II Corinthians 10:5

"Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."

February 28, 2009

What to Live For.

As part of my carpentry course at Saint Paul College, we watched the Ken Burns documentary on the life of Frank Lloyd Wright. Extraordinary architectural achievements aside, Frank Lloyd Wright provides us an example of one who had a rather “natural” view of life.

What struck me most about Wright was that he seemed to do anything that pleased him. In fact, only the things that pleased him. One example of this was made manifest through his marriages.

Wright first married Catherine Tobin and after 6 children fell out of love with her. The children, he said, had taken too much of her focus and time. Even though Catherine wouldn’t divorce him, Wright turned to another woman -the wife of a neighbor, Mamah Cheney- to solve his problems. Even though Wright had been married for just about 20 years, he and Mrs. Cheney eloped to Europe. They later moved into a house in Wisconsin, called Taliesin. It was there that Mrs. Cheney was murdered by a servant. In 1922, Wright’s first wife finally gave him a divorce. She had loved him, and had hoped he would return. After waiting the required year after a divorce, Wright married Maude "Miriam" Noel in 1923. Things didn’t turn out so good for Wright in this marriage either, and while still married to Maude, he and Olga Hinzenburg moved in together in 1925. Wright officially married Olga in 1928 after going through divorce proceedings with Maude.

It is hard to imagine such a life- until we realize where Wright is coming from. He once said something like: “You have to live for the now; it is the most important thing.”

The example of Frank Lloyd Wright provides us Christians with a good example of what happens to one when he looks within himself instead of to God, his Creator for how to live life. This thinking stems from a view of “self law” or the belief that ultimate authority rests with the individual. Really, then, what Wright had was a view of existentailism. His mere existence determined how he would make choices and choose to live his life.

For the Christian, here are some responses to existentialism.

True Purpose:
True happiness, purpose, and fulfillment isn’t found in doing whatever one wishes or whatever makes one feel good in a given situation. Rather it is found in glorifying Christ, and this often consists of doing the exact opposite thing one feels in his human nature like doing. But it is the only way by which we may live a meaningful, purposeful, joyful life. How do we glorify Christ? Consider the following verses:

John 15:4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

John 15:8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit;

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.

To illustrate:

Abiding(which requires brokeness/obedience) leads to – Glorification of God, which leads to – True Purpose and Joy

Instead of living in a way that will bring me the most pleasure, happiness, NOW at this moment of existence, we have joy and purpose in abiding in Him.

Eternal Perspective:
Another response to existentialism for the Christian is that God tells us to “Set your minds on things above, not on things of the earth.” (Colossians 3:2). Instead of getting caught up in this “vapor,” we are called to look beyond this world and its temporary pleasures. We are reminded that there are greater things to consider than to simply view life through “natural” eyes. There is a day when all will be judged for what they did in this life, and for this we are reminded to “not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Indeed how easy it is to live life microscopically, losing the forest for a tree. But let us strive to live each moment for Him, with an eternal perspective “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
“What we do in life echoes in eternity.”

What would your responses be to existentialism?

Daniel Wanschura


Ted Sands said...

First off, a life of pleasure seeking for one's self is all that is possible for one that doesn't believe in God. Humanity, in general, seeks pleasure. So, what is wrong with existentialism is that it omits God in that search for pleasure.

Secondly, to say "TRUE ____" (fill in the blank) is only, in essence, shouting louder than your opponent. It's as if your opponent defined ____ first so you have to redefine it and attach "TRUE" on the front for emphasis. I don't think those arguments are productive.

Thirdly, there are some pretty broad strokes i.e. " often consists of doing the exact opposite thing one feels in his human nature like doing." This is hard to believe and may be theoretical but not true in practice. In theory, if we are sinners and our human nature is sinful, then, to glorify God, we must do the opposite of what we feel in our human nature is natural. But, that is not to say that what we feel like doing, is necessarily our human nature doing the feeling. Otherwise, Christians would be quite twisted individuals always thinking one thing but doing another because "the one thing is probably wrong because I want to do it."

Anyway, those are initial points that jumped to my mind. They'll probably be good for conversation points.

Aronne said...

Fine write-up. Mr. Lloyd Wright's life appears to contain some disturbing hedonistic elements. Such a lifestyle is far from extinct. Today, we can see many people living all and only for pleasure.

"Secondly, to say 'TRUE ____' (fill in the blank) is only, in essence, shouting louder than your opponent. It's as if your opponent defined ____ first so you have to redefine it and attach 'TRUE' on the front for emphasis. I don't think those arguments are productive."

Bless you, it all depends. Perhaps you could see it this way, but when this argument is used, it is not necessarily destined to failure.

Take something -- in this article, Purpose and Joy. Both things have a perfect form, no? If so, then it is logical to say that the joy of one person is more true to the ultimate, most excellent joy, than the joy of another person. I believe such is the case with the Christian verses the lifestyle of someone like Mr. Lloyd Wright.

Isaac Alzen said...

A thought on the topic of hedonism: John Piper actually coined the term "Christian hedonist." He argues that "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him."
He says that we should seek pleasure. Not a self-centered pleasure, but pleasure through submission to Christ. This is how we achieve true satisfaction. So in a sense he is arguing that we should seek pleasure. Just not the way most people would suppose.
I just thought it was interesting that he used the term "Christian hedonism."