In Douglas Adams’, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the whimsical space-traveling protagonists reach their destination and ask a supercomputer for the answer to:
“The ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.”
The answer given by the computer after 7.5 million years of computing is: “42”.
The travelers are frustrated with this answer, and question the computer’s abilities.
The supercomputer, Deep Thought, replies:
“I checked it very thoroughly, and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is... So once you do know what the question actually is, you’ll know what the answer means.”
The number “42” always reminds me (and millions of geeks worldwide) of this quirky interchange in an absurd fictitious story written by an atheist.
However, the situation speaks to me loudly with the state of the world and Christianity today regarding "answers".
We have access to knowledge today only dreamt of by our ancestors just hundreds of years earlier. We are inundated with information. Overflowing. Confused by the noise of it all. Crushed, even.
In any area of life, we too easily cast off our personal burden (responsibility?) of critical-thinking and allow the upper-echelon to do our thinking for us. Perhaps we do this to save us from the pressure of conflicting implications of the answers we might face.
It can be easier just to say, “Someone tell me what to think. I’ve got a life to live over here. I prefer the stability of my system of thinking. My mind is made up. Now on to other things.”
It’s not that we lack answers to the most important questions of life. We have answers. In fact, we have answers that are exactly suited to the questions that we ask.
I’m reminded of a “bumper sticker” phrase I’ve seen in various places:
“Jesus is the answer.”
I do agree with the sentiment of the phrase. It’s lovely. Yet we don’t know the question that it answers! The reader is left with the luxury of imagining the question.
But what if the unspoken question asked were: “Who is a false prophet?”
“Jesus” would be the least well-suited answer, in that case.
When our questions are not clear; when they call upon nothing outside of our personal reservoir of words and associations; when they don’t question “why we believe" as much as they question “what”, we will find answers primarily suited to only fortify what we already believe.
After 7.5 million years, the protagonists in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy received an answer exactly suited to the question they asked. “42.”
I’m writing these thoughts down on my birthday. One more year has passed of this earthly-larval stage of my eternal life. Maybe I’m only close to half-way near the finish line for my present physical body. Or maybe the finish line is nearer than I expect…which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world that could happen.
Should we human beings live our short lives in this temporary age, content merely with the spoon-fed answers we happen upon? Shouldn’t God-imagers ask hard questions and don a disposition of “truth seeking without settling”? Shouldn’t we who believe Him “seek to find” and “ask, expecting to receive”?
Do we think we can exhaust our understanding of the eternal God and the reality He creates?
Sometimes you cannot understand the answer unless you first know which questions should be asked.
So ask questions. Ask hard questions. Dig deep to find the perimeters of the buried foundations that ARE there.
But don’t ask just for the sake of asking.
When you ask, do so with two additional questions before yourself:
1. WHY am I asking this question (what is my intention behind it)?
2. WHAT am I willing to do with the answer once I receive it?
In our seeking, having a motive that God approves of safeguards us by not grieving Him away from our search. The pure in heart will be accompanied by God.
And in our finding, what are we willing to do with whatever we discover? Are we willing to modify our mind and life to newly found light, or will we take a convenient step back to the cliché and comfortable?