The Accidental Life

 

by Kenneth Westby

 

Socrates' famous dictum, "The unexamined life is not worth living," is overstated for sure, but there is truth to it. Logically, we should be living "The Examined Life" -- examined with the wisdom and insight that the Maker of Life offers us.

 

Sadly, many of us stumble through life with nary a plan much less a notion of a divine direction, a purpose to fulfill. Clueless to ultimate reality, many folk live life accidentally as if life itself is an accident of undirected, random evolution. The results of such stumbling in the dark are wasted lives, unhappy lives, and joys missed. Evolutionism says the heart of the life process, DNA, is filled with worthless, accidental junk. To them it is proof life has no Designer. But recent scientific examination has exposed the myth of "junk DNA" and revealed its intelligent design and purpose. The Examined Life is what God calls us to live. Be surprised by what it reveals.

 

__________

Accidental living is the norm. We didn't choose our parents or the location of our birth. It just happened and we found ourselves growing up in a house we didn't pick. Your parents (or parent) may or may not have planned for your birth. You may have been their "accident." Nevertheless, they were living somewhere and likely made most choices that formed the growing ground for your young life. They were your human life-givers.

 

Life is our received gift. We didn't order it, buy it, or even understand it. But it is everything to us--it is all there is. We sense its value, its mysterious force, and we try to understand how it works. We ask, "How shall I live?" We look around us for clues and to others for guidance and examples. And as children we dream of the direction our life might take.

 

Typically, children nurture delightful dreams of how their lives will unfold. They fantasize lives filled with excitement, travel, adventure, and romance. They dream of attaining things and doing things. Childish daydreams we call them, yet behind them are innocent emotions and appetites for the beautiful, the ideal, and the fun associated with them. In the journey toward adulthood most if not all of these childhood dreams are lost or reluctantly abandoned as improbable or impossible.

 

Lamentably, many children grow up in angry homes, broken homes, or in such destitute poverty where beautiful dreaming is limited and difficult, a luxury for "rich kids." For these less fortunate and those millions in ages past dreams were likely more mundane, less expansive, and perhaps more realistic. Children accepted that they would grow up and plow fields like poppa does, or have babies and churn butter like momma does. They would hard scrabble for food and clothes like other peasants and servants and slaves. The good life was not easy to dream.

 

My wife, JoAn, tells me of her little girl dreams to become a magazine editor in New York City. No doubt such dreams were formed from her voracious reading habits devouring everything in print that would be brought into that tiny farmhouse on a hill in the Quachita Mountains of Arkansas. She told of the nights under bed covers reading by flashlight so daddy or mamma couldn't see that one of their three girls all sharing that bedroom was still up. She would have made a fine editor, but as the years passed she made decisions that took her in other directions.

 

I had plans to become either a businessman or a doctor. It is a mystery why those professions so attracted me as a boy. I didn't know any businessmen. I was told my father was planning to get into business some day, but he died when I was four. My mother became a nurse, but I never knew any doctors. After high school I still hadn't decided which course to pursue when I enrolled in the University of Washington. First I had to get a job, work a year or two saving up money to go.

 

Then, another prospect interrupted my life. After listening to a radio preacher for many months I was captured by the prospect of actually discovering God's Grand Plan and the purpose of life. Well, that was a heady prospect and it pointed me in a totally new direction, one I didn't know even existed. It meant going to a different college and then on to paths I could never have dreamed. Yet here I am still pursuing that prospect of discovering God's Grand Plan. It has been a most exciting journey with great rewards.

 

We wonder how much of what happens to us in life is accidental. If we believe in a God that involves himself with his creation, we wonder about how his hand has directed our life at important crossroads. Sometimes we have the strong feeling, if not evidence, that he has. Other times it seems as if life is just a lot of time and chance. This pondering is well worth our time as it helps us see our lives "from above" as opposed to our normal ground-level thinking.

 

Examining Your Life

 

I expect most us spend too little time taking careful inventory of where we are on the path toward eternity. A spiritual GPS would be a handy thing if such a device could be invented. But alas, we have to do the hard work of examining ourselves--and it is hard work--to find out where we trod on the path God has for us.

