that you would use it. Job is quite clear that the evil do enjoy life, that the “Good” do suffer, and die young. Even as the Evil do prosper in this life. And it doesn’t take a genius to see that this is so. Look at the world.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bror, at #7 you admit pain is the result of sin and death; further that you look forward to the day when we are restored to life’s full glory without pain, sin, and death looming over us. I too faithfully look forward to that day; meanwhile, life, as Ortega Y Gasset remarked, is a hard though worthwhile struggle. This is, also, a truth our Puritan forebears taught that has not been displaced by the pieties of easy modernism.

    Rotary club types and your neighbors, the ebullient Mormons, find the above to be hard medicine, though orthodox Christians should have little trouble with it.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bror, at #7 you admit pain is the result of sin and death; further that you look forward to the day when we are restored to life’s full glory without pain, sin, and death looming over us. I too faithfully look forward to that day; meanwhile, life, as Ortega Y Gasset remarked, is a hard though worthwhile struggle. This is, also, a truth our Puritan forebears taught that has not been displaced by the pieties of easy modernism.

    Rotary club types and your neighbors, the ebullient Mormons, find the above to be hard medicine, though orthodox Christians should have little trouble with it.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    “This is, also, a truth our Puritan forebears taught that has not been displaced by the pieties of easy modernism.”
    First, my forefathers were not Puritans. if you want to claim them that is your business. Don’t foist them on me.
    Second what they taught is not regarded as truth by the likes of me. Quite the opposite. I find very little truth in what they taught.
    Third, I don’t know many rotary types. The ones I do know I have high respect for, and also happen to be very active members in their churches. Your position though has much more in common with the way Mormons view life then the way I view it. In fact many analysis see it as nothing but a weird blend of Methodism and Calvinism drawn to hyper extremes.
    Life is a hard though worth while struggle? How about life is a gift of God to be enjoyed and valued, even if at times you have to suffer a bit. Struggle implies that you are trying to achieve something. “I struggled to climb the mountain.” You struggle to attain, to achieve, to do, to get through, to get by. That I suffer a bit of pain, does not necessarily mean I struggled. Life may have its struggles, it is not a struggle. It is a gift from God, meant to be enjoyed. We don’t gain or achieve anything by living it.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    “This is, also, a truth our Puritan forebears taught that has not been displaced by the pieties of easy modernism.”
    First, my forefathers were not Puritans. if you want to claim them that is your business. Don’t foist them on me.
    Second what they taught is not regarded as truth by the likes of me. Quite the opposite. I find very little truth in what they taught.
    Third, I don’t know many rotary types. The ones I do know I have high respect for, and also happen to be very active members in their churches. Your position though has much more in common with the way Mormons view life then the way I view it. In fact many analysis see it as nothing but a weird blend of Methodism and Calvinism drawn to hyper extremes.
    Life is a hard though worth while struggle? How about life is a gift of God to be enjoyed and valued, even if at times you have to suffer a bit. Struggle implies that you are trying to achieve something. “I struggled to climb the mountain.” You struggle to attain, to achieve, to do, to get through, to get by. That I suffer a bit of pain, does not necessarily mean I struggled. Life may have its struggles, it is not a struggle. It is a gift from God, meant to be enjoyed. We don’t gain or achieve anything by living it.

  • Mary Jack

    There is struggle, but struggle is not the quintessence of our lives, nor does it define us the way faith does. When God said, “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” He meant it for this life. Not as an anecdote for our suffering, nor an enticement to do more. Sometimes we simply must taste and see that the Lord is good, and receive His gifts. Pleasure and pain do not need each other to exist. Pleasure is largely external (interactions & responses) whereas pain is magnified and often without perspective internally.

  • Mary Jack

    There is struggle, but struggle is not the quintessence of our lives, nor does it define us the way faith does. When God said, “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” He meant it for this life. Not as an anecdote for our suffering, nor an enticement to do more. Sometimes we simply must taste and see that the Lord is good, and receive His gifts. Pleasure and pain do not need each other to exist. Pleasure is largely external (interactions & responses) whereas pain is magnified and often without perspective internally.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bror, whether you like it or not, the Puritan founders of this country left an indelible historical heritage. While perhaps not your blood forebears, they profoundly influenced the culture and institutions of country in which you live.

    Of course, life is a gift of God, though it involves rather more than a “bit” of a struggle. People engaged seriously in life are defined by their ability to overcome adversity, whether in their personal and business relations, or as just now in the fateful cultural struggle between serious Christians and radical secularists.

