The Meaning of Life

How is life defined, based on world view?  The Red Pyramid world assumes that the only reality is physical and accidental. Therefore, life is reduced to the ability of our body to please itself – which is why modern “life” is also primarily about instant gratification of every kind of appetite, especially sexual. A person “living” in this world is like a person drowning, frantic to get up and out of the threat of sinking down into death. Accumulating material things seems like it would lift one higher above the threat of death while also increasing the amount of happiness drawn from those things. But everyone in this world sinks down just the same, sooner or later.  And that sense of impending doom is like a heavy, dark cloud bearing down on the person who is already terrified of drowning … so what becomes of happiness here?

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In Green V world, “life” has to do with positive relationships. A person’s physical being is called “living” only to the extent that it is in positive relationship with nature (including its own health) and with other people. In this world view, the eternal soul is the essence of the person, which means it can be happy all the time because it recognizes the value of all relationships, whether pleasing or challenging (notice these terms replace “good” and “bad”).

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Thus, Jesus said that whoever is honest about dependence on Him will never die. Thus, God makes all things work together for good for those whose souls are regenerated from above, from the Word.  And these souls live always and forever. Now we can make sense of Jesus’ command to love our enemies since we have a physical nature to use in the service of and for the benefit of all, especially those who consider themselves most opposed to us. Jesus is life itself; we see Him living in the gospel history, and we experience His life as He continually wakes us up to realize the truth.

Justice

Justice is the word we’re considering today in this series of how world view defines words.  Justice has to do with what is good, right, and fair. In Red Pyramid world “good” is what makes me the happiest most of the time. If I can’t be as happy as I want in Red Pyramid world, I might as well be dead.  This is why euthanasia, abortion, and mercy killing are genuinely considered good. In Red Pyramid world, might makes “right” because it would be unfair to expect a person to do less than they are capable of in their desperate competition for happiness. Red Pyramid world accepts survival of the fittest as factual and natural. Freud sees it as sexual and without responsibility because consequences besides happiness are seen as threats to happiness.

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In Green V world, there is the Creator and His creation where all things work according to His design from His love. Justice has to do with what is fair and equitable, like doing unto others as you would have them do to you. God creates all things and bears responsibility for all things; His happiness comes from giving all that He is and has away, as we see in the life and death of Jesus. The Son of God gave Himself in place of everyone because that is just. He gives our lives back to us because that is love. God gave us a physical life in time and an eternal soul so that we could learn what justice really is (giving our lives to others) and so also know what happiness really is (from the eternal soul’s perspective).

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For these reasons, “maturity” in Red Pyramid world means being able to do whatever you want whenever you want without anyone else being an obstacle or detraction. Maturity in Green V world means discovering true happiness as love for others presses you under more and more people and closer to God.

Defining Knowledge

As I continue this series of defining key words based on world view, let’s take a look at the word knowledge.  There are three main characteristics of knowing in Red Pyramid world:

  • First, what people claim they know has more to do with what they want than with what actually is, really. Many people claim they know that all religions are the same, without having studied any of them.
  • Second, people often claim to know things when they really just know about them—something they heard or have heard about. If you ask a person to elaborate on what they say they know, they are unable to. People claim that scientists have proven that evolution is a fact and the Bible is false, but if you ask them to tell you about that science, they cannot.
  • Third, claims to knowledge are too often aggressive and arrogant. The less certain a person is about what they claim to know, the more insecure and thus, the more violently defensive and intolerant they are to any challenge. People claim that gender identity is a social construct, arbitrary, and something a person has a right to choose (or change). If you challenge that claim, you are likely to get a ferocious response.

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There are also three main characteristics of knowledge in Green V world.

  • First, knowing has more to do with connectedness than with conclusions. Scientists and theologians alike “know” their subject because they are immersed, wanting to learn about God’s design in order to help others benefit.
  • Second, immersion in a subject makes a person modest in what he claims to know and also makes that person eager to collaborate with others, especially with challengers. Such modesty increases even as certainty increases for ideas that are enduring.
  • Finally, knowing is the product of broad and enduring study. Each day a person engages the day with gratitude and anticipation for how much there is to learn and in how many ways.

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Tyranny makes claims to knowledge in order to force people into bondage. The genuine pursuit of knowledge liberates people to a life united in study, collaboration, and helpfulness.

