But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. – Romans 10:16-17

We have progressed through the mire now and are nearing depths of incredulity as far as what the mind of fallen man can come up with to try and explain reality, truth, and right and wrong. Starting with Deism, we saw what happens to a worldview when you take God out of the picture. Oh, He is there, just not involved or active or relevant other than to explain how we got here. Truth is reduced to scientific facts. But the questions that Deism could not answer gave way to Naturalism, where all that matters is matter. There is no God, no Creator, no first cause – just nature. This system though cannot deal with settling the differences between right and wrong. That lead the way for Nihilism, which states matter-of-factly, that our faith is best placed in nothing. Life as a machine in a closed system of meaningless incomprehensibility, cause and effect left to chance, with no discernable purpose. Hence, no right or wrong, no truth or lies, no rhyme or reason.

There. Feel better about humanity? After all, there is no such thing as a bad boy – right? Just wait. Our next “grid” developed as a result of the fact that ordinary men and women just cannot take Nihilism and remain sane. There is nothing worse to a rational person than to remove all meaning.

As an illustration, there is a story told of a Nazi Commandant who had the prisoners in his concentration camp work all day to move dirt with shovels and wheel barrows from one end of the camp to the other. The next day, he would have them move it all back. Day in and day out, it was meaningless! And it started to drive people mad. The prisoners were literally losing their minds in the morass of meaninglessness. This is a dark illustration of what a Nihilistic worldview will do to those who hold it. Meaninglessness makes people go berserk.

On the lighter side (I can’t leave us with that cloud hanging) have you ever seen one of my dad’s favorite movies? Lines are quoted and applied to any situation at random throughout life as though the movie speaks to us wherever we are and whatever we face. You know the movie.

I can eat 50 eggs.

When a man’s momma dies, he gets rabbit blood in him. And he wants to run.

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Yes, boss.

Remember Cool Hand Luke?

In the scene where Luke (Paul Newman) is digging a hole as punishment, he gets it dug and then is asked by the guards, “Why is all this dirt on the Boss’ yard?” So Luke diligently fills the hole back up. Then he is asked, “What is all this dirt doing in Boss’ hole?” You get the idea. It’s maddening.

What is a fallen world to do if there is no hope and no meaning? Enter the “brightest minds” and “brilliant thinkers” and we have a new philosophy through which to filter reality.


The leading philosophers of the day decided and determined that while there may not be meaning in the universe, in order to survive and thrive, we could make our own meaning. There is no meaning out there – but we can make things meaningful in here (pointing at head).

Existentialism can be summarized as the worldview that says we can make meaning in this world, but that meaning doesn’t come from the objective reality. There is no real meaning in the world. The only meaning that can be had in life is meaning we make for ourselves. The idea of the Existentialist is that people make themselves who they are, and decide what they mean to the world and what the world means to them.

There are really two schools of Existentialism, and this is important because after Deism, these systems of thought rejected the idea of God. But now, one school of Existentialism continues in this path and rejects the existence of God while there is another school that embraces Existential thought while believing that there is a God.

Let’s examine briefly how Existentialism in these two schools of thought influences the secular and the Christian world around us.

Existentialism without God

The Atheistic Existentialist agrees completely with the Nihilist. But then takes one step further than the Nihilist is willing or able to go – we exist, and so we must provide the meaning of life. We are here, so let’s decide why we want to be here and that gives us meaning. Then we won’t go mad.

Here is the root that sets the Nihilist and the Existentialist apart – the Nihilist says we are a machine in a machine in a machine. We are robots, pre-programmed and destined to do what we were caused to do (cause and effect based on chance, remember). But the Existentialist says, yes we are machines in a machine in a machine, but we have free will! We can make our own meaning, change our own destinies, nothing is predetermined, and we are free to choose to do whatever it is that we want to do.

“My choices” give meaning to who and what I am. Free will is sacred – a doctrine to die for. I can pull myself up by my own bootstraps. I can be a self made man. I can do whatever I put my mind to doing. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I can be a hero!

This takes the meaninglessness and madness of Nihilism and places self in the center of the universe. Life is all about what I can make it. I am what I make myself to be.

Existentialism with God

Now the frightening truth is that here in the other school, on the other side of the Existential road, we bump in to Theistic Existentialism. All of this plus God. Here we get a mindful of Bultmann and Barth. They taught that God exists, as a Trinity, as Sovereign, as involved and personal, and as good. He reveals Himself to us, and gives us the opportunity to know Him. Well, so far so good, right? Sure, but, as several writers point out, the Theistic Existentialist adds four things to this premise:

First, we cannot know God through reason, knowledge, or facts. We can only know God through faith. This sounds almost okay, but something smells fishy, and not in an ICTHUS kind of way. We do come to know Christ by faith, but it is a faith informed by the Word of God, it is faith in Christ, not faith about Christ. But the faith this system holds forth is a faith without reason, a blind faith. And in reality, according to Scripture, there is no such thing as blind faith. Blind faith is as effective as dead faith. It is useless. And yet, they make such a break between faith and reason that faith becomes irrational. Reality becomes a matter of what we believe, instead of what is true.

Second, life is relational, not rational. The best example I read of this is the idea that sin is not breaking God’s law (rational), it is betraying God (relational). So instead of a breech regarding the Word and character of God, sin becomes a weakness, a betrayal, a mistake, good intentions gone wrong. True Christianity teaches that breaking the Law of God does impact the relationship with God negatively, but Existentialism removes reason and standards and truth and leaves us only with a life of trying to make the most of our relationship with God – without any standard or blueprint to follow. They forget that Christ said, “If you love Me, keep My commands.” You cannot have the relationship without the rational.

Third, situational ethics set the framework for knowing right and wrong in this system. Instead of black and white, hard and fast rules, we have all sorts of shades of gray. We determine meaning for ourselves. And the situation determines whether or not something is right or wrong.

Fourth, the last addition from Theistic Existentialists is that facts don’t matter, only the message communicated matters. So while the Bible tells us Jesus performed miracles, the Existentialist tells us miracles are impossible and that God just used known scientific principles to make it look like a miracle – after all the effect is more important that the event. Hence we get the idea that the Israelites did not cross the Red Sea, it was a six inch deep Reed Sea. And the water in the Nile did not turn to blood. No. Instead a volcano erupted and the ash turned the water red and killed the fish. For the Theistic Existentialist the facts are irrelevant, only the story to be told is important.

Where do we end up? Whether the Existentialist believes in God or not, we arrive at the view that we make our own meaning. The world is meaningless until we make it meaningful. It is up to us, we decide, we make it real, we give it meaning, we do it.

What a man centered worldview. Yet look at how deeply these roots go into the Evangelical world. It is the story, not the facts; feelings, not the truth; it is up to you to pull yourself up by your own boot straps to be a self made man; it is all about what you find meaningful; it is about what you can do for God instead of what God can do through you; it is all about positive thinking; it is all about shaping your reality with your “words of faith.” We exist so that we might make free choices based on blind faith. The blind leading the blind. They never see the roadside warning, “Ditch Ahead.”

The Bible

So how do we respond to this worldview? How do we scrape the elements of it that we find in our minds out? How do we get past this irrational faith based on feeling? We must return to the Word of God. The Existentialist needs to hear and believe and obey this truth: It is God who gives meaning and defines reality. We do not save ourselves, we do not make ourselves what we are, we do not choose our date of birth, date of death, or our pathway in between. He sets our path. He causes us to be born. He gives and takes life as He pleases. And He knows our days before there is even one of them. He is the Potter, we are the clay.

What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? Romans 9:14-24

He is the Potter. He is God. He decides what to do and when to do it, and He is not dependent upon us for anything. God does not have needs. He does not lack anything. There are no deficiencies, no short comings, no faults. We are right back at needing to see God for Who He is.

We do not have to make meaning. We have been created in the image of God and He has decided what life and reality is and what we are to become. He gives meaning to what is and what will be, and He never changes.

This worldview has so impacted the church through liberalism. Just as Spurgeon fought the “downgrade” to liberalism in his day so we too much fight the pragmatists and those who look outside the Bible to make their own meaning. God tells us what is right and what is wrong. He tells us what He expects of us. It is right there, in black and white.

We combat this system by getting back to the Bible and taking a leap away from blind faith. We inform ourselves from the Word of God about His will and His way. We read, memorize, and meditate on the Word of God in order to be able to discern false teaching. We must never sacrifice the truth or the facts in order to tell a good story.

Really this boils down to ones view of Scripture. Has the Bible been given to us so that we might use it to pull ourselves up and stand on our own two feet? Or does the Spirit use the Bible to pull us out of the grave and place us on the rock? What is success? It is found only one place, meditating day and night on the Scriptures.