There is extra value in being an eternal being

Monday Musings for December 28, 2020

Good morning, Musers,

I do not remember ever not having a sense of the eternal. Perhaps this is why I’m not an atheist; Since I was sensitive to what I was sure was a metaphysical truth — that we persist into eternity — I engaged with my philosophical training early. But where did all that come from?

I have no other explanation than to say it was a gift from God. But as a gift, it’s sort of a sleeper. Since we were made in God’s image, it’s reasonable to think that we’d have a sense of the eternal… although not everyone wears this feeling on their sleeve.

That should come as no surprise. The Bible teaches that some people would grow callused (Matthew 13:15) — and here’s the thing about calluses: they only grow in response to irritation.

So, what’s irritating the souls of the callused? The echoes of God’s image, for one. Add to that his continual drawing of people to himself (John 6:44), his revelation in nature (Romans 1:18-20) and the human conscience (Romans 2:14-15) — and people have plenty to rub up against!

I suspect this is why many people’s worldviews feel out of balance. Without a sense of the eternal, life is hopeless… and we humans were built for hope.

I grew up in the USA in the 50s and 60s, so I was exposed to a lot of “ethics.” They were not always taught directly, but they were embedded in our culture: literature and films contained ethical lessons, often in the form of morals. Sports contributed too; we were taught to win and lose graciously — to exercise good sportsmanship.

Ethics also showed up at the dinner table. Parents encouraged us to be good citizens — to get married, behave civilly, pay our taxes and serve our country. Acting less than honorably in these areas brought shame upon the family… and you don’t have to spend much time in front of a television before you realize that we’ve turned a corner: we celebrate shame rather than fear it.

Back then, in the post-World War II salad days, even though our lives seemed to be “our own,” they really weren’t — and part of that was because we were taught that our souls would live for eternity. But we weren’t just taught that in religion classes. God built that into us. Most of us will cop to feeling that we were eternal beings when we were young.

But here’s the thing: if life is eternal, there is a lot at stake! So, you can see where certain people are attracted to physicalist reductionist atheism. To the reductionist, there are no moral values and duties; this is because they do not believe that we are “persons” — we are merely biological entities — so we have no souls… and if that is true, then eternity is moot!

But God’s word tells us to choose life or death in Deuteronomy 30:15… and doesn’t that sound severe! But there is value in living like you are an eternal being today, not just in the future. To live the kind of lives we were designed to live, we must embrace eternity… we must surrender to what feels true.

Too many of us act like reductionists. We insist that, since we have secured eternal life, we may live to ourselves. But the only behavior that matches the word “Lord” is the total surrender of one’s life… because without that, “Lord” is just a word, and “eternity” is just for later.

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