Let’s Consider Science

Continuing this series of world views and word definitions, let’s take a look at science.   “Science” is a Latin word for “knowledge.” The Red Pyramid world view claims to know things as facts, but these claims serve the pre-commitments of people who are desperate to acquire greater happiness.  (“Religion” in this world view is treated in the same way.)  For example, Charles Darwin was not an atheist. However, people wanting to be free of feeling guilty for the way they pursue happiness insist that evolution is a fact that proves the Bible is wrong and that there is, in fact, no God that we must answer to. Other people who want to keep some kind of god in their life are willing to concede that ideas about god and religion are a matter of personal preference and thus each person is free to invent a god who exists to support the individual’s pursuit of happiness, whatever that is.

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Let’s take a look at the definition of science through the Green V world view.  Here, science and religion are completely devoted to the pursuit of just one thing—truth. There are still plenty of credentialed scientists and theologians/philosophers who work together in pursuit of evidence of truth and a reliable understanding of that evidence. This pursuit is fundamental and essential because the truth (reality as it really is) is what governs us. The science and religion of Green V world bring us together in a positive and collaborative effort to learn. For example, science finds the purpose that can be found in every element of nature and the Bible explains the nature of that purpose. The content of a healthy, happy material life is complimented by a divine understanding of God’s intent that our lives be devoted to love for one another, soul and body. What we learn in this way makes substantive and enduring joy, peace, and hope.

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What is your religion?

Last week, I proposed a definition for the word “faith”. What other essential words have a very different meaning depending on our world view? In the weeks to come we will look at words that are integral to our understanding of the world around us in contrast to the world of God’s design.

Let’s start with RELIGION. “Religion” means “what governs.” Therefore, everyone is religious because everyone does certain things religiously. You can look at the lives of others (or your own life!) and identify their religion, often in contrast to what they claim. The desire for happiness is the universal religion of human beings. The world we live in makes all the difference.

In Red Pyramid world, happiness displaces virtue.  Happiness isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. Happiness as fast and often as possible, governing, rationalizing, and justifying every human effort to get happy.

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In Green V world, happiness follows virtue, which means happiness is constant and durable. The best way to happiness is to seek the happiness of others—substantive, lasting happiness that comes from realizing God’s design and providence. As we lose our physical life for the sake of others, we discover our own living soul.

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Defining “Faith”

With The Green V view of the world in mind (discussed in the last post), can we remember a definition for “faith,” “belief/believe,” and “trust”? Remember that all of these words mean the same thing and translate a single Greek word: pistis/pisteuo.  The translation of that word, “Honesty about dependence,” begins to make sense of what the Bible and universal human experience intend to teach us.

Just as the gospel has been confined to the idea of forgiveness in popular thinking, so also the terms associated with salvation have been confined to “faith.” There are some important points to consider here.

First, popular and religious opinions assume that “faith” is a matter of personal preference—the way any individual would like things to be, but with no necessary relationship with the truth. In fact, the word “faith” in the Bible means, “honesty about dependence.” Honesty is the appropriate relationship to truth and honesty is not something we invent or do; honesty is what we realize about the truth when we are at rest (when we are not thinking, speaking, or acting to the contrary).

Second, from honesty about dependence we think about the magnitude of God’s dependability. Honesty about dependence makes us mindful and conscious of all that God provides for us, more than we can imagine really. Take a moment and think about everything God created and sustains, from the farthest reaches of the universe, to our own sun, to the beauty of nature around you, to your senses that take it all in, to your heartbeat and respiration.  These are all constant, wonderful, ever-present witnesses to God’s will that you live. This is why the opposite of faith is not unbelief but works (Romans 4; Ephesians 2; 1 Corinthians 1:18ff; Matthew 18). Biblical Christianity reveals the unimaginable—that God provides all things to us in abundance and works all things for us so there is nothing left to get or do for ourselves. All that is left is for us to realize this truth by passing along to others what is divinely “too much” for us to keep to ourselves.

Third, the Bible describes salvation in conjunction with many words besides “faith.” For example, Luke 1:50 says that God’s mercy is upon those who fear Him. Psalm 34 says God’s salvation is with those who are poor, fearful, seeking Him, broken-hearted, and possessing a contrite spirit. Psalm 37 mentions those who seek refuge in God. Psalm 41 says the person who considers the poor is under God’s care. Proverbs 22:4 uses the terms “humility” and “fear of the Lord.” All terms of salvation have one thing in common: a person without means of denying the truth and thus are honest about dependence on God who is absolutely and always dependable.

An Alternative Way to Live

Last week, I wrote about how those who live in the Red Pyramid World think of faith.  Before we look at an alternate definition of faith, let’s step back and look more closely at life in the Green V World.

