From the Pastor's Study
From the Pastor’s Study
June 27, 2023
The philosopher, Socrates, lived about 400 years before Jesus was born, and he is credited with what has become known as the Socratic method of gaining understanding. That sounds fairly complex, but the idea is quite simple, for it reflects what a child might do. In the Socratic method, one asks questions and the other provides the answer. That answer leads to a further question. Children are remarkably good at this, asking, perhaps, “Why is the sky blue?” The parent might say, “Because it reflects the colour of the ocean.” That is an incorrect answer, but the child might ask another question: “Why is the ocean blue?” The parent, who has forgotten her high school science, is stumped and realizes that her knowledge is not nearly as extensive as it could be. The parent might be moved to seek the answer to her child’s question, thereby learning more about the world herself.
This is the goal of the Socratic method. In this method, it is not the student who asks the questions, but the teacher. The teacher asks probing questions so that their students will begin to seek answers for themselves. In this we learn that a good question is often as beneficial as a good answer. Sometimes the student is unable to provide a good answer, revealing that he must seek the answer from someone somewhere. A good question causes us to think about life more deeply.
Perhaps one of the most thought-provoking questions we can ask of someone is this: “Why are you here?” The responder can take that question in several ways and say things like, “I’m here because I have an appointment,” or “I’m here because God made me,” or “I’m here to help you weed your garden.” The first answer speaks to the circumstances that brought us to our present situation. The second speaks to the root cause of our existence. The third speaks to our purpose. In each understanding of the question, the responder is forced to examine his or her life to determine what circumstances brought them to this point in life, why we exist in the first place, and what our purpose of life might be. There are a multitude of answers to each of our understandings of the question, but in seeking those answers, we gain a better understanding of our origins, our purpose, and our circumstances.
It is in this light that we can consider Proverbs 9:10 which says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” If we know that there is a God who is responsible for making all that exists, we can say, “I’m here because God, in his infinite wisdom, deliberately decided to make this world, and that is why I exist.” Unlike an evolutionist who must say that we exist because of random chance events, when we understand who God is, we also understand that our existence is no mere result of random and uncontrolled events. If we understand, further, that God intervenes in this world and in our lives, directing our steps, we can say that we are here in our present situation because God has had his hand in our lives. We also recognize, of course, that there is evil in this world, and while our circumstances may be caused by the evil that is both within and without, God can shape circumstances to bring us to a new “here.” And, finally, when we consider our purpose in the light of a God who loves us and provides for us, we can understand that he has given us a vocation, a calling, in which we find purpose and meaning. When we understand this world from the perspective of knowing God, our answers to the question, “Why am I here?” show that we live and move and breathe and we do so with purpose because of God.
It is pitiable, therefore, to hear the answers of someone who absolutely does not believe in God’s existence. They understand that their existence is a result of blind luck or impersonal fate, that they happen to be in their present circumstances just because that is where they are, and they have no real purpose for life except to exist for a few decades before dying and entering into oblivion. Without the knowledge of God, there is nothing but meaningless existence.
Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living and by that he meant that if we don’t think about life, we will not experience life to the fullest. Sadly, if we think about life without God, there is no point to it all. Socrates is right: the unexamined life is not worth living, and his goal was to help us gain meaning and purpose. But Socrates did that without God, and many of his questions led to just more questions. When we do include God in our ponderings, we find that while we might not fully understand why we are here, we are confident that we are because God has made it so. And because he cares for us, our lives have purpose and meaning.