Historian Paul Johnson, in his book, “The Quest for God”, states the essential importance of the spiritual questions in life. He says,
The existence or the non-existence of God is the most important question we humans are ever called to answer(emphasis mine). If God does exist, and if in consequence we are called to another life when this one ends, a momentous set of consequences follows, which should affect every day, every moment almost, of earthly existence. Our life then becomes a mere preparation for eternity.
If, on the other hand, God does not exist, another momentous set of consequences follows. This life then becomes the only one we have, we have no duties or obligations except our own interests and pleasures. There are no commands to follow except what society imposes on us , and even those we may evade if we can get away with it. In a Godless world, there is no obvious basis for altruism of any kind, moral anarchy takes over and the rule of self prevails.¹
Which brings us to the last question Jesus asked the multitudes as he referenced John the Baptist’s character:
“But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.”
The last virtue that Christ mentions is that a good man is a spiritual man. And why not? It is within this realm that the great, hard questions of existence are dealt with. Materialism and hedonism limit the inquiries of life to a petty few. There have been phenomenal achievements in the world of science, benefits for today and tomorrow, but the importance of all scientific knowledge, from the great cosmos to the infinitesimal sub-atomic particle, dims in the presence of the simple statement, “now, if we only knew why“². The good man understands the importance of these searchings and does not try to hide the importance of the search under a mountain of mundane things.
The spiritual man is a prophet in both senses of the word. He is a “foreteller” and he is a “forthteller”. As a seer, he sees the moral trajectory of the culture today and charts its future destination; not through a crystal ball or tea leaves, but, as the poet said, “knowing how way leads on to way”.
As a forthteller he proclaims the truth that with two such widely differing starting points as Johnson mentions, it is impossible to have the same ethical trajectory or the same result. Our culture is in a very precarious place. We are eroding the moral foundation on which we stand, without yet having put the countries full spiritual weight on a promised humanistic standard. History reveals that the humanistic standard will not be able to bear the weight. It was Malcolm Muggeridge who noted what inevitably fills the vacuum when God has been removed.
If God is dead, somebody is going to have to take his place. It will be megalomania or erotomania, the drive for power or the drive for pleasure. . .
Most would not voluntarily choose such a culture in which to live. And that is the interesting thing. Most, on either side of the cultural divide would agree; a culture is better served with men who are resolute, self-controlled, have an ethical anchor, and can chart a path to a better destination. Why we, as men, fail to achieve these virtues is easy to understand-they present a life style that is hard. Why any culture would want men lacking these virtues is a question that may return to haunt us.
¹Paul Johnson, The Quest for God: a Personal Pilgrimage(Harper & Row, New York:1988) p.3
² From Stephen Hawkings’ book, A Brief History of time