Noted Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland offered a warning to Oklahoma Baptist University students as he spoke in a chapel message Friday, Feb. 19. He cautioned students to not become addicted to happiness.
"People are addicted to being happy today to such a degree that if they're not happy, they can't function," said Dr. Moreland, distinguished professor of philosophy at Biola University.
He argued that America has an epidemic of unhappy people who are constantly searching for their own personal pleasure. Moreland said the reason stems from a new perception of happiness. Today, he said, happiness is defined as "a feeling of pleasurable satisfaction." However, he noted, the current meaning differs from a more classical or biblical understanding of the term.
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"There's another definition of happiness," Moreland said. "This definition of happiness holds steady from Moses, to Solomon, to Plato and Aristotle, to the early-medieval thinkers to the late medieval thinkers, to the Protestant reformers, up until the 1800s in Great Britain. If you were to ask 'What is happiness?' here would be their answer: 'Happiness is a life of wisdom, virtue and character.'"
Moreland said the definition extends to biblical truths found in both the Old Testament and New Testament.
"In the Old Testament, happiness is the fear of the Lord and life lived wisely or well, according to the Proverbs," Moreland said. "In the New Testament, happiness is a life that is lived like Jesus Christ."
Reading from Matthew, Chapter 16, Moreland offered Christ's words on how to achieve such joy. The passage describes Christ's call to his disciples to deny themselves daily and follow him.
"His analysis of this issue towers above any of the classic thinkers you could read," Moreland said.
Moreland said "following Christ" means living each day by giving of oneself to other people for the sake of God's kingdom.
"You can get good at this," Moreland said. "You know how to get good at tennis, or you know how to get good at Spanish. The way that you get good at these things is practice, practice, practice. You have to practice it."
Moreland said giving of oneself requires a person to orient his or her life to be a blessing to others. This comes through the practice of denying oneself. The promise Moreland pointed to in Christ's words is that through the denial of self and service to God, one gains life and happiness.
"Learn to give your life away to other people for Christ's sake," Moreland said. "Look past yourself. Do something with yourself that serves other people and makes the world a better place because you were here. And guess what? If you do that, not only will happiness not be as important to you, but you will end up being a lot happier than you would if you tried to be happy."
Moreland's address concluded OBU's Focus Week 2010 chapel series. The week's theme was "The Body of Christ." Each year Focus Week concentrates on helping members of the OBU community strengthen their relationships with God and others.