RC Chapter Director joins forces with noted Apologist Norman Geisler for new study on Ecclesiates
Having Fun Under the Sun: A Study of Ecclesiastes, by Norman Giesler and RC Chapter Director Paul A. Compton
Paul Compton is Ratio Christi's Chapter Director at the University of New Hampshire Manchester campus, where he has been gathering interest among students in learning RC apologetics since 2016. He is also a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the International Society of Christian Apologetics.
We asked Paul how his opportunity to explore the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes with noted apologist and theologian Norman Geisler came about:
"Dr. Geisler and I have known each other since 2002 when I moved to Charlotte to attend Southern Evangelical Seminary. I volunteered for the tech needs at the seminary and church. Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books of the Bible, dealing with life’s realities and mysteries. Dr. Geisler mentioned that he wanted to write a book about it, I offered to help, and he graciously gave me the opportunity to co-author."
Paul gives us his best snapshot of their new book which was published July 31, 2018:
"Ecclesiastes is one of the most fascinating but misunderstood books of the Bible. There are three main approaches to the book. If it is understood as purely naturalistic, its divine inspiration is rejected. If understood as partially theistic or God-centered, some truth is conveyed (albeit only the conclusion) even though most of the book (1:3-12:12) records the thoughts of man apart from God. In our book, we embrace the third position which looks at Ecclesiastes as being entirely theistic. As such, we can accept everything in the book (understood in its proper context) is true. Solomon is not a pessimist but a realist. He teaches us that in spite of life’s mysteries, inequity, and brevity, we can really have fun under the sun.
Ecclesiastes can be broken into four main sections:
Seeking fun under the sun: apart from God (Eccles. 1-2)
In the Book of Ecclesiastes, the Preacher repeatedly uses the term hě·ḇěl (at least thirty-seven times) to describe life and the world around him. Interestingly, there is some debate regarding the proper translation of the word. Some translations include “meaninglessness” (NIV), “vanity” (ESV), and “futility” (HCSB). Elsewhere in the Bible, the word is translated as “breath” or “vapor.” Since the Preacher highlights life’s mysteries (8:16-9:9) and its brevity (11:7-12:14), perhaps he has in mind the temporary and enigmatic nature of life.
Like most of us, he decided to test life’s pleasures. He sought happiness in wisdom, worldly pleasure, wit, wine, work, wealth, women, or worldwide recognition. Ultimately, he concludes that pleasure and all of the things that are provided in life can provide absolutely no permanent satisfaction. There is no fun under the sun; it is found beyond the sun. There is no fun in this world apart from the One beyond this world who made this world.
Finding fun under the sun: in God (3-5)
What he could not do under the sun apart from God, he found that he could do in God as he looked in this world. Ultimately, we must trust in God’s Providence. His plan is that He has a time and a place for everything under the sun. If you are in God’s time and place, you will be happy. If you are out of God’s time and place, you will be unhappy.
Solomon writes, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (3:11). His mysterious purposes cannot be understood. We can apprehend but not comprehend God’s ways. It would be better to trust and not know than to know and not trust.
We must trust in God’s Sovereignty in spite of life’s puzzles. Why is there injustice, oppression, or rivalry? Why is there isolation or fleeting fame? Why is there death? Of course, the seeming paradox of death actually points to God’s providence because man with “eternity in his heart” (3:11) must face the temporality in his life. It tells him there is more to life than this life.
Studying fun under the sun: under God (6-8)
He notices the conditions around us, making two conclusions. First, prosperity is not always good. As the Old Testament scholar Dr. Walter Kaiser observes, “God has deliberately isolated the gift of the goods themselves from the gift of the power to be able to enjoy those same gifts.” Prosperity does not bring happiness without the gift of the power to enjoy such gifts. Second, adversity is not always bad. There are two kinds of people in this world: those who see difficulties in every opportunity and those who see opportunities in every difficulty. Often times our character is strengthened and wisdom is gained as we work through difficult circumstances.
Having fun under the sun: through God (8:16 – 12:14)
Here again, Solomon underlines the theme of the book. In spite of life’s mysteries, you can have happiness by sitting down with someone else and enjoying a good meal. We could also title this, “Having fun with your hon under the sun.” Solomon tells us that we can have fun by sharing life with someone else. Don’t put a pickle in your mouth, corrugate your eyebrows, and put one foot on a banana peel and the other one in the grave – that’s not the sign of a Christian.
A popular topic in the church is how to discover one’s spiritual gift. Solomon writes, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…" (9:10a). This is one of the best verses in the Bible that describes what is meant by a spiritual gift. If you haven’t identified the name of your spiritual gift, don’t worry. All you have to do is this – whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your heart and you will automatically be doing your spiritual gift!
There are seven occasions in the book where the Preacher implores his readers to enjoy life. In 11:9, he begins, “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth…” then concludes with a sobering reminder, “But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.” Pleasure is the joyous gift of a gracious God to be used in thankfulness and good stewardship for Him. In 2 Corinthians 5:10, Paul reminds us that we will stand before the judgment seat of God one day. We will give an account to Christ about whether we enjoyed what God gave us to enjoy. I believe God is going to hold us to account not only for the misuse of pleasures, but also for the joys we missed."
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