A Few Example Posts:

  • "The End of Faith: A Short Response to Sam Harris"
  • See also:
  • "A Long Response to Sam Harris' The End of Faith, by Neil Shenvi"

  • "Is John Piper the Best Answer to Emergence and Postmodernism?"

  • "Captured"

  • "The Storm is Over"

  • "If Golfing Were the Pursuit of Moral Perfection"

  • 11.14.2005

    A Fifth Look at Buddhism: Suffering, One of the Three Marks



    As mentioned before, Buddhism says that life is suffering, and suffering comes from desire. Life can never really satisfy us; therefore, we should not cling to the objects of our desire. If we do, we will hurt ourselves. We must overcome our desires.

    This philosophy reminded me of some dialogue in the last of the Star Wars prequel. Anakin Skywalker was afraid he was going to lose everything he wanted: namely his wife. He was told he had to let her go--give her up. This was the only way to save her and himself. He had to overcome his desire. But he didn’t. He inordinately grasped and held to his longings. This turned him to the Dark Side, and he became Darth Vader.

    Is it true that suffering is rooted in our desires? It seems that it is true, to a degree. But I would have to qualify this thought in a couple of ways.

    God created the world to be a place that fulfills desire. Food was abundant because man was made to desire it. Marriage was instituted because man had a desire for companionship and physical relationship. And God was to be man’s ultimate desire. He satisfied that desire with an immediate presence.

    But things changed.

    The Biblical account of life tells us that suffering comes, not from desire itself, but from wrong desires and weak desires.

    WRONG DESIRES

    The doctrine of Original Sin explains how moral evil entered the human race. It came through rebellion in man’s heart. The allure--the temptation--was rooted in man’s awakened desire to be “as gods.” Man wanted to have what was forbidden because that one fruit was apparently “good for food, pleasant to the eyes...and to be desired to make one wise (Genesis 3:6).” This is when all the suffering began. It came in with the Fall of Man. It came from wrong desires.

    Desires become wrong, not because they are desires, but because they are twisted, misplaced, or excessive. God’s will is that we straighten, properly place, or reign in our desires. Only His grace can put us right; however, He has not condemned us for being creatures who desire. It is the exact opposite. He created us to have desires.

    WEAK DESIRES

    Weak desires also plague us. We are not satisfied with anything in this life because our desires for the objects that can fulfill us are too weak. Here is another quote from Lewis:

    “If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire or 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. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”1

    John Piper uses the above quote to set the stage for his philosophy of finding joyful fulfillment in God. He couches this philosophy in provocative terms, but I cannot find the following points to be unbiblical (the points are tightly woven together and won’t stand without each other):

    1. The longing to be happy is a universal human experience, and it is good, not sinful.

    2. We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse. Instead we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction.

    3. The deepest and most enduring happiness is found only God. Not from God, but in God.

    4. The happiness we find in God reaches its consummation when it is shared with others in the manifold ways of love.

    5. To the extent we try to abandon the pursuit of our own pleasure, we fail to honor God and love people. Or, to put it positively: the pursuit of pleasure is a necessary part of all worship and virtue. That is, The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever.2

    God is happy in Himself. He rejoices in the eternal fellowship of the Trinity. Out of the abundance of His joy, He created all that we see. He created us to enter into His joy. We refused to do so, choosing to live in the darkness and disappointment of life on our own. We are left with desires that can never be fully satisfied. So we twist them hoping to find some fulfillment. We misplace them and create false gods to worship. We live in excess but find diminishing returns in our pursuit.

    All the while, Christ has come to redeem us from a life of futility offering everlasting water to quench our spiritual thirst--our desire. “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness...”

    In the swirl of all this, we never hear God say, “Squelch your desires. Escape from them into the void.” Rather, He promises Himself to us in redemption. In heaven, the immediate presence of God will be the fullness of our joy. Of course, even as Christians, we will never find our complete satisfaction in this life. We have some waiting to do. Lewis addressed this condition:

    Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.”3

    The “real thing” is found in God. All other holy pleasures simply point to Him.

    Our problem is not desire. It is where we place our hopes for fulfillment. Seeking to escape or negate our desires is not good enough. We must have them sanctified and fulfilled. The psalmist said it well: “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” Psalm 17:15.

    ---------------------------------------
    1 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, Collier Books; MacMillan Publishing Co.,1952), 120.

    2 John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Sisters, Oregon, Multnomah Books, 1996), 23.

    3 C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco, 1980), 26.

    6 Comments:

    At 9:01 PM, Blogger Jinzang said...

    I've commented on this post on my weblog, The Careless Hand.

     
    At 11:03 PM, Blogger David Kear said...

    Josh,
    This is a great blog. I really appreciate what you are doing here. On the subject of Buddhism, I have seen many Christians lately who are for one reason or another quoting or sighting Buddhist texts and applying a sort of Christian identity to them. It is almost a “many ways to the same God” kind of thing. All the while they are missing that the fundamental premise of Buddhism is completely contrary to Christianity. Here is a verse that really speaks to one fundamental difference between the religions.

    “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)

    The right path is made know by God. That path is in His presence and is therefore, full of joy and pleasure. This is a huge contrast to the Buddhist view of suffering and self made, indescribable paths of illusions.

    I will visit here again.

    Thanks,
    DK

     
    At 3:50 AM, Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

    C.S. Lewis' Platonism comes out in the quote towards the end. Apart from that, very sound stuff.

    God Bless

     
    At 11:00 AM, Blogger John Rush said...

    David,

    Welcome aboard!

    Dyspraxic,

    It seems Lewis is heavily influenced by Plato. I don't deny...

    JRush

     
    At 10:44 PM, Blogger Rose~ said...

    I almost didn't recognize that guy in the photo with out his mask! (heavy sigh)

     
    At 10:55 PM, Blogger John Rush said...

    Come on Rose! You've gotta keep up here.

    Stars Wars is muy, muy importante!

    JRush

     

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