Sunday, August 17, 2008

Four Stages on the Journey to Meaning

The following is an outline I wrote based on a talk by Os Guinness that I recently listened to. I found it to be a great help to lead others in the search for meaning. If after reading through the outline you find yourself wanting more, you may wish to order a book by Guinness that covers similar material here.

Four Stages on the Journey – Dr. Os Guinness
Veritas Forum, Louisiana State University

The human drive is a drive to meaning and belonging.

1. A Time for Questions (Seeking)

a. We are seeking meaning and belonging.
b. "The unexamined life is not worth living," --Socrates. Most people are living unexamined lives.
c. We have questions about the meaning of life. We are looking for answers. We want life to make sense.
d. Why don’t more people seek the answers? Two reasons:
i. Pascal called it "diversion."
1. Human beings do not like reality: "Life is short and we’re all going to die." So we surround ourselves with diversions and distractions to take our mind off the fact that life is short and we’re all going to die. Kierkegaard, "Being tranquilized by the trivial." David Hume would play backgammon. Bertrand Russell would read two detective novels a week. Most of us go shopping, or watch movies, entertainment, etc.
ii. Bargaining. We know we’re going to die but we’ll think about it later.
1. Pursue experiences, knowledge, etc. to put off thinking about life.
e. Why do some people begin seeking?
i. The seasons of life. Churchill, "The big seven years." Most people between 18-25 do some of the fundamental thinking that leads to the fundamental choices of life during those years (who to marry, type of work, worldview, etc.).
ii. Others realize they are nearing the end of their lives and begin seeking.
iii. Historical crises (war, social upheaval)
iv. "Signals of transcendence." People have experiences that get their attention and point beyond what they currently believe.
1. Chesterton went to art college and was pulled to pessimism. He was "stopped in my tracks by a dandelion." Natural beauty and wonder of creation caused him to become a seeker. Gratitude made him a seeker.
v. C.S. Lewis. He was "surprised by joy." There were unsatisfied desires in life that were more desirable than any satisfaction. Certain joys turned him away from this world to find the source of joy.
vi. W.H. Auden, he watched a documentary from Europe on the siege of Poland. The Nazi stormtroopers were bayoneting women and children. The audience cried out, "Kill them! Kill them!" He realized human beings were evil. He didn’t believe in God or absolutes so he couldn’t judge the evil. "I left the cinema a seeker after an unconditional absolute by which to judge absolute wrong."
f. Something in their experience, a "signal of transcendence," caused them to become seekers and questioners.

2. A Time for Answers

a. Each seeker focuses on a concentrated way.
i. He has a specific question.
ii. There are only 3 families of answers (worldviews).
1. Eastern – disengages the struggle with evil.
2. Secular – engages the struggle with evil but without hope.
3. Biblical – engages evil with hope.
iii. Evil and Suffering as test issue. "The differences make a difference."
1. Eastern: Evil and suffering are at the heart of life. The problem is not that we die, but that we are reincarnated; weary resignation and fatalism. There is no answer to evil in the world. No vision of justice, peace, and restoration. The vision is renunciation, withdrawal, and detachment. Nirvana is freedom from individuality. They take evil seriously, but the remedy is drastic.
2. Secular: Takes evil seriously but fights it, engages it. The ultimate reality is chance plus time plus matter. Your fighting what is and your chance of overcoming it is nil. Sisyphus rolls the stone of the hill forever. Never ending defeat. There’s a bravery, but a bleakness to the intellectual atheist. "The world should never have been."
3. Biblical: You begin with a personal, infinite God. "The world should’ve been otherwise." The world has gone wrong, but will be set right. Only the West rooted in the Judeo/Christian worldview is there any history of civil reform (banning of infanticide and gladiatorial games, abolition of slave trade, civil rights, etc.).

3. A Time for Evidences

a. G.K. Chesterton wanted a faith that could explain evil and good (big picture).
b. C.S. Lewis read the gospels and encountered the person of Christ (liar, lunatic, or Lord).

4. A Time for Commitment

a. The time a person most feels like themselves: a whole person (mind, heart, will, emotions, conscience). Faith is the whole person committing themselves to what they see as true.
b. A lot of people talk about journey or seeking but have no intention of concluding or arriving. Many have open minds but never shut them. Political correctness discourages conclusion.
c. Augustine, "You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you."

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