home > Pastor’s Desk > 2022 > Mar 11th > HOW TO MAKE SENSE OF IT ALL

YOU ONLY HAVE TWO OPTIONS FOR MAKING SENSE OF THE WORLD

How do we answer the deep questions of life? This is a challenge at the best of times, but it is particularly a challenge when the world — or at least your world — is in turmoil. The deep questions of lie can be summed up into four words: Origins, Morality, Meaning, and Destiny. You really only have two options when it comes to being able to coherently answer these four deep questions of life. Either, there are no answers to these deep questions about life which means life has no order, meaning or purpose; or, there are answers to these deep questions and the world is ordered, purposeful, and has a Cause. I am going to appeal to reason and intuition to substantiate my claim that the second option is actually the only rational explanation for our world and our lives – and is especially necessary to grasp when it is difficult to make sense of it all when the world seems to be going mad.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
John 14:6

OPTION #1, NIHILISM 

The idea that life’s deep questions have no answer and therefore life has no cause, source, purpose, or destiny, is known as nihilism. In Dr. Vishal Mangalwadi’s book, The Book That Made Your World, he opens with the story of Kurt Cobain [pictured right], the former lead singer of the world’s highest selling rock band, Nirvana. “On April 8, 1994, an electrician accidentally discovered a dead body in Seattle, Washing ton. A shotgun had blown the victim’s head into unrecognizable bits. The police investigation concluded that the victim of this ghastly tragedy was the rock legend Kurt Cobain (b. 1967) and that he had committed suicide a few days earlier” (Mangalwadi 2011, 3). Mangalwadi goes on to describe how Cobain had increasingly accepted nihilism. His song lyrics included lines like I want to die and other more obscene expressions of despair. Since nihilism is the belief that life has no purpose, meaning or destiny, and therefore there is no right or wrong conduct (morality), there can be no true justice in this life. This can only lead to the type of despair that Cobain experienced. I think Option #1 is not a positive way of looking at the world and its effect on those who embrace it is nearly always destructive. 

There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.
Proverbs 14:12

It is very difficult to be a nihilist because it does not correspond to reality or what we all know intuitively. It’s like being in the deep end of a swimming pool and trying to push a large inflated beach ball under the surface of the water. No matter how hard we push, it just keeps forcing its way back to the surface. That’s similar to how it is for the nihilist. Reality and intuition just keeping pushing the truth back to the surface.

¶ Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation
Psalm 42:5

HOW THE ANCIENTS THOUGHT ABOUT THESE GREAT QUESTIONS

The ancients looked at our world marked by natural disasters, human despotism marked by wars and violence, as being directed by some intelligent power. The Greeks called this power, Logos “the reason.” The New Testament writers, particularly the apostle John, picked up on this term coined by the Greek philosophers, and used it to refer to Jesus in John 1:1, 14 —

In the beginning was the Word [the Logos],
and the Word [the Logos] was with God,
and the Word [the Logos] was God.
John 1:1

¶ And the Word [the Logos] became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

To the New Testament writers, Jesus provided the most coherent answers to mankind’s four greatest questions – origins (where did we come from and why are we here), morality (what are the rules of life that will enable me to live my best life), meaning (what is my purpose, potential and place in this life) and destiny (after this life is over what is my eternal destiny). The ancients knew there were answers to these universal questions and that the quest to coherently answer them was mankind’s deepest longing. 

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles [non-Jews]
are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Colossians 1:27

 

OPTION #2 – JESUS CHRIST 

Jesus stated that all of mankind’s deepest longings could only be satisfied in coming to know Him! He was either a deranged lunatic with false visions of aggrandisement; or, He may have been telling the truth and thereby been true! There really is no third option.

