We Cannot Live Without Meaning

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Men and women can bear hardship, poverty, physical hunger and pain, but there is one thing which they cannot bear very long, and that is meaninglessness. If they are not provided with meaning in one connection, they will seek it in another. The parable [told by Jesus] of the impossibility of the permanently empty house is more applicable to our society today than it has ever been in our lives.

–Elton Trueblood

The Erosion of Meaning

foundationNo great, inspiring culture of the future can be built upon the moral principle of relativism. For at its bottom such a culture holds that nothing is better than anything else, and that all things are in themselves equally meaningless. Except for the fragments of faith (in progress, in compassion, in conscience, in hope) to which it still clings, illegitimately, such a culture teaches every one of its children that life is a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.  –Michael Novak

Trials, Errors, and Homecoming

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I now understand that I would never have been able to become a plausible critic of the absurdities of modern consciousness until I myself had experienced them. I did not become an orthodox believer or theologian until after I tried out most of the errors long rejected by Christianity. If my first forty years were spent hungering for meaning in life, the last forty have been spent in being fed. If the first forty were prodigal, the last forty have been a homecoming.

―Thomas C. Oden,
A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir

We Need a Richer Narrative

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Science is wonderful at raising questions. Some can be answered immediately; some will be answerable in the future through technological advance; and some will lie beyond its capacity to answer—what my scientific hero sir Peter Medawar (1915–87) referred to as “questions that science cannot answer and that no conceivable advance of science would empower it to answer.” What Medawar has in mind are what the philosopher Karl Popper called “ultimate questions,” such as the meaning of life. So does acknowledging and engaging such questions mean abandoning science? No. it simply means respecting its limits and not forcing it to become something other than science.

The Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset (1883–1955) put his finger on the point at issue here. Scientists are human beings. If we, as human beings, are to lead fulfilled lives, we need more than the partial account of reality that science offers. We need a “big picture,” an “integral idea of the universe” . . .

Scientific truth is exact, but it is incomplete.” We need a richer narrative, linking understanding and meaning. That is what the American philosopher John Dewey (1859– 1952) was getting at when he declared that the “deepest problem of modern life” is that we have failed to integrate our “thoughts about the world” with our thoughts about “value and purpose.”

So we come back to that haunting and electrifying sense of wonder at the world . . . I gradually came to realize that we need a richer and deeper vision of reality if we are to do justice to the complexity of the world and live out meaningful and fulfilling lives. So just what are we talking about? The quest for God.

–Alister E . McGrath,
http://ca.rzim.org/just-thinking/from-wonder-to-understanding-beginning-a-journey/

 

Soap Opera or Drama?

babylonWe look back on history, and what do we see? Empires rising and falling; revolutions and counter-revolutions succeeding one another; wealth accumulating and wealth dispersed; one nation dominant and then another. As Shakespeare’s King Lear puts it, “the rise and fall of great ones that ebb and flow with the moon…” Can this really be what life is about, as the media insist? This interminable soap opera going from century to century… from era to era, whose old discarded sets and props litter the earth? Surely not. Was it to provide a location for so repetitive and ribald a performance that the universe was created and man came into existence? I can’t believe it. If this were all, then the cynics, the hedonists, and the suicides would be right. The most we can hope for from life is some passing amusement, some gratification of our senses and death. But it’s not all.

d43dac8e06d24d1e8c3150fc7dd6f4bb-ashxThanks to the great mercy and marvel of the Incarnation, the cosmic scene is resolved into a human drama. God reaches down to become a Man and Man reaches up to relate himself to God. Time looks into eternity and eternity into time, making now always, and always now. Everything is transformed by the sublime drama of the Incarnation…

–Malcolm Muggeridge,
The True Crisis of Our Time
http://stmichaelbroadcasting.com/truecrisis.html