    You still haven’t addressed Ortega Y Gasset’s point that “All life is a struggle, the effort to be itself.” Perhaps you are among the revolting masses whom Ortega viewed as trying to take life easily and largely incapable of dealing with hard reality and authority.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bror, whether you like it or not, the Puritan founders of this country left an indelible historical heritage. While perhaps not your blood forebears, they profoundly influenced the culture and institutions of country in which you live.

    Of course, life is a gift of God, though it involves rather more than a “bit” of a struggle. People engaged seriously in life are defined by their ability to overcome adversity, whether in their personal and business relations, or as just now in the fateful cultural struggle between serious Christians and radical secularists.

    You still haven’t addressed Ortega Y Gasset’s point that “All life is a struggle, the effort to be itself.” Perhaps you are among the revolting masses whom Ortega viewed as trying to take life easily and largely incapable of dealing with hard reality and authority.

  • WebMonk

    Ahhh, yet more proof that The Princess Bride is indeed Holy Writ.

    “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

  • WebMonk

    Ahhh, yet more proof that The Princess Bride is indeed Holy Writ.

    “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    Yes I am of the revolting masses. You pegged it.
    Get a whiff of yourself please.
    Quite frankly just about everything I don’t like about the culture and institutions of this my beloved country stems from the self righteous puritanism you exhibit in your posts. I do love this country, signed the dotted line for her, and would do so again. But the Puritanism inherent in it is its Achilles heel.
    As for Ortega y Gasett’s point. What do you think I have been addressing? It is like I am actually talking to the cardboard cutout of the pompous ancestor you use as an avatar. What more need I say on that point.
    I do not see life as a “struggle.” I do not see this as a Christian view of life, or a Biblical one. Even so I have had to overcome not a little bit of adversity and suffering in my so far short life. I have rather grown to see it as a wonderful gift of God to be celebrated.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    Yes I am of the revolting masses. You pegged it.
    Get a whiff of yourself please.
    Quite frankly just about everything I don’t like about the culture and institutions of this my beloved country stems from the self righteous puritanism you exhibit in your posts. I do love this country, signed the dotted line for her, and would do so again. But the Puritanism inherent in it is its Achilles heel.
    As for Ortega y Gasett’s point. What do you think I have been addressing? It is like I am actually talking to the cardboard cutout of the pompous ancestor you use as an avatar. What more need I say on that point.
    I do not see life as a “struggle.” I do not see this as a Christian view of life, or a Biblical one. Even so I have had to overcome not a little bit of adversity and suffering in my so far short life. I have rather grown to see it as a wonderful gift of God to be celebrated.

  • Leif

    Peter, I’m sorry if I intrude but…

    “All life is struggle, the effort to be itself” amounts to little more than the refusal to accept life for what it is and a desire to hold “life” up to some lofty existential goal. And if we must persist in Gasset’s vein, Gasset also said “I am myself and my circumstances” to which we can separate into a duality which is no other than a wonderfully existential triumph of the will combined with a weak willed desire to not struggle against the “effort to be” himself. If life is the struggle to be itself than shouldn’t Gasset have said something to the affect of “I am myself as having overcome life’s obstacles”?

    Must something exude effort in order to be itself? And if so, must effort classify as “struggle”? If Gasset should be heeded and a person is the embodiment of both mind and circumstance, what if those circumstances hold absolutely no struggle? Would this not devalue and/or discredit the persistent notion that life is struggle?

    WebMonk:

    I’ll see your “Princess Bride” and raise you a “Facts of Life”:

    “You take the good, you take the bad,
    you take them both and there you have
    The Facts of Life.”

  • Leif

    Peter, I’m sorry if I intrude but…

    “All life is struggle, the effort to be itself” amounts to little more than the refusal to accept life for what it is and a desire to hold “life” up to some lofty existential goal. And if we must persist in Gasset’s vein, Gasset also said “I am myself and my circumstances” to which we can separate into a duality which is no other than a wonderfully existential triumph of the will combined with a weak willed desire to not struggle against the “effort to be” himself. If life is the struggle to be itself than shouldn’t Gasset have said something to the affect of “I am myself as having overcome life’s obstacles”?

    Must something exude effort in order to be itself? And if so, must effort classify as “struggle”? If Gasset should be heeded and a person is the embodiment of both mind and circumstance, what if those circumstances hold absolutely no struggle? Would this not devalue and/or discredit the persistent notion that life is struggle?

    WebMonk:

    I’ll see your “Princess Bride” and raise you a “Facts of Life”:

    “You take the good, you take the bad,
    you take them both and there you have
    The Facts of Life.”

  • George A. Marquart

    Why is it that Christians cannot come to grips with the “problem” of pleasure?
    I suspect there is a multitude of reasons, among which are:
    1. Pietism and Puritanism (sorry, I still cannot get used to the fact that Puritans were really crypto hedonists) have permeated our faith to the extent that we equate pleasure with sin. Therefore, we should not have any.
    2. We attempt to use anthropomorphisms and rationalizations in an attempt to figure out what is in the mind of God, disregarding what Scripture has revealed on the subject. We assume that there is something profound in the babbling of Job and his friends. The reality, as God tells Job, is that all we can know about God is what He reveals to us in Scripture, even when that contradicts our life experience. Ps. 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”
    3. Where did this idea of soul building come from? As if the whole point of life is to become “better and better” so that ultimately we are only very slightly removed from perfection. Is this a form of Pelagianism that continues to try to convince us that it is “by works” after all? Before you jump all over me for denying good works or sanctification, please don’t. Sanctification is a process in which “the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing,” not some program of self improvement to earn God’s approval. When we do the will of our Father, we do it because He has written His will in our hearts in baptism, not to become “better.” To do good is to worship God and to serve our neighbors. If we do it to become “better,” then we become the object of our good works, which does not please God. The sanctity of the saintliest of saints in this life is still like those rags Isaiah speaks about, when compared to God’s perfection.
    4. God clearly created Adam and Eve for a life of ease and pleasure in Paradise. Did God change His mind when we sinned in Adam and decide that He wants to make us suffer and to deprive us of pleasure? Every indication in Scripture is that suffering is caused by the sin of mankind. It is true that God uses suffering, in the environment we have created, in order to guide His people to do His will. But the intent of everything God does, whether He sends suffering or pleasure is “for good to them that love God;” in other words, ultimately for our pleasure, and to return us to everlasting life of joy and pleasure with Him. Inasmuch as God’s Kingdom here on earth is a part of that heavenly kingdom, joy and pleasure in this life are His gifts as well.
    5. St. Paul, who certainly was familiar with extreme suffering, nevertheless encourages us in Philippians 4 to rejoice, “and again I say rejoice.” He has learned in all of his suffering that he needs to make no excuses for having pleasure: “12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” So it’s OK to enjoy a Pizza, just remember to give thanks to Him who gives us all good gifts.
    Peace and Joy.
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    Why is it that Christians cannot come to grips with the “problem” of pleasure?
    I suspect there is a multitude of reasons, among which are:
    1. Pietism and Puritanism (sorry, I still cannot get used to the fact that Puritans were really crypto hedonists) have permeated our faith to the extent that we equate pleasure with sin. Therefore, we should not have any.
    2. We attempt to use anthropomorphisms and rationalizations in an attempt to figure out what is in the mind of God, disregarding what Scripture has revealed on the subject. We assume that there is something profound in the babbling of Job and his friends. The reality, as God tells Job, is that all we can know about God is what He reveals to us in Scripture, even when that contradicts our life experience. Ps. 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”
    3. Where did this idea of soul building come from? As if the whole point of life is to become “better and better” so that ultimately we are only very slightly removed from perfection. Is this a form of Pelagianism that continues to try to convince us that it is “by works” after all? Before you jump all over me for denying good works or sanctification, please don’t. Sanctification is a process in which “the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing,” not some program of self improvement to earn God’s approval. When we do the will of our Father, we do it because He has written His will in our hearts in baptism, not to become “better.” To do good is to worship God and to serve our neighbors. If we do it to become “better,” then we become the object of our good works, which does not please God. The sanctity of the saintliest of saints in this life is still like those rags Isaiah speaks about, when compared to God’s perfection.
    4. God clearly created Adam and Eve for a life of ease and pleasure in Paradise. Did God change His mind when we sinned in Adam and decide that He wants to make us suffer and to deprive us of pleasure? Every indication in Scripture is that suffering is caused by the sin of mankind. It is true that God uses suffering, in the environment we have created, in order to guide His people to do His will. But the intent of everything God does, whether He sends suffering or pleasure is “for good to them that love God;” in other words, ultimately for our pleasure, and to return us to everlasting life of joy and pleasure with Him. Inasmuch as God’s Kingdom here on earth is a part of that heavenly kingdom, joy and pleasure in this life are His gifts as well.
    5. St. Paul, who certainly was familiar with extreme suffering, nevertheless encourages us in Philippians 4 to rejoice, “and again I say rejoice.” He has learned in all of his suffering that he needs to make no excuses for having pleasure: “12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” So it’s OK to enjoy a Pizza, just remember to give thanks to Him who gives us all good gifts.
    Peace and Joy.
    George A. Marquart

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    George, I hope you saw the irony in my original post.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    George, I hope you saw the irony in my original post.