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This world is generally the reverse and inversion of Red Pyramid World. Think of a stack of “V” shapes, each one supporting the others that are above; the two lowest “V’s” are God the Father and God the Son. Then, the order proceeds to men, women, and children. “Headship” and authority serve responsibility and care-taking. In this world, masculinity is primarily concerned with bearing responsibility for others. In this world all things exist by God’s design, all things work together for good, and nothing is wasted or useless. In this world the meta-physical or immaterial is essential, while the material is an extension, a laboratory in which to learn about everything without mistakes being deadly or catastrophic.

In this world happiness is also the goal, but it is a very different kind of happiness—deeper, broader, more substantive and enduring. Happiness, in this world, is something the soul experiences when sacrificing one’s body for the well-being of another.

This is a profound and powerful happiness for many reasons. First, this happiness comes from realizing what it means to be made in the image of God. What could ever make us happier than doing what we are good at (or the very best at)? Second, this happiness is free and open. We do it by inspiration rather than compulsion, from fullness rather than emptiness, from contentment rather than desperation, and from love rather than selfishness. There are always more people to love so the opportunities are endless and there is usually no line to wait in. Third, the corruption of our human nature makes our desires contrary to our living, regenerate soul. Therefore, spending our time and human nature in service to others—using it, fatiguing it, and wearing it out—allows our living, regenerate soul to have the upper hand, to prevail for life and goodness. Fourth, because we are increasing the life of our soul by giving the life of the body for other living, eternal souls, the love we give has everlasting value. The Green V World is the absolute algorithm; it answers every question, solves every puzzle, unlocks every door, and always only ever chooses for life.  Because of the nature of this world, God’s creation, that means for the benefit of everyone’s life in time and eternity, in body and soul!

Take some time to consider the ideas of this Green V World.  Send me any comments or questions you have about these two world views I’ve presented.  My next post will consider how those who live life according to the Green V World view define faith.

 

From World Views to How Words are Viewed–Faith

In my last post, I presented two world view models, and over the next several weeks, we’ll explore the significance of these models in relation to our experiences, to how words are defined, to biblical terms for salvation, and biblical concepts for life.

May we begin by sympathizing with people who live with the conviction or assumption that red pyramid world (physical and temporal only) is the only world. This world view changes the meaning of words. For example, “faith” in this world has to do with what a person wishes were true or prefers to believe. Faith is a person’s own preference, something he/she feels; it is emotional, powerful, and often changing in order to provide for more happiness more of the time. People here trust in their belief in what their own faith tells them. Such a meaning makes challenges to a person’s faith useless and unwelcome.

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What about another world of body and soul, time and eternity? In the Bible there is a single word translated in English as “faith,” “belief,” or “trust.” Just one word (“pistis”/”pisteuo” in Greek) that has to do with honesty about dependence. Notice the relationship between honesty and truth. The Bible invites and urges us to seek the truth, and honesty connects us to the truth. Honestly, we are utterly dependent on God for all things and on one another for most things. A living soul, based in truth, experiences life in a body and in time in a vastly different way than a person with a body and time only, especially because God assures us that He regenerates our everlasting soul to be ever-living. The meaning of common and essential words changes dramatically as we see things from the soul’s perspective. The first word we define differently is faith. What a difference in perspective we have when we know faith to be honesty about dependence, rather than “faith” as what a body wants to be true in a desperate lunge for a happiness that is tenuous and temporary.

Worlds Apart?

What if the world we are living in has made it impossible for people to hear the truth, either through nature or the Bible? Over the past 150 years three powerful forces have altered the way people think. First, people today assume that evolution is a fact; the only “life” we have is accidental, material, and bound in a short period of time. Second, people are frantically trying to get as much happiness as they can as quickly as possible as much of the time as possible. This explains our world’s preoccupation with sexual identity and activity. Third, electronic media has replaced real life for many people. Sports, video games, entertainment, and social media have created virtual worlds that people are addicted to. Let’s call this “red pyramid world” because it is all about climbing over each other in fierce competition for happiness which inevitably results in death. The only true living God and His Word are hated and despised in this world view, which is reasonable if that is the world as it is. If there is a God, why doesn’t He grant us happiness all the time?

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But what if there is another world?  I like to call this “green V world,” in which the essence of life is spiritual and the essence of our identity is the soul designed to live in union with God and one another; this is life infinite. Inside this reality there is a physical world of souls with physical bodies—a laboratory where we learn by experience about life and death, love and hatred, God and His creation. This world makes sense of everything all the time. Here we understand Jesus when He says, “… whoever hates his life in this world will save it…” and “… greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life …” and “… love your enemies.” This world understands why denying the passions of our rebellious human nature is the only way to lasting, authentic happiness according to God’s design and for the benefit of all.

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In the weeks to come we will explore the significance of these models in relation to our experiences, to how words are defined, to biblical terms for salvation, and biblical concepts for life.