The Pursuit of Happiness: C. S. Lewis’s Eudaimonistic Understanding of Ethics

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This understanding has particular promise in thinking specifically about worship.  Lewis himself provides a moving description of worship, one that naturally emerges from this perspective.  And with it I close:

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.  It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete until it is expressed. […] If it were possible for a created soul fully (I mean, up to the full measure conceivable in a finite being) to ‘appreciate’, that is to love and delight in, the worthiest object of all, and simultaneously at every moment to give this delight perfect expression, then that soul would be in supreme beatitude.  It is along these lines that I find it easiest to understand the Christian doctrine that ‘Heaven’ is a state in which angels now, and men hereafter, are perpetually employed in praising God. […] To see what the doctrine really means, we must suppose ourselves to be in perfect love with God-drunk with, drowned in, dissolved by, that delight which, far from remaining pent up within ourselves as incommunicable, hence hardly tolerable, bliss, flows out from us incessantly again in effortless and perfect expression, our joy no more separable from the praise in which it liberates and utters itself than the brightness a mirror receives is separable from the brightness it sheds.  The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  But we shall then know that these are the same thing.  Fully to enjoy is to glorify.  In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.[16]

[1] Lewis, C. S. (1996). “The Weight of Glory.” The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses. Ed. W. Hooper. New York, Simon and Schuster: 25-26.

[2] Horner, D. A. (In progress). “The Problem with Happiness: C. S. Lewis, Selfishness, and Christian Eudaimonism.”

[3] Epistle LXXI. “On the Supreme Good.”  Seneca (1962). Ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 73.

[4] Nichomachean Ethics (NE), 1.4, 1095a18-21.

[5] NE 1.7.1097a35-1097b7.

[6] Annas, J. (1993). The Morality of Happiness. Oxford, Oxford University Press.  See, e.g., pg. 5.

[7] Pinckaers, S. O. (1995). The Sources of Christian Ethics. Washington, DC, Catholic University of America Press, 18.

[8] Sermons, 150.3, in Howie, G., Ed. (1969). St. Augustine on Education. Chicago, Henry Regnery Company, 86-87.

[9] Letters, 118.13-20, in Ibid., 91-92.

[10] Eudaimonia and makaria are near synonyms in Greek, as are felicitas and beatitudo in Latin.

[11] City of God, X.3, in Augustine (1994). Political Writings. Indianapolis, Hackett, 73.

[12] Ibid., 73-74.  Augustine is referring in the context to Ro 12.1-2.

[13] IV.28, Ibid., 108.

[14] ST IaIIae.1-5.

[15] In Marrow of Theology and Charity and Its Fruits, respectively.  Cited in Jones, D. C. (1994). Biblical Christian Ethics. Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books, 56.

[16] Lewis, C. S. (1958). Reflections on the Psalms. New York, Harcourt, Brace and World, 95-97.

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