Christians can and should enjoy life, responsibly


Last weekend, a 22-year-old woman, known by the twitter handle “Vodka_samm,” tried to storm the field at a University of Iowa football game. “Just went to jail #yolo” she tweeted afterwards. “Blew a .341 in jail.”

During their college years many Americans replace the Christian faith of their youth with what they see as a hedonistic “live in the moment” mentality. Ironically, it isn’t their pleasure-seeking hedonism that conflicts with Christianity — it’s their being so bad at hedonism that causes the conflict.

Ignoring the future and focusing only on the present moment is a terrible strategy for a hedonist. As the influential Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard pointed out, “it is precisely man’s greatness, the proof of his divine heritage, that he can occupy himself with the future…” otherwise man would “be enslaved like the beasts, his head bent toward the earth, his soul ensnared in the service of the moment… What then is the eternal power in man? It is faith.” It is the fact that the Christian has already conquered the future through faith which allows him or her to face the present without fear and thereby to truly find happiness in the moment.

Whether or not to be a Christian is often presented as a choice between self-denial for Christianity and pleasure-seeking for atheism. However, Jesus never criticized people for seeking pleasure, he criticized them for seeking pleasure in things that are fleeting. He said in Matthew 6:19-20 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” He didn’t criticize them for being hedonists — he criticized them for being so bad at it. The Bible even says that Jesus himself was motivated by the pursuit of joy: Hebrews 12:2 reads “He endured the cross for the joy set before him.”

C. S. Lewis criticized the notion of self-denial as an end in itself which he saw creeping into modern Christianity: “If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith…Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.”

But isn’t it better to do something out of a sense of duty than because we enjoy it? Not according to the Apostle Paul, who said in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a cheerful giver.” Jonathan Edwards, America’s greatest theologian, even argued that it is morally better to seek your own happiness in helping others rather than out of a sense of duty: “The most benevolent, generous person in the world seeks his own happiness in doing good to others, because he places his happiness in their good. His mind is so enlarged as to take them, as it were, into himself. Thus when they are happy, he feels it; he partakes with them, and is happy in their happiness.”

Andrew Rogers is a junior in philosophy. Please comments to