Happiness or Joy… or Both?

In this three-minute video, I talk about the artificial distinction made by many Bible-believing Christians between happiness and joy. (I address this in my book Happiness, which will release this October.)

Happiness or Joy? from Randy Alcorn - EPM on Vimeo.

As I share in the video, in the book I’m arguing against the prevalent evangelical belief that joy is good and godly, while happiness is bad and worldly. This is without biblical base, yet is dogmatically stated. We are losing the good word “happiness” which is the language spoken by philosophers, theologians and Christian thinkers for centuries.

In AD 397, Augustine said, “Every man, whatsoever his condition, desires to be happy.” [1] He added, “There is no man who does not desire this [happiness], and each one desires it with such earnestness that he prefers it to all other things; whoever, in fact, desires other things, desires them for this end alone.” [2]

Nearly thirteen centuries later the French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) wrote, “All men seek happiness. This is without exception." [3] Pascal’s contemporary, English Puritan Thomas Manton (1620–1677), said, “It is as natural for the reasonable creature to desire to be happy, as it is for the fire to burn.” The Puritans consistently affirmed that Christ is the answer to the human quest for happiness. Yet in the mid-twentieth century Oswald Chambers (someone I deeply respect) and others started saying in essence, “Happiness is a shallow and worldly emotion; joy is a deep reality of our standing in Christ, not an emotion.”

I believe this has no biblical basis, and that William Tyndale and the KJV could have translated Philippians 4:4 as “Be glad” or “be happy in the Lord always, and again I say be happy.”

My biggest concern is that since all people seek happiness, instead of telling them they shouldn’t, or that the gospel doesn’t bring happiness, we should encourage them to find true and lasting happiness in the only place it can be found—Jesus. Let’s not burn the bridge between the world and the gospel of Christ by telling them to seek happiness elsewhere!

I look forward to sharing more about the book in the months to come!



[1] Thomas A. Hand, ed., St. Augustine on Prayer (South Bend, IN: Newman Press, 1963), 1.
[2] P. Schaff, ed., The City of God (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Co., 1887), 75.
[3] Blaise Pascal, Pensées, Section VII.

photo credit

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries