Written by Randy Bushey
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:26 ).
It’s often dangerous to broadly classify people.
However, in my life experience of 6 decades, it’s becoming increasingly evident that almost everyone I encounter would fit into one of 2 categories, 2 broad worldviews.
The first group I’ll call naturalists.
Naturalists affirm that whatever happens in life and in history can be explained by the laws of nature, in terms of natural physics. In other words, things always have natural explanations.
Taken to its logical extension, this leaves no room for the possibility of an all-encompassing meta-narrative of meaning and purpose. Thinking about absolute origin is meaningless, except as far as scientific hypotheses of undirected cosmic forces and chance will take us.
To be consistent, human dignity and value is a matter of subjective personal preference. Some will contend that every person therefore is measured and valued in terms of what they can do, what they can produce. Persons of limited or no value can be terminated into finality, because “when you’re dead, you’re dead”.
It’s pointless to talk about ultimate destiny for the human soul, because there is neither destiny or a soul.
And, of course, God is eliminated from the equation.
There is no overarching moral framework because there is no sovereign Law-giver. There is no consideration of what is behind design, biological digital data, functionality and intention, because there is no Creator.
The second group – the super-naturalists – accept that there is more to reality than can be adequately explained by natural, physical causes.
Super-naturalists entertain the possibility of something in addition to, outside of, or above, nature. We call this metaphysical, that which is along with or beyond the realm of the physical. Metaphysics leads to more abstract thinking on matters of existence, meaning, ethics, first causes, origin, destiny.
And, according to most supernatural speculations, the human life is composed of a soul – the non-material existence that survives physical death.
These 2 groups will arrive at very different conclusions on the big questions. Is there more than we can see to the arc of history? Do eternal purposes exist?
Is our entire reality simply that existence bookended by the first cry of birth and the final, laboured gasp of death?
I’ve raised the subject of death in many conversations; it’s a topic many people – and most naturalists – I’ve encountered are reluctant, even fearful, to consider.
If naturalists are so convinced that there is nothing beyond death – and isn’t that the bedrock assumption of current discussions about abortion and physician-assisted death? – why are they (at least in my admittedly limited experience) so reluctant to talk about what, if anything, is beyond the grave?
Most contemporary naturalists might be surprised to know that 2000 years ago, the Bible declared their position a refusal to follow the evidence where it logically leads. Furthermore, Scripture declares that naturalists want there to be nothing above and beyond – having convinced themselves in the face of the evidence, that there is no reality beyond that which can be explained by science, measured by physics, governed by the observable laws of nature.
In his magnum opus to the 1st century Christians at Rome, the Apostle Paul effectively concluded as incoherent any atheist position. He supported his bold assertion with the declaration that every person is exposed to sufficient evidence to know irrefutably of God’s existence. Driving his point further, Paul says that those who deny God and his work are motivated “by their unrighteousness” to “suppress the truth”.
Here’s the crux of his proclamation: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19,20 ).
Those are powerfully polarizing words – particularly in the 21st century.
If God exists, then do humans posses eternal souls? The Bible’s pronouncement: every human being is created in God’s image. Every person possesses a soul.
If that is true, then what is the value of a soul? What is the destiny of your soul?
I return to those profound questions posed by Jesus of Nazareth: For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:26 ).
But the Gospel of Christ was intentionally built on the truth claims of Christ. In His interrogation at the hands of Pilate, Jesus affirmed, “In fact the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to Me”. (John 18:37 ).
He had the audacity to declare Himself to be the personification of truth (John 14:6 ).
Jesus declared to His followers, “and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32 ).
Fast forward to our present day. What is a typical 21st century response to our discussion so far?
Increasingly, I discover that when it comes to the big issues – the questions of what is beyond this life – that many retreat to declaring that there is no objective truth, only subjective truths. “This is good for you, because it’s meaningful for you, and therefore it is true for you!”
Is truth (and ethics, and meaning, and ultimate destiny) really only determined by subjective perceptions of that which is good and meaningful?
Or, is truth that which is consistent with what is real, authentic, and accurate. (In epistemology, this is sometimes called the “correspondence theory of truth”. Truth is that which corresponds to reality. Always.)
But such a view of truth – which every driver involved in a car collision is quick to affirm when supplying her statement of events – is often somehow wildly distorted when it comes to consideration of the topic of religion or spirituality (a realm of metaphysics) in general, and the claims of Christ in particular.
Somehow the laws of objective truth are thought not to apply, causing some otherwise rational folks to say things like, “Your faith might be true for you, but it’s not true for me!”
Takeaway: If the Gospel is true, then it provides a comprehensive worldview to facilitate understanding, to illuminate truth.
C. S. Lewis: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
If the Gospel of Christ is true, it is true for everyone.
If the biblical Gospel is true, then there is no more important consideration for every person in every place, than one’s soul’s eternal destiny.
~image by Dan Colcer, freeimages.com