Nothing exists without God…
What does it mean to be human?
Biologists tell us we are primates.
More specifically we are haplorhini. Dry-nosed.
As opposed to wet-nosed primates. Strepsirrhini.
Now that we got that out of the way, are we more than that? Of course.
The one thing that separates us from all other animals, more than anything else, is consciousness.
We think and make choices. We have a will. Our will gives us the ability to make choices.
Today there is a lot of talk about artificial intelligence. AI. Computers that can think like humans. Computers that can make choices.
This is nonsense. Computers don’t even compute. Humans compute using computers as information tools. Computers don’t make choices. They simply record human choices, store them, and retrieve them.
A computer is not like you. A computer is a tool used by you. A good analogy is pen and paper. When we use a computer we are using electronic ink on silicon paper.
No, human beings are unique in all of creation because of consciousness. Making choices. The ability to think about thinking.
But where does this consciousness come from? What is the origin? Consciousness can’t create itself. It has to have an origin outside of itself. The origin can’t be located within our universe. So, logically, there has to be a transcendent source. Transcendent, meaning outside of our own creation.
Our consciousness comes from a non-physical transcendent source. Or, welcome to God, with a capital “G”.
God is the source of our consciousness. And God is the source of the consciousness of our universe. The physical world, along with the rational laws of the universe like gravity or mathematics, didn’t just show up magically. They didn’t somehow evolve. The laws of the universe, like our own consciousness, come out of God. We don’t exist without God.
“You can’t create something out of nothing.” Why is this basic truth ignored so often?
…and it was good
But there is more. We don’t exist unless our transcendent source is good. Our source makes it possible for us to flourish. And because of consciousness, we can discover what is good. We can be naturally drawn to the source of good. We can choose to follow the good God. And human beings have done just that. Humans have worshiped the transcendent source in one way or another since the beginning of humans. Human beings have made choices in the way they live as a result of seeking the will of the source. And over this time the human will has been drawn to discover more and more who this God is.
About 4000 years ago, some humans beings began to discover the true source. At least that is what I think! God begins revealing himself to his people, Israel, and they are given the choice to worship and follow him, or not. They make good choices when their will is subject to God’s will. He reveals his will in his law, most clearly in the Ten Commandments. Ten guideposts for human beings to flourish. But God’s people use their wills most often to reject his ways. Like one of God’s prophet’s, Isaiah, said, “Each has turned to his own way.” This brings destruction to God’s people, so instead of restoring the world to God’s blessing, hope seems lost.
Then, 2000 years ago in the Middle East, in the little town of Bethlehem, hope becomes eternal. Something amazing takes place. The transcendent source of the universe, the source of all that exists, reveals himself in one human being, Jesus. And this human being flourishes and lives life according to the will of the source, whom he calls his “Father.”
And it was revealed that Jesus himself is the source, as Paul says, “For in him all Fullness was pleased to take up dwelling.”
And so the source of all existence not only revealed himself, but gave all human beings purpose and meaning in their lives. As our wills are drawn to that which is good, it is revealed that the path for our choices in life, what is right and good, is to follow the model and teachings of Jesus. As we trust in Jesus, and choose to follow in his ways, we flourish. And when we, the assembly of the people of God birthed through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, use our wills to serve his will, our neighbors flourish. The world itself transforms for good. Our purpose is to seek the good of God and seek the good of our neighbor.
This sounds like a beautiful picture doesn’t it? A grand story that the transcendent source of all that exists reveals himself for all to see and is Fullness itself. Tragically, this grand story, which the transcendent source of all that exists lives out in our world, is no longer the story of our society.
We all have a view of the world that influences choices we make. Why are the model and teachings of Jesus so dynamic when they are actually lived out?
How choice itself, has become sacred…
In America, choice itself has become our god. We worship freedom of choice. We worship the individual will to make choices for ourselves. The words of Isaiah the prophet are haunting in this day and age.
“Each has turned to his own way.”
We call this “freedom.”
As author David Bentley Hart has written about freedom today,
“Freedom is the power of choice rather than the ends the individual might choose.
The power of choosing itself is liberty…
Neither God, then, nor nature, nor reason provides the measure of an act’s true liberty, for an act is free only because it might be done in defiance of all three…
We have a pronounced tendency in society at large less to judge the laudability of particular choices by reference to the worthiness of their objects than to judge objects worthy solely because they have been chosen.”
In other words, the only thing sacred is to choose whatever I want as an individual, regardless of what impact this will have on my life or society at large.
“Each has turned to it’s own way.”
For my parent’s generation it was different. They still had a grand story that believed in right and wrong, good and evil, and sacrificing for the sake of others. They followed the grand story of Jesus and his ways, or at least they were haunted by it enough to stake their claim on the story.
The results are in. My parent’s generation overcame the great Depression of the 30’s, and then saved the world from unfathomable evil in the 40’s in WW 2. Well, that took three and a half years. This generation, sometimes called the Builders or the “Greatest” generation, believed in something bigger than themselves. Now, like all human beings, my parent’s generation had many flaws and failures, probably no greater than not passing on the grand story to my generation, the Baby Boomers, who cut our teeth in the 50’s and came of age in the 60’s. Somehow, we lost the sense of the grand story, we lost a big enough drama to bring us a sense of meaning and purpose that would last and cause us to thrive. We were called the “Me” generation.
Is it shocking to discover that my generation, the one who followed, the “Baby Boomers” would have a price to pay for the loss of a grand sense of meaning and purpose in our lives? Well, what do you think?
