Does God Just Want Me to Be Happy?

Along with my regular blog here at, I am now featuring occasional guest posts from some students in the Biola M.A. in Christian Apologetics that I personally had the privilege of teaching. This post is from my friend Ryan Pauly, a high school teacher, who also has an excellent and growing ministry of his own called Coffee House Questions . I simply asked him to write anything on his heart and mind. Check out his ministry and enjoy this post! Sean McDowell

God Hapiness Life

Does God Just Want Me to Be Happy?

Ryan Pauly

It is often said that people become teachers so that they don’t have to work over the summer. Although this may be true for some, it wasn’t true for me this past summer. I spent my vacation working at Summit Ministries and traveling to speak at different youth events. While at one of my speaking events, I was approached by a student who wanted to know my thoughts on drinking and smoking weed. His argument was that it was fine to drink and smoke with his friends because it didn’t negatively affect his behavior or control his life.

Instead of beginning by making a biblical argument explaining why those behaviors were wrong, I began by asking him questions. I first asked why he thought that any action was good or morally neutral simply because he didn’t see it negatively affect his life. This seemed to catch him off guard. It might have been because he was looking for me to give reasons as to why these behaviors did have a negative effect on his life and were therefore wrong. He admitted that pastors had used this approach with him before.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

Without even knowing it, this student had adopted a form of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). One aspect of MTD is the belief that God exists and that the goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself. One huge way in which you can tell that someone is following MTD is by the way they respond to sin. When they are committing a sin, they will think that is it an acceptable thing to do as long as they are still happy. They will not look at what God has to say about that sin since they don’t think God really plays a big role in our lives.

Our students use this form of reasoning when arguing for premarital sex as well as drinking and drugs. They hear their pastors, teachers, and parents say that these things are sin and will affect them negatively. Because they don’t immediately see negative effects, they think the behaviors are fine. This leads them to take a non-biblical approach to morality and ethics because their experience causes them to redefine sin. Sin then is defined as something that has harmful consequences on them and others.

The Dominant Religion Today

I believe that MTD has become the dominant religion of youth today as they fall more and more away from founding Christian beliefs. Youth are being exposed through TV, movies, and schools to just living a good life and being happy in oneself. Today, success is seen as being happy and doing well at what you want to do.

So, my goal was to help this student re-evaluate the way that he determined what was ethically right and wrong and return to a biblical view of morality. An action isn’t good because it makes us happy and bad because it affects us negatively. We understand that eating candy feels good but is bad for us. We also know that shots hurt but are good for us. Instead, we need to get back to looking at what God teaches. God doesn’t want us to just be happy; he wants us to be holy. When he realized this point, I was able to look at biblical reasons with this student as to why he shouldn’t be drinking and smoking weed. It is holiness that brings true happiness.



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23 replies
  1. jcb says:

    Here are my notes:
    Does God Just Want Me to Be Happy?
    Some think drinking is fine if there are no negative effects (T)
    This is false (F: if there are no negatives, and only positives, it is fine)
    SM: Those behaviors are wrong (F)
    Why would an action be good or neutral if it was negative? (b/c those are your 3 choices!)
    Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is the belief that God exists and the goal of life is happiness for us (T df)
    If one does X, and they are happy, the can still be committing a sin (T)
    If one does X, and they are happy, prima facie they are not doing anything sinful (T)
    PMS, drinking, and drugs, all can affect the users and others negatively (T)
    PMS, drinking, and drugs can be used without harming others (T)
    Sometimes X looks harmless, when it actually is harmful (T)
    Many define sin as that which is harmful to self or others (T)
    Sin, for SM, is defined as something else (T?)
    Youth are being told by society to be happy and life a good life (T)
    SM: This is wrong! (F)
    SM: I wanted the kid to give up happiness for self and others, and use a Biblical view of morality (T)
    There are good reasons why the kid should do that (F)
    “An action isn’t good because it makes us happy and bad because it affects us negatively.” (F)
    (Define “good” first, otherwise, “good” means for most people, “makes them happy”)
    Eating candy feels good at first, but not later (T)
    Eating soup feels good at first, and also later (T)
    God wants us to be happy (F, there is no god, and this article says Happiness isn’t important)
    Theists often think God wants obedience and holiness: it’s His world/plan (T)
    FT says God can kill you (T). Thus for some/many theists, human happiness is not important (T)
    Holiness (believing in god, etc.) brings some happiness (T)
    Holiness (believing in god, etc.) sometimes brings true (actual, long term) happiness (T)
    PMS, Drug use, and drinking sometimes bring true happiness (T)

    I am happy to have polite, constructive feedback to my notes.

