The story of humanity has always been a mixture of goodness and evil; love and hate; beauty and cruelty; life and death.
Themes of human dignity and depravity are relentlessly recurrent in all cultures– at all times.
We all experience times of deep happiness and peace, but thoughtful people know that at the deepest level, things are not the way they’re supposed to be. Human existence — even when joyful, is marred by vulnerability, tragedy, and sadness.
The birth of a baby is a moment of great joy unless, as we say, something goes wrong. Marriage can be a beautiful relationship, but there is no misery so miserable as a miserable marriage. When husbands and wives treat each other with honor and respect, happy and healthy homes bless our communities. When these relationships are filled with anger and resentment, everyone pays a price — particularly children. When governments seek justice with mercy, people flourish. When governors are greedy and selfish, people live under corruption and oppression. When what we call natural disaster destroys a community, human responses range from heroic and benevolent to calloused indifference, and even thievery.
Why do we need words of sharp contrast to explain ourselves? Wouldn’t it be nice to only need terms of dignity to tell our story? But the required vocabulary for a truthful account must include words of depravity.
Why are things as they are? Who has a satisfying explanation? “It is what it is” might be the only answer some can offer, but I would like to know more. Where did our story begin? Where is it going? How will it end? Can we find answers to these questions? Do we just bide our time making the best of it until the grim reaper visits us?
Struggling with what he felt to be the exasperating enigma of existence, frustrated Scottish writer, Richard Holloway, groaned, “This is my dilemma. I am dust and ashes, frail and wayward, a set of predetermined behavioral responses, … riddled with fear, beset with needs…the quintessence of dust and unto dust I shall return…. But there is something else in me…. Dust I may be, but troubled dust, dust that dreams, dust that that has strong premonitions of transfiguration, of a glory in store, a destiny prepared, an inheritance that will one day be my own…so my life is spread out in a painful dialectic between ashes and glory, between weakness and transfiguration. I am a riddle to myself, an exasperating enigma…the strange duality of dust and glory.”
There are surprisingly few places to turn for thoughtful answers to the deeper questions of life and death. Many efforts to explain the human story are either simplistically naïve in their utopianism or forced versions of scientific reductionism. I have only found one source to be wide enough to explain the complex mixtures of the human story and large enough to address the innate longings of the human heart.
The source for understanding our duality that I have found deeply satisfying is one that invokes strong reactions. These reactions come from some who know little about it — yet feel surprisingly justified in rejecting it. Merely mentioning this source in most academic settings invokes condescending ridicule. Those who take the source seriously are treated like unenlightened simpletons. Ironically, the academicians who do this, rarely know anything beyond the superficial, and poorly reasoned arguments against it. More importantly, they have no worthy alternative for answering important questions.
The source I look to offers truths that range from simple and accessible to complex and mysterious . It speaks to the child and challenges the scholar. It reaches the scope of both time and eternity. It tells us where we came from, why we’re here, what went wrong, and where to find hope. It addresses the universal human needs of forgiveness, freedom, security and peace.
The source is the most widely circulated and best selling book of human history. It’s main character came from eternity to enter humble earthly circumstances. His death, we are repeatedly informed, was a redemptive sacrifice for all people. He transformed countless individual lives and human history itself more than any other person who has lived. He introduced himself as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, who is, who was and who is to come. He said, “I was dead and behold I am alive forever and ever” (Revelation 1:18). The source is the Bible and the person is Jesus Christ.
The story chronicled in the Bible turns on four main themes covering the whole account of reality. First, there is creation: the good; secondly, the fall of humanity: the evil; thirdly, redemption, the new; finally, restoration: the perfect. Here we find truth about dignity and depravity; the finite and the transcendent; time and eternity; dust and glory—God’s word through the words of men. A rich treasure awaits you in this amazing book.