And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
John 17:3

Jesus claimed to be the eternal One and thereby the Cause of all things (Col. 1:16-20). Jesus also claimed to be the highest moral authority and thereby the source of the Law of God for all mankind (Matt. 5:21-22; John 5:22, 27; 8:16). He summed up the ten commandments that He gave to Moses with just two commands that if a person lives by them “they would live forever” (Matt. 22:37-40; John 6:51). Jesus stated that the meaning of life was not a task – but a relationship. This was to be a loving relationship of the highest order and commitment involving devotion to, and worship of, the Source of all Love and Truth (Jn. 17:3; 1John 4:7). He also claimed to be the sole Judge with His Father of the eternal destinies of each person who has or will ever live (John 5:22). Consider Christ’s claims to deity in this unmistakable declaration of His supremacy over your destiny based on your acceptance or rejection of His Lordship-  

For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself. And He has given Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
John 5:26-29

 

MAKING SENSE OF A SENSELESS WORLD

But how do these claims of Lordship by Christ help us to make sense of a world at a time when a powerful nation instigates a brutal invasion of its neighbour and wreaks massive loss of innocent life? The Word of God affirms God’s control over nations and history — despite despotic national leaders and dictators — with the assurance that all injustices will be brought to account.

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;He utters His voice, the earth melts.
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
Psalm 46:6, 10

¶ God reigns over the nations;
God sits on His holy throne.
Psalm 47:8
 

Making sense of this world, especially at a time like this, still requires answering the four deepest perpetual questions of mankind. But it also requires understanding our Creator’s unfolding story of redemption. This story has often been summarised as: Creation; Fall; Redemption; and, Restoration. It was the fall of the original mankind from innocence into rebellion that introduced evil into our world. It was at this moment that God the Creator was revealed as God the Redeemer because His plan of redemption was instigated with the announcement that the Redeemer would be sent into the world as a human to be born in the usual way (Gen. 3:15) but later declared by the prophet that He would be born from a virgin mother (Isa. 7:14; Mtt. 1:21-23). After Jesus fulfilled His role in His Father’s plan of redemption and was raised from the dead and then ascended back into the heavenly dimension of eternity, He had set in train the ultimate destruction of evil and its devilish promoter.

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil,
for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
First John 3:8

But if Jesus Christ is the Logos, the One who enables us to understand our world’s origin, meaning, morality and destiny, who is the Central Character in the Story of Redemption, has conquered evil and the devil, then why is there still evil and devilishness in the world? Two things are important to understand in answering this question. Firstly, no matter what evil schemes and acts of wickedness any devilish dictator has wrought, history reveals that despite this — and despite the tragic losses of life — God has redeemed subsequent events toward the eventual culmination of His yet-to-be-concluded-plan-of-redemption. Secondly, God has decreed that an ultimate day of Judgment will come, but not yet! It is on this basis that I can say with some testable confidence that the present circumstances in eastern Europe will be redeemed by God, and that those not brought to justice in this life will face the full consequences of their actions on the last day (Jn. 12:48). To fully make sense of all this – and every other future act of devilish evil – we need to understand the most important truth of all: God is good and can only do good.

 

THE SOURCE AND STANDARD OF GOOD

The ancient Greeks raised a different  problem. Was God actually ‘good’? This was referred to as the Euthyphro Dilemma. Was something ‘good’ just because it was what commanded by God? or, Was something commanded by God because it was good? This dilemma is resolved by discovering the God is the Source and Standard of all that is good. Therefore, God only ever commands that which is good (it doesn’t become good because God commands it). 

One of the emotional/intellectual problems that people who accept that there must be a God that resembles closely or exactly the God described in the Bible have had over the years is the problem ow Why would an all good and all powerful God allow suffering, evil, and tragedy in His world? Either He is not really all good and doesn’t care — or He is not really all powerful and is unable to do anything about it. Theologians refer to this problem as Theodicy (the problem of evil). This problem is resolved by asking a greater question: Does God ever ordain or allow what we perceive to be “wrong” because He has a morally good reason for doing so? This greater question is answered when we reflect on Christ’s passion and crucifixion. By working through these questions we may be able to understand why God might allow or ordain natural evil (floods, fires, disastrous weather events) and committed evil (such as wars, violence, crimes against people, brutal oppression of others). Especially when we view the world from the perspective of there being an eternal Judge who redeems those who turn to Him, and holds to account those who don’t. This is why answering the question of mankind’s destiny is so important to making sense of life and the world we live in. And it is only in discovering that the questions relating to our (and our world’s) origins is found in the Logos of the Father who became one of us to show us the way back to His Father.

