Reordered Love, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness

David K. Naugle William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids November 15, 2008
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Naugle is chair and professor of philosophy at Dallas Baptist University. In this work, which is heavily dependent on Augustine’s idea of happiness, he argues that God’s original design for His creatures was shalom, “peace, soundness, wholeness, and well-being” (p. xii). Because of rebellion against God in the Fall, humanity has forfeited the possibility of full experience of shalom. Yet the God-given intense longing for happiness remains. Naugle explains, “We lost happiness when we sinned . . . we did not lose our love and longing for it.  . . . In fact, in a sinful world we pursue it with even greater enthusiasm, with even higher hope. Yet we do so in profound ignorance. We attach our loves to various things for happiness’ sake in horribly disordered ways” (ibid.). Without reference to the Creator, fallen humans foolishly pursue the love of things, thus continuing the perversion of God’s plan for creation. Disordered loves produce disordered lives. The gospel is the solution; in fact “one of the primary purposes of the gospel is the reordering of our deepest loves and affections. It gives us new purposes and desires for our lives in this world, here and now. Our disordered loves are displaced by reordered loves, as we learn to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength” (p. xiii).

To understand Naugle’s thesis, the meaning of happiness must be clarified. “Happiness,” as used by Augustine and Naugle, is “not person-relative or an intense hedonistic pursuit. Rather, it is the condition of genuine human fulfillment and flourishing rooted in a relationship with God, whose mercy and grace demonstrated in Jesus Christ reorders our loves and lives in righteous and virtuous ways so that we are able to enjoy—indeed, to relish—all aspects of life and creation appropriate to him. This view of happiness is grounded in revealed and knowable truth in Scripture about God, the creation, human nature, sin and evil, the need for redemption, and the nature of happiness itself in connection with God and the things we love” (p. xv, italics his). Thus the pursuit of happiness is not a hedonistic quest for an ungodly goal. Rather, the desire for happiness is a gift from God which has been corrupted by sin; disordered human loves can be reordered through God’s gracious gift of redemption. In short, the longing for happiness is God-given and can be fulfilled only in Him.

Using Scripture, voices from the Christian tradition, and voices from American pop culture, Naugle tells the story of Creation, the Fall, and redemption, and makes a compelling case for a holistic worldview that provides and produces a proper perspective on life in the world. In a world where everything is broken and nothing is sound, Naugle calls Christians to reorient their lives in the pursuit of happiness. He summarizes his work succinctly when he writes, “The problem as we have seen, is that in our insurgency against God, we have abused our loves in search of enduring happiness, but with miserable results. Disordered loves equal disordered lives. The grace of the gospel has quelled our revolt against God and ended our alienation from him. In our redemption, we have redirected our loves in search of happiness in him, with satisfying results. Reordered loves equal reordered lives. Now we know something of shalom. We have discovered the happy life in Christ—a mere ‘foretaste of glory divine’ ” (p. 204).

Naugle writes in a style that makes the complex simple without sounding simplistic. He synthesizes and summarizes the works of others carefully. His exegetical skills are excellent, and his use of contemporary voices connects with his audience well. His love for Christ and His church is evident and contagious. His passion for service and evangelism is clear and infectious. His love for good music and the arts is passionate and discerning. Those who desire a biblical and distinctly Christian worldview will find in this book what they need.

—Glenn R. Kreider

October 1, 2010
 

Biblotheca Sacra

This review appeared in the Oct-Dec 2010 vol. 167 no. 4 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.

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