The search for happiness can be elusive. Where can it be found? Dr. Andrew Cameron explores how and why we search for happiness and gives some surprising insights on where it can and can't be found.
Our guest: Andrew Cameron is Director of St Mark’s National Theological Centre in Canberra and Associate Professor at Charles Sturt University Director. His PhD was a theological account of the relationship of ethics to emotion, and regularly writes on the intersection of theology, ethics and public life.
This conversation was recorded live in Canberra in September 2018 in partnership with the Simeon Network.
Invest in bigger thinking for as little as US$1 per podcast on Patreon.
Bigger Questions asked in the conversation
Andrew - your PhD was in emotion. Is that because you’re an emotional kind of guy?
What made you interested in emotions for a PhD topic?
Today we’re asking Andrew Cameron about finding happiness. So Andrew our smaller questions to you are about “happy songs”.
Introduction to happiness
So Andrew, is the Bible just too serious and mournful compared to our modern culture - like fun, songs like Pharell Williams' song, Happy?
Your PhD was a theological approach to the emotions. What did you discover? That Christians are kill-joys?
Did you think much about happiness?
Pursuit of happiness in our culture
Today we’re talking about happiness - but what exactly is it? It is an emotion or something more?
So why is the pursuit of happiness so pervasive in our culture?
Happiness in ethics
Much of your research and thinking revolves around theology and also ethics. So is the pursuit of happiness the way to live life well?
The English ethicist, Jeremy Bentham, claimed that greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation - is this a satisfactory model of ethics?
Bible’s answer - happiness connected with the Son
The book of Psalms, the Old Testament song book, also has songs about happiness, though they’re a bit different to Bobby McFerrin’s or Pharrell Williams' son. The first song, Psalm 1 start with the words,
Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night
Is blessed the same as happy?
Some would translate Blessed with happy, so happy are those who reject the advice of evil people. How does this help us understand happiness?
But what about when things don’t seem to be blessed - or happy. There are some very dark passages in the Bible. E.,g. Job 7: 7, where the poor man Job laments, Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath; my eyes will never see happiness again.
Or in Psalm 88:18 where the author concludes by saying, darkness is my closest friend
How do we understand these?
The next Psalm or song, gives perhaps a greater insight. It’s a Psalm which speaks about the special ‘anointed’ one of the Lord God. It concludes in verses 11 and 12,
Serve the Lord with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.
Kiss his son, or he will be angry
and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
What is the significance of this?
Have you found happiness in the son of God?
The Big Question
So Andrew, where can I find happiness?