 

THEREFORE, THE FOUR ANSWERS

ORIGINS – of our world and our lives can only be explained by the existence of an uncreated eternal Creator who is the cause of this world and our lives.

MORALITY – we live in a world of rules and laws that govern physics, chemistry, biology, and astronomy. This is why we observe order in the cosmos from gigantic galaxies to the structure of the small cell. It is also why we intuitively know right from wrong which enabled us to conduct the Nuremberg Trials after World War Two. It is why we know that certain wrong conduct is wrong even when a government or court says that it is not (as happened in 1930s and 40s Germany).

MEANING – we are created to worship, to express thankfulness, and give due adoration to our Creator. We do this by praise, prayer, working, creating, playing, loving, helping, teaching, building, judging, nurturing, protecting, and being restored into the True Image of God (2Cor. 4:4-6) we were created to be. The meaning and purpose of life is not happiness, but holiness.

DESTINY – life does not stop at the grave. C.S. Lewis stated in Mere Christianity, “There is no such thing as a mere mortal. No person is a mere mortal because every person that God has created in His image has been created as an Immortal. We will all live forever. Our eternal destiny is determined by whether we yield to Christ as our Saviour from our sins and accept His lordship and live by the power of the Holy Spirit whom He has sent.

By seeing the world this way we will be able to make sense of it all.

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

1 Comment

  1. LYDIA

    I see. Your Pastor’s Desk spiel is appreciated because it removes the emotive responses people can have and walks thru the logical, biblical texts, roads, so that the net again falls gently back over God’s infallible inerrant Word, knowing that God can only be good, is always good. It’s man that makes a mess of things and will either turn to Jesus and receive life eternal in His presence forever or those who refuse to, will also receive life eternal, without God. Many many years back I recall a sermon where this preacher explained that ‘Hell is a place where God is not’. So if God is only good which He is…I know who I’d rather be close to.

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 Truth is sometimes testable (that is, claims that are experiential can be tested by experience – including scientific claims, historic claims, and existential claims).
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Of the many tributes paid to her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was the often noted reflection that during her reign the world underwent a series of rapid changes that were dramatic and unprecedented in human history. There were technological inventions that revolutionised the way people could access international travel options enabling them to be virtually anywhere in the world within a matter of hours. New forms of communication emerged with the development of a global satellite communications network enabling people to watch Neil Armstrong take his one giant leap Live on their black-and-white TV screens (as I did in the corridors of Corio Primary School in 1969). Space exploration, the stuff previously just in the realm of science fiction writers, became a reality with manned and unmanned voyages to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But the past one hundred years have also been a time of great upheaval with empires crumbling, governments toppled, wars waged, genocides committed, pandemics raging, nations birthed, rulers assassinated, and massive refugee movements from oppressive Islamic and Communist regimes. Added to this has been the demise of professional journalism and the rise of internet-citizen-journalism where it is now common for TV News reports to feature footage taken from someone’s cell-phone which was posted on social media rather than the more expensive option of sending their own film crew there. And while we’re mentioning the internet, let’s not forget to mention – the internet. This alone has possibly been the most monumental change in the way people communicate, work, learn, and shop. But while it was noted that the Queen had witnessed all of these many changes, it was also noted that the Queen herself was an unchanging constant during all these upheavals who brought about a sense of stability, peace and reassurance. To millions of people around the world, she was their rock in a world of turmoil and change. Yet this was only possible because she herself had an immovable, dependable rock upon which she had built her life.

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