Thursday, February 23, 2012

Charity, Hope, and the Argument from Desire

A redated post. 

Book 3 Ch. 9 Mere Christianity
Charity-One of the theological virtues, faith, hope, and love
The seven cardinal virtues are wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice, to which the three theological virtues of faith, hope and love are added.
Today thought of as what used to be called “alms,” giving to the poor.
Earlier would have been regarded as having a wider meaning
Charity means love in the Christian sense
Love in the Christians sense does not mean an emotion
When we love ourselves it does not mean that we like ourselves
If we like other people it is easier to love them
While you should encourage affectionate feeling toward others, it is a mistake to try to manufacture feelings.
Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor, act as if you did.
If you treat someone kindly you will find it easier to like him more, unless you’re doing it to show what a good chap you are.
If you treat people well you will like more and more of them as you go along.
If you treat people badly you will end up hating people more. The Germans mistreated the Jews because they hated them, and then hated them because they mistreated them.
The little decisions we make are of great importance. Good acts we perform result in greater charity, bad acts, giving into wrongful desires, result in accumulating harm.
Our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.

Book 3 ch. 10
Hope
Thinking about the next world is not a kind of escapism or wishful thinking, but is what a Christian is meant to do.
Your thoughts about the next world are not supposed to make you want to leave this world as it is.
(Lewis is here contradicting the standard Marxist analysis of religion. The Marxist idea was that the oppressors try to persuade the oppressed that there will be a better life in the next world so they won’t be so rebellious in this one.)
If you read history you will find that those who did the most for the present world were those who thought most about the next world.
The Apostles, the men who built the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the slave trade, left their mark on earth because their minds were occupied with heaven.
The Church has been ineffective in our time largely because we have ceased to think of the other world
Aim at heaven and you will get earth “thrown in: aim at earth and you will get neither.
Most of us find it hard to want heaven at all, except for wanting to meet loved ones who have passed away.
The real desire for heaven that we have we ourselves do not recognize.
Most people who look into their own hearts, would know that what we do want, and want acutely, cannot be found in this world.
There are all sorts of things in the world that offer to give it to you, but never quite keep their promise.

“The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones. There was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality. I think everyone knows what I mean. The wife may be a good wife, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent, and chemistry may have been a very interesting job, but something has evaded us.”

The U2 song “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” illustrates Lewis’s point perfectly (remember that Bono is a Lewis fan).

I have climbed highest mountain
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you

I have run
I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in her fingertips
It burned like fire
This burning desire

I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
Well yes I'm still running

You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Of my shame
Of my shame
You know I believed it

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for...

There are three ways of dealing with this kind of desire.

1) The Fool’s Way. Keeps looking for something in this life that will offer ultimate satisfaction. More money, a new woman (or man), a more expensive holiday will do it. Bored discontented people do this. They go through the divorce courts time after time to find the perfect partner who will satisfy them fully.
2) The disillusioned sensible man. Realizes that whatever it is we are longing for can’t he had, and learns not to give in to “wishful thinking.” This makes him less of a nuisance to society, but is does make him a prig, but nevertheless he “rubs along quite comfortably.” This is the best approach to take if there really were no eternal life. But what if infinite happiness were really offered to us, but our “sensible” attitude had stifled our ability to enjoy it.
3) The Christian way. “Creatures are not born with desires unless the satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire, well, there is such a thing as sex. I want to fly like a bird, well, there are such things as airplanes. Scratch that last one, Lewis doesn’t mention it. But, he says, if I have within myself a natural desire that cannot be satisfied in this world, so its satisfaction must be in store for me in the next world.

Why should we think that a natural desire within us would not exist unless it was satisfiable? Well, let us suppose that God and evolution are the main two explanations for why we have the desires that we have. We can understand easily why we have those desires if God has outfitted us with the desires that we have. These desires are God’s “calling card” whereby He draws us to Himself. But suppose evolution were the explanation, as it would have to be on naturalistic assumptions. It is possible, of course, that these desires should evolve, but should we expect this? Should we not expect that desires that don’t directly promote survival would be shoved out of the way by desires for food, clothing, and shelter, power, and strength, which do us so much more good from an immediate survival standpoint. If we didn’t know better, we should expect this meme to become extinct. On the face of things, we have something that obviously provides Bayesian confirmation for theism. We have something that is very likely on the theistic hypothesis, and perhaps compatible with atheism, but not very likely given atheism.

See also this old post on the argument from desire.

http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2006/01/argument-from-desire.html

10 comments:

Edward T. Babinski said...

VIC [summing up Lewis] "If I have within myself a natural desire that cannot be satisfied in this world, so its satisfaction must be in store for me in the next world."

ED: Ask yourself what desires you truly have, apart from love and friendship, interacting with others--and pursuits of the "heart," mind, the arts, and seeking to discover new places, friends, etc.; and that such desires/pursuits may "not end?"

