Chapter 1 The Question of the Ages

Ecclesiastes 1:1-18

Where Does Meaning in Life Come From, and Why Does Life Seem So Futile?

Cyril Edwin Mitchinson Joad was born on August 12, 1891, in Durham, England. As a student at Oxford, Joad formed a worldview based on atheism and socialist and pacifist views. Engaged in government service for sixteen years, he retired in 1930 to teach in the departments of psychology and philosophy at the University of London.

As a philosopher, author, teacher, and radio personality, he was one of Britain's most controversial intellectuals of the 1940s. He became famous in Britain as an agile participant in the BBC "Brains Trust" radio program from 1941 to 1947.

An Outline of Ecclesiastes

Following the Logic of Solomon

I. A Critique of Life: Chapters 1-2

Life grinds to nothingness, but man keeps searching (1:1-11).

Intellectualism, hedonism, materialism (1:12-2:11)

Although wisdom is better, all still die (2:12-16).

Thus he despaired (2:17-23).

Late in his life, Cyril Joad reversed his course and came to a much different conclusion about reality. To paraphrase him, he said, "I have previously held in my optimism that man would find ultimate good, meaning, peace, and harmony on this earth." He watched with interest the quest of politicians to find peace. He saw the formation of Woodrow Wilson's League of Nations and then the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But after all was said and done, he also watched men enter into two world wars and kill each other in horrifying ways. In the end he realized that the fundamental problem of man is man.

Cyril Joad repented and accepted the worldview he had formerly rejected. In 1952, he published his final volume, The Recovery of Belief.

Cyril Joad's search is a summary of the plight of modern man. People are seeking to understand the world in a way that can give them meaning and wholeness. Sometimes this search is conscious; at other times, it is subtler. But if you look around you today, you will see men and women who, at the core of their beings, are desperate for hope. In our world, hope is the square peg we fumble to fit in the round hole.

Solomon went through this same quest for meaning in 1000 B.C. The Book of Ecclesiastes is as close as the Bible gets to pure philosophy. But it's different from most philosophy in that it is not so much an inquiry of one man's mind as it is God's declaration of the meaning of life.