Out of the Darkness

Can human beings live with meaninglessness? For a long time, leading postmodernists have been telling us that we not only can, but that we have to. Their view is that there is no truth, no standards, no objectivity, and no purpose, so we make the most of the hand we have been dealt. At root, it’s spiritual and intellectual nihilism. Well-known author Joan Didion wrote about this recently in The Year of Magical Thinking, her book about her husband’s death and her daughter’s illness. As Didion explains it, the idea of meaninglessness had haunted her from childhood. She says, “That the scheme [of things] could destroy the works of man might be a personal regret but remained . . . a matter of abiding indifference. No eye was on the sparrow. No one was watching me.” She was left to try to find what little meaning she could in nature and “the repeated rituals of domestic life,” as she put it. The problem with that despairing approach, of course, is that the imago Dei, the image of God, is in every one of us. You can tell people life has no meaning, but they know that just isn’t true. And eventually the most ardent postmodern advocate bumps into reality—like Wallace Stevens, leading postmodern poet whose story I tell in my new book, The Good Life. Six months before he died, he was baptized a Christian. One of the most dramatic cases is Antony Flew, whom I met this summer when I was lecturing in Oxford. Flew was perhaps the leading atheist philosopher in the world. But at 81, he was introduced to the intelligent design movement and the works of Dr. Michael Behe, who found that the human cell structure is irreducibly complex—and therefore could not have arisen by evolution and gradual natural selection. Flew also realized that some of the things that the early writers of the Scripture had written could not have been humanly known at that time, but have subsequently been vindicated by scientific discovery. Flew was a man of integrity, and rather than just changing his mind and going away quietly, he announced to the world that he was now a deist, believing that there was an intelligence in the universe that created this world. And now another prominent figure has experienced a similar conversion. After writing twenty-five novels steeped in the occult, Anne Rice has returned to Catholicism, the faith of her childhood, and has promised that she will now “write only for the Lord.” She’s written a book, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, which I have not read, but reviewers say is a faithful account of the one she calls “the ultimate supernatural hero.” Anne Rice, writing about Jesus instead of vampires? It’s what Newsweek calls a “startling public turnaround”—and that’s putting it mildly. Rice explains that her previous works were written from the perspective of someone “lost in the darkness, striving to find meaning.” Anne Rice has now found that meaning, just as Wallace Stevens did, and Antony Flew did, and countless others. I’ve long argued that postmodernism can’t survive because deep inside, we know it can’t be true. We know there is meaning and purpose to life. And as these and others are discovering, it’s found ultimately only in one place: as Anne Rice puts it, in Christ the Lord.


Chuck Colson


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