The author of Four Against the Arctic, in a philosophical moment, quotes the existentialist Albert Camus' book The Myth of Sisyphus. Camus (I believe it is pronounced Cam-moo) writes,
"There is one truly serious philosophical question, which is that of suicide. To decide that life is not worth living is to answer the fundamental question of philosophy."
I have to admit again that the existentialists have much insight on life. Sadly though, the honest and consistent existentialist does not even have an answer to the question, let alone the right answer.
One thing is for certain though, without a Biblical view of man, man is (as they say) "better off dead." When one takes an "under the sun" approach to life one is left without a distinguished purpose and without a solid basis for dignity. In other words, man has no real reason for living. These words of Camus almost echoes those of Solomon who, after viewing all of life from a Camus-like lens, says, "Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless."
Thankfully Jesus solves the "to be or not to be" question when He says, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." In this passage Jesus underscores the value of humanity. In the background of this passage we hear that man is God's beloved creation. Even in his miserable, sinful state humanity is precious. So precious is man in God's eyes that He would send his Son, in the very form of man, to redeem the men He has designated for it.
The key to life's question is the Life Giver. Life is not to be terminated by one's own hand. Life is to be lived. But not only is life to be lived, it is to be lived with fullness of life. Sure, if life is just about scrapping by, then, yeah, why not pull the trigger? If life is no better than that of a dog's, then why put off the inevitable? But if life possesses meaning and fulfilment, purpose and dignity, then another day is to be had.
Jesus knows that life is really nothing more than an existence without His redemption. Jesus knows that the real end of a man oriented philosophy is ultimately suicide. So he intervenes with the answer to philosophy's most basic question: It is not about whether or not I chose to take my life of live it. It is about whether or not I choose to serve Christ or not.
In months past I have written on the cause of suicide. I explained that some of its prevalence in Ashland (and America at large) is due much to the naturalistic and materialistic worldview that is taught in our public schools (and pretty much everywhere else). I would like to offer one more reason why people choose to end their lives. I would not doubt either that this is the most basic cause.
"Suicide can be one of the ways that people deal with their sin. It is, at the same time, a means of escape and a kind of self atonement. The guilt one experiences for sin can be exceedingly maddening. The only remedy may appear to be the ending of the thinking process. Similarly, the shedding of one's blood for guilt parody's the true remedy for sin: The crucifixion of Christ.
"It is no wonder that you are driven to despair; when your sins come howling behind you like so many ravenous wolves. I should understand why you would seek to lay violent hands upon yourself. It is no strange thing for men to loose all hope when under a sentence of sin."
I've been listening to this series of sermons by Dr. Curt Daniel on Philosophy and Christianity as part of my research for my worldview class. Of particular interest is this lecture on Existentialism and Nihilism (embedded below). I like the Existentialists because they are the most consistent atheists/naturalists.
If life has no God, life has no meaning.
If life has no meaning, then life is absurd.
If life is absurd, then why live.
Daniel puts it well when he says that existentialism and nihilism are "the sewer into which all philosophical systems run."
In the teaching Daniel does an excellent job of showing the different variations of existential thought have express themselves in art, theater, anarchism, and everyday life. What's best is that through the entire series he points to first sources, using names and quotes/examples of people who embody the philosophies.
Many, if not most, suicides occur as a result of the person seeing no real reason to live. They lose the drive to live because they do not see any reason to continue living. That is why, when considering the subject of “How to prevent suicide,” it is important to consider not just man’s origins, but also his meaning and purpose.
Again, this is where the Bible is so informative. The Bible emphasizes that each moment of life has a grand purpose, superseding any earthly or temporal connection. Life was given in the beginning by God for the purpose of serving God. We were fashioned for Him and for His pleasure.
So, no matter what may occur on earth—be it the loss of a loved one, a loss of a job, or some other ill turn of events—one ought to see that his life is not tied up in these fleeting and fickle things. His life is to be found in the Creator. Man was designed to live eternally and in harmonious communion with the Almighty.
This lively and eternal prospective radically differs from the prevailing philosophy of the day. Most people in America are taught and embrace (be it consciously or not) the evolutionary and materialistic perspective that has been handed down from Darwin. According to this worldview a person’s life has but one end: the grave.
It is easy to see why this angle worldview enhances the possibility of suicidal tendencies, particularly when one is afflicted with the dark and gloomy thoughts that accompany a depressed spirit. One can, in that cheerless moment, easily come to believe that it is better to end one’s life sooner than later.
The most optimistic in this camp will say that life should be lived for the benefit of others or that life’s meaning is what you make of it. Yet even there one must confess that, despite great feats or pleasures, it is only a matter of time before the death bell tolls. One may still wonder if there is any use in delaying the inevitable.
Certainly the “Let’s make the best of it” philosophy is quite dire. It only serves to highlight the real means of preventing further suicides. Young people need to hear that life does have eternal and meaningful purpose. They need to understand that God has designed them to forever enjoy the bliss of His majesty and benevolence. They need to know that they are a part of a grand story and that God has given them a particular role in that story. They need to understand that they were designed to serve Him and commune with Him all the days of their lives.
When such principles are grasped, one may see that each day is worth living. No matter how dark the day may seem or how useless one may appear in the eyes of men, he or she has a relation to the divine and is called to fulfill their divinely appointed purpose in that day.
[The above article is the fourth in a series on How to Prevent Further Suicides.]
 Materialism is the belief that matter is the only thing that exists. It holds that there are no immaterial things such as a person’s soul, spiritual beings, etc.
In the last article I argued that preventing further suicides necessitates a vigorous promotion of the Christian view of man. God created man in His image and, as a result, man has inherent dignity and personal worth. This, in turn, boosts an individual’s self perception and lowers one’s possibility of taking his life.
Unfortunately this notion, which can help to boost any depressed soul, is not advocated in our day. The contemporary philosophy that receives acclaim is the evolutionary view of man, a view which robs man of his glory and personal nobility.
The Darwinian worldview advocates that man is essentially a cosmic accident. He is a descendent of a germ that materialized by molecules randomly bumping into each other. To put it another way, man is nothing more than a product of random happenchance, having no real distinction from the grass that we mow down with our lawn mowers.
While there might be a few strands of DNA that separate us from grass, Darwinism cannot deny that there is no essential dignity that distinguishes us. According to their own reasoning, a few molecules came together in just the right way. Some of those molecules became grass; some of them became you.
With such a worldview it is easy to see why one can come to believe that taking one’s life is ok. Man is nothing more than a blade of grass that can be mown down at will.
As a matter of fact, the existentialist philosopher Albert Camus has even given excellent insight into just how dreadful his own materialistic worldview really is. Camus said, “The greatest question that mankind faces is not if one should take his life, but when.”
The good news is that not everyone who holds the materialistic/evolutionary construct sees the logical consequences of their line of reasoning. For this we can be quite glad. The bad news is that some, like Camus, do see the implications of their beliefs.
Without dignity and inherent worth nobody has any reason to continue living one minute. This is why it is detrimental to society for our schools, television stations, public officials, museums, etc. to promote the materialistic, evolutionary worldview. In promoting this perspective they become accomplices to the acts of suicide.
If we wish to bring the number of suicides down, it is imperative that the evolutionary worldview be repudiated wherever possible. The Christian view of man be embraced, and our young people ought to be given the foundational principles that coalesce with prolonging life.
[This is a series on preventing further suicides. To view the other articles in the series click here.]
Suicide cannot happen unless one’s perception of one’s self has been denigrated. A depressed spirit and the feeling that one’s life is worthless are the incubators of suicide. As a result, the only sure way to prevent someone from taking their life is to help them realize their life is immensely valuable.
This is why the Christian notion of humanity needs to be advanced. The Bible expresses that man is unique among creation, possessing inherent dignity and worth. This is owing to the fact that man bears the image of God. When man was created in the beginning he was set apart from all other material and immaterial things because he was endowed with the likeness of God.
This likeness has been defined variously, and certainly it entails many diverse things. At the very least it indicates that some of God’s attributes are reflected in man. It should be obvious that man does not possess these attributes in the same way or degree that God does. But, in a much more muted fashion, man expresses some measure of the divine being. These qualities include, but are not limited to, things like compassion, rationality, love, and hatred.
As well, man’s nature points to the divine as man is not just a physical being. God distinguished him from the rest of the created things by giving him an immortal spirit.
Much more could be said on the matter. However, this should be enough for now to make the point clear: Man, as the image bearer of God, possesses inherent worth and a profound dignity.
Indeed, this is what gives credence to the Bible’s command not to murder (see my earlier post). The Bible forbids this because the unjust taking of a human life amounts to an attack on God Himself. Since man bears the image of God, seeking to snuff out that image is virtually equal to an attempt at snuffing out God.
Embedded within the fifth commandment is the fact that man’s dignity far surpasses any plant or animal. Each individual’s worth is so immense that one ought to do all they can to protect and preserve themselves and their neighbors.
Affirming the Christian perspective of man then, provides a sound basis for personal self-esteem. While depression will certainly occur among young people, and not all suicides can be prevented even among Christians, a definite diminishing can occur when young people come to terms with the substantial grandeur of their personal constitution.
Much of Ashland has been astir as of late due to the recent teen suicides that have occurred. That there has been a string of such incidents means that we should pause and consider the issue in light of biblical reflection.
I want to emphasize this point to: The best way to prevent suicide is to teach and embrace the truths presented in the Bible. Any other worldview will only help to enhance the tendency towards death.
What motivated the series of suicides locally is unknown to me. I will not pretend to know what issues those particular souls struggled with. Neither will I say that all the guidelines below will prevent suicide altogether. Man is sinful at heart, and will carry out his evil designs. Nevertheless, there are serious issues of a worldview nature that ought to be considered so that these types of episodes are less likely to be repeated.
The first issue regarding these questions of worldview is that of law and the public affirmation of what God has decreed in Scripture regarding murder.
Doubtfully anyone will object to the fact that taking one’s life is against the sixth commandment’s prohibition on murder. Suicide is, after all, self murder. The Bible makes it clear that such an act is a gross violation of God’s law. Moreover, the implication of the law is that we have the opposite responsibility of seeing to the welfare of our persons and possessions.
Teaching such a position then is helpful for it reinforces the notion of self preservation. Even if one does not believe in God per se, the active promotion of this commandment helps to restrain such actions (see The Restraint of Evil).
Since God’s law is not advanced in our day by the schools and public officials the culture has devolved into a relativistic mindset. Without this absolute moral base kids do not have any legitimate reason to stave off their own deaths. The choice of suicide has become just as viable as the choice to have breakfast in the morning.
What kids need now is to understand that there is a higher Lawgiver to whom they are accountable. In hearing this publicly proclaimed they will recognize that they are not the ones who determine right or wrong by their own accord.
To be sure, the commandments of God promote life. These statues need to be taught because they will put in the minds of young people the understanding that they ought to do their best to safeguard their lives.
[The above material is part 1 on how to help prevent further suicides locally]
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