The Big Questions

 

The Big Questions 

By : Laurence B. Brown. MD

 

Source:

http://www.thedeenshow.com

Islamic Propagation Office in Rabwah, Riyad

2009-1430

 

At some point in our lives, everybody asks the big questions: “Who made us,” and “Why are we here?”

So who did make us? Atheists speak of the Big Bang and evolution, whereas all others speak of God. Those who answer “I don’t know” are atheist for all intents and purposes, not because they deny God’s existence, but because they fail to affirm it.

Now, the Big Bang may explain the origin of the universe, but it doesn’t explain the origin of the primordial dust cloud. This dust cloud (which, according to the theory, drew together, compacted and then exploded) had to come from somewhere. After all, it contained enough matter to form not just our galaxy, but the billion other galaxies in the known universe. So where did that come form? Who, or what, created the primordial dust cloud?

Similarly, evolution may explain the fossil record, but it falls far short of explaining the quintessential essence of human life—the soul. We all have one. We feel its presence, we speak of its existence and at times pray for its salvation. But only the religious can explain where it came from. The theory of natural selection can explain many of the material aspects of living things, but it fails to explain the human soul.

Furthermore, anyone who studies the complexities of life and the universe cannot help but witness the signature of the Creator.[1] Whether or not people recognize these signs is another matter—as the old saying goes, denial isn’t just a river in Egypt. (Get it? Denial, spelled “de Nile” … the river Ni … oh, never mind.) The point is that if we see a painting, we know there is a painter. If we see a sculpture, we know there’s a sculptor; a pot, a potter. So when we view creation, shouldn’t we know there’s a Creator?

The concept that the universe exploded and then developed in balanced perfection through random events and natural selection is little different from the proposal that, by dropping bombs into a junkyard, sooner or later one of them will blow everything together into a perfect Mercedes. In the color and trim of our hearts’ desire, no less.

If there is one thing we know for certain, it is that without a controlling influence, all systems degenerate into chaos. The theories of the Big Bang and evolution propose the exact opposite, however—that chaos fostered perfection. Would it not be more reasonable to conclude that the Big Bang and evolution were controlled events? Controlled, that is, by the Creator?

The Arabs tell the tale of a nomad finding an exquisite palace at an oasis in the middle of an otherwise barren desert. When he asks how it was built, the owner tells him it was formed by the forces of nature. The wind shaped the rocks and blew them to the edge of this oasis, and then tumbled them together into the shape of the palace. Then it blew strands of sheep’s wool together into rugs and tapestries, stray wood together into furniture, doors, windowsills and trim, and positioned them in the palace at just the right locations. Lightning strikes melted sand into sheets of glass and blasted them into the window-frames, and smelted black sand into steel and shaped it into the fence and gate with perfect alignment and symmetry. The process took billions of years and only happened at this one place on earth—purely through coincidence.

When we finish rolling our eyes, we get the point. Obviously, the palace was built by design, not by happenstance. To what (or more to the point, to Whom), then, should we attribute the origin of items of infinitely greater complexity, such as our universe and our lives?

Another classic argument for atheism focuses upon what people perceive to be the imperfections of creation. These are the “How can there be a God if such-and-such happened?” arguments. The issue under discussion could be anything from a natural disaster to birth defects, from genocide to grandmother’s cancer. That’s not the point. The point is that denying God based upon what we perceive to be injustices of life presumes that a divine being would not have designed our lives to be anything other than perfect, and would have established justice on Earth.

Hmm … is there no other option?

We can just as easily propose that God did not design life on Earth to be paradise, but rather a test, the punishment or rewards of which are to be had in the next life, which is where God establishes his ultimate justice. In support of this concept we can well ask who suffered more injustices in their worldly lives than God’s favorites, which is to say the prophets? And who do we expect to occupy the highest stations in paradise, if not those who maintain true faith in the face of worldly adversity?

I would hope that, by this line of reasoning, we can agree upon the answer to the first “big question.” Who made us? Can we agree that if we are creation, God is the Creator?

If we can’t agree on this point, there probably isn’t much point in continuing. However, for those who do agree, let’s move on to “big question” number two—why are we here? What, in other words, is the purpose of life?

 

The first of the two big questions in life is, “Who made us?” We addressed that question in the previous article and (hopefully) settled upon “God” as the answer. As we are creation, God is the Creator.

