Philosophy, in simple terms, is an attempt to find a unifying set of truths by which we make sense of life. The British philosopher and academic, Paul Strathern, made an interesting observation that, it seems to me, represents the dilemma of our times. He wrote: “The age of seemingly ever-expanding scientific knowledge requires more than ever a philosophy to underpin that knowledge. In an overall sense this has yet to be found. Perhaps it never will.”[i]
Our own mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being requires an overarching set of truths, a unifying set of values, a foundational set of facts that allows us to synthesize knowledge. Philosophy asks: Is there a worldview that will harmonize reality, around which the whole universe will coalesce—from the largest star to the smallest insect? Does anything hold this world together? Does anything give meaning to life?
Paul Strathern said that such a philosophy has yet to be found and perhaps it never will. In other words, perhaps there’s nothing that makes sense of life.
That is secularism, pure and simple. The book of Ecclesiastes confronts secularism head-on by showing us the inescapable despair that results from a philosophy that omits the reality of God. Ecclesiastes is the Philosophy Department of the University of the Bible.
The best way to understand Ecclesiastes is to compare how the book opens with how it closes. The first two verses of chapter 1 tell us that everything in life is meaningless and futile if there’s nothing except what we see “under the sun.”
The last two verses, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, say: Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
Reject God and life is meaningless. Acknowledge and respect Him, and life is fulfilling. Those are the only two options. There are no others.
For the first installment of my series of messages from Ecclesiastes, visit www.donelson.org, and to to the sermon tab.
[i] Paul Strathern, Bertrand Russell in 90 Minutes (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2001), 12.