Do We Still Need the Good News?

Every once in a while a cultural pundit will suggest that our culture is progressing to a point where religion will be unnecessary and/or irrelevant. The thinking behind such an idea seems to be that mankind will gradually be able to address its major problems through its own, seemingly ever-expanding resources. In other words, one day we’ll collectively wake up and realize we no longer need the crutches we now cherish as spiritual truths. Perhaps it’s a notion that continues to echo from the heady days of the Enlightenment, when continual “progress” seemed to be man’s inevitable destiny.

Other factors no doubt weigh in as well, such as the perspective that our accumulated scientific knowledge supposedly militates heavily against God’s existence in the first place (a subject for another time).

How do I respond to this predicted obsolescence of religion/spiritulity? Well, potentially in a number of ways, but I’ll mention just one thought here: I find it very telling that in the United States—the most militarily powerful, affluent, and developed country in the world—there seems to be continual evidence that people long for something that our cultural resources cannot give them. A few examples:

1. I ran across an article in Nov. 5th issue of ESPN Magazine featuring Dean Potter, a man who might best be described as a professional risk-taker. He is involved in free soloing (climbing without safety ropes), BASE jumping (parachuting off buildings, natural formations, etc.), and highlining (picture a less stable version of a tightrope—Potter is the only one in the world who does it without a safety leash). One quote from the article particularly grabbed my attention: “Potter doesn’t want to die, he just wants to come as close to the brink as possible. ‘I’m addicted to the heightened awareness I get when there’s a death consequence,’ he says.” I should also mention that Potter is actively seeking—apparently quite sincerely—a way to achieve unaided human flight.

2. The talented and uber-successful comedic actor Owen Wilson was recently hospitalized for an incident that was reported to the police as an attempted suicide.

3. Listening to the radio in my car recently, I heard a song called “How Far We’ve Come,” the most recent release from Matchbox Twenty—a band that has also seen a huge amount of success over the past several years. Here is a sampling of the lyrics:

I’m waking up at the start of the end of the world
But it’s feeling just like every other morning before
Now I wonder what my life is going to mean if it’s gone

The cars are moving like a half a mile an hour and I
Started staring at the passengers who’re waving goodbye
Can you tell me what was ever really special about me all this time?

But I believe the world is burning to the ground
Oh well, I guess we’re gonna find out
Let’s see how far we’ve come
Let’s see how far we’ve come
Well I believe it all is coming to an end
Oh well, I guess we’re gonna pretend
Let’s see how far we’ve come 
Let’s see how far we’ve come

I think it turned ten o’clock but I don’t really know
And I can’t remember caring for an hour or so
Started crying and I couldn’t stop myself
I started running but there’s no where to run to

I sat down on the street, took a look at myself
Said where you going man, you know the world is headed for hell?
Say your goodbyes if you’ve got someone you can say goodbye to

I have no idea whether those mentioned in these examples would consciously agree with this assessment, but I would still suggest the common denominator in each of these cases seems to be the recognition of a powerful desire, need, or even fear that simply cannot be addressed by anything currently available to those in question.

Of course, one might argue that, with even more time and more progress, mankind will eventually have the resources to deal with even these profound needs and anxieties. Then again, if such searching and longing is still present (and in fact prevalent) after century upon century of accumulated knowledge and advancement, should we really be that optimistic for such a possibility in the future?

I’m inclined to think there might be a better approach to the issue, one that rings much truer to reality. A passage in Lewis’ Mere Christianity provides the gist:

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.

The “real thing” is precisely the concern of the biblical Christian gospel: the hope—through the work of Christ—of perfect, eternal, and deeply satisfying fellowship with God in the midst of a flawlessly renewed creation.

Let the occasional cultural observer suggest what he or she may. Mankind still possesses a profound need for what has, for nearly two thousand years, been rightly called the “Good News.”

And it always will.

*Originally posted Nov. 13, 2007

One Comment

  1. Shannon said:

    So, unaided manned flight? A wing suit? Ballistic flight? Maybe shoot him out of a cannon over open water?
    This thinking that we don’t need God is what always ends in the biggest tragedies and crimes against humanity. Our persute of a human utopia always ends badly. Maybe it’s because we aren’t God? Humans can’t seem to look after the collective without sacrificing the individual.

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