The Problem of Pleasure

from Aug 10, 2010 Category: Articles

Just about everybody thinks there is a problem of pain. Even philosophers assume that the most formidable theoretical problem is that of suffering. The most grievous question, however, is why pain constitutes a problem, for the real problem lies elsewhere. It may trouble you as a reader to learn of someone who thinks pain is not a problem. You have thought it obvious not only that there is pain, but also that pain in a world created by a good God is indeed a problem. Since no one in this world escapes adversity altogether, no one doubts that there is pain in the world. Some of this pain is excruciating. In fact, some people face more distress than comfort. Apart from Christian Scientists, no one we know denies that pain hurts.”

This is how John Gerstner begins his short work The Problem of Pleasure (which can be found in Primitive Theology: The Combined Primers of John H. Gerstner). In this short work, Dr. Gerstner looks to one of the greatest theological and philosophical problems of them all: pain and suffering. He approaches it from a unique angle, though, a biblical angle, insisting that the true question is not Why do we suffer? but Why do we experience pleasure?. Gerstner says, “As long as there is sin, there can be no problem of pain. A good God, if He is omnipotent, would have to make the sinner suffer. … Troubled by the non-problem of pain, most people do not feel the real problem. The real difficulty is the problem of pleasure. While in a sinful world, pain is to be expected, and pleasure is not to be expected. We should be constantly amazed at the presence of pleasure in a world such as ours.”

Here are the headings he uses to organize his thoughts on the topic:

  • The Non-Problem of Pain
  • The Real Problem is Pleasure
  • Why Pain is Not the Problem
  • Why Do the “Righteous” Suffer?
  • Why Does God Permit Pleasure?
  • Where Mercy and Justice Meet
  • Real Pleasure Forever

Over the coming days, we are going to highlight this resource here, sharing Dr. Gerstner’s argument about why pleasure is far more problematic than pain and how God calls us all to real pleasure forever.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the first part.