    • Clinton says:

      Ok I’ll take up your offer.
      Seems like you don’t understand what sin is.
      Sin is a violation of a person, the person created in God’s image. Even yourself.
      Now things defined as sin in the Bible, do have bad effects. Even if they’re not seen right away. This can and has been proven.
      Sin can make you feel good for now. But they have consequences.
      Drinking and doing drugs. You may feel good while you’re on them. Then you may get addicted. Then you’re doing it all the time and willing to do anything to get the next fix.
      Then the effects to the body aren’t pretty. Plus not being sober minded doesn’t help at all.
      Happiness really isn’t all that important. Happiness depends on circumstances. I’ve known filthy rich folk who have everything they need and want, and are still not happy. The pursuit of happiness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
      I understand that you don’t believe in God, therefore nothing is wrong. Just wanted to clarify what sin is according to biblical Christianity.

      • jcb says:

        On your definition of sin, being related to god, then there is no sin. If you mean sin is violating a person’s legal rights, then yes, that sometimes happens.
        Yes some things like murder are mentioned in the Bible as sins, and which do often violate one’s legal rights.
        Yes, doing drugs may harm your body.
        For you, happiness might not be important. It is false to say “happiness really isn’t all that important”. To many/most people, happiness is the most important thing to them. But yes, other things can be important to people also.
        Yes, god does not exist, and I understand that you believe that he does, but it doesn’t follow that nothing is thereby wrong: hurtful, unloving, etc.

  2. Tracey says:

    I’v always had a feeling that the word, ‘sin,’ is over used and under-rated, why, because of the profound simplicity of the meaning, missing the mark, of God. So God became Himself in the flesh to help us, become ‘sin-less,’ (not to sin alittle less), but to become such. Not of our, works, but of His grace, through our Faith in the Father, and why is it that this capitalisation of this ‘Father,’ is the only one in use, an oversite, an undecided decision, or haven’t thought about this yet?
    Nothing we can do, will be seen by God as good, inandof, our own efforts, and just as well, could one imagine the variations, it’s bad enough with one’s own children, of different personalities, in, ‘one,’ life time, let alone………………….and on and on, my mind can’t fathom that, can you?
    The young adult who asked if no harm is done, effected by drugs and/or alcohol, no problem, so no worries.
    Here is a perfect example of , simple sin, it sly and secretive in it’s very nature.
    There is a problem, addictions, grow, lurking in the background, like a disease ( it is), then when the effects, become apparent, affects, mental, physical manifestations of the substance abuse, having taken ahold, what then, does one say about the effects of ‘sin?
    It is not God, calling out the Sinner, it’s the person with the affected self, calling out for help, and the most widely used and successful is ,Twelve Steps, which is………..Christian help.
    One day I would not need or feel compelled to give, a tithing for, charities, because one day, there will be no, ‘need,’ people will be, in good spirit, and happy, and contented, safe and loved, anyway, always for who they are.
    Not worried about, acceptance, being a less than human-being to measure up to another human-being -competition.
    Definitions are only useful if one is using the definition for, good or harm and if your the one on the receiving end of them, and law is based on the common-senses of good, not on bad, otherwise the world would be topsy-turvy.
    Does drug use and alcohol bring, true and long-term actual happiness, for all relatives of the person and the person?

    • jcb says:

      There is no god to see our actions.
      The most tangible, meaningful meaning of “good” and “bad” seem to be things like “happiness/joy” and “suffering”. At least those things can be said to exist.
      For most, if there is no harm, there is no worry, concern, complaint, wrongdoing, etc.
      (usually) When one finds that they are stepping on someone’s foot, they usually realize they were unwittingly causing harm, and then conclude they should stop doing it, and they do so. “harm” is considered “bad” (undesirable, etc).
      Even the mention of addictions suggests that you agree that harm is bad. The point of mentioning addictions seems to be, some things that appear at first to not be harmful in fact are.
      Yes, sometimes people who are harmed call out for help.
      As far as we know, “need” will always exist until all life is gone.
      Definitions are almost always useful to help clarify what one is talking about.
      Often, drug use does not result in long term happiness.
      None of this is relevant to, or proves, god.

