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My friend, Lee, recently suggested I log on to a taped, 10 minute segment of the Oprah show. There, professor Randy Pausch, a man with pancreatic cancer and only a few months to live gave a very moving “final lecture” by sharing his recommendations for how to get the most out of life. Lee asked: “None of us can know for certain what’s in another’s heart, but Randy appears to be a very spiritual person. Your thoughts?”
Lee, thanks for reminding me about Randy Pausch who I believe is still alive. I hope I would have his kind of courage should I ever receive my "due date" revelation just a few terrifying months in advance. A very brave man. No doubt like his WWII soldier dad.
As to his being “very spiritual,” I’ll get to that in a minute, but his list of behaviors for a good life was fine. Patience. Humility. Perseverance. Integrity. Dreaming lofty dreams. Enjoying life. Maintaining physical health. But because his overview was necessarily so unique given the nearness of death, I had hoped to hear a bit more. It would have been good to hear that the Bible supports every one of those virtues and is a source for many more if we would just chose to look. Or he could have ratcheted up the philosophical depth of his talk by reminding us that even the very simple concept of “patience,” just for one thing, is owed to the God who created patience and everything else, material and immaterial, in the first place. Perhaps, rather than just developing, as he did, emotion-enhanced audience agreement, he could have told them about an infallible, not just a humanly persuasive base for his opinions, namely, God Himself.
But how to start? As in sports, the best place to start is with “the rules.” Ignorance of them means we’re sure to be penalized; whether by the referee in a game or by our own hand (not by God’s) if we decide to disregard His rules for life. Instead, Randy skipped that intellectual obligation and went directly to his list of virtues. Now, we “know” these things are part of a good life, but it might come as a surprise that without a deep-seated rule that proves they are, there is no ultimate reason to buy. In fact, the idea of “rules” is fundamental to all thought, and even “simple” concepts such as patience must begin with a rule. Why? Because “rules” imply “right and wrong,” which imply “morals,” and we all have 100’s of moral-oriented thoughts every day. “Morals,” in turn, imply “moral standards” which imply life’s big question, “On whose word or rule are ultimate moral standards based? Watch how the “rules” equation works with patience: To define it we might start by saying it’s a “virtue.” Well, what’s a virtue? It’s behavior that is “good.” What does “good” mean? “Good” describes any standing or status approved of by God that is find-able in Scripture—the rule book. For sure, you won’t find “good” in Darwin’s amoral book where there is no good, no evil, no right, no wrong, just kill or be killed. In this world of fickle man what’s good today often ends up being bad tomorrow which is why God used Isaiah 5:20 to say, “Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil.” Will my life be based on man’s ever-changing “rules” or on God’s? Randy left out this “ultimate bottom line.” Therefore, there was no “good” reason to heed his ungrounded suggestion that patience, or any of them, are “good” things.
The problem with post-modern, post-Christian, pro-Darwinian beliefs of 2008— the beliefs which make up the philosophical base of all the schools with which Randy (and me) have been affiliated—is that there is no such thing as God or meaning. In Darwin-devoted universities, life and the cosmos are wholly accidental; without purpose, without order or design even if it looks to us as though they have them. I waited “patiently” for Randy to allude, even momentarily, to the Creator, but alas, no mention ever came. His message, though well-intended, was upside down. He completely ignores the One who gave Him life and gives meaning to our very existence.
Lee, you give Randy credit for being very “spiritual.” Since we’re made in God’s image everyone has the inborn ability to look deeply into the metaphysical and the “immaterial” side of life. Thus, even humanist, agnostic, atheist man has the ability to be spiritual, even catastrophically so. There’s sham spirituality in New Age thought, Buddhism, pietism, eastern mysticism, “religious” legalism, charitable giving, “we’re under grace—not biblical ethical absolutes,” in Gnosticism and its many religious disguises, and in the zany, humanistic motto “God is my co-pilot.” It’s a much better testimony to hear someone say, “He or She is a very righteous person.” Of course, the question remains: What is the source of righteousness and how do you get it?
I tell people, someday I’m going to have three Bible verses tattooed on the back of my hand:
“Whatsoever you do, whether you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).
“Hear the conclusion of the whole matter; Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13).
“Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, ” (Psalm 8:5–6).
These show how I should lead my life, especially the “keep His commandments” part. There are a lot of them! And it also reminds me that world dominion will eventually come to pass per His timetable. Sadly, and here’s my main message to you, my parents, as children, were not taught these lessons by their parents. Thus, they didn’t know to pass them on to me. Fortunately, later in life, a gracious God deemed that I’d “discover” them, and I believe my parents eventually got them too. Funny thing; they were both “brought up in church,” but certain spiritual connections were somehow short-circuited.
The saddest part of the video came at the end when Randy shared that he really hadn’t prepared this “last lecture” for his university students or even for the Oprah show. It was strictly for some special people—his three very young children. Someday they’ll be old enough to understand his taped message, but when they do it may dawn on them that something deep was missing, just as it was missing for me as a kid. On Oprah, Randy missed a once-in-a-lifetime window of stunning opportunity to bless them with a legacy of real love, light, rules and The Truth about the God of all virtues and of all hope. My desire for them, and everyone, as was my good fortune, is that they’ll discover true truth about “man’s very short life on the planet” sooner—rather than later. Let’s pray for it.