We’re using the “Handbook of Apologetics” by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli to go over the arguments for the existence of God. Today, we will be covering the above referenced subject in relation to the existence of God. Dr. Kreeft teaches logic in two major universities, so his arguments tend to be clear, concise and very helpful.
We now come to our fifth ambiguous term, happiness. As with omnipotence and goodness, the ambiguity is between the shallow, popular meaning and the deeper, more philosophical meaning. The shallow meaning creates the problem of evil; the deeper meaning solves it.
The shallow meaning of happiness (which is our modern meaning) is first of all subjective. Happiness in this sense is a feeling. If you feel happy, you are happy. Second, this happiness is only a present, temporary phenomenon. Feelings come and go, and so does the feeling of happiness. Third, this happiness is largely a matter of “hap,” that is, chance or fortune. It is “good luck.” It is not under our control. Finally, its source is external. It consists in things like winning the lottery, or the Super Bowl, or bodily pleasures, or prestige, or health. It is money, sex and power, never poverty, chastity and obedience.
The older, deeper meaning of happiness is evident in the Greek word eudaimonia. This is, first of all, an objective state, not just a subjective feeling. It’s not true that if only you feel happy, you are happy. A grown man sitting in the bathtub all day playing with his rubber ducky may be content, but he is not happy. A Nero gloating over the Christians he killed may be pleased, but he is not happy. Happiness is to the soul what health is to the body. You can feel healthy without being healthy, and you can feel happy without truly being happy. You can also be happy without feeling happy, as Job was, learning wisdom through suffering. Jesus’ saying “Blessed [objectively happy] are those who mourn [feel subjectively unhappy]” (Mt 5:4) assumes such a distinction.
Happiness is a state
In the second place, true happiness is a permanent state, a matter of a lifetime, not a fleeting moment. It is also under our control, our choice. Its main sources are wisdom and virtue, both of which are good habits we create in ourselves by practice, not gifts of fortune passively received. Finally, happiness’ source is internal, not external. It is a good soul, not a good bank account, that makes you happy.
Divine providence arranges our lives in light of true happiness as our end, because God is good and loving. This does not necessarily include happiness in the shallow sense. In fact, to be truly happy, we need to be deprived of much happiness in the shallow sense. For true happiness requires wisdom, and wisdom requires suffering. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel says so simply, “The man who has not suffered, what can he possibly know, anyway?”
Happiness is in the spirit
Deep happiness is in the spirit, not the body or even the feelings. It is like an anchor that holds fast and calm on the bottom even while storms rage on the surface. God allows physical and emotional storms to strengthen the anchor; fires to test and harden our mettle. Our souls must become bright, hard, sharp swords. That is our destiny and his design. We are not toys; we are swords. And that requires tempering in the fire. The sword of the self is to sing in the sun eternally, like the seraphim. If we could catch even a glimpse of this heavenly destiny, if we understood why we are destined to judge angels (1 Cor 6:3), we would not see a problem in the sufferings of Job. Teresa of Ávila said that the most miserable earthly life, seen from the perspective of heaven, looks like one night in an inconvenient hotel.