  • George A. Marquart

    Veith. I did, and I did not. The fact is that, whether you treat it with irony or not, both the responses and my own experience show that there are many in the Church who find happiness in condemning pleasure, and in questioning the ultimate destination of those who show any joy.

    George

  • George A. Marquart

    Veith. I did, and I did not. The fact is that, whether you treat it with irony or not, both the responses and my own experience show that there are many in the Church who find happiness in condemning pleasure, and in questioning the ultimate destination of those who show any joy.

    George

  • Peter Leavitt

    George, I’m far from arguing that there is no pleasure involved in a life of hard struggle. St. Paul certainly led a life of hard struggle that ultimately cost his life, though he enjoyed, even exulted in the struggle.

    Warriors often enjoy the rigors of battle. Businessmen enjoy intense competition. Football players love game days. The point is that life at its best often involves hard struggle, protestations of the pietists and romantics notwithstanding.

    As to the Puritans, Anne Bradstreet’s poem, To My Dear and Loving Husband itself speaks volumes regarding the best of the Puritan’s love and Joy of life. That they lacked zest for life is a pious modern illusion and myth long ago disproved by the Harvard scholar, Perry Miller.

  • Peter Leavitt

    George, I’m far from arguing that there is no pleasure involved in a life of hard struggle. St. Paul certainly led a life of hard struggle that ultimately cost his life, though he enjoyed, even exulted in the struggle.

    Warriors often enjoy the rigors of battle. Businessmen enjoy intense competition. Football players love game days. The point is that life at its best often involves hard struggle, protestations of the pietists and romantics notwithstanding.

    As to the Puritans, Anne Bradstreet’s poem, To My Dear and Loving Husband itself speaks volumes regarding the best of the Puritan’s love and Joy of life. That they lacked zest for life is a pious modern illusion and myth long ago disproved by the Harvard scholar, Perry Miller.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    “The point is that life at its best often involves hard struggle, protestations of the pietists and romantics notwithstanding.”
    Please learn what a Pietist is before you try adapting the term to be used as an insult. Pietists are the ones who will see life as a struggle, and shun pleasure in life. A good place for you to start would be to read “Pia desideria” by Spener. The next, to see how this awful theology plays out in life, would be to read “The Hammer of God” by Bo Giertz. And I sure hope you are not trying to imply that I am a Romantic!
    However, you have changed your position quite a bit, and I applaud you in that. I can agree with you that life often involves hard struggle. I can even agree with you that in someways it is at its best in the middle of struggle. That is a far stretch from saying “Life is a struggle.” or “All life is a struggle.” Or that “God meant for life to be a struggle.”

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Peter,
    “The point is that life at its best often involves hard struggle, protestations of the pietists and romantics notwithstanding.”
    Please learn what a Pietist is before you try adapting the term to be used as an insult. Pietists are the ones who will see life as a struggle, and shun pleasure in life. A good place for you to start would be to read “Pia desideria” by Spener. The next, to see how this awful theology plays out in life, would be to read “The Hammer of God” by Bo Giertz. And I sure hope you are not trying to imply that I am a Romantic!
    However, you have changed your position quite a bit, and I applaud you in that. I can agree with you that life often involves hard struggle. I can even agree with you that in someways it is at its best in the middle of struggle. That is a far stretch from saying “Life is a struggle.” or “All life is a struggle.” Or that “God meant for life to be a struggle.”

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bror, I still see post-Garden life as essentially a struggle and am skeptical of the largely Renaissance influenced pietist view that perfection or holiness can be achieved. I haven’t read Spener but have read enough of Reinhold Niebuhr to get what the pietists are about.

    It is true that our views at this point are not that far apart.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bror, I still see post-Garden life as essentially a struggle and am skeptical of the largely Renaissance influenced pietist view that perfection or holiness can be achieved. I haven’t read Spener but have read enough of Reinhold Niebuhr to get what the pietists are about.

    It is true that our views at this point are not that far apart.

  • fws

    #23 G Marquardt:

    “It is true that God uses suffering, in the environment we have created, in order to guide His people to do His will. ”

    His will is to save us with the aim of having us again conform, in our hearts, to his will (ie The Law) from our original sin to our original contentment.

    The problem here that the reformation fixed was the idea that the christian life had to look righteously different than that of their neighbor pagans. And so new, more spiritual works, were invented. The “3rd use of the law” is to destroy the idea that good works can ever be a religious or spiritual exercise except to kill in the most utterly non-platonic meaning of the word kill.

    The idea of the Muslims and sharia law, which I rebelled against, is actually true. This is the idea that believers and non-believers alike are fully obligated to keep both the first and second table of The Law of God and to submit to this, which is also called The Will of God.

    This view was shared by christian and muslim alike, as a principle for good government, until The Law killed this truth as a practical option for governing in the west by means of the 30 years war.

    The Lutheran Reformation uniquely retained this view of The Law being identical for christian and pagan, while adding the truth that the difference between christian and nonchristian is ONLY the invisible faith added to the hearts of christians by the holy spirit. This meant therefore separating the keeping of the first table as a part of government work. Government then rightfully becomes again curb rather than cure. This makes sense out of God allowing divorce in a theocracy even though the practice was against his Will.

    Today some american christians are moving back to pre-reformation days thinking that the abortion issue and culture war issues are urgent enough to justify a return to the old means and methods.

    Legalized abortion and euthanasia, gay marriage, et all is merely a return of placing the locus of “governmental authority” to the parent and individual as it was always in pre-christian times, but now in the structural context of that structured anarchy known as “republican constitutional democracy”.

    We christians need to frame the questions rightly to arrive at the right answers. This is not complicated stuff really.

  • fws

    #23 G Marquardt:

    “It is true that God uses suffering, in the environment we have created, in order to guide His people to do His will. ”

    His will is to save us with the aim of having us again conform, in our hearts, to his will (ie The Law) from our original sin to our original contentment.

    The problem here that the reformation fixed was the idea that the christian life had to look righteously different than that of their neighbor pagans. And so new, more spiritual works, were invented. The “3rd use of the law” is to destroy the idea that good works can ever be a religious or spiritual exercise except to kill in the most utterly non-platonic meaning of the word kill.

    The idea of the Muslims and sharia law, which I rebelled against, is actually true. This is the idea that believers and non-believers alike are fully obligated to keep both the first and second table of The Law of God and to submit to this, which is also called The Will of God.

    This view was shared by christian and muslim alike, as a principle for good government, until The Law killed this truth as a practical option for governing in the west by means of the 30 years war.

    The Lutheran Reformation uniquely retained this view of The Law being identical for christian and pagan, while adding the truth that the difference between christian and nonchristian is ONLY the invisible faith added to the hearts of christians by the holy spirit. This meant therefore separating the keeping of the first table as a part of government work. Government then rightfully becomes again curb rather than cure. This makes sense out of God allowing divorce in a theocracy even though the practice was against his Will.

    Today some american christians are moving back to pre-reformation days thinking that the abortion issue and culture war issues are urgent enough to justify a return to the old means and methods.

    Legalized abortion and euthanasia, gay marriage, et all is merely a return of placing the locus of “governmental authority” to the parent and individual as it was always in pre-christian times, but now in the structural context of that structured anarchy known as “republican constitutional democracy”.

    We christians need to frame the questions rightly to arrive at the right answers. This is not complicated stuff really.

  • fws

    #23 g marquart

    the confessions say that suffering is to “guide us” only in the sense that it is to kill and disabuse us of any hope and succor apart from that found in the cross. It is the work of the holy spirit that is that “other work” that he does to prepare us for his “proper work” of planting faith in the hearts of men.

  • fws

    #23 g marquart

    the confessions say that suffering is to “guide us” only in the sense that it is to kill and disabuse us of any hope and succor apart from that found in the cross. It is the work of the holy spirit that is that “other work” that he does to prepare us for his “proper work” of planting faith in the hearts of men.

  • fws

    #23 g marquart

    specifically this suffering looks like us trying the best of our own desire, reason and willpower to resist sin and do good, and do so religiously, only to have the law break our best results of will and reason to pieces and grind us down to nothing (“contrition” literally means to grind down).

  • fws

    #23 g marquart

    specifically this suffering looks like us trying the best of our own desire, reason and willpower to resist sin and do good, and do so religiously, only to have the law break our best results of will and reason to pieces and grind us down to nothing (“contrition” literally means to grind down).

  • LAJ

    # 27 What don’t you like about Hammer of God?

  • LAJ

    # 27 What don’t you like about Hammer of God?

  • fws

    #32 I think I can speak for bror in saying that there is nothing about the hammer of god that he does not like…..

  • fws

    #32 I think I can speak for bror in saying that there is nothing about the hammer of god that he does not like…..


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X