A Circle of Friends

friendThe presumed benefits of friendship have been the focus of many self-help books and the authors have suggested that healthy friendships are a key metric to measure happiness; boost your physical and mental health; and, they may even extend your life.

A group of researchers from the University of Oxford decided to test the value of friendships, and their research has yielded some interesting results:

  • The research suggests that people with a large circle of friends have a higher pain tolerance.
  • The social interactions you have with your friends triggers the release of endorphins that are conducive to positive emotions.
  • Endorphins generate a strong pain-killing effect that’s stronger than morphine.

Which is of more value: Facebook posts or face-to-face interactions?  Katerina Johnson, co-author of the study, has said: “In this digital era, deficiencies in our social interactions may be one of the overlooked factors contributing to the declining health of our modern society.”

Even though, he didn’t make his conclusion based on a questionnaire, Solomon knew the value of a good friend:

  • Proverbs 17:17: A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
  • Proverbs 27:17: In the same way that iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens the character of his friend.

I’m not sure who Aristotle had in mind when he said, “The antidote for fifty enemies is one friend.” I do, however, know that his words remind me of something Jesus said:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:12-15).”

The God Question: What Can You Know?

questions_godWhen John wrote his first letter, he said:  “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”

Four words from that verse are interesting:  “that you may know.”  These four words also beg the question: “What can we know about God?”    I believe the response to this question falls into 1 of 3 categories:

  1. God is unknowable, and we can know nothing about Him.
  2. We can know everything there is to know about God.
  3. Even though we cannot know everything there is to know about God, we can know something about God.

Each of the three items above are the basis of a worldview, and your worldview is the lens through which you view reality.

Concerning item #1 in the list above, if a person knows enough about reality in order to affirm that nothing can be known about reality, then he knows something about reality, so he cannot assert that all of reality is unknowable.  Stated another way, if he knows nothing about reality then he can’t make a statement about reality. I find this to be a self-refuting position because it assumes some knowledge about reality in order to deny any knowledge of reality.

In regard to item #2, I’ve studied religions for the most part of my life, and I would never agree with this statement.

Item #3 is, I believe, the most accurate statement.  I know I cannot know everything there is to know about God, but I do know that I can know some things about God.

When you discuss the possibility of God’s existence and the potential of knowing Him the thinking of Aristotle is interesting.  In Physics, Aristotle offered some logical reasoning that concludes that the initial cause of motion must be something that is not, itself, in motion or what the philosopher called “an unmoved mover (1984, 1:428).”

Thomas Aquinas was influenced by Aristotle, and he built on Aristotle’s reasoning: “Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another…. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality…. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e., that it should move itself. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover…. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God (1952, 19:12,13).”

Because God is both eternal and spiritual and not physical or finite being, He is not subject to the condition of requiring a beginning. This is a key concept in the Law of Causality set forth by Immanuel Kant. According to Kant, “everything which is contingent has a cause, which, if itself contingent, must also have a cause; and so on, till the series of subordinated causes must end with an absolutely necessary cause, without which it would not possess completeness (Kant, 2008, p. 284).”  Simply put, an uncaused Cause is necessary, and only God sufficiently fills that void.

Jeff Miller has expounded on the works of Aristotle, Aquinas, and Kant:  “If there ever were a time in history, when absolutely nothing existed—not even God—then nothing would exist today, since nothing comes from nothing (in keeping with common sense and the Law of Thermodynamics, Miller, 2007). However, something exists (e.g., the Universe)—which means something had to exist eternally. That something could not be physical or material, since such things do not last forever (cf. Second Law of Thermodynamics, Miller, 2007). It follows that the eternal something must be non-physical or non-material. It must be mind rather than matter. Logically, there must be a Mind that has existed forever. That Mind, according to the Bible (which has characteristics proving it to be of supernatural origin, cf. Butt, 2007), is God. He, being spirit, is not subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics (The Law of Causality and the Uncaused Cause, Jeff Miller, Ph.D.).”

 

The Happiness Secret

61rSjSmiZ1LEven though I’ve never watched a full episode of Duck Dynasty, I do know the motto of the main character on the show.  Phil Robertson often says:  “Happy!  Happy! Happy!”

Have you ever given any thought to the source of happiness?  The ancient philosopher, Aristotle tried to answer this question.  He believed the most important factor in an effort to achieve happiness is to have a good moral character:  “He is happy who lives in accordance with complete virtue and is sufficiently equipped with external goods, not for some chance period but throughout a complete life (Nicomachean Ethics).”

Happiness is not an on-going quest for instant gratification.  It is, however, the product of a disciplined life that has been focused on the practice of the virtues.

To be content, your life needs to be filled with the right content.  A good example of this is seen in a contrast of Abraham and Lot.  After a family feud, Abraham allowed Lot to claim the well-watered and fertile plains of Jordan as his territory. Lot turns his herds and servants in that direction, and after a brief period of time, he has “pitched his tent toward Sodom.”  Genesis 13 describes this city and its inhabitants as exceedingly wicked.

The difference between these Lot and Abraham is seen in the word content.  Lot’s tent (life) was full of conniving desires that led him away from the virtues of God; however, the story of Abraham was much different:  His tent (life) was content as he delighted in the goodness of God.

Ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • How happy am I?
  • Does the content of my life help or hinder lasting contentment?

As you think about these questions, read this excerpt from Psalm 1:  Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.

Is happiness an accident, or is it the result of a life well-lived?