Friday, November 1, 2019

Ecclesiastes 3: Everything Has a Purpose

"I thought in my heart, “God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed” (Ecclesiastes 3:17).

In the ancient world, the primary concern of philosophers was the nature of reality and the essence of things. We call this “metaphysics.” Since the ancient pagans rejected the truth that God created the world out of nothing, they sought to understand the world in terms of itself. Eventually, this investigation broke down, since no one could explain how the presumed oneness of all things could be reconciled with the evident diversity of things in the world.

When pagan thought revived in the modern world, it shifted its attention to the problem of knowledge, a concern we call “epistemology.” How is it possible to know anything?—was the question. The biblical answer is that God designed the mind of man to understand Him and the world and that the Spirit of God works with our minds to give us knowledge. Rejecting this answer, the early humanists tried to imagine ways in which data from the world “entered” the mind of man. 

Eventually, this investigation also broke down, since there seemed no way to explain how man knows anything, and in fact, it may be that all our knowledge is mere illusion and insanity.

Thus nineteenth-century philosophers shifted their attention to the question of the philosophy of history. Under the influence of Christianity, they accepted the notion of linear time and destiny, but they rejected the idea that history was an unfolding plan of God. Eventually, their investigation broke down, because they had no reason to assume the truth of linear time and destiny.

Thus twentieth-century philosophy returned to the concerns expressed in the book of Ecclesiastes: What is man and what is the meaning of human life? Martin Heidegger, in his book Sein und Zeit (Being and Time), said that man experiences a sense of having been thrown into life, not knowing where he came from or where he is going. He lives in a meaningless and terrifying here and now. Jean-Paul Sartre carried forward this notion in his book Being and Nothingness.

By way of contrast, the biblical view is that time is moving toward a final judgment when God will evaluate every single thing that has ever happened. Thus, everything in history has meaning.

Not only is our end significant, but all experiences of life leading to that end are similarly significant. Nothing—nothing—in your life lacks meaning. Share this profound truth with someone today who could use encouragement in the faith.