 

I suggest the Divine path that God would have us walk is a unique path, ours alone, suited to our capabilities, background, knowledge, temperament, and potential. It is not unique in the direction the path will take us. Our path moves Godward the same as the paths of others who fear and love God. But our life is our life, no one else's, and our path is our life, unique, with its own challenges and rewards.

 

It is doubtful that any human, save Jesus, has perfectly kept on that divinely ideal path each could potentially navigate. All of us who have started on God's Way have strayed off it, have zigzagged as if drunk, stumbled into ditches, and even gone backwards. Yet our faithful Father, as in the parable of The Prodigal, anxiously longs to see us back on the path leading home[1]. Then there are the many souls never to even set foot on the path to begin their Godward journey. Their calling awaits.

 

If God has given us free will, as human events from Eden to now demonstrate, then you have free will. This means that you have choices about how you will live your life, what path to take, and how you understand your world. Choices by the thousands have brought you to the place where you now stand. Only you can assay which ones were bad, terrible, neutral, good, or spectacularly good. For me, one spectacularly good choice was to marry JoAn. Another, most important, was to pursue after God's Grand Plan. I won't offer my long list of bad choices; I'm sure you can supply your own.

 

King David's impassioned plea to God: "Test me, O Yahweh, and try me, examine my heart and my mind."[2] He wanted to focus on God's love and "walk continually in your truth." He wanted to follow The Path so that, "My feet stand on level ground."

 

If we want God to examine us, give us our spiritual GPS location, we had better be willing to examine ourselves. Paul advises:

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?[3]   

Jesus' example is premier to living the examined life. He stayed on the purposeful path that his Father gave him to walk. He didn't deviate even under the greatest pressures to do so.

 

Our question to answer: Am I living the purposeful life God wants me to live or am I living an undirected, accidental life? This is a defining question.

 

The Purposeful Life

 

The purposeful life is an examined life. We must ponder what is most important in life and then examine ourselves to see if that is the direction we are living. An examined life, examined in the light of God wisdom, is a mature life, a life that has a mature picture of the world and God's relationship with it. The examined life is more than wealth and happiness. It has to do with the content of our character, our growth into the fullness of our created design, our innermost spiritual thoughts, and our acts of kindness. It is living a life pleasing to the eyes of God.

 

Once upon a time, sound philosophy promised more than airy thoughts. Socrates expands on his "unexamined life not worth living" comment in his speech to fellow Greeks.

 

Citizens of Athens, aren't you ashamed to care so much about making all the money you can and advancing your reputation and prestige, while for truth and wisdom and the improvement of your souls you have no thought or care?

 

Sadly, many of us wait until we're composing our Last Will & Testament to give an examining look back over what we've done with our lives. Typically, our own death doesn't become real to us until after the death of both our parents. Now, it becomes "our turn."

 

Sociologists claim that a person's readiness or un-readiness to die, his peace or regret, is influenced greatly by what his life has left undone. It is measured by the ratio of important things he has left undone (that once he could have done) to the important things he has done. It follows that his regret is greater the more he has left undone, or the less he has done. "His degree of satisfaction with his life might be fixed by just the opposite ratio, so that his satisfaction is greater the more he has done, or the less he has left undone."[4]

 

Measurements cannot be made precise, but putting first the important things in life and doing them relates directly to how we perceive living the good and fulfilled life. We don't hear, for instance, a man on his death bed lamenting that he didn't spend more time in the office instead of playing and loving his children. I doubt many of us will look back and lament that we didn't spend more time watching TV and less time learning of God and aiding people.

 

The starry universe has an eternal quality to it reflecting the glory of the One who brought it into being, who alone is immortal.[5] The gift of God is eternal life[6] and he wants us to live an examined life with eternity always in view. Eternity lasts for a very long time, and to the extent this is possible, we ought to live now in that eternal life mode. We want our motives, virtues, and character to be of a permanent nature. We must develop them to that end. This requires purposeful living, moving in a specific direction, acting in eternal ways--toward God and man.

 

One of the basic truths of human psychological and spiritual growth is this: If you want to change something about your life, you must first acknowledge and accept what's true about your life right now. This examination calls for brutal honesty and can be painful.

