After Church – Fitting In

Jesus It's That Easy t-shirt

Or is it?

The way to solve the problem you see in life, is to live in a way that will make what is problematic disappear.

The fact that life is problematic shows that the shape of your life does not fit into life’s mold. So you must change the way you live and, once your life does fit into the mold, what is problematic will disappear.

But don’t we have the feeling that someone who sees no problem in life is blind to something important, even to the most important thing of all? Don’t I feel like saying that a man like that is just living aimlessly – blindly, like a mole, and that if only he could see, he would see the problem?

Or shouldn’t I say rather: a man who lives rightly won’t experience the problem as sorrow, so for him it will not be a problem, but a joy rather; in other words for him it will be a bright halo round his life, not a dubious halo.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value (p. 27)

So, let us take this quote in a Christian context. Would most people actually become a Christian if they did not think that this was the case? I highly doubt it. What value does there seem to be in the idea of a man who resurrects from the dead? What does any of it mean? How does one eliminate the “problem” of life, or fit into its mold? Why wasn’t that just given to everyone in advance?

fitting-in

How do you “fit in”, so to speak?

Imagine it in this sense. Everyone has a worldview – that’s beyond debate at this point. It may or may not find a particular expression in a person’s life, but they certainly follow a code, creed, religious tradition, group affiliation, or something that determines who they are, what they do, and any variety of different aspects of their life. Naturally, a society of “free” people (free, at least, to believe in what they want) will produce a sort of conflict, civil or no, based on the cultural environs. Whereas we had friendly debates between atheists and Christians now, violence looked like a preferred method in previous eras.

In all cases, though, each person believes what they believe because they find that it is the true representation of how reality works. Whether or not it is perceived or truly the case doesn’t matter to them because they see it working. I would call it a matter of emphasis. The atheist sees natural processes working in a Darwinian way – life isn’t good or evil, just relative. The Christian sees a world of sin and sees Christ as redemption for all from evil. Anyone can see that, I’m sure.

But do most people really pick their worldview simply out of a need to solve life’s problems? I doubt it. If that were the mere facts of the case, then pragmatism would reign and we wouldn’t have much, if any, religion in the modern world. Something appears to call beyond the humdrum mundane world of the skeptic and speaks to people. They see hope for a brighter day and a better future. They observe the world working in mysterious ways, coincidences that couldn’t possibly be coincidences, the vast impossibility of their current state in life. These impulses drive people to believe in God, I imagine. It is definitely not limited to intellectual assent. There’s something deeper and more powerful about it.

When Wittgenstein talks of “problematic” issues in life, he does not mean the constant battle of the mind to understand what is right, or what is wrong, or any of these weird problems. He means that understanding the way to live rightly means that…things work out. Not in the sense of your planned-out-in-advance life, but the way in which the universe works. In other words, you start to understanding its meaning – not your personal beliefs.

What do I know about God and the purpose of life?

I know that this world exists.

That I am placed in it like my eye in its visual field.

That something about it is problematic, which we call its meaning.

That this meaning does not lie in it but outside it.

That life is the world.

That my will penetrates the world.

That my will is good or evil.

Therefore that good and evil are somehow connected with the meaning of rhe world.

The meaning of life, i.e., the meaning of the world, we can call God.

And connect with this the comparison of God to a father.

To pray is to think about the meaning of life.

Imagine, then, that long period of doubt. Have you not seen the dramatic conversion experience of a complete stranger to the faith? Where did the will to convert come? We can call it the Holy Spirit in our context of Christian language, but isn’t that a mysterious thing? It certainly did not occur through the badgering of apologetics or convincing someone that historical evidence supports a divine resurrection. How could any one individual elements make a person believe in a fantastical idea like the Christian faith? Idea feels like the wrong word for it. It fundamentally changes your view of reality when you see things coming together in completeness for the first time. That changes every person who experiences it. I’m finding it difficult to convey this in words.

To make it less personal and touch-feely, you do not change but your perception changes. Remove those thoughts of subjectivity, here, and try to get into the thought. That clear sparkling moment happens when everything is new again and all becomes suddenly clear when it stayed rainy and cloudy for so long. There’s a subtle connection between what I do, what happens, and how everything occurs. You fit, in other words. Maybe you change the world; maybe you don’t. But you surely see all this stuff and say “it can’t be meaningless”. The rationalist and the spiritualist alike see this, yet both take the wrong aspect out of it by removing the Other. It’s a mixture of both. Humans aren’t born rational thinking things; that happens over time. Nor do we find ourselves born with a taste for spiritual things or basic human emotions like empathy.

But everyone makes this much harder because they focus on changing themselves. It is not you but your view of the world that needs to change.

There are two godheads: the world and my independent I.

I am either happy or unhappy, that is all. It can be said: good or evil do not exist.

A man who is happy must have no fear. Not even in the face of death.

Only a man who lives not in time but in the present is happy.

For life in the present there is no death.

Death is not an event in life. It is not a fact of the world.

If by eternity is understood not infinite temporal duration but non-temporality, then it can be said that a man lives eternally if he lives in the present.

In order to live happily, I must be in agreement with the world. And that is what “being happy” means.

I am then, so to speak, in agreement with that alien will on which I appear dependent. That is to say: “I am doing the will of God”.

Fear in the face of death is the best sign of a false, i.e. a bad, life.

When my conscience upsets my equilibrium, then I am not in agreement with Something. But what is this? Is it the world?

Certainly it is correct to say: Conscience is the voice of God.

For example, it makes me unhappy to think that I have offended such and such a man. Is that my conscience?

Can one say: “Act according to your conscience whatever it may be”?

Live happy!

To go further and more abstract, “Good” and “evil” and “happy” and “unhappy”, and perhaps even “God” and “Jesus” and “Holy Spirit” merely exist as names given to true objects in reality. We Christian believe these point perfectly to the concept in question, and our descriptions hit that essential character of those fundamentals in reality. We might say, like Calvin, that God operates on human principles to communicate. The canon exists to facilitate proper communication without going over our heads completely. The flavor of Christianity keeps just enough wonder, just enough vagary, just enough hope, and just enough fact to make faith, or the belief in things unseen, a viable option – but not one that every person believes. By accepting this and changing the way we see reality, we become “happy”. We live eternally in the present because we live eternally in the future (I deviate here from Wittgenstein). Other religions, worldviews, etc., do not. That, then, is why people remain “unhappy” – that is, they have an incomplete view. They miss out the aspect of the Will that governs reality, which we call the Trinity. When Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:

10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

Paul admits that, even with his knowledge, we’ve only a part of the puzzle – the essential pieces, sure, but not the whole. And why should we expect all the answers? I realized long ago that, though I am self-proclaimed “smart”, it is literally impossible to know everything. I cannot be the greatest intellect, nor could my brain hold all those vast questions of life. It’s a logical and practical necessity that I am limited in my knowledge. To know that I cannot know everything becomes an unimaginable burden lifted from the shoulders.

It is important to note, also, that the meaning comes from outside. I could know all the facts of the world – every single idea, movement, living thing, piece of matters, etc., and I would find myself no closer to life’s meaning than when I started. All that knowledge of facts and their accumulation gets us no closer to that “happy” place. Ethics and religion come from a different place outside the world, and that seems to me why the Bible does not resonate on either a rational or emotional level. It appeals to a hidden sense that simply makes all things new,  a realization of the highest order that doesn’t recognize facts but meanings. That, my friends, makes all the difference in the world. Christianity is the meaning behind the brute facts of life – if you know it, you don’t simply believe it but live it in every capacity – hence fitting into life’s mold.

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.