Posted by: jefriesen | August 14, 2010

Questions That Matter

This last week, I posed a question on Facebook, on our church’s website (hebronbiblechurch.org) and through email to a variety of friends, relatives and acquaintances.  I asked them to share their questions about what Christianity is all about.  The answers will be incorporated into a series of messages that I am beginning at our church, titled “The ABC’s of the Christian Faith.” The responses I received ranged from the intentionally frivolous (“what is it with the guys in the turbans?”), to questions about the life of Jesus to questions about why God works the way that He does.  Some of the questions were specifically doctrinal in nature: Can I trust the Bible? How does one get saved?  Through many of the questions, ran some common threads: how am I able to trust God when I experience or see suffering all around me?  Is God really watching?  Ultimately, the questions center around the meaning of life: Does life really matter?  Any brief survey of history would reveal that ours is not the first generation to ask this question. 

In his 1942 book, The Myth of Sisyphus, French philosopher Albert Camus wrote “I conclude that the meaning of life is the most urgent of questions.” 

 His philosophy began with the presupposition that God does not exist and that therefore, life ultimately has no meaning.  And since, in his perspective, life has no meaning beyond our temporary existence, “there is,” he wrote, “but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.”  Camus came to the point where he realized that if God doesn’t exist, then it doesn’t matter what I do, how I live, who likes me, who hates me and who I run over in the process.  The only thing that matters is trying to secure my happiness at this moment.  The idea is to live ‘in the moment,’ without thought to any wider ramifications.  The philosophy that is built around these lines is called ‘existentialism,’ the philosophical grandfather to today’s ‘post-modernism.’  Camus ultimately came to the conclusion that even though life doesn’t matter, you shouldn’t commit suicide, that you should live in defiance of the meaninglessness of life. 

 Camus’ philosophy was novel in 1942.  Today, the philosophy he espoused has become so much part of the fabric our the thoughts of our lives that we don’t, for the most part, even notice.  Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer compared this philosophical shift to “suffocating in a particularly bad London fog.  And just as fog cannot be kept out by walls or doors, so this consensus comes in around us, until the room we live in is no longer unpolluted, and yet we hardly realize what has happened.”  A moment’s reflection (that is all the time we will give for reflection, because we are very, very busy) would reveal that we are no longer thinking about questions that matter. We are too busy trying to be happy now. We flit about from one unsatisfying job to another, from one temporarily happiness-inducing relationship to another, from one guilt-inducing dessert to another. We are seeking to be happy now, and the result is that we give little thought to more important questions.

But the questions won’t go away. Many of the questions that I received after my inquiry last week focused on the meaning of life. Often, the question was formulated along these lines: “if God exists, how can I know that He cares for me?  I’m trying as hard as I can, but it seems as though God is either ignoring me or laughing at me or worse, allowing me to be kicked when I am down.  How can I know that God is going to love me, if all I seem to see in my life is pain?”  On the surface, it seems to be a question about suffering.  In reality, people want to know that they matter to God. 

Our very being rebels against the idea that life has no meaning. Intuitively, we know that Camus was wrong. Perhaps the reason for this is found in the book of Ecclesiastes, where Solomon makes the statement that God has “planted eternity in the human heart.” Church father Augustine stated it this way: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” Though we make little time for it, we do want to know and to answer important questions, questions that matter.

So I am putting it to you. What are your questions? What are your questions about Christianity? What are your questions about the bible? What questions do you have about things that matter? Send your questions to pastorjeff@hebronbiblechurch.org and I will address them (if appropriate) in this space. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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