CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – Author and social critic Os Guinness spoke about the process a person undergoes to find meaning and eventually become a believer at Southern Evangelical Seminary's 20th annual Christian Apologetics Conference this past weekend.
Most people embark on a journey at some point in their lives in order to find meaning while taking on the role of being a thinker and seeker in order to eventually become a believer, said Guinness. He said that people who search for enlightenment are prompted by life's passages that become "signals of transcendence," or trigger points. "The big seven," as he puts it, is a crucial moment in an individual's life from age 18 to 25 when it becomes common to question and be curious of life's true meaning because it's during this time that most people establish their careers and relationships. He also said crisis oftentimes becomes another reason for becoming a seeker.
"People have experiences in their lives which trigger something that they used to believe and points beyond it to something that needs to be true and needs to have meaning… life becomes a question mark whether its emotionally, intellectually or practically," the Christian thinker said.
He added that people seek to find identity, reality and the difference between right and wrong, saying it is like "carving a cave." According to Guinness the reason why people even begin to question life's meaning is due in part to the idea of diversion.
"We don't like the idea of final reality so we distract ourselves with busy entertaining distractions, including 'weapons of mass distraction' (technology) and that's why we live in a diverted world," said Guinness.
He also suggests that people bargain their quest for life's meaning, which only prolongs the amount of time and process of their journey to find meaning.
"You say, 'oh yes, this is important, but later,' then you notice that there is no later and that's when you bargain your soul with the devil to have a little more time for more knowledge, more power because you think there must be more," he said.
Once people begin to find answers to their questions and curiosities, they reach a stage that produces clarity in their search.
"This stage is conceptual and intellectual because people usually send their mind out as a scout to look for answers that will satisfy," he said. "It's also critical. People begin to realize the worldview they adopt, it will not only dictate what they see around them but will also be decisive in terms of what they don't see."
He continued, "There are profound differences in worldviews and people often ask, 'how can I choose between them all?' but there are two reasons why their choices are limited."
Guinness explains that seekers want particular answers to their particular questions, instead of generalized solutions, which gives them a tunnel vision focus. In addition, he said people are limited in their options of beliefs because only three categories of faith exist.
"The big three are the eastern, the secularist, and the Abrahamic. The Eastern worldview goes back to impersonal ground of beings; Hinduism, Buddhism or a variety of new age movements," said Guinness. "Secularist grounds of faith are agnostics, atheists and materialists who base their ideals on the notion of chance and the Abrahamic, the Biblical family; everything goes back to a personal, infinite God."
He said seekers become enlightened depending on which of these three families they run their questions by, adding that "people make those choices and eventually reap those consequences."
After gaining answers, seekers then find evidence, to prove that they serve as adequate responses to their questions.
"The thinker then asks, 'is this true?' so they do their due diligence or justification. They look into embracing scientific reasoning or post-modern skepticism and more," said Guinness.
He said these approaches fail, however, Christianity "fits in a big way, all the answers to the questions of life" because biblically speaking, all answers are found in God because He created Earth.
Finding answers and evidence is not sufficient for seekers, said Guinness, they need to commit to those beliefs to reach the point in which they finally find enlightenment.
"When people reach that stage and see the truths and claims of the gospel are verifiable, they become convinced and believe it all to be true," he said.
In addition, he said that once a person has experienced these stages, they take on another process as a new believer. "It's not the end of the journey, it's the beginning of a way of following Jesus for the rest of their lives."
He also urged Christians to seek out these thinkers because oftentimes, people do not even reach the beginning stage of forming questions and curiosity for life's meaning.
"We have to pray and probe until they start to ask the questions that make them seekers," said Guinness. "Learn to love and listen to them, start by asking them to tell you their story and then discern where they are in their journey and be a witness to them moving along towards faith."