First off, I want to preface my below thoughts by saying that this is a pretty deep subject. I have been reading a lot of philosophy lately and it has really stimulated my thinking. One problem that I have with philosophy is that it seems to be a bit too scholastic. Terminology is used that requires the reader to have an initial understanding of these concepts. I think it’s too bad that more great books cannot be written in a way that goes into a deep concept using words that most people understand. You may notice in my writing style that I try to use words that are understandable by as many people as possible.
Sometimes when Candice and I are driving late at night we will go many minutes without saying a word. A few times she has asked me, “What are you thinking about?” I have to admit that it catches me off guard and in a way I almost feel like my personal space has been violated by being asked that question. I have nothing to be ashamed of with my thoughts but I feel a bit embarrassed because I feel that I am thinking of things that others would probably think are just crazy. But as I have come to understand lately, I think everyone thinks about the things I think about.
Sometimes I feel that I am just daydreaming but I know that there are some important thoughts going on up there and there is a common, universal theme to it all. It’s almost like I am taking pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and trying to fit them together. When pieces start coming together, it’s a very exciting feeling because it’s as if I am one step closer to seeing the big picture. What I enjoy about blogging is that it allows me to take those pieces of the puzzle that have been put together and put them on display for the reader to analyze and perhaps assist in the assembling.
To clarify the analogy of the jigsaw puzzle, all the input that comes in through the 5 forms of senses of our bodies throughout our entire lives is by my definition “knowledge”. However, as we sort through the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle we notice correlations between different pieces of knowledge. When two or more pieces of knowledge come together a link takes place and I refer to that as “understanding”. When we understand something, we can then apply that to our lives in order to receive a benefit from it.
As a simple example, I remember hearing when I was younger that seeing your child for the first time after being born is one of the happiest feelings you will ever feel. When I was told that I didn’t doubt it but I couldn’t prove it to be true. To me, my frame of reference as to what was the happiest feeling is something like going swimming with my friends on a hot summer day. I couldn’t even perceive in my mind anything happier beyond that. So, when I was told that, that piece of information or piece of the jigsaw puzzle was just tossed into the pile of meaningless thoughts in my memory. Then a day came when my daughter was born and I got to see her for the first time. I experienced the miracle of life. There was something spiritual and purposeful in that moment that I cannot possibly explain in any way to someone who has not experienced it. It would be like trying to explain the taste of a banana to someone who has only eaten apples their whole life. Now when I recall that memory about the birth of a child being the happiest feeling you will feel, it has a whole new meaning to me. It became a statement of absolute truth and not just meaningless and random thoughts.
This is also the exact dilemma that Christians face when trying to convey the Good News to those who have not heard it and have not yet understood the power of a relationship with Christ. The one thing that keeps weighing on my mind is that I have experienced sheer joy in my relationships with other people in my life. I enjoy my wife, kids, parents, in-laws, etc. So, when I hear others say implicitly or explicitly that they don’t, I am saddened and a bit frustrated. I have the truth and understanding in my mind about how you can have peace and love in relationships but there is a communication barrier that keeps those words from being spoken.
One of the books I just finished reading is by Francis Schaeffer titled “He is there and He is not silent”. Schaeffer describes well the problem with communication. He states that in order for true communication to occur, the thoughts in one person’s mind must be articulated through words that the listener must understand so that it can reach the listener’s mind in a way that was almost identical to what was in the mind of the speaker. We tend to communicate in our own language when really we need to learn the language of the audience so that they can fully understand what we are saying.
In addition to the issues with language, there is also this barrier that others do not want to hear what it is I want to tell them. Or perhaps they do want to hear it but I perceive the situation differently than what it truly is. But why should they want to hear what it is I have to say? All of us are bombarded each day with so many people telling us how we should or shouldn’t live our lives. Who do we listen to? I am convinced that the only way that we will begin to listen to someone and truly take their words to heart is by seeing success in that person’s life. Consider that for a moment. When you want marriage advice, who better to give it to you than a couple who have been together for 50 years? If you want to know how to make a lot of money, you pick up a book by Warren Buffett. As Christians, if we present the gospel to others but there is absolutely no change in our lives, then we lose our credibility. Yet, if we do know the gospel, how can we not experience a radical change!?
Now all these thoughts about communication are outside of what I really wanted to write about. When I wrote earlier that I have been trying to piece together the pieces of a puzzle that come together to form a picture, you might wonder what exactly it is that I am beginning to see.