More and more for my generation, it is the freedom to choose to do what I want that became the ultimate good. The freedom to buy more and more, the freedom to tune in or tune out, the freedom to do my own thing. And when my will becomes supreme over the will of the source of all creation, there is a terrible price to pay. And we are paying it.
Just one example, Baby Boomers are diagnosed with 10 times more severe depression per capita than my parent’s generation.
And the generations that follow mine are rampant with a loss of meaning and purpose that addictions and consumerism continues to try to fill. The will to choose is now supreme, regardless of how this affects society in general.
Hart says two things happen as a result of individual choice itself being supreme. First we become a society of consumers.
“We give in to a fairly banal kind of liberty, no more- though no less- significant than a consumer’s freedom to choose among the different kinds of bread, shoes, televisions, political parties, or religions.”
“When one considers our culture’s devotion to acquisition, celebrity, distraction, and therapy, it is hard not to think perhaps our vision as a people has narrowed to the smaller preoccupations and desires of individual selves, and that our whole political, social, and economic existence is oriented toward that reality.”
Yes, we are better in one way because we don’t have the miseries of our ancestors and we can gratefully embrace the triviality of media, social media, and shopping.
This consumerism and distracting ourselves because we have lost any sense of meaning and purpose is one result of choice itself being supreme.
What are ways we distract ourselves today?
When all hell breaks loose…
The other result of leaving out any consideration of something out there greater than the personal choices we make, greater than simply the individual’s right to do what ever I think is right…Well, we see all too clearly what we are reaping as a result.
Hart says it this way. “If there really is no transcendent source of the good to which the will is naturally drawn, but only that of the will to decide what ends it desires- by which to create and determine itself for itself, then no human project can be said to be inherently irrational, or inherently abominable…our freedom from obsolete constraints, natural or moral, can lead toward monstrosity.”
Let me quote another thinker of our day. Listen to his words and think about what they say about our culture today.
“I believed in God when I was a kid but I gave up on that because everyone else gave up on it.
I realized and I was told by advertising that I just needed to do my thing and to fulfill my needs and my needs got more and more dramatic.
What difference does it make?
Whose anyone to tell me what I did was wrong?
Who said I was wrong?
I was just doing what our culture tells us to do. Just act on whatever you feel.
So what separates me from someone who does much better? Not a lot.
If a person doesn’t think there is a God to be accountable to, then-then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought anyway.
Can’t I set my own rules?
Who owns me?
I own myself.”
These words seem a pretty reasonable description of today’s cultural climate. Act on my feelings? Do my own thing? Fulfill my needs? Who are you to tell me I am wrong?
Well, these are not the words of a famous academic philosopher. These words are from an interview with Jeffery Dahmer. He is the serial killer from Wisconsin who raped and killed 17 young men, along with eating some of them.
Now our brains will instantly go into the excuses mode and try to find a million reasons why the Jeffery Dahmers’ of your society have nothing to do with the way our society functions as a whole today. We have learned this from the experts of media and our education system. We have learned that someone like Jeffery Dahmer, a monster, has nothing to do with almost a complete collapse of any conversation about meaning and purpose, good and evil, right and wrong in the public square today. These issues of meaning, purpose, and morality are reserved exclusively to the private realm, and don’t you dare try to bring them up anywhere else.
Oh, we have freedom of religion in our country, but only if we treat our religion as a hobby. As long as it’s just something we do like root for the Dodgers or collect model airplanes then we can talk about religion in the public square. But, don’t dare publicly discuss meaning and purpose, don’t dare question the goodness or evil of worldviews and philosophies, don’t dare question someone else’s right to choose their own way of life.
No, the problem with Jeffery Dahmer is he was insane. Well, maybe, but the courts didn’t think so. He was sent to prison.
Well the problem is gun control. No, Jeffery Dahmer didn’t use any guns.
Well, the problem is poverty…Nope he was pretty well off.
Well the problem is…All right brain. Just stop. Stop it!
Of course mental health, poverty, gun violence and violence in general are all real issues we will continue to address. Rightfully so.
But stop thinking the answers lie with thinking about these issues together for the purpose of finding human solutions to address them. Not if you have a secular worldview, a view of the world that doesn’t need God, or at least that doesn’t need to even think about God and his ways in the public realm. Without God and his ways, you will fail. Stop thinking things are going to get better when the only sacred thing we have left is human will itself, the right to choose what we think is right, when right or wrong is only what the courts say it is or people in power say it is. Things will definitely not get better.
Mind, Body, Spirit. Mental heath, physical health….What’s missing here?
Making the choice…
There may only be two choices left for us as a nation.
The first choice is to continue to worship the human will as supreme in itself and continue to reap a life of consumerism, celebrity, entertainment, and distraction, along with increased monstrosity. In other words, “Each has turned to his own way.”
Or, second, at least the Christians of this nation like you and me, start living our faith as more than a hobby, arranging and rearranging our lives to be soaked in God and the ways of God. Where we no longer keep our faith in a box among our other boxes of family life, friendship, work, political life, hobbies and entertainment… Our faith life is not a baseball card collection, no, we are being used by God to make our world different. Now, there will be pushback if Christians ever get around to treating their faith as anything but a hobby, but if we do start living out the model and teachings of Jesus everywhere and with everything we’ve got, the pushback won’t matter, the world will become different.
After all, we do have a choice.
How are you arranging and rearranging your life to be soaked in God and his ways? Learning from Jesus, the Master Teacher, how to live?