 

Another way to think of the purposeful, examined life is to think of becoming holy. We are familiar with Jesus' call for his followers to "become holy as his Father in heaven is holy."[7] He is actually quoting his Father as recorded in the book of Leviticus: "Be holy because I, Yahweh your God, am holy."

 

In other words we are to take on the Divine Character of God, the Divine Image of God[8]. This is the purpose for which we were made. Nothing accidental about it. It has been God's Intelligent Design from the very beginning.

 

In Hebrew religious tradition, the 613 commandments (mitzvot) of Torah are guides to raise every portion of life to sanctified, holy living. Jesus summarized all the commandments into two great commandments: Love God with all one's heart, soul and mind; love your neighbor as yourself.[9] Clearly, the examined life is a life lived in light of these commandments. Such living before God yields holiness.

 

Becoming holy is a process with a beginning and a path leading toward an end. It is the process of willingly taking on the values of God and acting them out in the way we live. It is discovering what is truly important in life, what is worth our time and our sacrifice and our commitment. This discovering of the important things is what examining life is all about. It is discovering God's purpose for your life and how He expects you to live it.

 

Jesus found that God-designed purpose and walked the path which ultimately led to fellowship with his loving Father and sharing eternal life with him. He bids us follow him into the Father's Eternal Kingdom.

 

It is a purpose too wonderful, too high, and too fantastic to digest at one sitting. Nay, it will be your continual amazement for all your days: "What is man that you [God] are mindful of him...."[10] I wonder before God, who am I that You God should know my name and have such interest in my life and how I live?

 

Do you believe that God really concerns himself with the nitty-gritty details of your life, where you daily place your feet on the path of life, which things you esteem important, which things you spend your energy accomplishing? I do, and I believe scripture affirms it.

 

Yahweh's creative work is not locked back in the past, not ended with the days of Genesis One. John H. Walton writes of the dynamic aspect of God's creative work ongoing "because he continues to sustain the function of creation moment by moment (see for example, Neh 9:6; Job 9:4-10; Job 38; Ps 104; Ps 148; Amos 4:13; Mt 6:26-30; Acts 17:24-28; Col 1:16-17; Heb 1:3). Creation language is used more in the Bible for God's sustaining work (i.e., his ongoing work as Creator) than it is for his originating work."[11] God is still doing what he does best, making into him image one son and one daughter at a time.

 

Junk DNA?

 

Most people live their lives in harmony with the theory of evolution--an unguided and random process of accidental events and changes. Darwin's book, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, claimed to explain the marvel of life as the result of "natural" or accidental modifications over eons. Neo-Darwinism has expanded his thesis attributing changes to the result of differences in genes, and genetic mutations. Given enough time, according to evolutionists, new species, organs, and body parts can "emerge."

 

The ax has now been put to the evolutionary tree and it stands teetering and ready to fall. I don't know if we will yet hear the science departments at our great universities holler "timber," but they might want to clear their throats. A brand new book (2011), The Myth of Junk DNA by Jonathan Wells may be the ax swing that fells the chimera tree of evolution. Wells and many scientists have been examining DNA and their findings dispel the accidental life theories.

 

The new science of Intelligent Design (ID) has put evolutionists on the defensive with their backs mere feet from the edge of the abyss. Their last icon of defense is their loud claim that DNA[12] (in humans and all living things) is filled with worthless junk. To them this is evidence that there could be no intelligent Designer, no Intelligent Design.

 

Michael Shermer echoes fellow evolutionists like Richard Dawkins, Philip Kitcher, Jerry A. Coyne and others when he sarcastically writes:

 

We have to wonder why the Intelligent Designer added to our genome junk DNA, repeated copies of useless DNA, orphan genes, gene fragments, tandem repeats, pseudogenes, none of which are involved directly in the making of a human being. In fact, of the entire human genome, it appears that only a tiny percentage is actively involved in useful protein production. Rather than being intelligently designed, the human genome looks more and more like a mosaic of mutations, fragment copies, borrowed sequences, and discarded strings of DNA that were jerry-built over millions of years of evolution."[13]

 

Apparently these staunch evolutionists who claim to speak for "science" have actually been promoting an anti-scientific myth that ignores the evidence and relies on theological speculations. The past two decades have seen hundreds of scientific papers evidencing various discovered functions for the so-call "junk DNA." It is hard for materialists to give up their theological speculations, abandon evolution--secularism's god--and have to admit that there is intelligent design and purpose to creation.

