Debating with Ark Times Bloggers on “The Meaning of Life” Part 5 “Humans yearn to find a meaning for their lives!”

Ecclesiastes 2-3

Published on Sep 19, 2012

Calvary Chapel Spring Valley | Sunday Evening | September 16, 2012 | Derek Neider

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Debating with Ark Times Bloggers on “The Meaning of Life” Part 5

I have enjoyed going back and forth with the Arkansas Times Bloggers on many subjects over the years. Now I have discussed the subject of “The Meaning of Life” with them recently and I wanted to share some of this with you.

I have written on the Book of Ecclesiastes and the subject of the meaning of our lives on several occasions on this blog. In this series on Ecclesiastes I hope to show how secular humanist man can not hope to find a lasting meaning to his life in a closed system without bringing God back into the picture. This is the same exact case with Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Three thousand years ago, Solomon took a look at life “under the sun” in his book of Ecclesiastes. Christian scholar Ravi Zacharias has noted, “The key to understanding the Book of Ecclesiastes is the term ‘under the sun.’ What that literally means is you lock God out of a closed system, and you are left with only this world of time plus chance plus matter.”

On May 28, 2013 on the Arkansas Times Blog I posted the following:

Chris Martin of Coldplay revealed in his interview with Howard Stern that he was raised an evangelical Christian but he has left the church. I believe that many words that he puts in his songs today are generated from the deep seated Christian beliefs from his childhood that find their way out in his songs. The fact Coldplay’s songs deal so much with death and the search for meaning and purpose of life (similar to Solomon’s search in Ecclesiastes), and that our actions are being watched, and Chris describes different ways God tries to reveal himself to us, and many songs deal with trying to find a way to an afterlife and heaven, and he stills uses Christian terms like being “blessed” and “grateful.”

People are looking for a purpose for their lives even if they have millions in the bank and have the world at their finger tips.

https://thedailyhatch.org/2013/05/28/the-mo…

My usual opponent who I do respect goes by the username “NeverVoteRepublican” and he or her responded on May 28, 2013:

Saline–I don’t know what the heck Chris Martin’s religious beliefs have to do with anything but you sure know how to copy and paste. Do you even know who Chris Martin is or  anything about his music? Wow Saline—you are still just copying and pasting from the “Daily Hatch”. If I wanted someone’s view on what Chris Martin believes, it would not be yours. Why do you have to keep pasting it on this blog? Is it because no one reads it on yours? Why are you so obsessed with what he believes anyway? Do you have a man crush on him?

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On May 28, 2013 on the Arkansas Times Blog my opponent “Olphart” who I do respect posted the following:

Unlike Saline, I don’t think that yearning is put there by some God Who wishes us to unite with Him and Who desires to punish those who can’t achieve it.

Nonetheless, it IS there, no matter how or why it got there. Perhaps, it’s just built into our DNA so that the striving will continue overall until the process of life can achieve no more…I’m an agnostic about religion. I, honestly, cannot understand how anybody can absolutely say that there IS or there IS NOT some supreme mover of all that is, much less go into elaborate detail about what He thinks of us and how He wants us to act.

I realize that I said that yearning is “built” into our DNA and I know what that implies. I definitely believe that evolution is a valid process and I believe that the process was initiated here on our planet when the first strand of basic DNA (or RNA) started the replication of life. I have no idea how it got here but I honestly do not believe that anything that complex just randomly assembled itself. My simple belief that, ultimately, that DNA was built and turned loose in our universe by some intelligence, that DNA is something like our conception of a computer program that runs by itself and has a a huge potential to evolve into higher and increasingly more complex forms. I think that an earthworm, a slime mold, a poison ivy vine, a human being all harbor a yearning for survival of the individual and the survival of the species first, then the yearning becomes more complex for knowledge and, maybe, spirituality in the “higher” forms of life which may, in turn, lead to yearnings incomprehensible to us.

On May 29, 2013 on the Arkansas Times Blog I responded with the following:

This is in response to Olphart’s comments about mankind’s tendency to yearn for meaning and the fact that it may have been evolved into mankind and that all we are left with in this life is up to time and chance.

