The Paper Pulpit
Ours is an anti-intellectual age. We have made ideas secondary to appetites, passions, prejudices and habits. Feelings are more important than facts. As a consequence, we possess information without inspiration, data without ideas.
Charles Darwin was at the root of this persuasion. He acknowledged man’s intellectual powers, but he did not see this as reason for our survival. Instead, he gave priority to physical prowess, which he called “the survival of the fittest.” He put instinct above intellect, passion above purity, might above morals. Sigmund Freud contributed to this line of thought also when he said that our actions result from our unconscious or subconscious needs.
Existentialism, a philosophy that has dominated the philosophical landscape in recent decades, is also part of this persuasion. It sees man’s mere existence as the only important thing in an alien and decadent world. It ignores the past, denies the future and deifies the present. The present tense is all that matters to the existentialist. My mother and father, who are no longer alive on earth, still matter to me. My church family matters. My friends, past and present, matter. I not only exist in the present, but I am inescapably linked with both the past and the future.
Every human’s greatest need is to have a legitimate and meaningful reason to exist. Of course you and I exist, but why? In other words, why are we here? We need to know the answers to these questions more than we need a new house, a new car, a new job — or anything else that an affluent society could possibly provide.
To find meaning, there must be a vertical dimension to our lives as well as a horizontal one. This is precisely where the Christian gospel comes in. It declares not only that we were made in the image of God, but that we are marred by sin. It declares that we can be forgiven of our sins and begin to live our lives anew with a sense of redemptive purpose.
In other words, the gospel gives us a reason for existence. It gives meaning in the midst of the ambiguous present. It tells us that we came from God and return to God, and that the chief end of life is to glorify God. It gives us meaning in the present and hope for the future. It is an organizing, integrating, magnetizing center without which life loses its meaning.
Living solely for enjoyment of the present moment is the dominant philosophy of our age. It has produced an almost limitless number of “Good-Time Charlies” and “One-Night-Stand Anns.” Pornography is an unbelievably big business in our country. Magazine stands are full of publications that are bought by those who worship at the altars of sexual gratification, material possession and hedonism. The erotic revolution has produced less happiness, not more. And this has led to rising statistics of venereal disease, illegitimacy, abortion, drug addiction and broken marriages.
The gospel of Christ speaks powerfully to the age in which we live. It declares to drug addicts and sex deviates, and to the advocates and practitioners of free love, that God loves them in spite of their sins. Through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, they may be saved and given an abundant, meaningful, productive life.
All Christ asks is that we follow him. He said to his disciples, “Take my yoke upon you.” The yoke symbolizes the discipline and control required of those who choose to follow him. But the glory is found in these additional words of Jesus: “My yoke is easy.” In other words, the yoke fits well. It is the one thing above everything else that gives lasting meaning to life.
The good news of the gospel is what our world desperately needs. Should the time ever come when it inspires the world’s thinking and mobilizes the world’s power, a new day of peace with justice will dawn for all men. Unfortunately, that day will not fully come until Christ returns.
The Rev. D.E. Parkerson is retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Sanford.