Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridall of the earth and skie:
The dew shall weep thy fall to night;
For thou must die.
(From ‘Vertue,’ by George Herbert, 1633).
Spring is upon us. If the can of worms that are questions of the universe has been closed for some time, permit me to prise it ajar.
This is the season of life from death: chicks from eggs, blossom from bare bark, sunshine puncturing darkness. New things are being born all around us all the time. So what? According to Professor Stephen Hawking, everything in life is nothing more than physics, therefore we are free to choose our own meaning. But I’ve just learned that suicide is the biggest killer of males under the age of fifty in the UK, and find this hypothesis deeply unsatisfying. What is the point of living if there’s really no point at all? Indeed, beyond procreation, what is the point of anyone staying alive?
Christians respond in a number of ways. A classic response might be that salvation is the purpose of living – getting spiritually ‘saved’ and saving others. But if that is the case then what is the point of working for a home insurer, manufacturing satellite dishes or getting a higher degree? Beyond that, what is the point of poetry, art, of making and drinking coffee? Is the purpose of life merely a race for souls? Or, to co-opt the Alpha slogan, ‘is there more to life than this?’ In my view there has got to be more to life than physics, and, yes, even more than getting saved.
Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.” The Puritans said, ‘the purpose of life is to know God, and enjoy him forever.’ Christians throughout the ages say: this is actually possible. It is possible to know God and to enjoy his presence. Jesus does give us life, spiritual life, but it’s life that also enjoys eating, drinking, playing and participating. The point of living really is to live, in relationship with God, people and creation such that life abounds everywhere in everything.
It is on this foundation, and the experience of these things as realities, that Christians are able to walk wholly, hopefully and purposefully through life, not clutching at converts but savouring God’s graces, rinsing physics with metaphysics.
Onely a sweet and vertuous soul,
Like season’d timber, never gives;
But though the whole world turn to coal,
Then chiefly lives.