Christian hedonism: why the question is important.

There are a lot of theological questions out there, and some of us aren’t particularly interested in theology. Why, then, should we pay attention to the question of Christian hedonism: whether or not emotions are an essential part of Christianity?

The Great Commandment says that “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” It also says that “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” That probably means that if you get the Great Commandment wrong, you will get every other commandment wrong.

This is why the question of Christian hedonism is so important: it addresses what it means to love God and love your neighbor. A prevalent view in the church says that “love is not a feeling – it’s a commitment.” In this view, focusing on feelings is at best pointless, and at worst destructive. Christian hedonism, by contrast, says that emotion is an essential part of love. In this view, if you say you love God and your neighbor, but you don’t feel anything for them, you aren’t loving them. In this view, focusing on feelings is absolutely essential.

Therefore, Christian hedonism and its alternative have very different interpretations of the Great Commandment, which will lead to very different approaches to the whole Christian life. It’s therefore essential to come to your own decision about what scripture says about these two views.

As always, I recommend the Desiring God Resource Library for more information on Christian hedonism.


One Response to Christian hedonism: why the question is important.

  1. makarios says:

    Too bad there aren’t other comments. I’d like to know what other people think about this. Personally, I think that conjuring up feelings of love aren’t nearly as important as the actions of love. agape love is the willed, volitional, desire to treat someone with respect, protection, kindness etc. etc. It would be nice to have / give both right behaviours and right feelings. On the other hand, if I’m drowning or trapped in a burning car, I don’t really care if you like me even a little bit, just get me to safety. A little closer to home, when I’m working with a couple that is struggling I don’t even mention feelings. If the behaviours don’t change, nothing positive will ever come to pass.

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