I read CS Lewis say that the Beatification is an "infinite good" and, hence, "infinitely outweighs the negations" (the stuff we shall leave behind here). He also argued, in Letters to Malcolm, that we shall not experience time as an infinite present because we are finite creatures and, therefore, can only experience what suits our humanity. Being that we are finite, does that mean when he (or other writers) talk of 'infinite joy' they mean it metaphorically rather than literally? In Weight of Glory, Lewis also refers to it as 'transfinite'.


Before I get to the point, I'm going to start with how we understand Scripture, even though your question is not about an exact phrase found in Scripture, because it sets a principle for understanding literature that is common not just to Biblical studies, but to other texts as well.

Next, I'm going to preface this with an honest "We really don't know, we can just give our best guess". We would have to ask the original author to know for sure, so I'm torn about whether to answer the question, or VTC as opinion-based. I'm answering because I think the question has merit, and I think that most would agree with the assessment I'm about to give.

Typically, "infinite joy" isn't taken as literal, it's taken as a figure of speech.

As explained in my answer on From a Fundamentalist standpoint, what does the phrase “Inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God” mean?

The doctrine of inerrancy does not imply hyper-literalism. As noted above, in the second possible mechanism for Biblical Inspiration, we believe that God allowed the writer's literary style to be used in the writing of Scripture. Hyperbole (the use of exaggeration as a figure of speech. Example, "I'm so hungry, I could eat a horse.") is allowed.

This is a principle applied to any form of textual criticism. Determining the line between literal and allegorical can be summed up in a simple principle:

Dr. David L. Cooper, the founder of The Biblical Research Society out it much more simply. Dr. Cooper is known for his “Golden Rule of Interpretation” which is as follows:

When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense,seek no other sense;

Therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths indicate clearly otherwise.

In this case, the question is, does it make sense that a finite being could experience infinite joy? I don't think so, becuase infinite implies that there wouldbe no joy in existence that a person doesn't have. I would have to have your joy, you'd have to have mine, and there would be in "individuals" We'd all be One. There's no corresponding Scripture to support the idea that we lose our individuality after death, so it just doesn't make sense.

It seems apparent that CS Lewis and the others who write of "infinite joy" are using hyperbole to express "a joy so great that we cannot imagine it" or perhaps "the most joy it is possible for a finite being to experience".

  • Thanks, I've liked this comment. Still, would adding other people's interests improve joy? Or can literally 'infinite' joy be got from indivual happinesses? I guess that's what always puzzles me... That is, I love watching Dr Who (I have no idea what you like but say that you like 'tennis' for this example...)- Now I could never have the joy that 'you' derive from tennis, nor (probably) could you enjoy watching Dr Who as much as me. If my enjoyment reaches an exciting fulfillment, would it be improved if I added your joy on to mine? Is the unique flavour of sausage and mash improved by candy? – Sehnsucht Nov 9 '13 at 20:17
  • I suppose then, it depends on the definition of "infinite". The definition I am familiar with is that there is nothing beyond it. If there is something beyond it, then there is a limit to what it encompasses, and that limit is where it meets something beyond it. Maybe I've got an over-literal definition of "infinite", in this case, though. There are other definitions. mine is #4 here: dictionary.reference.com/browse/infinite The other meanings could certainly apply literally. – David Stratton Nov 9 '13 at 20:57
  • My definition is the same: what I'm saying is couldn't a pleasure in a certain something (in this case, our particular relationship with God) NOT have a limit or cut-off point- I mean, would the lack of having your particular joy of God mean my own only reaches a certain fixed point and vis-versa...or are they 'different' threads, different things, that can run on with no borderline. It's true that if I had rice but you also had rice, I couldn't state I had infinite rice (I'd be lacking yours). But does lacking other people's loves mean you love any less or are they individual? – Sehnsucht Nov 9 '13 at 21:17
  • The 'BIGGIE', I suppose, is whether you believe joy CAN go on to heights unmeasurable. If it is like a car engine and can only hit a certain speed at full throttle...well, the whole question is mute. We will be happy because the motor will be going all out...That makes me feel slightly pained (not envious, merely pained) that our capacities should be so imprisoned if there is any greater happiness than that out there...but maybe even that is fixed and the whole notion of 'infinite joy' is just imaginative and impossible! – Sehnsucht Nov 9 '13 at 21:23

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.