What is the Meaning of Life
Review of Christian Beliefs
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 181 Review of Christian Beliefs by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? That’s the subject we’ve been dealing with now for about 180 broadcasts. And this is broadcast number 181, for those of you who might later on want to refer to it. We’re trying to deal with the subject “What is the meaning of life?” in a realistic way and trying to deal with it in a common sense way and in at least a semi-intelligent way. So I hope that you yourself are beginning to think through your own philosophy of life, even as we talk day by day, because that’s really the most important part about these broadcasts: what you will be stirred or stimulated or motivated to think about yourself.
What conclusions you come to are the conclusions that govern your life and will determine the way you live and the way you die. So, it is vital that you yourself think carefully through these things and question everything that I say and examine it and think about it before you receive it into your mind. Ian Whitehead, you remember, who worked with Einstein for part of the time, was a great educator and he said that one of the great problems in education today is the problem of dead wood. Dead wood.
And he defined that as ideas that are accepted into the mind without being examined first or being tested against other ideas already in the mind. Of course, you would probably rise in agreement with that; that one of the great problems of our whole system of epistemology today — our system of knowledge and understanding — is that many of us have our heads filled with dead wood — filled with ideas and facts that are not related to other facts and ideas in our mind, and have not really been examined but have just been allowed to seep into our minds like some ground water that seeps into some old house. And we can’t make any sense of most of it.
So that’s what we’re trying to do in the subject that we’re talking about during this year and I hope in coming years. What is the meaning of life? Why are you alive? Why am I alive? What are we doing here?” What is the point of it all?
You remember that the poem written by A. E. Housman, expresses it so poignantly:
“Yonder see the morning blink, The sun is up and up must I To wash, and dress, and eat, and drink, And look at things And talk, and think, and work, And God knows why. Ah, often have I washed and dressed And what’s to show for all my pain? Let me lie abed and rest, Ten thousand times I’ve done my best And all’s to do again.”
And many of us feel the futility and the frustration that old Housman expressed more than fifty, sixty years ago now. So that’s why we’re talking about this subject. What is the point of us all being here? And we’ve tried to deal with it, you remember, on the basis of some kind of intellectual presuppositions and we’ve tried to go behind those presuppositions and justify them and substantiate them. And you know that we’ve been tackling it from the viewpoint of at least theists.
A theist is a person who looks around at the world, sees the order and design that is present in the seasons; sees the order and design in the chart of the elements; sees the order and design in the DNA structure of the molecule; sees the order and design in the blood circulation of our own bodies; perceives all around the order and design that Einstein so delighted in — and comes to the same conclusion as Einstein. You remember Einstein said, “Really, my religion consists of a respect for the great intellectual mind that has designed this complex universe, the details of which I am able only slightly to perceive.”
And that’s what a theist is; a theist is one who says, “Look, there has to be an intellect behind all this order and design.” It didn’t come about just by undirected evolutionary process. There had to be someone who at least designed and programmed the evolutionary process. If there is evolution, then there had to be some intellectual mind that determined that the evolution would evolve into something more orderly. There had to be some mind that directed some kind of progress in evolution.
It was not just time plus chance, because time plus chance or uncontrolled explosions nowadays just wreak havoc and destruction and they couldn’t have wrought anything but havoc and destruction however many billions of years you give them. So a theist is one who says there has to be some intellectual mind behind this universe.
We’ve also said that the mind must also have been as personable as we are because we’re persons and we can’t imagine a non-person making a person. Because personality seems to us to be the highest type of existence that we know of and so we’ve said that the intellectual mind must be at least personal also.
And then, you remember, we tried to find out if that intellectual person had expressed himself or communicated himself to us in any way over the centuries. And we examined some of the well known religious leaders, like Muhammad, and Buddha and Zoroaster and Confucius and some of the Hindus. And we examined the claims that they made to be able to tell us what the intellectual mind behind the universe wanted when He made us or had in His purposes when He created us. And we discovered of course they were a rare mixture of legend, of ancient literature that often couldn’t be corroborated and above all of men who died like ourselves, as we have often said — like dogs — and were buried. Buddha was buried. Muhammad was buried. Zoroaster was buried. Confucius was buried. They all died.
They all showed the same limitation when it came to the matter of death. They had no power over it. In other words, it is very difficult to find a person who really seems to have been off the world. That is, seems to have left the world, got out somewhere beyond where our astronauts go and come back to tell us what is beyond the furthest star. And, of course, what we saw was that there was only one such person in all our history that gives any kind of reasonable substantiation for believing that he was actually able to leave this world of time and space and pierce into infinity.
And that was that remarkable man who was recorded so carefully in regard to his actions and his words in the first century of our era. He’s known as Jesus — you know that. And before you go to sleep, let me remind you that we did then proceed to examine in detail the history of his life as it’s found in that old book — please don’t go to sleep again — that old book called the Bible.
And we discovered that not only are there in the British Museum manuscripts like the Codex Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus — which are far closer to the original writing of the Bible than any manuscripts that we have of Julius Caesar, of Plato’s “Republic” or of Thucydides or any of the great historians. But we began to realize that there are other manuscripts that are even closer to the original writing so that there is no way in which we can do anything but accept the history of the first century that is given in those first few books of what
we call the New Testament in the Bible, as being historical, as being absolutely reliable. In fact, being among the most reliable history that we have in our possession. And, by all means, if you want to examine some of these presuppositions that we started with 8 or 9 months ago, please do write and get the cassette of those broadcasts.
So, we’ve reached the conclusion that that man had actually lived in the first century and that he had done and said the things he did and said and that he had actually overcome death. And that the arguments for trying to explain away the resurrection were more difficult to believe than the resurrection itself. Let’s go on tomorrow and say where we went to from there and then proceed with our discussion.