Monday, January 12, 2009

Where Did We Come From and Where are We Going?



"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them." (Genesis 1:27, 28a)

Matthew Arnold wrote a very poignant, insightful poem concerning the deep questions of our existence:

But often, in the world's most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,

There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life:

A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;

A longing to inquire
Into the mystery of this heart which beats

So wild, so deep in us--to know
Whence our lives come and where they go.

Where did we come from? Where are we going? Every moment in between these two reference points of origin and destination is greatly influenced by the way we answer these two questions. If we hold to a naturalistic worldview, we just simply appeared. We evolved from matter which has no plausible explanation. Hence, the direction of our lives can truly be summed up in the quote, "We are nothing but the sum of our experiences." No course. No purpose. No reason behind it all. Pure chaos in the strictest sense.

This, unfortunately, is one of the dominant worldviews of postmodernism. It is easy to see, then, how our country has slowly began to redefine a Constitution that was greatly influenced by the Judeo-Christian worldview. A Judeo-Christian worldview that believed in standards, accountability, and ,when necessary, punishment for crimes committed. But, why did we once believe this way? It is because we believed in a holy God that has given us standards to live by. Postmodernism attempts to reverse this type of thinking with teachings of relevance and autonomous significance. Postmodernism leaves no room for a holy, loving God that creates, loves, guides, enforces, and acts among his creation for his good purposes. Rather, postmodern thought leads to a struggle to reconcile a godless, authority-less, and revelation-less thought process with the innate knowledge of good and evil, right and wrong, and intrinsic processes of sickness, decay, and death that we will all experience.

Arnold expressed poetically what each of us, regardless of our worldview, must wrestle with if we are to seek a purpose in our existence. Earlier today, I spoke with a very polite middle-aged man who had just undergone a successful surgery to remove his gal bladder. I asked how he felt. He said he was doing fine. Then, as if he knew I would be interested in his story, he began to enthusiastically describe how he was given permission by the doctor to look on the monitor to see his gal bladder functioning while he was being examined. And then, it was easy to hear Arnold's poem underlying his next words to me. He said, "I have always taken so much for granted. I never even thought about something like my gal bladder. But it has been there working all along." Then he turned to me and said in a very simple way, "There has to be a God."
He continued, "There are just too many things happening and holding together around us for there not to be a God in control." Surgery and illnesses often force us to ponder Arnold's expressions for ourselves in a new light. And for this man, his final conclusion was that if there was a creation there has to be a Creator. Makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? In fact, it is statistically more probable than naturalism--even by the measures of science.

So why do so many refuse to acknowledge the existence of God? Well, Tom Cruise summed up his reason very bluntly and honestly in an interview a couple of years ago. When asked about this, he responded, "I refuse to believe in a God who holds us accountable to his standards." Honest and to the point. If we do not acknowledge the existence of an almighty God, maybe we might be able to better live by our own ways--by our own desires and choosing. It comes as no surprise, then, that Cruise holds to a belief system that exalts the individual as a form of deity--Scientology. Self-reliant. Self-accountable. Self-centered to the nth degree.

Through natural revelation (God's creation) and special revelation (God's Word, Jesus' incarnation, and God's supernatural acts), God has made known where we have come from and where we are going. The Bible teaches us that God created us and blessed us above all of his creation. It also gives us all a plain description of our destination. There are only two options. Heaven or Hell. Heaven for the forgiven sinners. Hell for the unforgiven sinners. Enter the gospel message, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life."
We are marred by sin--every rotten one of us. Consequently, we are separated from the holy God that created us in his image. The bible teaches that we are all destined for hell--eternal separation from a holy, loving God--apart from faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, God demonstrates his love for us in that, "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." God not only created us in his own image, he also loves us all dearly. He loves us so much that he provided a way for us to be reconciled into a right relationship with him--Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a perfect life. He died a sinners death. He rose on the third day in victory over sin and death. The result? Anyone who believes in him will not perish. End result? Destination...Heaven.

Arnold was right to ponder what we all, at one time or another, are pondering.

Where did we come from? Where are we going?