I read a novella this week that has been described as “an existential detective story.” It was interesting, maybe too interesting; it left me with a barrage of mind-bending thoughts and kept me awake for an hour and a half last night. And in the end, I found that I had more questions than I had answers.
So, to try to bring some order to my unsettled mind, I did some research on existentialism and found this helpful, concise definition:
[Existentialism is] a chiefly 20th century philosophical movement embracing diverse doctrines but centering on analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad
But, helpful as that definition may be, it’s also kind of depressing. And a little bit scary. How awful to think that I can never make a truly informed decision, that all my choices are based on a speculative knowledge of right and wrong that can never be substantiated.
Fortunately for us, Truth is neither a cold, external fact nor an unknowable, internal ideal. Truth is a person.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me…I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth.” John 14:6, 16-17
Jesus is truth personified. There is nothing false about him. Every word he speaks, every deed he performs, all are completely truthful, reflecting the character and essence of God. And He has given us his Spirit, to dwell in us and reveal truth to our hearts. What a comfort to know that even if objective, unchanging truth is beyond our human ability to comprehend, that Jesus can reveal to us the portion of truth (i.e. the portion of himself, of his character) that we need in each situation, each decision that we make.
Here’s a prayer to that effect, written by the “father of existentialism:”
Lord Jesus Christ, our foolish minds are weak; they are more than willing to be drawn-and there is so much that wants to draw us to itself. There is pleasure with its seductive power, the multiplicity with its bewildering distractions, the moment with its infatuating importance and the conceited laboriousness of busyness and the careless time-wasting of light-mindedness and the gloomy brooding of heavy-mindedness-all this will draw us away from ourselves to itself in order to deceive us. But you, who are truth, only you, our Savior and Redeemer, can truly draw a person to yourself, which you have promised to do-that you will draw all to yourself. Then may God grant that by repenting we may come to ourselves, so that you, according to your Word, can draw us to yourself-from on high, but through lowliness and abasement.
-Soren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity