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Friday, June 09, 2006

How should we then live?

That's the Question that Francis Schaeffer uses as the title to his landmark book on the history of philosophical thought, and the role of Christianity in today's society. I make Question capitalized because I believe that it is the question that all other questions eventually point to. Usually it takes an interrupt in the flow of life, but at some point we will all ask the world, "ok, that's well and good, but what's really expected of me? What do I have to do?"
An interesting question, indeed. It immediately assumes that there is something to which we must conform, or rebel as the case may be, and that life does indeed matter to someone other than ourselves. As selfish as that question may be in some peoples' mouths, it still assumes that there is something else pushing in asking something of us. We scarcely ask the question expecting to hear that we should keep doing what we are doing. So, then, how on earth should we then live?
One of the questions that leads up to this question, of course, is "why are we here?" But, that inevitably forces us to act on our answer to that question, because we must live out the answer, wherever it takes us. We do it unconsciously. Everyone is striving for purpose, and we are all acting out on whatever purpose we think it may be. Again, the main Question remains, "how do I live?"
Well, there comes another question, which again, leads to the above question. That is, "what is morally right and wrong, and should I care?" We don't wonder how we are to live if there is nothing we think we must live by. Some purpose that not only builds up ourselves, but those around us, and even the community at large, one we feel we must serve, subvert, or try to create or join another.
This question is not merely a surface question, ie. something we can ignore as a result of someone being down in the dumps for a while. No, this is at the heart of every human. Even the most vile person on some level rationalizes their behavior, having believed they've answered this question correctly, though they may have to continually convine themselves they've answered it, or their conscience has been dulled. The most "moral" person asks it because they want to know whether they are going in the "right" direction. It is not a question invented by religious types trying to get everybody to "conform, man." It is asked by everyone, even those who would deny its validity. We cannot help but feel that there is something outside ourselves, something to which we must conform.
It is a question that we ask from deep within ourselves when we see evil and when we see good, and when our version of reality is challenged. After all, if it is the pinnacle of all the other questions, it has little do with rebellion for the sake of rebellion, or conformity for the sake of conformity. It was a question asked by very few in Nazi Germany, though it was asked. Nearly everyone was under the power of Hitler. An insane man leading throngs of desperate people. If simply observed from within, the entire system of people was completely degenerate. It showed that mankind cannot be the center and progenator of morality, since everyone can become deceived and debase. It takes revelation, from outside, to break through that wall. Mankind cannot be the only arbiter over mankind. Moral law, of course, means nothing without things to govern. It also cannot spring from that which it governs, as it could then be changed whenever the whims of the makers would change. Man, as has been amply proved, is not perfect. So, who were those people, you ask, who defied Nazi Germany in a time when everything was corrupt? Those who understood the transcendental quality of morality. Those who understood that though the Nazi's seemed like they were actually improving the economy, that they had a chance of winning the war, and that they were certainly in control of peoples' destinies, they actually were built on an idea that they were simply cogs in an ever progressing machine, a machine that had no purpose for anything other than the gratification and advancement of those who are most fit. Those that defied the Nazi machine saw that all human life mattered, that though the Nazi's promised a superior race, it was built on hatred, corruption, and a shifting morality. They were morally bankrupt because they had denied that there was anything greater than themselves. Only when we can look outside of ourselves will we see anything worth living for.
So, how should we then live? We must look to the lawgiver, the one that cannot shift, that cannot be bribed, that cannot become treacherous. God, as He has revealed Himself to His creation in Jesus Christ (God with skin on), must be the One to whom we look. Not a very popular idea in Western culture as it (ironically) adopts Eastern philosophy.
It's easy for we who have never had to face evil to claim that whatever someone wants to believe is ok. How many in the military believe that it's ok to believe what you feel? They are battling a people right now that have an ideology that says anyone unlike them must die. If what someone believes is harmful to themselves and/or others, than it must be done away with. Agreed? Even those who claim to be into pluralism and a doctrine of "whatever" can agree with that. Well, then, where does that moral law come from? If it's an absolute to which we must adhere, who says? I know who says, and not because I found Him, but because He found me. I did nothing to seek God, but He still sought me. He cares for His fallen creation. He sees the pain in this world. He understands our inability to live how we should. He understands that people die, and rather tragically. He sees that.
We must live as those who believe that we are under moral law, not above it. We must love how God loves: that we would do what's best for others even if they don't like it at first. We must care for the poor, the unloved, the unlovely. We must be passionate about what we do, no matter how mundane it seems. We must fight vehemently for what is right, even at personal cost. In short, must be like Christ. It is hard, and I'm not saying I'm perfect at it, far from it. It's much easier to write it on this page than do it. However, Jesus said that he would not leave this world without leaving us a Helper. The Holy Spirit guides us, enables us, and reminds us about where we must go and what we must do. All we have to do is ask, and He'll show us what we need. It's not always in the time or in the way we'd like or expect, but it's always exactly what we need. We need Him to be warriors in this world, active not passive.
That is how we should then live.


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