      • Clinton says:

        This article wasn’t meant to prove God. It was talking about sin. This is from a Christian perspective, something you don’t know anything about. Really no reason for you to attack it, unless you want people to walk around acting like nothing matters.
        Got something for you though. If you’re right, and we’re wrong, we’ve lost nothing. If we’re right, and you’re wrong, you’ve lost everything.

    • toby says:

      Does drug use and alcohol bring, true and long-term actual happiness, for all relatives of the person and the person?
      I’d say yes. Moderate use of alcohol and marijuana would bring long term happiness. It’s a part of variety of shared experience with other people or even oneself. It’s overuse that is the problem. Not everyone that uses these things falls into alcoholism or dependence. Not the majority by far. I’m sure you’d call gluttony a sin. That strictly has to do with the amount of a thing consumed. Too much can be harmful. Like too much aspirin or exercise or religion. A problem when it comes to christianity and alcohol and weed is that a sheltered upbringing and indoctrinating fear of these things leads people to think if you have one drink or brownie or smoke, you’re a raging drunkard. And all that accomplishes is putting a wedge between people who otherwise might be better together than apart.

      • Clinton says:

        While there are those who think that the consuming of alcohol is sin, it’s actually not. Jesus drank wine. You are right. The over use is sin, and it is harmful. The Bible says, don’t be a drunkard. As for marijuana, I couldn’t say. It has been proven to have negative effects. And it doesn’t leave you sober minded. I don’t use it. But I don’t know.
        Now because there are those who are sticklers on this sort of thing, doesn’t mean all of us are.

  3. Tracey says:

    How do you know there, is no God to see our actions?

    Actually it is relevant, to me and yes it does prove God.
    At the same time you believe it doesn’t, it still does.

    • jcb says:

      In the same way that I know there is no unicorn here. There is (virtually) no evidence for it.
      If you have evidence, please provide it (for god, or unicorns!)

      • Clinton says:

        I’ve said this before. There’s a mountain of evidence for it. But it doesn’t come from the mouth of evolution scientist, then it’s outright rejected.

        • jcb says:

          The evidence for a perfect being fails. I’ve discussed it many times. If you have evidence, feel free to offer it and we can discuss it. Often, atheists do not outright reject it.

          • Clinton says:

            Often, athiest don’t outright reject the evidence. You are right to a certain extent. Many athiest examined the evidence and became Christian. Some concede the evidence but remain athiest. Others outright reject it because it doesn’t fit in with what they want to do.

      • Tracey says:

        The question remains, JCB,
        Q. How, do you know there is no God, not a unicorn, so please keep these separate there is no, Bible on Unicorns, or Religious institutions worshiping Unicorns, there are no sacred holidays for the Unicorns, or a CrossExamination site, for such, if there was I’m sure the world population would know about it so:
        Show me how you know and when did this appear to you.
        And should I believe you, outright.
        Using fact patterns, rules of evidence wont help you in the Belief world of God.
        So you will have to, know, that your evidence is what I am asking you to supply, not your supposed this might fit, hypothetical.
        This is not the laboratory, this site, examines the Word of God, not the productions of laboratories.
        I would be very interested in reading this, absolute evidence there is not God, or Jesus.

        • Andy Ryan says:

          “there are no sacred holidays for the Unicorns”
          So what? There are plenty of sacred holidays and holy books for other Gods that you don’t believe in.

        • jcb says:

          Unicorns are not gods. I never said otherwise. Hence, I am keeping them separate. But, there is no sufficient evidence for unicorns, nor gods. That’s the similarity we were discussing.
          I told you how I know: there is a lack of evidence for unicorns, and a lack of evidence for gods. The one assertion that there is evidence has the burden of proof. As soon as you offer ANY evidence, the burden is upon the atheist to respond.
          No, don’t believe me: go look around, find whatever evidence you can for the assertion of god.
          Evidence will help us determine if god exists, or unicorns exist.
          My evidence is a lack of evidence of the thing you claim to exist. You prove that unicorns don’t exist by looking around, and finding no evidence for them. Now, if someone says, look right behind you, there is a horse like horned creature that you can see, that would be evidence to disprove my lack of evidence.
          Nowhere did I use the word “absolute” in my assertions.
          To summarize: the evidence we seem to have seems to fail to show that a perfect god exists. If there is evidence to the contrary, it needs to be offered up. Otherwise, the conclusion, “There probably is no perfect being” still stands.

