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Augustine.jpg David Naugle’s second chapter in his fine new book, Reordered Love, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness, is about Augustine.


Augustine lists the three causes of unhappiness and the one cause of genuine happiness.

What do you think of his breakdown? How about a concrete instance of each one?

Here they are:

1. Some people are unhappy because they cannot obtain what they treasure most. This person does not get what he or she most wants. They are unhappy because of what they lack.

2. Some people are unhappy because they have what they want but what they want cannot or does not make them happy. These folks love what they should not love.

3. Some people are unhappy because they have what makes them happy but they don’t value what makes them happy enough. They live an ironic life. They don’t love what they should.

4. Those who are truly happy — and he’s not talking about happy faces — are those who know the chief good of life and have it.

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Kurt Buchholz

posted February 20, 2009 at 12:36 am

Or they know the Good Chief of Life and have Him! (Or Good Chief of Life).

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Kurt Buchholz

posted February 20, 2009 at 12:37 am

Sorry the part in brackets was suppose to read, “The Chief of good and life.”

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Scot McKnight

posted February 20, 2009 at 12:38 am

Kurt, nice comment.

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Travis Greene

posted February 20, 2009 at 10:15 am

Option 1 has shades of Buddhist thought.
I suspect the unhappy ultimately all end up in category 2. After all, everyone finds what they truly seek.

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posted February 20, 2009 at 10:24 am

I think his descriptions are pretty good. Examples:
1. the perfect job/car/salary/mate
2. see above
3. health/family/basic material needs
I’d say people spend a lot of time seeking things they (incorrectly) think will make them happy rather than the author of life who designed us so that we could only be happy in Him.

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posted February 20, 2009 at 11:13 am

Again, I just have to push back at the theme of this book. If only there was a real, direct correlation between serving God and being happy. Sometimes, and for some people there was, but often following God can make you very unhappy. Was Jeremiah happy? Was John of the Cross happy while in the midst of the years of the dark night of the soul? Was the writer of Ecclesiastes happy? It seems to me that God is more interested in making us holy than happy. I keep wondering if I’m missing something. Or maybe the book just isn’t that deep and is meant as a response to a modern culture which equates happiness with possession and luxury.

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Travis Greene

posted February 20, 2009 at 12:42 pm

I think the problem is with the word “happy”. A word like joy or peace might be better. I don’t at all thing the point is that if you do what God says, you’ll get everything you want.

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posted February 20, 2009 at 2:58 pm

I guess that to me happiness implies a level of emotional well-being which I’m just not convinced is part and parcel of a walk with God. Really, I am concerned that too many people believe that if you are a good Christian, then you will enjoy a good life. The prosperity gospel people define a good life by material blessings, while people such as the author seem to define it by emotional well-being, strong, happy relationships, etc. Thankfully, for many people happiness and the Christian walk do go together. However, for many people -including Christians – life is not all that happy. Even while walking with God (and fairly often, because of walking with God), there can be a good amount of struggle, sorrow, rejection, frustrations, etc. I do not think we need to be setting up an expectation that the good Christian, who is walking with God, will be a happy person.

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posted February 20, 2009 at 7:26 pm

Hmmm…some have the Beatitudes as using “happy” and others “blessed” — I believe that “happiness” is a state of mind and the Christian is the most blessed. James certainly understood this (Scot, thanks for your current study of James.) paradox.

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posted February 21, 2009 at 12:37 am

interesting. I can see blessed. To my understanding, one can be quite miserable and still know to the core of your being that you are blessed beyond all measure. But it is hard to be miserable and happy at the same time.
I still wonder if the author isn’t painting an emotional prosperity gospel perspective. A good Christian is not necessarily a happy Christian. But I could agree with the idea that a good Christian is a blessed Christian, even when he or she is far from happy.

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