Who am I? What is the purpose of my life?

Last week, priests from the Anglican Diocese of Perth gathered in Margaret River for what we call “Clergy School.” At this conference, we have the opportunity to listen to keynote speakers and to enjoy worship and collegiality with our fellow priests. What the conference does is to cause the clergy to reflect on who they are as Christians and spiritual leaders, as well as on the nature of their ministry in the diocese. As part of this process, we reflect on many questions including ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What is the purpose of my life?’- specifically in our case in relation to our calling as priests.

Many people go through life asking, or avoiding, these types of questions. We live in a ‘postmodern,’ ‘post-Christendom,’ atheistic society. This is a society in which people will no longer simply ‘believe’ because that was how they were brought up. That is no longer the norm. In relation to the Peter Moyes Anglican Community School wider community, we are part of an Anglican School community. The question for us then becomes what the implications of this are on the way that we view (or should view) life?

Many of our students will be grappling with various ‘worldviews’ such as modernism, post-modernism, relativism, and others. Some students ask deep and meaningful questions. Others have not really thought about this in any depth yet. But the questions deserve answers and the various worldviews deserve serious consideration. The answers to these questions, as well as our worldviews, colour the ‘lens’ through which we look at the world. They determine the way that we respond to the many issues that we see in the world around us today.

Dr. James Sire has suggested that there are basically four questions all people want answers for in life: (1)

  1. Who am I? – What is the nature and task of human beings?
  2. Where am I? – What is the nature of the world and universe that I live in? Do I see the world and universe as personal, designed, ordered and controlled; or chaotic, cruel and random?
  3. What’s wrong? – Why is it that my world appears to be not the way it’s supposed to be? How do I make sense of evil?
  4. What is the solution? – Where do I find hope and assurance for something better?

In looking at these questions with our students, whether it be in Chapel services, Christian Religious Studies or Beliefs and Values classes, or simply in general discussion, we encourage them to engage in critical thinking, to be tolerant of other’s views, but to dare to ask the questions! It is hoped that in doing so, they will develop their own realistic ‘worldview’ that will be beneficial to them as they travel this journey that we call ‘life.’ These are questions that we should all think about, perhaps for the first time, or revisit again with fresh eyes.
The biggest question and the one that influences how all the other questions are answered is, ‘Does God exist?’ Deists accept the existence of a Great Mind behind the universe, but they leave it there. Hinduism declares that the path to Brahman (ultimate reality), as revealed in the Bhagavad-Gita, is to devote oneself to one of Brahman’s emanations – Siva, Vishnu. Islam counters that the Quran as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad is Allah’s word. At this point many throw up their hands and say ‘God is a mystery’ or ‘God does not exist’ and that at the end of the day, the answers amount to little more than claim and counter claim!
The Christian worldview that forms the center of our Christian Ethos at PMACS offers a solution to the quest for meaning, and indeed God. The unique claim of Christianity is that God revealed himself to us in and through the redemptive life of Jesus Christ. So, in my opinion, the answer to the question “Who was Jesus?” is pivotal in looking at all of the above questions.
I like the way that C.S. Lewis, addressed the persona of Jesus in giving us a sense of his own journey from atheism to belief. He put it this way:

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

May God bless you as you ponder these questions and form (or reform) your world view.

God bless

Reverend Dave

1. Smart, S. (Ed). 2007. A spectator’s guide to World Views – Ten ways of understanding life. Blue Bottle Books, 8.