October / November 2018 - Vol. 100

Joy in God's presence
"Joy Unspeakable"

Greed and lust are obsessions, but Christian love frees us

by Peter Kreeft 

Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy (l Peter 1:8).

In reference to the human desire for joy Thomas Aquinas wrote the proposition that  "No one can live without joy. That is why a man (or woman) deprived of spiritual joy goes over to carnal pleasures." (Summa Theologica II-II, 35, 4 and 2)

Peter Kreeft comments on Aquinas's proposition that no one can live without joy.

We are designed for joy

We are designed for joy. Joy is our fuel, our food. When true fuel, true food, is missing, it becomes psychologically inevitable that we go after and are victimized by false fuel, false food, which cannot satisfy."

Why is it that "no man (or woman) can live without joy?" Because we are designed by Joy for joy: because "the serious business of heaven is joy" (C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm, Ch. XVI). What we were created to do and experience eternally in heaven is the joy the saints anticipate here on earth.

The word "ecstasy" comes from the Greek ek-stasis, which means "standing outside yourself." The key to ecstatic joy is standing-outside yourself, a self-forgetfulness. All peak experiences have that feature. Once we tum around to look at ourselves, we spoil it. We want to lose ourselves in it, like swimming in an ocean. Eros is so powerful mainly because it is an image of that self-forgetfulness, that yielding bliss.

In self-forgetful joy we can accomplish things we could not accomplish before. This is true even physically. Saints, spies, and soldiers have gone without sleep or food for many days because they were passionately in love with some ideal, if only saving their lives. Every great act of intuitive discovery - every mental act that cannot be controlled by the conscious ego but comes from the deeper, larger world of our unconscious - is an act of self-forgetfulness."

(Knowing the Truth of God's Love, Chapter 8, p. 171, Servant Books, 1993)

Searching for love in today's morally confused world

Everyone knows we are a sex-obsessed society, but not everyone knows the reason. Put simply, sex is for most people a search for love, or even a substitute for love rather than an expression of love. Most of the moral issues people feel deeply about today concern sex: abortion, divorce, premarital sex, family disintegration, homosexuality, and feminism.

Addicts cannot see clearly. Addicts have little sales resistance. These two facts explain (1) why the media which depend on advertising hate and fear traditional religion and (2) why greed and lust go together in our society.

Our society needs sexual obsession to sell its luxuries. Drop sex from advertising, advertising from capitalism, capitalism from economy, economy from politics, and politics from our society; and our society has nothing left. To obey either"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife" or "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods" would be the two most radical, destructive programs you could ever let loose in our society. Just as greed and lust are subversive to love, love is subversive to greed and lust.

Greed and lust are obsessions, but love frees. Love is not an obsession. You make sex free when you join it to love. Marriage does that. It sexualizes personal love and personalizes sexual love. Monogamous, lifelong marriage makes sex free.

Take heart, all you who prefer freedom to obsession. Our society will not last. Nature, like the body, rejects alien organisms. Only love lasts (1 Corinthians 13). What we Christians are doing here is spy work, building a future supernatural kingdom in the middle of the present temporary one. Our citizenship is elsewhere. We are "strangers and exiles" here (Hebrews 11:13). Not only when we live in specifically Christian ways but even when we practice the old pagan virtues like self-control in a society which laughs at such quaint antiquities, we are the true revolutionaries and futurists and progressives. Remember: the kingdom we are building will last when this moribund one dies.

But if the body of sexual love is informed with this soul of agape, it too partakes of eternity. When sex is the servant of love, it comes into the kingdom. Perhaps one of the great developments of modern theology, and a witness to our age, which needs it so desperately, will be a glorious new theology of sex.

(Knowing the Truth of God's Love, Chapter 8, pp. 166-167, Servant Books, 1993)

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