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Where are you going?

The start and development of biological life on Earth and of man's appearance on this planet are naturally of interest to all of us. Such evidence as can be found and the literary and historical accounts are open to many interpretations. Unfortunately, the concepts held tend to be polarized. At one extreme are the atheistic evolutionists who take the view that the basic, though intensely complicated, structures essential to life were merely the result of chance events happening over very long periods. Further developments are then attributed to the transmission of characteristics that appear haphazardly and prove to be beneficial to survival. This approach is in total conflict with the biblical view of creation, which insistently emphasizes that the universe and all that is in it are the work of a creator who not only brought it into being but remains intimately involved in personal control.

The extreme materialist view is quite unacceptable to many eminent scientists. Sir Ernst Chain, for example, who received the Nobel prize for his work on penicillin, wrote in his book Social Responsibility and the Scientist in Modern Western Society: "The probability for such an event [i.e., the origin of DNA molecules by sheer chance] to have occurred is just too small to be seriously considered, given even a time period as long as that of the existence of life on earth. The assumption of directive forces in the origin and development of vital processes becomes a necessity in any kind of interpretation."

More recently, the mathematician Sir Fred Hoyle, in his 1982 Omni lecture delivered at the Royal Institution, London, emphasized the extreme improbability of the development of the complicated structures that form the basis of life happening by chance. He stated that the odds agianst this would be 1 plus such a fantastic number of zeros that it would require several months for a man working ten hours a day to write them down, and that they would exceed in number all the individual letters in all of Shakepeare's plays. Yet materialist evolution is taught and accepted as if it were a tenable hypothesis.

Alan Hayward, in his lucid and thoughtful book God Is, lists fascinating examples of the highly developed mechanisms possessed by birds for flight, fshes for navigation and insects for protection, to mention but a few. As he emphasizes, these mechanisms could have been of no conceivable advantage from the standpoint of evolutionary survival until fully developed, so that it seems impossible to explain them without postulating some form of direction that implies a Director.

There is, of course, ample evidence that all living organisms, both plants and animals, let alone bacteria, modify their structure and behavior and adapt to new environments in which they have to survive. There can be no denial that survival of the fittest does operate, but it is not legitimate to extrapolate from the fact that certain transformations have been observed or can be legitimately inferred to the hypothesis that such mechanisms can alone account for the development of more and more complicated species.

At the opposite extreme in this debate are those who insist on a totally literal interpretation of the account of creation given in the early chapters of Genesis in the Authorized (King James) Version and allow God only a week for completing His work from the formation of the universe to the creation of man. This approach is diametrically opposed to the materialistic view, for it rightly recognizes the hand of God behind all life and development.

Might not the corret interpretation of the God-given account lie between these two extremes, but much nearer the second than the first? The Apostle Peter affirmed that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. The meaning would be in no way altered had he said a million, or many million, years. God, after all, is outside time, and it is consequently ridiculous to impose on him temporal restrictions or to consider an event more likely to be performed by God if it happened suddenly than if it developed gradually.

It must, of course, be recognized that, unlike scientific textbooks primarily concerned with the question "How?" the Bible rather deals with the more fundamental questions "Who?" and "Why?"

Throughout the Bible spiritual truths are often presented in allegorical or metaphorical form, familiar words being used to portray spiritual truths. C. S. Lewis emphasizes that the portrayal of spiritual truth msut almost inevitably be allegorical, becase only language and metpahors belonging to a time and space existence are available to attempt to communicate truths and concepts in the spiritual realm. Thus, when we refer to the efficacy of "the blood of Christ" to remove the guilt of our sins, we are not considering plasma, cells and antibodies, which is the literal interpreation of blood. Nor was Christ referring to a wooden structure with hinges attached when he claimed to be the "door" through which we must pass to be saved. When the psalmist referred to the Lord as a "rock," he meant the charactristics of a rock, not a literal lump of granite.

Thus we accept that analogy is a common means of communicating truth. Moreover, all agree that truths can only be communicated thorugh language and metaphor familiar to and understood by the recipient. Also, a father uses different words to tell a truth to his son when he is 3 than when he is 15.

There is an inconsistency inherent in the approach of many Christians who freely accept that in the last book of the Bible the Holy Spirit, in order to portray events in the future far beyond man's limited understanding, should employ pictorial allegory. They are, however, horrified by the suggestion that the same Holy Spirit might use a similar approach when conveying, in the first book of the Bible, truths of the distant past equally outside the reach of man's understanding.

