Victor Frankl was imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz and Dachau during the Second World War. As a Jewish professor of neurology and psychiatry he became world renowned for his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, which sold over eight million copies. In it he unfolds the essence of his philosophy that came to be called Logotherapy—namely, that the most fundamental human motive is to find meaning in life. He observed in the horrors of the camps that man can endure almost any “how” of life if he has a “why”. But the quote that stirred me recently was this:
I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers. (“Victor Frankl at Ninety: An Interview,” in First Things, April 1995, p. 41.)
In other words, ideas have consequences that bless or destroy. People’s behavior—good and bad—does not come from nowhere. It comes from prevailing views of reality that take root in the mind and bring forth good or evil. This is why I put such a high premium on teaching. It is why I preach the way I do, and why we care so deeply about issues of truth.
One of the ways that the Bible makes plain the truth that ideas have practical consequences is by saying things like, “Whatever was written beforehand was written…that you may have hope” (Romans 15:4). The ideas presented in the Scriptures produce the practical consequence of hope. Again, Paul says, “The aim of our instruction is love” (1 Timothy 1:5). The imparting of ideas by “instruction” produces love. Hope and love do not come from nowhere. They grow out of ideas—views of reality—revealed in the Scriptures.
Another way the Scriptures show us that ideas have consequences is by using the word “therefore” (1,039 times in the NASB). For example, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). “There is, Therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus“ (Romans 8:1). “Therefore, do not be anxious for tomorrow” (Matthew 6:34). “Therefore, do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31). “Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them” (Matthew 7:12). “Therefore, let us not judge one another anymore” (Romans 14:13). “Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body” (Romans 6:12). “Therefore glorify God in your body” (I Corinthians 6:20). “Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8).
Every one of these great “therefores” flows from a view of reality. If we want to live in the power of these great practical “therefores,” we must be gripped by the ideas—the views of reality—that go before them and stand under them.
It is Easter season. This leads me to conclude with the magnificent reality of the resurrection and a precious “therefore” that flows from it.
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet… "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (I Corinthians 15:51-58).
Gripped by the ground of steadfastness,