Have you ever thought about yourself? I don’t mean about how you look, or how you’re dressed, or anything superficial like that. I mean, have you ever thought about who you are inside, wherever inside is? You are reading this right now. Your eyes are scanning these black marks on white paper, and your brain is instantaneously interpreting them, giving them meaning and communicating ideas to you that are abstract and insubstantial. You are not thinking about a table, or a book: you are thinking about you, something other than your physical self.
How do we do that? Who is the “me” we’re thinking about? As the philosopher, Pete Townsend, said: “Who are you? I really want to know.” You see, I know that the prevailing idea in society today is that we are mere machines, and I’ve written about this before. But it occurs to me that nobody, or practically nobody, really believes in their heart of hearts (wherever that is) that we are just a collection of molecules, atoms, proteins, or whatever, that have randomly evolved into creatures without ultimate purpose or meaning.
None of us live that way. We live on the basis that we matter, that those we love matter too. In fact, we live believing that we do actually love, feel anger, think abstractly, value certain qualities above others. We live believing that we have consciousness, whatever that is. Descartes said: “I think, therefore I am”. What he meant was that we know who we are; that we are, because we can think about it. We can meditate on existence, we can understand concepts like beauty and honour, we can agree with remarkable unanimity that there is good and bad, and that we know the difference.
Without those abilities to think and reason, civilisation, society, cannot exist. If, as the Bible says, everyone does what is right in their own eyes, we would have chaos and anarchy of the worst kind. And that, I believe, is where we are heading, as we continue to deny that people matter, have meaning and purpose, and are more than random and transitory animals passing through a meaningless world without reason or value.
The fact is that very few of us really believe that our lives are so ultimately pointless, or that good and evil have no real meaning. There is something in each of us that believes that there is more to the universe than that. Rejecting the idea of the Christian God, some have looked to other forms of religious expression. Others have looked to aliens and demons to provide an explanation for what they experience. Those few who really believe that human life has no value are known as sociopaths, psychopaths, and their beliefs have led to great evil.
But there is a word that has also become somewhat disreputable: evil. People like to believe that evil doesn’t exist, that everything is relative. What is good for you, may not be good for me. How anyone can look at what happened in history, what is happening in our own day, and not believe there is such a thing as evil, is impossible to understand. Holocausts, genocide, mutilations and destruction, not to mention environmental suicide, child and spousal abuse, and so many other aspects of our daily lives, indicates that something has gone terribly wrong in this world.
Why do we see these things as wrong? To what are we comparing our world, given that it has always been like this? Why do we feel guilt when we do something we know is “wrong”? Why do we seem to know in our souls (whatever they are) that there is a standard by which these things are being judged, a standard that seems to be an integral part of our very being? Where did that awareness come from, and why would mere biological machines, unguided random collections of genetic material even develop that awareness?
People can play mind games as much as they like: developing theories of existence tat are mentally amusing, but ultimately baseless and without foundation. We simply don’t live that way: we somehow know better than to try. I know I exist, that I think, reason, have consciousness, self-consciousness. Hamlet said: “There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. It is my honest and deep-seated belief that only Christianity has an explanation for our current situation, answers the questions of who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. This is not an escape from reason, not a refusal to be a rational, thinking individual. It is, in fact, quite the opposite: a certainty based on reality, a spiritual as well as intellectual bedrock on which to build.
We are not animals, not machines, not biological accidents. We are created in the image of God, living in a world that is fallen, broken – as we are – and in need of saving. The Good News is that there is a Saviour.