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Monday, 18 January 2016

Existentialism is Meaningless

I have been thinking recently about something I once heard someone say in a very existential manner: 'you get what you deserve in life'. At the time it struck me as odd and after deeper thought, untrue. If we get what we deserve in life then this means that 'good people' who have tragedies happen to them cannot be 'good people' because obviously they did something that means they deserve to have tragedy befall them. And the same goes for 'wicked' people who get blessed beyond measure.

I am of course poking fun here at existentialism to a degree (although Solomon displayed elements of existential belief) because ultimately when it is boiled down I believe it is too shallow and narrow. Existentialistic ideals such as 'there are no wrong answers' are proved illogically wrong and the idea that 'everything is meaningless' means that life should hold no purpose. Of course, there are those who explain that existentialism's 'lack of meaning' creates more meaning in life - that it frees us to be who we want to be in this life because such a set of values equates meaning to this reality alone.

Ultimately I find this too simplistic. I don't believe that we can only hold meaning in this life - indeed to me this way of thinking does not account for life's complexity, nor do I see how my experience of life supports the idea that there is only one reality. No, I believe that life's meaning points on beyond the grave and that life holds meaning through being a stepping stone into a greater eternal reality.

In John 9:1-7 there is a story of a man which relates to life's meaning and getting what you deserve:
1As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
This story shows how the disciples clearly believed that the sins of the man or his parents were responsible for his blind condition. Yet Jesus explains that no one sinned to 'make' the man blind. Rather his blindness allowed an opportunity for Jesus to display God's glory. The story continues to show how the hypocritical Pharisees argue about whether this healing on the Sabbath breaks God's law when in fact Jesus was following and fulfilling the law in a far greater degree. This leads to a great moment when the Pharisees refuse to believe that the man had been healed by Jesus as the Christ.
35Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”c 36He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?”41Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
Jesus healed the man of a far greater blindness than simply his physical blindness. He healed the man's spiritual blindness, revealing the true blindness of the Pharisees who believed they could see but did not recognise Jesus as Lord. You see, none of us deserve what we get in life. Truly because of the sin we are born into we deserve eternal death and destruction - we are born into the lie of the Matrix, fed into a world that beneath the scenes is dead and feeds a machine of sin. But Jesus in his grace comes to show us that we can be given eternal life - that the reality of being poor, being rich, being sick, being well is all as superficial as anything. And that in the end all are equal - but some may be better off if they believe and follow Christ.

You see existentialism is meaningless because it reduces life to something that we can manage where we are the gods of our own lives and no one can live like that. Because no one can manage everything without some tragedy or failure coming that we don't deserve for our good actions. Even the Pharisees by their actions didn't deserve to be called blind, save for one thing: they failed to recognise Jesus as Lord. Don't miss that same opportunity, recognise that you are not in control of life but that you don't have to be if you open yourself up and truly see Jesus as the meaning of it all.