The Problem of Pleasure - A Challenge to Atheism


(SeanO) #1

Was rereading ‘Soul Survivor’ by Philip Yancey and ran across this bit in his chapter on G. K. Chesterton. So often Christians are challenged with the problem of pain, but what about the problem of pleasure? What about the terrific beauty and joy that springs upon us unexpectedly when we are walking through a forest painted red and gold by the hue of its foliage, the light dancing through the trees?

Yes, nature sends mixed signals - there is pain and cruelty in nature. But the sheer ecstasy of the joy it provides is unnecessary for natural selection to march forward - these echoes of Eden cannot be ignored and present a challenge to naturalism.

What are your thoughts? How have you experienced the glory and beauty of creation? How does the goodness of creation cry out for a creator in spite of the reality of the brokenness of creation? How does the fall of man and nature and the pregnant cry of Romans 8 for rebirth play into it?

After his long odyssey, Chesterton returned to faith because only Christianity provided the clues to solve the mystery of pleasure. “I felt in my bones, first that this world does not explain itself… Second, I came to feel as if magic must have a meaning, and meaning must have some one to mean it. There was something personal in the world, as in a work of art… Third, I thought this purpose beautiful in its old design, in spite of its defects, such as dragons. Fourth, that the proper form of thanks to it is some form of humility and restraint: we should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them… And last, and strangest, there had come into my mind a vague and vast impression that in some way all good was a remnant to be stored and held sacred of some primordial ruin. Man had saved his good as Robinson Crusoe saved his goods: he had saved them from a wreck.”

Where does pleasure come from? After searching alternatives, Chesterton settled on Christianity as the only reasonable explanation for its existence in the world. Moments of pleasure are the remnants washed ashore from a shipwreck, bits of Paradise extended through time. We must hold these relics lightly, and use them with gratitude and restraint, never seizing them as entitlements.


(Andrea L) #2

Just a short answer if you don’t mind.
“How have you experienced the glory and beauty of creation?” - I had to look outside of myself. Point my focus away from myself. And I think that’s one of the underlying main issues of today’s society. People looking inside. Focusing on themselves. Therefore, they cannot see the beauty of creation. Because to see that they should abandon their own greatness in their own eyes.


(SeanO) #3

@andrea.l That’s a good point. Sometimes we can be so caught up in our own worries / concerns that we forget to gaze up at the stars or take a walk in the woods. A bit of time in nature can do wonders.


(Billie Corbett) #4

It is a very sad thing in our modern culture…because there is the witness of God in creation…

Romans 1: 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse…

The enemy of our souls has turned and is turning a whole generation into screen addicts. Rather than them being outdoors …experiencing God in his creative glory. Technology has its benefits…but, it has it’s curses…
Children are dependent on their parents to set the example of taking pleasure …by being in nature. To point out to children the preciousness of all that is spread out beneath our feet and over our heads…(and who is responsible for bringing such majesty and beauty into existence.)
It is innate within us…this attraction to nature’s wonder and beauty…unless it has been actively dulled by various negative factors in our development.
For example, my spouse and I have vacationed where there are whales…lots of marine life, etc. What happens when a whale breaches and puts on a display we can see…Everyone in the area…gets excited and flocks to witness it. They feel energized by seeing such magnificence…It makes them feel happy, joyful, blessed.
Or beautiful sunsets…same thing. If folks have access to seeing a beautiful sunset…they are drawn to it… as if the setting sun were magnetic…
Each one stands to watch…They marvel…absorbing it’s spendor…without really realizing what they are attracted to…or what they have witnessed…
To be honest, I think humans need to be more connected physically, tangibly, visually to the created world around them…
For the benefit… it’s pleasure provides…as well as, for God to get a chance to speak through what He has made. Hopefully, a longing to know Him will be stimulated…They will seek…and God will respond.
I love being outdoors. It detaches me from materialism … which is such a trap in the modern world. It brings my natural senses to life in the way God intended them to be. To notice, (to see, observe) to hear, to smell, to touch…The sensuality God intended us to have…instead of the distorted sensuality of modern culture.
I hear birds singing…and I praise God for them. I see flowers blooming and I praise God …I hear the wind rustling in the leaves of the trees, and I sigh with pleasure. Trully, I could go on…and on. I am soooooo looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth! Can you imagine what this world was like in the beginning? I think about it and just marvel at the thought of it…What unimagineable pleasure and joy will be ours in the new earth…that God is going to make.
This is our original calling…to cultivate and subdue the earth.
This planet was our God given home…We were made for living in tune with the natural world around us.
Yes…drink deep of the pleasure innate in the nature world…it is the gift of God to us…even in our fallenness.


(SeanO) #5

@Billie Indeed - the creation declares the glory of the Creator! I can’t imagine what it will be like to live in the New Heavens and New Earth where all of the beauty of creation is present without the fallen bits of it - the ecstasy of the natural world indwelt by the presence of God. Human attempts to grasp at the wonder of a supernatural world, like Avatar, will fall far short.


(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #6

I love going for walks, even though all sidewalks around me come with a busy road right next to it. I love going for jogs in the summer, but what i love most is going to the hills and going for long hikes. The only problem is that I’m the only person in my family that enjoys that sort of thing. It’s too bad. My three pleasures in life are studying scripture/theology, reading/writing literature, and hiking. I’m very odd in the fact that I’m comfortable in both city and country. Being stuck in rush hour traffic or stuck behind a piece of farm equipment on a gravel road, it’s all part of my DNA :wink:


(gerhard NvC) #7

Why would it be a problem for natural selection. Does anyone claim it to be a consequence of it? Then the existence of suffering would be equally problematic


(SeanO) #8

@O_wretched_man I’m impressed you can enjoy the city as much as you do the country. I do like cityscapes when the weather is good, but not nearly as much as a hike through the woods / getting out into nature.


(SeanO) #9

@Gerhard_G I think the argument basically states that natural selection, on its own, would not be likely to produce the fullness of experiences that we humans are privileged to know. That is not to say there would not be benefits to pleasure being induced by certain actions - but there is no need for it. The height of our experiences suggest that we were intended to enjoy life - not merely to survive.


(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #10

I never intended to even dare to suggest that a walk in the city is on par with a hike in the wilderness! The latter is far superior in my mind, for sure. What I meant is that I’m completely comfortable in both places. But for sure, if I’d have a choice, I’d most definitely choose the hike!


(SeanO) #11

@O_wretched_man Yes, there is something about being out in nature that provides a unique opportunity for reflection and worship. Though cities can be nice as well - it’s just hard to get that same sense of solitude / wonder in a city.