A Theology of Delight

One of the fascinating discussions that I’ve had recently (today in fact) is with Mark Clavier, Dean of Residential Training at St. Micheals College, Llandaff. As is often the case when you wander the halls of a theological college, you find yourself entering into discussions that have tremendous theological value. This one I found to personally valuable, and will look forward to reading Mark’s results when they are published (hopefully) later this year.

We were discussing his PhD thesis, which was based on the understanding of Delight in the writings of St. Augustine. ;For those of you that have some knowledge of his writings, St. Augustine does not come across as a very happy chap, so this notion might be somewhat surprising.

The basic premise is based on the notion of redemptive Delight. God takes Delight in us, and in his creation, and it is through this joy that he calls us back to himself. We, as humans, are captivated by Delight. It is, in a very real sense, what we live for. Mark maintains that Augustine sees this as being the very source of all that keeps us from God as well.

The premise is that we don’t do things that we dislike. Thus, when we first take a sinful action it produces in us a huge amount of Delight. This Delight then diminishes with every following action that we take of the same kind, because a lot of the thrill and the newness has gone. This, however, traps us in a cycle of constantly trying to get back that true Delight that we found the first time. As you can see, there are huge parallels with addiction to drugs, and other substances.

St. Augustine maintains, however, that it is only through God (or, more precisely, the action of the Joy of God, the Holy Spirit in us) that we can find peace from these desires, and ultimately find the perfect Delight that we so crave. We are programmed, as it were, to seek out Delight, but most often the easiest Delight to find is that of the Devil.

Augustine (or so Mark claims) lays out the argument in the form of two great orators drawing people to himself (apparently drawing from an invented myth by Cicero). The orator draw people in by their speech, and having gathered a crowed, impart their wisdom. Both Satan and God preach this word to us, but as we are already looking towards Satan (ie. we are already tainted by original sin), it is that orator we see first, listen to first, and react to first. Thus God’s voice can be difficult to hear over the din of others clamoring for the too-good-to-be-true offer of Satan.

It seems a fascinating idea, and a wonderful way to look at the action of God, and the action of the Devil, the purveyor of this false and addictive Delight.

There was also an addendum to the conversation that talked about the Orthodox view of the fall, and Mark suggested that the Orthodox see each of us as re-enacting the fall, and being both Adam, and Eve. This is a fascinating idea, so I leave this note here as a personal reminder to explore this in the future.