Randy Alcorn. Happiness. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. 480 pp. $14.45.
Randy Alcorn is an author who consistently places strong, biblical challenges before his readers. His newest work, Happiness, is no exception. The book is arranged in four parts and is arranged as is summarized below.
Part 1: Our Compelling Quest for Happiness
Alcorn lays the groundwork here by making the biblical case for happiness. He confronts the typical evangelical notion that God is only concerned with our holiness but disregards the need for happiness. Such views are not only unbiblical but harmful to Christian growth and progress.
The author argues that happiness is a part of the warp and woof of the Christian life. “Every man,” says Augustine, “whatsoever his condition, desires to be happy.” Ultimately, Alcorn reminds readers that their happiness is grounded and rooted in a relationship with God through Christ: “Longing for the happiness of humankind once knew, we can be drawn toward true happiness in Christ, which is offered us in the gospel.”
Part 2: The Happiness of God
Part two explores a theme that has been largely neglected in the church, not to mention, most works of Systematic Theology. Alcorn says, “Some people suppose happiness is uniquely human, unrelated to God’s nature: as he gave us a body and hunger, which he doesn’t have, he gave us a capacity for happiness, which he also doesn’t have. I believe. Something radically different – that God wants us happy because he’s happy.” Jonathan Edwards adds, “It is of infinite importance…to know what kind of being God is. For he is…the only foundation of our happiness.”
The author builds an unshakeable case for the happiness of God by pointing to key texts in Scripture (Zeph. 3:14, 17; Ps. 2:12; 16:11; Deut. 30:9; Ps. 35:27; Isa. 62:5).
At the heart of section two is the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity. For in the Trinity, we find a God who is eternally happy. Alcorn cites Michael Reeves who says, “The Trinity is the cockpit of all Christian thinking.” Indeed, as Alcorn writes, “The only way God’s happiness or love could be without beginning is if there exists within God himself a reasons for and object of his happiness and love.”
The author helps readers understand the earth-shattering consequences of a happy God and the impact this reality has on our worldview: “But God is fully happy, one day we will be fully happy.”
Part 3: The Bible’s Actual Words for Happiness
Part three is the most technical part of the book as Alcorn includes a detailed word study of happiness and all the related words in Scripture. One section is especially significant as the happiness which emerges from Scripture is set forth in vivid detail. A few samples include:
Happy are those who believe in Jesus.
Happy are those facing trials for Jesus’ sake.
Happy are those who see and hear Jesus for who he is.
Happy are those who serve God faithfully.
Happy are those who trust God’s promises.
Happy are those who obey God’s Word.
Happy are those who help and serve others.
Happy are those who have been forgiven by the Lord.
Happy are those who see unhappiness as a warning sign.
Happy are those who are also holy.
Ultimately, our joy is not optional. Rejoicing in the Lord is a command (Phil. 3:1; 4:4).
Part 4: Understanding and Experiencing Happiness in God
The concluding section includes several chapters that include practical ways to pursue happiness. The culmination of the book includes several meditations on the essence of our existence on the New Earth where we will experience unvarnished happiness in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Happiness is a breath of fresh air in a world that tends to minimize happiness. Alcorn aggressively confronts the popular notion that God is only interested in our holiness but has not interest in our happiness. He advocates the radical pursuit of joy, which by definition, necessitates holiness. Indeed, on cannot have one without the other. The pursuit of joy and the commitment to holy living are not at odds! Randy Acorn’s work is loaded with encouragement that lifts readers out of the clutches of mediocrity, discouragement, and complacency. He urges readers to pursue a higher calling, namely, happiness. Such happiness is found in the gospel, in a relationship with the God of the universe and his Son the Lord Jesus Christ!