Monday, August 29, 2011

puer natus est nobis

I want to meditate on this in the most general sense. Having witnessed the miracle of the birth of new life, my thoughts are understandably led to the subject of what human life, new life, family life, means. We move beyond and utterly disregard those who say that it has no meaning, for if new life has no meaning, no life can have meaning.

But what does it mean?

Let us consider the following:

God created the world.
He created it in His way (an image of Himself in some sense).
This pertains to every aspect of the world, more so to the higher things, less so to the lower.
Human life is a high thing, its social dimension included (image of the Trinitarian relations).
Human becoming is an image of the divine processions (the begetting of the Son, the procession of the Holy Spirit).
To be in the image of God is the basis of the goodness in things; to fail in this, the evil in things.

Truly, contemporary man lives on the verge of total despair in regards to his own being. He can no longer provide a rationale for his existence. Abortion, euthanasia, population-control thinking are based on the pure cynicism that comes from this metaphysical crisis. Man as phenomenon, man as existence, man as material, offers no justification to endure the hardships of continued existence. A being that can question or wonder about his own existence and yet not come up with a convincing account is the greatest of tragedies.

The hope that persists despite a failure to understand is not inauthentic. We shouldn't make any judgements on the vitality of this hope. So much of it is supplied by the natural graces of the Creator - the desire to continue to exist, the fear of death, the ability to hope itself.

In the face of man's choice to do without God, he yet looks to other things to give his life meaning, but in vain, to things like global warming, the eradication of disease, universal educational and political schemes, the liberation of so-and-so, he seeks after perfect health, or even the secrets of the material universe. These things cannot give meaning, for the question 'why' can still be asked in regard to any of them.

Why would you like to eradicate cancer?

- Because it kills people.

Won't people just then die of other things?

- Yes.

So, then, what is the importance of curing cancer?

- So that people will live longer, healthier lives.

Why is a long life better than a short one?

- I don't know.
Perhaps my favourite television show's - House M.D.'s - lead character, Gregory House, takes an honest approach to the problem. He does not believe in God. Hence, he approaches his healing vocation as a matter of intellectual interest. He likes solving puzzles. That is medicine to him. Yet in regard to suicide his view is that a poor life is better than no life at all, since there is nothing after this one. Interesting.

Someone who persists in their activities despite existential rationale is living in a state of radical confusion, you must agree. Sooner or later the thinness of one's philosopher will show through.

Ivan Karamazov is right. Without God anything goes.

But what I find odd is persisting in certain convictions when one has no ultimate grounds for so doing. Here, again, Nietzsche fought wholeheartedly to break us of this. He thought it would take courage to break ourselves of our (predominantly Christian) mores so that we might live in an authentic (me-centred) manner. At least he is being consistent.

Why is education good?


Christians have answers for these things; atheists do not, and, thus, they constitute a significant threat to freedom. Take the late Jack Layton and every one else of his ilk: socialists are ready to destroy personal autonomy for sake of equality. It seems good to them. But they cannot have an ultimate justification for this; they cannot, I know, because it is wrong. Philosophy is not dangerous; shallow philosophy is dangerous. Sooner or later its paucity shines through.

So we see it shining through and affecting the political discourse with euthanasia, etc.
I was deeply touched when welcoming the life of my newborn, Lauren, into the world just two weeks ago. It is natural to feel this way. It was not altogether the result of a conscious philosophical response. But my philosophy backs up this initial intuition: 1) I feel life is good. 2) Life is good, I know, because it is of God, from God, and in God; it has meaning.

It is no wonder that our culture has sunk inevitably towards utilitarianism - how crude, how crass, how cynical a worldview! - no wonder that life can be easily dismissed in abortion and euthanasia. In their view it has no ultimate meaning, no ultimate beauty. Kill it, then.

To see new life in the context of a carbon footprint is pure misanthropy, the saddest of all conditions.
So, with the Prophet Isaiah's declaration, "puer natus est nobis" - a son is born for us - we do not have an isolated theological datum. Rather, in God's choice to become man we find unassailable grounds to believe that human life is good.
I don't know what life has in store for Lauren, you, me anyone else. I don't know why any of us are here. What I do know for a fact, though, is that it is beautiful and meaningful.


  1. I guess men don't post birth stories; especially doctors of theology. Good post, though - successfully moving my sluggish brain to thought. Thoughts like, Lauren looks like Stephen from the side. She really does, in that picture at least.

  2. This is my version of a birth story, I guess.
    I just think all my babies look the same. The generic Kerr baby, generically perfect! haha.