Reflections From ECCLESIASTES 11-12: A WORD TO THE YOUNG AND OLD ALIKE

 

“Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.” (11:5)

The context of this passage is somewhat unclear to me.  The Preacher begins with the command to “cast your bread upon the water…” (v.1) and “sow seed” (v.6) as perhaps an allusion to the cycle of sowing and reaping which is realized ultimately through God’s activity as the sovereign over all creation.  This is the wonder of life which is designed not accidental, it’s purposeful not meaningless because God is there.  This activity is as much marvelous as it is mysterious, like the formation of a child in the womb or the course of the wind.

It seems that somehow the Preacher commands us to walk in wisdom by trusting in God’s power to multiply our efforts even if we don’t understand all the details.  He continues:

Rejoice, young man, during your childhood, and let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood. And follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes. Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things. 10 So, remove grief and anger from your heart and put away pain from your body, because childhood and the prime of life are fleeting.

 In America, there seems to be little rejoicing in today’s youth.  Instead there’s much anger, confusion and despair in a culture given over to self-indulgence, leisure and entertainment.  A life lived for others is increasingly not the norm, the pied pipers of sex, drugs and rock n roll have not helped but rather aided this cauldron of foolishness and we are not the better for it.  Included here are professing followers of Jesus who neither know his book nor his pleasure.

The point the preacher is making is that your Creator is going to personally judge your fleeting life so what are you living for?  The same applies to adults and the old who often refuse to think again in light of eternity.  Throughout this book the Preacher has emphasized the futility of life…if God does not exist.  He concludes chapter 12 of Ecclesiastes with sobering words:

In addition to being a wise man, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge; and he pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs. 10 The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly.  11 The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd. 12 But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.  13 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.

In the midst of his nihilism, the Preacher comes to the conclusion that God really does exist, therefore the way we live really matters for every act whether hidden or not will be judged by Him.

The way we live does truly matter, the motives of our hearts are actually laid bare before the Creator and all is therefore not vain for God as the author of all life and existence gives these meaning.

The words of this book come from Solomon, noted for being the wisest man to have lived apart from Jesus of Nazareth.  Life without God is meaningless, but because God is there, it is absolutely meaningful even though we don’t understand many things in it.

For the believer in Christ Jesus, this is a wake-up call to follow the Master even when life becomes difficult and pain starts drowning out the truth of God’s revelation in scripture.

For the nonbeliever, this too is an alarm to bend the knee to Christ who will judge the living and the dead.  Understand that the love, comfort, justice and peace you deeply long for can only be found in the Righteous One who perfectly executes justice and mercy and that…righteously!

So LORD, help your people live in light of your existence.  Tenderize our hearts to your promptings, open our minds to your thoughts, empower our lives with your strength, so that we may live this short life apportioned to us with passion, ardor and increasing resolve for the kingdom of God and your righteousness, so that it may truly be said of us when our time is done here on earth that we were people who loved God and neighbor.

(SDG)

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Reflections From ECCLESIASTES 9: THE PREACHERS DOWNWARD MUSINGS AGAIN

 

 

“For I have taken all this to my heart and explain it that righteous men, wise men, and their deeds are in the hand of God. Man does not know whether it will be love or hatred; anything awaits him.  It is the same for all. There is one fate for the righteous and for the wicked; for the good, for the clean and for the unclean; for the man who offers a sacrifice and for the one who does not sacrifice. As the good man is, so is the sinner; as the swearer is, so is the one who is afraid to swear. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that there is one fate for all men. Furthermore, the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives. Afterwards they go to the dead.  (vv1-3)

The depths of despair and meaninglessness of life is once again emphasized by the preacher’s view that all human beings die.  It seems that in his view thus far, he doesn’t think there’s an afterlife but extinction.  Whether one is a blasphemer or a bastion of righteousness death equalizes them both and its certainty makes our deeds worthless, insignificant, useless and futile.    

Whether one is devoted to God or to self in the end it doesn’t matter.  This view is dark and utterly horrific to my soul, for it leaves me only to meander pitifully in this existence until I finally am no more.  What despair! what hopelessness, what a tragedy if in fact the preacher is correct.  Now if God does not exist then he is “dead on!”  There is no ultimate meaning in life.

LORD, help me live today as if it were my last one.  Make me a vessel of honor, season my lips with salt and keep my eyes fixed on you LORD so that I may boldly and graciously capitalize on given opportunities.

(SDG)

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA? “Why Black Lives Can’t Matter…If…” PART 1

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We humans share many things in common; we desire to be loved and accepted for who we are not what we can do; we long for happiness and fulfillment; we don’t like it when people mistreat us; we dislike it when people lie to us; we all try to make sense out of reality as we know it.  These dearly held notions are mainly communicated through words.

The “Black Lives Matter” notion is a case in point.  The desire to communicate that “we matter” can be put “our lives have meaning” and we should thus be treated a certain way.  But whether or not that’s actually true depends on the worldview held.

For example, if naturalism is true (a la Atheism), and humans are merely material entities without an immaterial soul, an accident of macro-evolution where there’s no design, purpose or meaning, then “Black Lives” actually don’t matter.  This is true for at least two reasons; first, “meaning” is not something physical—it can’t be tasted, seen, smelled, heard, or touched, but its’ effects (which are immaterial) are constantly seen in the physical world.  Secondly, the basis of naturalism is that there is no “mind”, no “design”, no “better”, no “progress” but “eternal matter that just is”.

