“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5 ESV)
Materialism teaches that matter/energy alone is eternal, and everything that has ever existed is merely some conglomeration of matter or another. A man once wrote, “Meaningless! Meaningless! … Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless . . . I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless…Again I saw something meaningless under the sun… Everything to come is meaningless!” (Ecclesiastes). There is an unmistakable desperation in his cries. This man, with virtually limitless wealth and labor at his disposal, has searched interminably for meaning in the mere material universe, and he’s come up empty, time and time again. He just can’t make matter matter.
It makes sense that he has failed. If there is just matter, then there’s no good or bad, no right or wrong, no beautiful or ugly, no heroic or cowardly, no generosity or stinginess, not love or hate. There’s nothing that matter is supposed to stand for. Matter just is. So, there’s no way to attach any lasting or inherent value to any matter. Matter by itself is meaningless. What does it matter to mere matter if one glob of matter is well fed and another goes hungry? Why would it be wrong for one glob of matter to ignore another glob of matter? Mere atoms don’t have feelings. Protons don’t have dreams. Neutrons don’t desire. Electrons can’t sing or laugh or cry. Bosons and quarks and neutrinos and electrical charges and binding forces don’t have bad days or good days. You can’t destroy them. You can’t create them. They just are.
Psalm 14 declares it is foolish to live as if there is no God, for you cut yourself off from all meaning. What does give matter meaning? Who can make matter matter? Only the Being who pre-existed matter, the One who freely created matter/energy out of nothing but sheer will, by His word–He makes matter matter.
In a library, we deal every day with a lot of matter/energy, both in print and in electronic form. We select it. We order it. We receive it. We process it. We configure it. We catalog it. We shelve it. We explain how to find it. We circulate it. We preserve it, protect it, and promote it. How can we know any of it matters? Mere matter cannot make matter ever matter.
The God who created all matter/energy, and all immaterial souls, draws human beings to Himself. They matter to Him. He loves them, and introduces Himself to them, and woos them. Some of them turn to Him. Some of those become His library workers. He shines His light into the minds and hearts of these servants so they can discover the meaning of all this matter that they work with. They begin to understand and keep growing in understanding.
Then, to all who come through the gates or log on to the website, they make the meaning available and accessible. And then the matter matters.
Christopher is the Public Services Head Librarian at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL. He has been a member of ACL for 6 years.