 

Not Junk!

 

Molecular biologist Emile Zuckerkandl writes that the "large amounts of 'junk DNA,' contrary to common belief, must be assumed to contribute to the complexity of gene interaction systems and organizations."[14] Scientists have discovered many different functions for non-protein-coding DNA. Those functions include regulating alternative splicing in brain cells and playing an essential role in placental development. These "junk" DNA seem to have critical functions at three levels of the hierarchical human genome and have roles to play in the complex RNA interactions and in the replication process.

 

The DNA is not a strictly linear sequence. In fact, an international team of genome researchers has identified 40 human genes that probably have "overlapping coding regions," a feature that the researchers concluded "is nearly impossible by chance."[15] What we have is information densely packed and multilayered, discrete information imbedding multiple codes in a single gene, like sending secret messages, a form of cryptography. "Thus, 'dense, multilayered embedding of information is a prediction of intelligent design'"[16]

 

The genome is actually a multilevel computational device in which many of the operations occur as interactions among components. The organization of DNA strings along the genome is optimized for the establishment of multidimensional codes at all scales maximizing the information its genome can carry. All this wouldn't work without the so-called "junk"--which makes up over 50% of the genome's DNA.

 

How arrogant to call these life-carrying design marvels "junk." How ignorant, even blasphemous, of secular materialists to think life itself is accidental, purposeless, and undirected. Life comes forth from the brilliant mind of a thoughtful and loving Creator. The evidence cries out from the ends of the universe. Trillions of examples from galaxies, to humming birds, to little bugs, exhibit mind-numbing irreducible complexities and are marvels of intelligent design. And you and I are the zenith of all that God has designed, for we have been made in His Image. We are not accidental junk! We must not life as if we were. God is purpose-driven and our lives work best when we too are purpose-driven and pursuing God's design for us.

 

God is concerned with every little corner of your character and by his spiritual guidance he is determined to see you fulfill your potential. We cannot see with our eyes the powerful replication and differentiation process minutely causing a baby to form in its mother's womb, nor can we see God's hand as he is "coding" his character in us. Yet it is happening. But the speed and effectiveness of this unique spiritual growth path is limited only by us, by our levels of yielding, submission, and obedience to Him.

 

There is a reason why Jesus could say at the end of his ministry that if you had seen him you had seen the Father, for they were alike in love, and mercy, and justice. Jesus' secret to taking on the Divine Image and passing from mortal life to eternal life is in his words: "I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him."[17]

 

Jesus lived the examined life before his Father. Let us abandon accidental living, examine our lives, and strive to honestly proclaim that "we always do what pleases Him." If we can do it for a day we can do it for a week. And if a week then a month, then for the rest of our days. When we stumble, he is with us to help us back on the path. And we can count on the help of Jesus to lead us into the Father's presence. He knows the Way.  

 

Endnotes:


 

[1] See Luke 15:11-32, the parable of the lost son, or Prodigal Son.

[2] Psalm 26:2-3, 12

[3] 2 Cor. 13:5

[4] Nozick, Robert, The Examined Life, Philosophical Meditations, Simon and Schuster, 1989, p. 21.

[5] 1 Tim. 6:16

[6] Rom. 6:23

[7] Matt. 5:48, 1 Pet. 1:16, Lev. 19:2

[8] Gen. 1:26

[9] Matt. 22:37-40

[10] Heb. 2:6, Psalm 8:4-6

[11] Walton, John H., The Lost World of Genesis One, IVP Academic, 2009, p.120.

[12] DNA: DeoxyriboNucleic Acid, which consists of nucleotides containing four bases (adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine). In living cells DNA occurs as a double helix composed of two complementary strands; during replication the two strands separate and serve as templates for the synthesis of new strands. (from The Myth of Junk DNA, p. 162.)

[13] Wells, Jonathan, Myth of Junk DNA, p. 23

[14] Wells, p. 93-94

[15] Wells, p. 105

[16] Wells, p. 106

[17] John 8:28-29