The "how" of creation is not of fundamental importance. The basic truths are that God existed before all matter; that life was initially created by him; and that planned thought and design are behind the process of creation. The time factor is, in asense, irrelevant. Man is fundamentally a spiritual being, temporarily resident in, intimately interwoven with and manifesting himself through a biological framework.

This framework was variously referred to by St. Paul as a "tent" and "jars of clay," or as "the outward" in contrast to "inward" man. The making of man in God's imae cannot have referred to his physical and mental attributes: "God is spirit." Man by spirit can respond to his heavenly Father. Hence the very next verse after the account of the creation of man in Genesis plainly states, "God spoke to him," and throughout Scripture we find God speaking, endeavoring to communicate to individual men and women.

What an incredible thought it is that God seeks and even needs men with whom He can communicate. Christ, who was God, craved for the fellowship of His disciples in Gethsemane; they were sleeping while He longed for them to be sharing with Him.

The Christian's concept of man is "suprabiological" and not dependent on anatomical or biological characteristics. Archaeological discovery of remnants of creatures structurally resembling "Homo sapiens" can in no way determine whether these creatures were "man" in the biblical sense.

Problems regarding evolution fall into their proper order once it is realized that mani s fundamentally a spiritual being; the spiritual content that is temporally housed in a biological carton.

These initial comments have been made to help those who are convinced of the creative activity of God behind and within all of what we call nature, but who have difficulty in accepting a literal interpretation of the creation narrative as found in Genesis.

Our origin, createdby God for fellowship with Him, is the truth which ultimately matters. How this occured is a mystery, probably beyond our means of ever finding out. It is of far greater importance to each of us to look forward and do all we can to ensure the desired destination of the content than to look back and speculate on the origins and development of the carton. Preventive maintenance of the carton is, I am convinced, of more importance than its repair, but I regret that my lectures and publications stressing this point must often hae given the impression that this was an adequate goal in life. The eternal destiny of the content is of inestimably greater import than the temporary welfare of the carton.

A simple illustration may help us to allocate our priorities more wisely during our time on eath. Let us imagine life as a journey by train to an airport at which all passengers disembark. No luggage can be taken any farther, and passengers with onward air-bookings proceed to the departure lounged and await their onward flight to a delightful and desirable destination.

Arrival at the airport is a junction on the journey, not a terminus, and it represents biological death.

The coaches composing the train are of various classes, representing the outward circumstances, financial or otherwise, that surround the passengers during their earthly life. They are subdivided into compartments, some luxuriously furnished and the others sparsely equipped. The quality of a compartment represents the health or illness experienced by the passenger, and he himself as a person represents what St. Paul refers to as "inward man," as distinct from "the outward man" (the compartment); the content and the carton, to repeat the analogy that is used above.

Onward air tickets are expensive but paid for. They are being offered free of charge, but on certain conditions, to each passenger on the train. They represent the invitations to the feast that were offered freely, though the feast was costly to prepare. That parable, given to us by Jesus Christ, portrays God's gracious welcome into His family and the home prepared for those who accept his offer of life. In the story, the self-satisfied and self-opinionated were too engrossed in the affairs of this world to give time and serious consideration to the King's invitation. Likewise, many wealthier passengers and those sound in body lightheartedly reject the offered onward booking. Their spiritual well-being has already been bartered for some tangible though temporal material gain, like Esau, who gave away his birthright for a bowl of food.

Other passengers, many in more austere compartments--though in total regrettably few, like the poor and maimed in the parable--receive the onward ticket with gratitude. In fact, it becomes their most treasured possession.

Those possessing air bookings peruse the itineray of their onward journey with joyful anticipation, while their companions are utterly preoccupied with the day's menus and the lists of amusements and amenities provided to satisfy their daily interests.

Mingling with the passengers are a few people equipped with simple tools and oil cans, whose duty it is to ensure the maintenance of the compartments in order to forestall breakdown of equipment. They represent those engaged in preventive medicine, forestalling disease rather than rescuing casualties. In addition there are those with much more costly and elaborate equipment who endeavor with varying measures of success to repair breakdowns of equipment, furniture, heating or lighting. Quite evidently the impotance and effetiveness of maintenance, representing preventive medicine, far outweigh those of the repair gang, those engaged solely in therapeutic medicine, though both are necessary and they complement one another.

Some maintainers and repairers carry onward air tickets additional to their own, which they endeavor to persuade passengers to accept. They realize that all their repair efforts, however efficient, only improve circumstances for the first part of the journey. One of the strangest things of all is that many of those in the less favorable portions of the train, even though possessing onward bookings, are ostensibly jealous of those in better carriags but without onward ticketsd.

After disembarkment from the train at the airport, all luggage is left behind and all passengrs booked through to their final destination are admitted to the departure lounge, joyful and confident in delighted anticipation. By then the class or other circumstances experienced on the train are a past irrelevance, and the thought of harboring jealousy toward even the most comfortable of passengers booked only to the airport must seem ridiculous.

Those who had been totally preoccupied with the pleasures and interests of their train journey to the exclusion of what lay beyond the junction are despondent, because they have deliberately rejected what they now recognize to far exceed in value all that they had previosly prized.

The attitudes and priorities of travelers in contrasting circumstances are graphically portrayed in another of Christ's accounts, that of the rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus, the beggar, traveled in a poor compartment, second class, but gratefully clutched his onward booking. his wealthy neighbor, the rich man, traveled in utmost luxury, but with no onward reservation. Too late he recognized and acknowledged his tragic mistake in the totally wrong choice of his priorities. We are all on a journey, as St. Paul puts it, some "on their way to salvation," others "on their way to ruin."

If we opt with Pascal for life beyond the grave, the only thing that ultimately matters, that is of supreme importance, is not where we come from or the class by which we travel, but the possession of an onward booking, provided at great cost but offered free, the invitation to the Kinghs feast.

At a recent press interview in connection with a book I had written on dietary measures for maintaining health, I was asked what my ambition was for the future. I tried to explain that my taks was an attempt to maintain the facilities in the train, but I would much rather direct passengers to the onward booking office. This is the purpose of what I write here.

As I was preparing the first edition of this article, a letter written by an African Christian woman Arrived from Uganda. It contained news of a dear friend who had for many years been a most faithful chaplain in Mulago Hospital in Kampala. When we parted at our last meeting, he asked me to pray before I entered my car and suggested that our next meeting would be in heaven. I thought then that his train was approaching the airport, but there was more left of his earthly journey than I had expected. The letter then received indicated that his train was nearing the airport. In the apt language of his simple faith, he said he was "standing at the doors of heaven just waiting for them to open when he would be called in." I met many great, good and competent men in Uganda, but I wonder if any will receive a greater welcome than his when that destination is finally reached. He was a man who was "poor, yet making many rich." His will be a glorious termination to a journey in a second-class compartment, but during which he was constantly offering onward tickets to others.

A few weeks before I revised and lengthened this article, our youngest grandchild was born. As a family we were shattered to learn that he was destined to travel in a low-class compartment as a child with Down's syndrome. What initially appeared a stunning tragedy has already turned out to be, and we believe will continue to be, a blessing to us and to many others. Weakness and suffering bring out the best from people in the way of love, caring and understanding, and with these we have been enveloped and overwhelmed. Ability, fortune or success, on the other hand, foster the destructive evils of arrogance and jealousy. God has so often chosen the weak thinsg of the world to confound the mighty.

Our daughter and son-in-law have demonstrated their loving acceptance of this little one by naming him Edward Samuel, his second name meaning "a gift from God." A comment from our daughter expressed all that we as a family felt. "When Jesus rode into Jerusalem he deliberately chose to be carried by a humble, stupid animal, a donkey. Edward may in the world's eyes appear stupid, but what matter if he can be used by Jesus." We pray that he will be a pilgrim pointing others upward as he makes his way in a second-class coach towards the celestial city.

Paul, when speaking to the Athenians, affirmed that God "made the world and everything in it" without discussing the questions of how or when. He turned instead straight to the matter of ultimate priorities, stating, "God did this so that man woudl seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us."

There can be no question that the most important matter for each of us is our relationship to God, and sicne we are assured that he was "in Christ reconciling the world to himself," our entrance to his family and eventually to his heavenly kingdom is available through our acceptance of the reconciliation offered. It is not where "our cartons" came from that ultimately matters but the destinationof our "contents."
COPYRIGHT 1984 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:meaning of life
Author:Burkitt, Denis
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Apr 1, 1984
Words:2869
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