Is there a desire specifically for "God?" In what sense? By whose definitions of "God?" It seems to me that those who seek "God" the most devoutly and earnestly also are prone to either fanaticism and intolerance of others and their "God," or they are prone to universalistic mysticism. Neither is there any easy way to prove that the desire for "God" equals say, Lewis's particular ideas of "God" and his view of "Christian truth" and "worship."

Don Jr. said...

Ed, who said there was a natural desire specifically for God?

Edward T. Babinski said...

I was thinking of the Christian expression, "we desire God and will not be satisfied until we rest in Him."

Desire for an afterlife, a "heaven" if you will, proves nothing, as I said in my original post.

Don Jr. said...

I've never heard that expression, Ed. Is it quoted somewhere? I think you might be confusing an Augustine quote. And I didn't see the word "afterlife" or "heaven" in your first post, so I don't know which "original post" you're referring to. Either way my point was that C. S. Lewis doesn't claim we have a natural desire specifically for God, so I didn't really see your point in stating that we don't have something which Lewis never says we have (since the original blog entry was about a portion of Lewis's Mere Christianity).

William said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, How is desire an argument for anything other than a desire? We want to not die, and lots of animals would second that motion. And we want to be happy, and I'm sure there's elephants, dolphins and apes that would second that motion as well.

For Lewis, he wanted to not die and remain a personal being with his own personal memories intact from this life, and able to build on them and experience further joy and happiness, greater than he has in this life, but aren't all of those hopes based on things he's experienced in the natural world?

And if he means some sort of extraordinary joy that is unrelated to anything experienced in this life, then how does he know anything about that unless by analogy with his experiences of joy in this life? The word has to have a natural, this wordly referent to even be recognized as "joy."

Certainly Christians want to be happy in the "arms of God" if you will. But not everyone loves Jesus, and/or a personal God like Christians do.

While others may find joy and love Krishna, not Jesus. Like that Reformed Christian philosopher who recently
converted to a form of Krishna-love religion. I even read about a Catholic priest in India who couldn't help but think of God's love in the form of Krishna though he'd been a priest for decades. And another Catholic priest who ran a Christian-Hindu ashram, a fellow convert and lifelong friend of C. S. Lewis, Dom Bede Griffiths, and his books concerning a more universalistic spirituality and theological understanding than Lewis'.

And still others may have ecstatic joyful experiences loving Amida Buddha (see The Inner Eye of Love by William Johnson, a Jesuit who has dialogued with Amida Buddhists) Conrad Hyers in one of his books mentioned a Zen sect that also experienced ecstatic love and joy that they described in very similar terms that Born Again Christians use, see Once Born Twice Born Zen.

And still others may discover joy and love in sects of various sorts (even small cults) rather than major religious faiths. What does it all prove? Damn if I know. But it's not exactly an argument or proof of anything.

Papalinton said...

Ed
" .. still others may discover joy and love in sects of various sorts (even small cults) rather than major religious faiths. What does it all prove? Damn if I know."

One thing which we do know with some certainty is that pretty much all humans are capable of experiencing emotions and ecstatic states of consciousness, whether they are religious believers or otherwise. So it seems a belief in belief is singularly unnecessary and not a requisite for the expression of these charged emotive states.

Victor Reppert said...

Ed: For Lewis, he wanted to not die and remain a personal being with his own personal memories intact from this life, and able to build on them and experience further joy and happiness, greater than he has in this life, but aren't all of those hopes based on things he's experienced in the natural world?


VR: Nope, Ed, the desire simply to go on existing was NOT his desire. He makes that very clear in SBJ. He said that the one great thing about the atheist world-view was that you didn't have to go on existing forever, that there was "a door marked exit."

This is a simple factual mistake I would have hoped that even you would avoid.

Gregory said...

"Now in our case nature, owing to its being indigent of the Good, is aiming always at this which is still wanting to it--and this aiming at a still missing thing is the very habit of Desire--which our constitution displays equally, whether it is baulked of the real Good, or wins that which it is good to win.....Whenever the soul, then, having divested itself of the multifarious emotions incident to its nature, gets its Divine form and, mounting above Desire, enters within that towards which it was once incited by that Desire, it offers no harbor within itself either for hope or for memory. It holds the object of the one....Becoming by this assimilation to the Good all that the nature of that which it participates is, the soul will consequently, owing to there being no lack of any good in that thing itself which participates, be itself also in no lack of anything, and so will expel from within the activity and habit of Desire; for this [Desire] arises when the thing missed is not found."

"On the Soul and Resurrection" by St. Gregory of Nyssa

"Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness..."

All "desires" are really inadvertent desires for God Himself, since He made all things "good"; including "desire" itself.

"And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being." --Acts 17:26-28

Redspect said...

"If you haven't any charity in your heart you have the worst kind of heart trouble" to cure it help people, let's unite for one good cause, be a volunteer"save lives"!mawaddainternationalaid