Is Life Hevel?

In the last Sunday of 2018, I was given the opportunity to preach at LakeRidge, which is where I work. I felt the inspiration to tackle a big topic in under 30 minutes. That topic was the meaning of life in the book of Ecclesiastes, focusing on chapter 1. You’re thinking to yourself that is crazy, and someone who is truly a novice should not be tackling such a large complex topic. You speak the truth, but I like tackling and communicating difficult things. Overall, when I listen back to my sermon; I don’t give myself a passing grade, but I still have much to learn about communicating.

I thought it best to make my sermon more dialogical, less monological. Now, a sermon is by nature a monologue. Most of my training is to get up and present my ideas, sources, etc. Thus, you can imagine that doing something like that is truly difficult, which is why I don’t think I did bad, but I didn’t do well either (if I was grading myself). Another way to think about it, I didn’t hit it out of the park, but I do think I had a good double. Also, I am my biggest critic.

As I prepared to preach this sermon and this book, I was confronted by the book’s construction and how the author(s) went about making the point. The main point of Ecclesiastes is to deconstruct all the way we find meaning and purpose apart from God. The author does this by launching a thought experiment for the reader to engage in and reflect alongside the author. So, I felt that my normal academic and rigorous way of constructing my arguments, etc. was useless because I would be forcing the text to do something in which it was not designed to do. The book is constructed as a monologue, yet also a dialogue. It is as if we are flies on the wall to this person’s conversation.

As I have been stating above, the book of Ecclesiastes is a thought experiment done in a conversation over life’s meaning. Qohelet, the one who is speaking for much of Ecclesiastes, states that life is hevel. Thus, this word hevel is what takes center stage throughout the book to find something that isn’t hevel. The book can be seen as defining the word. Throughout the book, hevel is then pictured in two distinct ways: 1) temporary and fleeting, like smoke, and 2) engima or paradox, like knowing whether someone will love you or hate you.

My brother, Joel, and his wife, Cre, offered a helpful note for me to remember to not get too heady, but to deliver content that could be manageable for a large audience. I have been known to go over the heads of everyone, and I’m trying to correct that. (Note: this is not meant to sound pretentious as it is to remember that epistemically we are all at different places, so we must communicate in a way that brings much of an audience along in the reasoning and verbalization. In other words, I’m still learning how to bring people along in a journey.)

Principles of Future Philosophy — Ludwig Feuerbach (1/5/19)

Credit: Wikipedia— Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach 

The Eminent Muse For Philosophy

Ludwig Feuerbach continues his journey from theology to philosophy through the anthropocentric lens that confronts Hegel’s methodology and the intellectual status quo. Feuerbach promulgates a new kind of embodied philosophy that stays silent toward abstraction. Yet, this argument can only be seen as fodder for producing new philosophies from future readers. 

What one finds within the argumentation and conclusions of Feuerbach is the nascent thoughts for greatly influencing some of the masters of suspicion (Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche) and Western European existentialists (Heidegger, Jaspers, Buber, Sarte). Its deconstructive angle is important for the philosopher, theologian, or public intellectual that needs to clear away assumptions in order to feel a kind of “new wind” take them into producing knowledge. Nevertheless, Feuerbach’s anthropocentric angle is at best a pill for idealism, at worst a mudding of the waters on the question of what is a human being. On the other hand, the best thing one can take from Ludwig is a sense of true grappling with the psychology of human experience and the sociological framework for human experience. 

Feuerbach attacks Hegel’s totalizing philosophy that much of academia still wrestles with, not Kant. However, Ludwig never reaches the production of principles for this future philosophy, only paradoxically proving the difficult task of casting off the chains of intellectual history and embeddedness. The audience of such literature would be most helpful for most seminary students, particularly in regards to Feuerbach’s acceptance of skepticism and adherence towards the finitude of human capacity for full knowledge. Dubious though it may sound, Feuerbach is not to be feared, nor radically embraced. Feuerbach punts on much of what could solidify or explicate his point. 

Thomas Wartenberg properly stresses Ludwig Feuerbach’s brilliance and the necessity for being read towards the end of his introduction. “In [Feuerbach’s] work, there are deep and stimulating reflections on the nature of human existence, but reflections that one feels impelled to push further, to develop in different directions. Being the stimulus to original philosophical reflection is, after all, one of the most important roles that a philosopher can play, and it is a role for which Ludwig Feuerbach is still eminently suited.”