Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities!
All things are vanity!
- Eccl 1:2
All things are vanity!
- Eccl 1:2
King David's son, Qoheleth used this superlative to express the futility of the material world. Of course it probably was not actually the King's son who wrote this, but his name was invoked to give the book Ecclesiastes credibility, which was a perfectly acceptable practice in ancient Hebrew writing. The wisdom of this simple statement seems lost on twenty-first century man. Written 2,200 to 2,300 years ago Qoheleth utters near perfect prophecy for today.
Imagine for a moment that man's technological and scientific advancement suddenly came to a screeching halt. It is not that anything achieved to date would disappear, but rather that our quest for human-inspired perfection simply stopped. From this moment forward, there would be no new releases of Windows or Apple's operating system. Computers would get no faster. The cell phone would get no smaller. Cars would get no more fuel efficient. Man would not return to the moon. The iPod would hold no more gigabytes. HDTV would be as good as it ever got along with the 500-plus channels one could view. There would be no cure for cancer, AIDS, Parkinson's Disease or any other ailment whose mystery has not already been unraveled. What man has today, which is far more than any of his ancestors ever enjoyed and then some, would be what he would have tomorrow, but no more.
How would humanity's thought shift? If he could no longer improve his material external world, would he not be inspired to look upon the interior and spiritual realm? The lie of the age of the Enlightenment which brought about our age of rationalized, empirical thinking, is that man can figure out his world on his own. He only need devote more time, research, data-mining, and experimentation to achieve the ever-illusive peace of mind that always seems to remain hidden in the unknown. And all the while he forgets that he is a mortal being created by a divine, higher power. Modern man grows his own tree of knowledge and partakes of its fruit and deludes himself into believing that he can be like God. With such a mindset, the Creator becomes secondary.
Man's ability to embrace science is a gift from God. Advancement in technology is good only if it is done for the glory of God's creation. The Internet can be used to spread the Gospel or spread pornography. What is a better use of the medical mind, curing cancer in children or solving erectile dysfunction in men? Does man spend billions of dollars ending hunger in the world or does he devote his time and resources to creating a better tasting dog food? Is luring consumers to the ultimate coffee drinking experience more important than inspiring people to shelter the homeless.
At what point, if ever, will man take a break, step back, and ask, "What has all of our invention really accomplished for our species?"
One answer that seems unlikely, today, is "It brought us closer to God."
And yet, that is the very purpose of the creative, inventive, unique, problem-solving, aptitude of the human brain. The Almighty gave man this gift of reason to deal with a fallen world. The gift was not given to perpetuate its fallen nature or make it worse. To use intelligence for any other purpose is to live Qoheleth's statement of vanity.