A few months ago Candice and I watched the series finale of “Lost”. If you also watched it, or heard about the ending, there were many complaints that the writers didn’t answer all of the questions that were raised through the 6 seasons of the series. Some of the questions were related to the actual physical questions that arose such as why John Locke finds himself in Tunisia after blacking out or something to that effect. Most of the unanswered questions though, that I noticed people felt really attached to, were the philosophical and spiritual themes of the show. The viewers wanted to know if the island was real. Was it an allusion to Hell? Who was good? Who was bad? What significance was there in the fact that they were on an island? The whole show was a playground for philosophical questioning. But why were so many people attracted to that aspect of the show? I believe that they were searching for answers to their real life problems.
Man (myself, society, you the reader) has a deep down burden inside of them that wants to know what the meaning of life is and he wants real answers, not just an unrealistic hope. We experience love but does love really exist? A few months ago I watched The Graduate. I watched it not for entertainment value but rather to study the philosophy of the characters. The main characters experience some sort of connection in the movie like love but you can tell that they are never certain what love is or if it even exists.
Every morning, one of the first things I do is I go to the computer and “brief” myself with the news of what’s going on in the world. You have probably heard or even said yourself that you don’t want to hear the news because too many bad things are happening in the world and its best just to live life as if the suffering in the world doesn’t exist. It does exist and it is the ultimate reality. We must be thankful and joyful for what we have been blessed with but we cannot remain ignorant of what is going on in this world. It is important to know the truth rather than flee from it and live in a world of fantasy. Man has a tendency to do this when he is afraid of the reality of life.
This escape from reality finds itself on film. In many movies over the years there has been conveyed a false view of relationships. You see in many movies, especially directed toward women a common plot where there is a man who is the full embodiment of what the perfect husband would be. He’s good looking. He’s great with kids. He wants to protect the woman. He’s successful, charismatic, rich, has good fashion, etc. Women flock to these movies and for an hour and fantasize about marriage truly being like the way portrayed in the movie. Then the credits roll and these women leave the theater. It’s raining outside. There’s a parking ticket in the window. Someone cuts her off on the drive home. She gets home and her husband is a pale comparison to the ideal that she now has in her mind. This is the real world and one can slip into great despair when they come back to their senses.
Drugs, sex, and alcohol are other means that people use to get away from it all for a while. But a time comes when people come down from that mountain and they slip into despair.
Then there is religion. People recognize the need in their life for something meaningful. They want a permanent release from the despair of life. Perhaps marriage can work. Perhaps life can be enjoyable. At an individual’s darkest hour, when he has come to the realization of who he is, he calls to a god that he knows little about and has no reason to believe even exists. You hear this cry so much in today’s music. There is anger and frustration but a burning desire to know ultimate truth. In their minds, Christianity is outdated. It was the oppressive religion of their parents and grandparents who were self-righteous, racial bigots. It seems today that many are looking to Eastern religions to fill this gap in their lives.
I believe that the call of my generation of Christians is to live our lives righteously and victoriously. We must stop condemning and forcing morality on others who have no idea where we got our authority to press the views that we have. We must communicate to our generation the gospel in ways that they will understand. Once we can establish common ground of who Christ really is, then we can have footing to say what is right and what is wrong. It is very important in this scientific age that we learn, understand, and encourage a basis for true faith. God is there. Christ came to earth, died on a cross for the justification of our sins, and was resurrected. Someday He will come back. These are truths that we must educate to a generation who will no longer rely on blind faith. Christianity is no longer a socially acceptable view to have in many areas. Would Paul have continued to preach the Word if he was not certain of the truth of what he was preaching? He was compelled to preach because he knew for certain the reality of the gospel. If we can fill our minds with truth, the truth will set our world free.
This all sounds good right? What specifically must we do for this to happen? Read your Bible more and understand what is being said. Secondly, increase your faith. Know why you believe what you believe. If I told you that I would give you a $100 bill if you believe I had the $100 bill in my pocket, you would have a hard time believing me but may believe anyway as long as it isn’t hurting you in any way. But if you knew that I had $100 in my pocket because you had seen me put it in there earlier, then you are more likely to believe me and endure through many things in order to receive it. This same concept goes for Christians. How can we sincerely believe and be empowered to speak the truth in this world if we do not even know what we believe.
Thanks for reading. Please feel free to help me assemble the puzzle in the comments section.