Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Meaning of Life

---by Chris Ortiz

The meaning of most things elude us. We do not understand the meaning of mosquitos, for example, or the hairs that fall from our head, nor of the often unhappy events in our lives, because we tend to look for their meaning in terms of ourselves. The meaning of all things is theocentric -- God-centered, not man-centered -- which means that of necessity things are meaningless if we try to read them in terms of man, in terms of ourselves.[1]

What is the meaning of life? We only ask this question, as Rushdoony suggests, because life is filled with millions of supposedly meaningless events. The sheer diversity of creaturely existence is enough to rattle the assurance of anyone. Why need we the cockroach? What of microscopic organisms, strange fish in the deepest portions of the sea, or the insane life cycle of the Penguin? What do they have to do with my choice of a career, spouse, or political party?

For ease of thought, we ignore these diverse realities; keeping things simple for the sake of getting through life. But the Bible highlights these random, obscure realities as revealing of the omniscience of God Almighty and His benevolence toward man:

Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Mt. 10:29-31

The many sparrows and strands of hair are meant to reveal God's detailed control and concern for all things in the universe; nothing being more important than the dominion man He placed to rule over it. This is the message to us about creation's mysterious diversity. However, our tendency is to see events in terms of ourselves. We wonder if we did something to cause the death of the sparrow or the strand of hair to fall from our head.

Life's meaning is not found in us but in God's eternal decree. This was the message of the Book of Job--at least the message masterfully interpreted for us in Rushdoony's insightful, yet brief, commentary on Job's plight:

God's creative purpose transcends the life of Job and the purposes of Job, that Job cannot expect that God's providence move in terms of himself when not only the creation but the Creator has priority over Job.[2]

Both Job and his three friends were seeking to interpret his personal tribulation in terms of himself. His friends declared that God never condemned a righteous man, and Job persistently claimed that he had been righteous throughout his life. Why was God harming Job, if Job was righteous? The answer came down to an understanding of sovereignty:

Thus what God required of Job was that he recognize His sovereignty in every respect, recognize that the only standard for judging his own personal life and his own problems was not in terms of himself but in terms of the sovereignty of God, in terms of the Triune God in Himself. Job could not declare of any event in the course of his life that this thing was wrong because it impressed and affected him adversely, since all events in the life of Job could only be judged in terms of one standard, the purpose of the sovereign God. When Job acknowledged these things to be true, the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than the former.[3]

The apparent meaninglessness to our diverse universe of strange creatures and inexplicable events is a convenient confirmation to man's theory of an evolutionary, impersonal, universe of process. For those who are less existential, they see things developing in relation to their own lives. Both would be incorrect. In the ultimate sense, all things move in terms of God's eternal decree. He has good reason for cockroaches, falling hair, underwater earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, etc. He may never share that meaning with us, but the intent is to humble us. For all Job's righteousness and love of God, there was still a measure of pride because he saw his plight as God's reaction to himself. Adding even more insult, the Book of Job begins by showing Job's plight originating over a wager between God and the devil. In other words, if God wants to wage a bet with the devil over our lives, who are we to stop it? The will of God be done.

Does that mean we should expect an equal experience? The Book of Job is hyperbolic, so I would anticipate better treatment in a general sense. The point should be obvious: life's meaning is found in God's sovereignty, and that thought is intended to comfort us. We should also embrace the lesson that blessing follows our living in this theological awareness.

1. R. J. Rushdoony, Systematic Theology in Two Volumes (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1994), 19.
2. R. J. Rushdoony, By What Standard? (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1995 reprint), 196.
3. Ibid., 198.


John Lofton, Recovering Republican said...

Rushdoony-admiring site; please visit/comment.

ScottH said...

As Gomer Pyle would say,"Gawwlee!" Does this mean that God is in total control and not man? Apologies to "Dr." Freddy (I'm in control) Price. I now hear that Freddy has been "promoted" to "apostle" Price. Gawwlee!

Wm Mallory said...

Yes, I heard he was promoted too... Who promoted him to that? Another man?

Good article by Chris! BTW

Wm Mallory said...

Sam, who's music is playing on your Myspace page...I like it!

srhoyle said...

the music is "The Sound of Muzak" by Porcupine Tree

ScottH said...

Yes Bill another man promoted Freddy. Probably Freddy himself!