  4. Joan says:

    The natural or temporal minded person is apt to sin, having no guidance or boundaries, a Christian, having guidance and knowing what boundaries should not be crossed, will still be tempted to sin. With regards to drinking, a Christian knows the Bible actually says that wine is actually good to have but in moderation. We are warned about “drunkenness” for we are to be sober-minded. Whether Christian or not, doing anything in excess can have dangerous repercussions for all aspects of life, especially when that drug/drink is being used as a venue for escape from the tumultuous waves of stress felt by all within the past 8 or 9 years. Each one of us has their own unique way by which to cope, I pray when I have times of struggle, although the other part of me knows that having a few drinks would calm me down faster, however, the sense of calm is short-lived and very well might be a gateway for overindulgence, ergo, then I would be sinning.
    What is sinning, well being a Christian it would be a rebellious act on my behalf towards God, and the bottom line is this, and I can only speak for myself, if God has set boundaries and limits for me to follow, it’s only for my well-being, to begin with. Before I close, if I may just leave this thought, as indicated I pray when I have tough times, and every prayer was answered for which I cannot chalk up to chance, coincidence, or fate.

    • jcb says:

      Humans in general are apt to sin/make mistakes. No mistakes we know of are acts against god. No god we know of has set any boundaries or limits, or punishments, or rewards, etc.

      • Joan says:

        In wishing you a great weekend, I leave the following words from 2 Peter 2:21…

        For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.

        • jcb says:

          To summarize: a perfect god would want us to be truly (long term) happy, prima facie.
          Prima facie, a perfect god would not have let the Holocaust happen.
          The Holocaust did happen.
          Prima facie, a perfect god doesn’t exist.

          • Joan says:

            You are absolutely right, ergo, Garden of Eden, until sin entered.
            The Holocaust was perpetrated by man against his fellow man,” free will” perpetuated the horror of unspeakable atrocities and evil.

  5. Susan says:

    This is one of the major problems of a revealed religion. The teachers of the revealed religion become behaviorists. Trying to restrict behavior and tell everyone else what is holy and what isn’t.

    But holiness is a state of being. It is not defined by a single act. It is demonstrated by a life lived by abiding in Jesus.

    Christians when they strive after holiness are striving after a form of perfectionism that is unobtainable through a person’s work (s). Or own effort.

    Holiness is a state of being. So confidently rest in Jesus Christ.

    You are a sinner saved by grace.

    The worldly “judge” is always waiting to get and harshly judge the inattentive Christian who missteps.

    So what?

    You aren’t living your new forgiven life for the unsaved people and if they weren’t so busy getting critical with you they wouldn’t have missed they aren’t so perfect themselves.

    Holiness can border on mere behaviorism until you realize God is ultimately in control. He knows already you are going to get some things wrong in spite of your good intentions.

    So relax and be still. God has got you and He won’t drop the connection because you aren’t always perfect. He already knows you aren’t. But His Son is perfect and you are in His Son.

    Yes, thenworld needs better people who demonstrate holiness but isn’t everything relative and how much do other people really see and understand.

    Let the Holy Spirit be your guide more and let people legislate your behavior less.

    Not everyone is an equally good interpreter of the Word so why do you let the pastor et al ride your back with legalism and behavioral controls.

    Get in the Word and feed your Spirit yourself so you can be led by the Holy Spirit more and rely on church leaders less.

    The happiness is in abiding with Jesus. Abiding with Jesus is holiness and reading the Word is consciously making an effort to meet with Him every day in a place that He has ordained as holy.

    God said “Be holy for I am holy”. So holiness is a state of being in Jesus. If you stay in Jesus long enough then spiritual progress is bound to continue because we’re not trusting in ourselves. We’re trusting in Him as the author and perfecter of our faith.

    If a person relies on himself to perfect his own faith he’s bound to fail at it.

    But we can rest i. Jesus. He has us and will make something better out of us over time in spite of the naysayers, worldly judges and critics? Are they there all the time to watch you? No, but Jesus is.

    God Bless to everyone reading. Peace Be With You! God sees you through Jesus no matter what worldly criticism the world has to offer so you can be happy. Jesus will see you pass every test.


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