How Do We Explain Existence?

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The dilemma of modern man is simple: he does not know why man has any meaning. He is lost. Man remains a zero. This is the damnation of our generation, the heart of modern man’s problem. But if we begin with a personal beginning and this is the origin of all else, then the personal does have meaning, and man and his aspirations are not meaningless. Man’s aspirations of the reality of personality are in line with what was originally there and what has always intrinsically been.

It is the Christian who has the answer at this point—a titanic answer! So why have we gone on saying the great truths in all the ways that nobody understands? Why do we keep talking to ourselves, if men are lost and we say we love them? Man’s damnation today is that he can find no meaning for man, but if we begin with the personal beginning we have an absolutely opposite situation. We have the reality of the fact that personality does have meaning because it is not alienated from what has always been, and what is, and what always will be. This is our answer, and with this we have a solution not only to the problem of existence—of bare being and its complexity—but also for man’s being different, with a personality which distinguishes him from non-man.

–Francis Schaeffer,
He Is There and He Is Not Silent

A World Of Wonder

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A scientist shows us how to look out the backyard window and describe a magnificent old oak tree as a Querus (Latin name), while the songwriter and poet Rich Mullins speaks of an oak in spring (in his song “The Color Green”) as a creature who “lifts up his arms in a blessing for people being born again.” And then there’s Tolkien, who turns trees into people and calls them Ents…

We need our vision rekindled by writers . . . who looked at the world and understood that it has something to tell us about ultimate reality. We need words to reenchant the world, partly because we have inherited a disenchanted way of seeing. We live in a culture shaped by materialism, by the belief that the physical world has no spiritual meaning and can be entirely explained by the language of science. Even if we believe that God is the creator of the cosmos, we tend more and more to describe it in terms of atoms and inches and measurements rather than in the language of mystery. Like Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the character who embodies what C. S. Lewis considered the worst habits of the modern world, we could easily describe a star just as “a huge ball of flaming gas.”

Like Eustace, we need the sparkle-eyed correction of the much wiser Koriakin, who quickly replies, “That is not what a star is but only what it is make of.”

…We need . . . to liven our wonder because . . . we live with so many distractions—so many things to buy, so many places to go—that we barely have time to sleep, let alone stop long enough to recognize that the smallest moments of the everyday day are rich in beauty, steeped in God’s creative presence.

– Sarah Clarkson,
Book Girl

Explaining Love, Heroism and Poetry

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Materialist atheism says we are just a collection of chemicals. It has no answer whatsoever to the question of how we should be capable of love or heroism or poetry if we are simply animated pieces of meat. The Resurrection, which proclaims that matter and spirit are mysteriously conjoined, is the ultimate key to who we are. It confronts us with an extraordinarily haunting story. J. S. Bach believed the story, and set it to music. Most of the greatest writers and thinkers of the past 1,500 years have believed it. But an even stronger argument is the way that Christian faith transforms individual lives—the lives of the men and women with whom you mingle on a daily basis, the man, woman, or child next to you in church tomorrow morning.

–A. N. Wilson,
“Religion of Hatred: Why We Should No Longer be Cowed by 
the Chattering Classes Ruling Britain Who Sneer at Christianity,”
U.N. Daily Mail (4-11-09)

The Modern Dilemma

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Remember Jean-Paul Sartre’s statement that the basic philosophical question is that everything that exists has come out of absolutely nothing. In other words, you begin with nothing. Now, to hold this view, it must be absolutely nothing. It must be what I call nothing-something or nothing-nothing. If one is going to accept this answer, it must be nothing-nothing, which means there must be no energy, no mass, no motion, and no personality.

. . . You must not let anybody say he is giving an answer beginning with nothing and then really begin with something: energy, mass, motion, or personality. That would be something, and something is not nothing.

The truth is, I have never heard this argument sustained, for it is unthinkable that all that now is has come out of utter nothing.

zerl 1. . . The dilemma of modern man is simple: he does not know why man has any meaning. He is lost. Man remains a zero. This is the damnation of our generation, the heart of modern man’s problem. But if we begin with a personal beginning and this is the origin of all else, then the personal does have meaning, and man and his aspirations are not meaningless . . .

It is the Christian who has the answer at this point—a titanic answer! . . . Man’s damnation today is that he can find no meaning for man, but if we begin with the personal beginning we have an absolutely opposite situation. We have the reality of the fact that personality does have meaning because it is not alienated from what has always been, and what is, and what always will be. This is our answer, and with this we have a solution to the problem of existence—of bare being and its complexity—but also for man’s being different, with a personality which distinguishes him from non man.

60325008-lake-malvaglia-on-blenio-valley-on-swiss-alpsWe man use an illustration of two valleys. Often in the Swiss Alps, there is a valley filled with water and an adjacent valley without water. Surprisingly enough, sometimes the mountain springs leaks, and suddenly the second valley begins to fill up with water. As long as the level of water in the second valley does not rise higher than the level of water in the first valley, everyone concludes that there is a real possibility that the second lake came from the first. However, if the water in the second valley goes thirty feet higher than the water in the first valley, nobody gives that answer. If we begin with a personal beginning to all things, then we can understand that man’s aspiration for personality has a possible answer.

If we begin with less than personality, we must finally reduce personality to the impersonal. The modern scientific world does this in its reductionism, in which the word “personality” is only the impersonal plus complexity. In the naturalistic scientific world, whether social, psychological, or natural science, a man is reduced to the impersonal plus complexity. There is not real, intrinsic difference.

–Francis Schaeffer,
He Is There and He Is Not Silent