According to the this worldview, humans are simply born, live out their meaningless lives, and then die, never to be remembered, cherished or loved again.  It’s a cold reality.  Thus if this position is true, “Black lives can’t matter”.

Another example comes from nihilism (naturalism’s child) which reduces all of life to chance plus matter plus time.  This means that human decisions are matter in motion and are thus determined.  This means that human choices are not significant, but a mere illusion.  The reason is because what seems to be “our decisions” is actually, impersonal, mechanistic matter in motion.  According to this worldview, those in favor of or against “Black lives matter” have no choice in the matter, but are simply determined to one “view” or another.  Thus if this position is true, then really “Black lives can’t matter”.

Still another example is pantheistic monism (a la Buddhism and certain branches of Hinduism), which among other things teaches that the individual is part of the oneness of the universe, that life is illusory and thus “individuality” is not real, but a fantasy.  Trying to get meaning from this position is an exercise in futility.  Ironically, many Westerners have looked to the East for its wisdom and insight on reality, except that at its core, there’s a denial of reality.  According to this worldview, there’s no real “Black lives that matter” because that whole notion too is an illusion.  Thus, if this position is true, “Black lives can’t matter”.

Yet another example is moral relativism (a la the University), which among other things is the self-refuting position that there’s no such thing as absolute truth (i.e. correspondence view of truth) and “we know this to be absolutely true”.  That is, the basis for reality is not any higher power, God, etc., but the individual who creates what is true and right for herself/himself.

If this worldview is true, then “Black Lives can’t matter” for it means that we can’t tell anyone that they are wrong because the individual decides; we can’t complain about the problem of evil because the individual decides; we can’t blame or praise anyone for deeds they’ve performed because the individual decides; we can’t object to injustice because the individual decides; we can’t improve on our morality because the individual decides; we can’t have meaningful moral discussions nor demand tolerance from the opposition because the individual decides.

The “Black Lives Matter” position under this worldview is incoherent at best and diabolical at worst.  Under this self-refuting worldview, “Black lives can’t matter”.

In contradistinction to the aforesaid, theism (a la Judaism or Christianity) holds that the universe—contra naturalism—is not a closed system but one that is open.  This means that both divine and human decisions significantly shape the present and the future.  Moreover, in a theistic world human beings are not chance accidents or illusory entities—contra nihilism and pantheistic monism—but created in God’s image and likeness with the purpose to reflect the wonder of the Creator unlike any other creature.  And in opposition to moral relativism, theism grounds all truth and morality in the Creator not the fading whims of the creature.

Only in a theistic worldview can one coherently and rationally argue that “Black lives matter”.  For if the God of Scripture (I.e., The Law, Prophets, & Writings, and the New Testament) actually exists, not only do Black lives matter, but every life matters.  The reason is because human meaning under this worldview comes from the Self-existent, Eternal, All-wise, All-powerful, All-knowing God who came near to us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

And I would further say that only from this theistic worldview can emotions rightly and compassionately be expressed, because they are rationally based on the God who is there, the One to whom all humanity will give account for their lives—which indeed matter.

(SDG)

Summary From Chapter#5: GOD, NATURAL RIGHTS AND THE NATURAL MORAL LAW (Pgs.145-163)

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Beckwith here explores whether or not it is reasonable to hold, as the founding fathers did, that natural moral law requires God’s existence.  He considers the atheistic, theistic and Biblical view as to its origins (Hobbes, Locke, and Aquinas were major contributors to our understanding and disputes).  Beckwith explains that it’s reasonable to believe in natural law being grounded in God’s existence and since the existence of God is a philosophically defensible position, one may legitimately claim it as an item of knowledge.  Thus, those who reject said position, aren’t unreasonable for doing so, yet neither are those who accept it.

Beckwith considers contemporary atheism and some of its key players (E.g., Hitchens and Dawkins) and sees an inconsistency with their worldview and natural rights.  That is, atheism essentially affirms that we are accidental, purposeless, pieces of meat who when we die we’re done.  Humans have no intrinsic value in and of themselves and yet when moral dilemmas arise who cares if there’s agreement or disagreement because there’s no purpose or meaning to life.  But people like atheists deeply care about their views and thus betray their worldview unwittingly.  That’s an oversimplification of what Beckwith considers [pgs.148-152].

Beckwith then considers why moral natural law suggests God.  He holds that God’s existence best accounts for said laws and are most at home in a theistic universe for these objective moral values are grounded in God, the Designer, the Supreme Being (even if Christendom is rejected, some ultimate being grounds natural law).  There are really only two options to buttress the origins of Human dignity and rights; (a) its either accidental, a chance result, or (b) its the result of intelligence.

If it’s accidental then why obey a mindless principle?  Beckwith then considers evolutionary arguments for said position that are merely descriptive, not prescriptive and there’s the rub [pgs.152-157], for that worldview only explains what is not why it is and that is precisely the realm of morals (e.g., what we ought and ought not do).

If it’s the result of intelligence, then we have an explanation that fits most consistently with human experience.  For we obey “beings” not “principles”, we fulfill our duties toward those whom are owed, the objects of which are persons, not accidents.  Beckwith continues and considers examples that have been used to ground these laws in Scripture [pgs.158-162].

He concludes the book with a wise reminder that while politics is not everything, it is not “nothing”.  It is often messy and filled with conflict, but so is much of life (e.g., family, work, school and church).  Thus he ends with words from Ecclesiastes that are often quoted, but not often reflected on:

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—

A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
”  (Ecc.3:1-8 NASB)