Solomon considered this same issue in Ecclesiastes 9:11-13:
I have seen something else under the sun:

The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.
Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come:

As fish are caught in a cruel net,
or birds are taken in a snare,
so people are trapped by evil times
that fall unexpectedly upon them.
_____________________

Francis Crick was in agreement with your materialistic views and he concluded, “The Astonishing Hypothesis is that you—your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules” What if all this is true? What if the cosmos and the chemicals and the particles really are all that there is, and all that we are?

Francis Schaeffer noted, “If man has been kicked up out of that which is only impersonal by chance , then those things that make him man-hope of purpose and significance, love, motions of morality and rationality, beauty and verbal communication-are ultimately unfulfillable and thus meaningless.”

Evidently “NeverVoteRepublican” is sick of me talking about Chris Martin of Coldplay. Let me switch to talking about the second most important person in Coldplay and his name is Will Champion. Wikipedia notes:

William Champion was born in Southampton, Hampshire, England, on 31 July 1978 and was brought up in Highfield, Southampton, where his father, Timothy Champion, is a professor of archaeology. As a youth, his musical influences included Tom Waits, Nick Cave and traditional Irish folk music. He learned to play piano and violin when he was 8 and he learned to play the guitar when he was 12. He also had experience on the bass, and tin whistle. Before Will joined Coldplay, he performed in a band called Fat Hamster. He went to primary school at Portswood Primary School, his secondary school was Cantell Maths and Computing College and he went to college at Peter Symonds College. He went to church at Highfield church, Highfield, Southampton.

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Dr. Peter May’s sermon at the Highfield church Southampton is a classic and can be found on the internet. Here are a few of the points that he makes.

This phrase “under the sun” occurs some thirty times in the book, and is the key to understanding it. It means “our view of the world, leaving God out of the picture”.

The book describes life without God; it digs over the ground and stares into the abyss. “Vanity of vanities”, says the preacher, “all is vanity” (1:2).

In other words it is all pointless, it is all in vain; life is meaningless and absurd. If you understood the absurdity of Becket’s play Waiting for Godot, you will understand this book…

There are two other keys to understanding this book. Firstly, the writer is standing back from life and trying to get a detached perspective on it.

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.
(2:11)

So he records his thoughts and observations.

I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the sun. What a heavy burden God has placed on men. (1:13)

Secondly, there is a humorous irony here, where high expectations are seen in the light of pointless reality. There is also a Socratic irony, which works a bit like a dummy pass in Rugby football. Socrates would feign ignorance in his questions to wrong foot his opponent. Ecclesiastes uses the absurdity of life to point to its meaning. So he assumes a superficial naturalism, to wrong foot his readers in order to point to the deeper underlying truths of our existence.

Taking the wisdom of the world, he pushes it to its logical end-points, which is what Francis Schaeffer did in his book The God Who is There.  Schaeffer wrote that if you push people far enough, you will eventually take the lid off, that is, open them up, perhaps in a cathartic moment, to consider higher realities, or life above the sun.

So Ecclesiastes writes:

Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both. As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from the dust and to the dust all return. (3:19-20)

Life seems pointless for animals, who just stand around in a field; the trouble is it doesn’t bother them! It is the fact that we worry about these things and ask questions about meaning, which sets us apart from every other animal.

We shall focus on four themes in Ecclesiastes:

1. Human Yearning
2. Moral Values
3. Our Fallen Nature
4. Ultimate Accountability.

1. Human Yearning

Firstly, the preacher bears witness to a fundamental restlessness and yearning in the human spirit. Unlike the animals, he is never satisfied. There are yearnings for ambition, fame, wealth and pleasure; for wisdom, knowledge and meaning; for justice, and to know the future.

For instance, he writes:

I undertook great projects. I built houses and planted vineyards…
I bought slaves, owned herds, amassed silver and gold…
I acquired singers and a harem as well…
I denied myself nothing… and what does pleasure accomplish?
It was a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
(2:4-11)

The eye never has enough seeing or the ear its fill of hearing. (1:8)

Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. (5:10) – does that have a modern ring to it?

All man’s efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied. (6:7)

When I applied my mind to know wisdom…and saw all that God has done – no-one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it. (8:16-17)

Not only are these yearnings unquenchable, but they are destructive:

For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
The more knowledge, the more grief.
(1:18)

… a major problem in our generation when we have every major tragedy beamed into our homes.

I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on men: God gives a man wealth, possessions and honour, so that he lacks nothing his heart desires, but God does not enable him to enjoy them… This is a grievous evil. (6:1-2)

So he resorts to irony with a black tinge:

A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity…I say that a still born child is better off than he. It comes without meaning, it departs in darkness, and in darkness its name is shrouded. Though it never saw the sun or knew anything, it has more rest than does that man – even if he lives a thousand years twice over but fails to enjoy his prosperity. (6:3-6)

I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill …So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labour…for a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill. And then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it… What does man get for all his toil and anxious striving – pain and grief: even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless. (2:18-23)

I have seen something else under the sun:
The race doesn’t go to the swift
Or the battle to the strong
Nor does food come to the wise
Or wealth to the brilliant
Or favour to the learned;
But time and chance happen to them all.
(9:11)

And “death is the destiny of every man; and the living should take this to heart.” (7:2)

The preacher has another yearning, that is relevant today, a longing to be remembered! To leave a legacy.

There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow. (1:11)

For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
In days to come, both will be forgotten.
(2:16)

There is one more yearning we must flag up; a pivotal saying of the book:

God has made everything beautiful in its time, and He has set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (3:11)

As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. (11:5)

beauty … stirs up in us a yearning for transcendence

So beauty is a pointer to ultimate meaning. It points to the intention of the Creator. And stirs up in us a yearning for transcendence. This niggles away at man’s soul, a hunger for some integrating reality and ultimate fulfilment. We know that there is more to this life than meets the eye. Something is missing, something outside and beyond ourselves that would make sense of ourselves, a hunger even for God himself – which man on his own cannot work out. He knows in his heart of hearts there must be a permanence in contrast to our transience, a wisdom that makes sense of our foolishness, a moral purity that is implied by our wickedness. But man hasn’t the resources within himself to fathom it out.

So the first major theme is that man is a restless, striving creature – quite unlike the animals – full of yearnings that offer so much but ironically deliver so very little.

This is a major flaw in the atheist slogan for the London bendy buses: it reads “There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” For the person who stands back and reflects upon life, it just isn’t that easy! Your philosophy would need to be  “eat, drink and be merry and try not to think about it”. The trouble is, when we do this, we wake up the following morning with an emptiness in the pit of our stomachs, yearning for something more fulfilling. For the pleasure-seeker, there is always a fly in the ointment, giving the perfume a bad smell. It is the smell of death for all those who treat the world as an end in itself.

2. Moral values

Secondly,  the book is all about moral values, which become another aspect of eternity set into man’s soul.

The writer observes greed, hypocrisy, oppression, injustice, laziness, cursing and jealousy. He finds that “Patience is better than pride” (7:8), that envy is a driving force in human achievement (4:4), that “bribery corrupts the heart”, that “anger takes up residence in the lap of fools” (7:9), that there is righteousness as well as wickedness, and “no-one knows whether love or hate awaits him” beyond the grave (9:1).

I saw the tears of the oppressed,,, and declared that the dead are happier than the living… But better than both is he who has not yet been, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun. (4:1-3)

We cannot live in this world without being bombarded by moral values and human choices. And we cannot live comfortably in this world in the face of evil. But where do these values come from? The moment you admit that some behaviours are good and others are evil, you must either conclude that these are ultimate realities which point beyond ourselves, or that they are merely convenient, mutually agreed ‘house rules’, invented by humanity itself.

once you agree that morality is created by our culture …, you have no grounds for saying that your values are better than anyone else’s.

So Richard Dawkins has now admitted that moral values, including rape, are arbitrary and not wrong in any absolute sense.[1] And of course, once you agree that morality is created by our culture and has no absolute basis, you have no grounds left for saying that your values are better than anyone else’s. There is no grounding for them to be better; they are just different.

Atheists speak of values evolving, as though there was some relentless moral progress that could be documented. Not only is there no objective standard to evaluate this but some of the most appalling cultures in history have existed within living memory, whether the Nazi holocaust of the Jews, or the brutal regimes and mass killings of Stalin, or Mao Tse Tung or Pol Pot. On what criteria can we distinguish between moral values other than personal preference? Unless moral values lie in the character of God himself, we cannot meaningfully speak about the objective nature of good or evil. So our consciences make it very difficult to stop worrying and enjoy life.

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