Now, let us turn to the second “big question,” which is, “Why are we here?

Well, why are we here? To amass fame and fortune? To make music and babies? To be the richest man or woman in the graveyard for, as we are jokingly told, “He who dies with the most toys wins?”

No, there must be more to life than that, so let’s think about this. To begin with, look around you. Unless you live in a cave, you are surrounded by things we humans have made with our own hands. Now, why did we make those things? The answer, of course, is that we make things to perform some specific function for us. In short, we make things to serve us. So, by extension, why did God make us, if not to serve Him?

Our purpose, then, is to serve God. We receive this message from the prophets, as well as from scripture, but nowhere more clearly than in the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam: “And I [God] did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me” (Quran 51:56).

Which brings us to the next point: If we acknowledge our Creator, and that He created humankind to serve Him, the next question is, “How? How do we serve Him?” No doubt, this question is best answered by the One who made us. If He created us to serve Him, then He expects us to function in a particular manner, if we are to achieve our purpose. But how can we know what that manner is? How can we know what God expects from us?

Well, consider this: God gave us light, by which we can find our way. Even at night, we have the moon for light and the stars for navigation. God gave other animals guidance systems best suited for their conditions and needs. Migrating birds can navigate, even on overcast days, by light polarization. Whales migrate by “reading” the Earth’s magnetic fields. Salmon return from the open ocean to spawn at the exact spot of their birth by smell, if that can be imagined. Fish sense distant movements through pressure receptors that line their bodies. Bats and the blind river dolphins “see” by sonar. Certain marine organisms (the electric eel being a high-voltage example) generate and sense magnetic fields, allowing them to “see” in muddy waters, or in the blackness of ocean depths. Insects communicate by pheromones, the trail of which guides them to food, and then home again. Plants sense sunlight and grow towards it (phototropism); their roots sense gravity and grow into the earth (geotrophism). In short, God has gifted every element of His creation with guidance. Can we seriously believe he would not give us guidance on the one most important aspect of our existence, namely our raison d’etre—our reason for being? That he would not give us the tools by which to achieve salvation?

Of course not. Hence, revelation.

Think of it this way: Every product has specifications and rules. For more complex products, whose specifications and rules are not intuitive, owner’s manuals are provided. These manuals are written by the one who knows the product best, which is to say the manufacturer. A typical owner’s manual begins with warnings about improper use and the hazardous consequences thereof, moves on to a description of how to use the product properly and the benefits to be gained thereby, and provides product specifications and a troubleshooting guide whereby we can correct product malfunctions.

How is that different from revelation?

Revelation tells us what to do, what not to do and why, tells us what God expects of us, and shows us how to correct our deficiencies. Revelation is the ultimate user’s manual, provided as guidance to the one who will use us—ourselves.

 

In the world we know, products that meet or exceed specifications are considered successes whereas those that don’t are … hmm … let’s think about this. Any product that fails to meet factory specifications is either repaired or, if hopeless, recycled. In other words, destroyed. Ouch. Suddenly this discussion turns scary-serious. Because in this discussion, we are the product—the product of creation.

But let’s pause for a moment and consider how we interact with the various items that fill our lives. As long as they do what we want, we’re happy with them. But when they fail us, we get rid of them. Some are returned to the store, some donated to charity, but eventually they all end up in the garbage, which gets … buried or burned. Similarly, an underperforming employee gets … fired. Now, stop for a minute and think about that word. Where did that euphemism for the punishment due to an underperformer come from? Hm … the person who believes the lessons of this life translate into lessons about religion could have a field day with this.

But that doesn’t mean these analogies are invalid. Just the opposite, we should remember that both Old and New Testaments are filled with analogies, and Jesus Christ taught using parables.

So perhaps we had better take this seriously.

No, I stand corrected. Most definitely we should take this seriously. Nobody ever considered the difference between heavenly delights and the tortures of hellfire a laughing matter.

 

The author can be contacted at BrownL38@yahoo.com. He is the author of “The First and Final Commandment” (Amana Publications) and “Bearing True Witness” (Dar-us-Salam). Forthcoming books are a historical thriller, “The Eighth Scroll”, and a second edition of “The First and Final Commandment”, rewritten and divided into “MisGod’ed” and its sequel, “God’ed”.

[1] To this end, and leaving all of the author’s religious inclinations aside, I heartily recommend reading “A Short History of Nearly Everything”, by Bill Bryson.

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