Daily Apologetic: Why Happiness Isn’t a Feeling by J.P Moreland

A Reasonable Hope

Why we need to understand it before we can find it.

Just after Jesus told his disciples who he was and what path lay before Him, He gave them — and us — the key to human prosperity.

If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake shall find it. For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26)

Christ invites us to follow Him, but warns that losing our lives is the first step. It’s an invitation to happiness. But what exactly is happiness, and how do we obtain it?

According to ancient thought, happiness is a life well lived, a life that manifests wisdom, kindness and goodness. For the ancients, the happy life — the life we should dream about — is a life of virtue and character. Not only did Plato, Aristotle, the Church Fathers and medieval theologians embrace this definition, but Moses, Solomon and (most importantly) Jesus did, too. Sadly their understanding is widely displaced by the contemporary understanding of happiness defined as pleasure and satisfaction, a subjective emotional state associated with fleeting, egocentric feelings.

Consider the differences: