For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
- John 3:16
So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.
- John 6:30-36
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
- John 14:5-7
“In 1957, close to the end of his long life, the American academic, political radical, and civil rights activist, William Du Bois, wrote what has become known as his last message to the world. Knowing that he did not have much longer to live, he penned a short passage to be read at his funeral. In this message, Du Bois expresses his hope that any good he has done will survive long enough to justify his life, and that those things he has left undone, or has done badly, may be taken up by others to be bettered or completed ‘Always,’ Du Bois writes, ‘human beings will live and progress to a greater, broader, and fuller life.’ This is a statement of belief rather than a statement of fact. It is as if Du Bois is saying that we must believe in the possibility of a fuller life, or in the possibility of progress, to be able to progress at all. In this idea, Du Bois shows the inﬂuence of the American philosophical movement known as Pragmatism, which claims that what matters is not just our thoughts and beliefs, but also the practical implications of these thoughts and beliefs. Du Bois goes on to say that the ‘only possible death’ is to lose one’s belief in the prospects for human progress. But there are also hints of deeper philosophical roots here, going all the way back to the ancient Greek idea of eudaimonia or ‘human ﬂourishing’; for the philosopher Aristotle, this involved living a life of excellence based upon virtue and reason.”
- Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained
William Du Bois (1868-1963) was, as the quote above states, an academic, a political radical, and an activist. So, why is he in a book about philosophy? It might be that his writings influenced Martin Luther King Jr. to carry on the crusade to overcome racial inequality. Thus, Du Bois got his wish that if he believed in life, life would produce something that is remembered after the grass has fully grown over his grave.
Du Bois did not have to write those words. He was the first African American to graduate with a doctorate from Harvard. He was already a noted trailblazer.
But in each of the Scriptures above, there is a common thread. We must believe in something, not simply believe in life itself. Each of us will die. A belief in life is not just futile, it is hardly sane.
And the thought of living a greater, broader, fuller anything is messed up by our sin nature.
But I understand his point regarding living beyond the grave, however. You want to make your mark in this world so that something that you did or wrote or said would make a difference after you are gone – a legacy that has a pulse, no matter how weak of a pulse, but a pulse.
But a belief in life is no more immortal than a belief in belief. I have even heard people at church say that we must believe in ‘something’ and as long as we believe… They do not wish to finish the sentence, because on the face of it, they know they are wrong.
When the penultimate Monkee, Michael Nesmith, passed away almost two months ago, Rev. David Robertson, the Wee Flea, played the following song, I’m a Believer, on his Quantum podcast and said that the sentiment of being a believer was not life giving unless we believed in Jesus, or words to that effect.
If you are behind on your Monkees. Micky Dolenz, the drummer who sings the song above, is the only remaining Monkee. Davy Jones died in 2012. Peter Tork died in 2019. With the passing in early December 2021 of Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz is the last survivor.
It was said that the Monkees risked being cancelled one year. A pretty girl handed me a petition and asked me to get signatures. She said that life could not go on without the Monkees. I was about fourteen years old, the perfect age to watch the Monkees. When she handed me the petition, I had never had a girl tell me that she needed me, ever. Can I say that again and underline it, make it Bold and Italics with a lot of “!” to follow? Not EVER!!!! … At that point in my life anyway. Of course, I got the petition and I got signatures, but the Monkees came on television on Monday nights when I was at Boy Scout meetings, where I was the Senior Patrol Leader at the time. I had never seen the Monkees. You who binge watch on streaming services, may have to ask someone who remembers TV when there were only three channels, if you were lucky to get all three. Since my mother refused to have the radio on when we were in the car, I had never heard the Monkees. I only knew of them from the television commercials. Yet, I got signatures because a pretty girl said that she needed me. But by now, I think I have seen every inane episode from the reruns. And, yes, I liked the humor.
But if I were to ask people if they had heard of the Monkees or if they had heard of William Du Bois, I am certain that more people would remember the Monkees. Now, save for one, they are all gone.
Yet, if we believe in Jesus, really believe, as in trust Jesus with our life – that kind of belief, Jesus will make a mansion for us in Heaven, and we will live with Him forever. We do not have to make a legacy on a dying planet where no one will remember us after we have been gone for a little bit. We can live forever.
Believing in Life is a fool’s errand. Believing in Jesus transcends this life and this world to a new heaven and a new earth.
If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.