True Wisdom Leads to True Happiness


Seeking true wisdom leads to true happiness. This is a very old and very Christian truth.

Boëthius, a Christian living in the 5th–6th century AD, wrote a very influential book called The Consolation of Philosophy while awaiting execution on death row. Not a typical martyr, historical evidence suggests that Boëthius was there on trumped up charges under the heretical king Theodoric.

In the midst of these terrible circumstances, it seems that Boëthius sought to write out his experience in a way that was part biographical and part fictional. In terms of genre Consolation is a Socratic-like dialogue. In modern terminology, it reads something like a complex screenplay.

The main character of The Consolation of Philosophy is Boëthius himself, in exactly the same situation that the author found himself in: sitting in prison awaiting death. We read that the character Boëthius is visited by an angelic-like being who seeks to console him in his situation, appearing in the form of a woman who calls herself “Philosophy,” or literally from the Greek “Lover of Wisdom”.

In reflecting on his unfortunate circumstances Boëthius, the character, complains that he was a victim of the goddess Fortuna (i.e. Fortune) the Roman goddess of luck, or Lady Luck. As a Christian, Boëthius clearly did not believe in a literal goddess Fortune, but he knew that this familiar imagery was often appealed to in his day. Boëthius used this imagery in order to express an opposing viewpoint, one that is also represented by another “lady,” namely Lady Philosophy. In other words, in contradistinction to Lady Luck, Boëthius focuses upon Lady Wisdom.

But what does Lady Wisdom say to Boëthius to console or comfort him in his unfortunate circumstances? She challenges him to think more contemplatively. The problem, she suggests, is not outside of Boëthius but rather within him: “You have not been driven out of your homeland; you have willfully wandered away. Or, if you prefer to think that you have been driven into exile, you yourself have done the driving…” (Book I, 5), which resonates with the New Testament: “What causes quarrels…among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1).

Lady Philosophy then causes Boëthius to reflect on the fundamental questions of what constitutes true happiness. Happiness, she claims, is not found in wealth, power, sex, or any set of favorable circumstances. Rather, Lady Philosophy claims that true happiness is to be found in the quest for the supreme good, in God alone. Boëthius responds, “Grant, Oh Father, that my mind may rise to Thy sacred throne. Let it see the fountain of good; let it find light, so that the clear light of my soul may fix itself in Thee” (Book III, 9).

At Bethlehem College & Seminary we agree with Boëthius’s claim. True wisdom leads to true happiness. And true wisdom is found only in God, as revealed through Jesus Christ. With the ancient Christian Boëthius, we find true consolation and happiness only in our Lord and Savior, the True Wisdom (Luke 11:49).

James McGlothlin
Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Theology

Prayer Requests

  1. Pray that we all would seek our ultimate happiness in God alone.
  2. Pray for the filling of the Alex Steddom International Scholarship, which is supporting René and Chying Chying in the 2018-2019 school year and one more student in 2019-2020.
  3. Pray for a fruitful Fall Preview Day next Friday, that many would discern more clearly the Lord’s leading as they consider attending college or seminary here.
  4. Pray for an impactful Think: Revisited conference next Friday and Saturday, that many would come and be encouraged as we consider why and how we study the Word and the World at Bethlehem College & Seminary.