Science and the Bible Helped Me Find the Meaning of Life
AS TOLD BY BERND OELSCHLÄGEL
My search for the meaning of life took 20 years. Two things helped me find it: science and the Bible. My study of science confirmed that life must have meaning. But the Bible revealed that meaning to me and helped me understand it.
YOU may have heard some people claim that science contradicts the Bible. I have studied both, and I cannot agree with their claim. Perhaps you are interested in knowing why.
I was born in 1962 in Stuttgart, a city in southern Germany. Father worked as a machine designer, and he and Mother were active in church affairs. Karin, my sister, was born four years before me. A thrilling milestone in my childhood was when Father gave me a science experiment kit. I had great fun trying rudimentary experiments in chemistry and physics. Yes, learning was enjoyable.
Later I switched from experiment kit to computer. Even as a teenager, I could see that the best computer is the brain. But I wondered: ‘Where does the brain come from? Who gave it to us? And what is the meaning of life?’
The Pursuit of Higher Education
I left school at 16 years of age and started an apprenticeship as an assistant in a photo laboratory. Since learning was the thing I enjoyed most, my goal was to study physics at a university. But a university course was a long way off. It took me five years just to meet the entry qualifications. I started my university education in Stuttgart in 1983, and I continued my studies in Munich. Finally, I became a doctor of physics at the University of Augsburg in 1993.
My early days at the university were not easy. The lecture auditorium was commonly filled with about 250 students, many of whom gave up the course within a few months. I was determined not to give up but to follow through on what I had started. Living in a student residence building, I rubbed shoulders with many who seemed mostly interested in having a good time. Associating with such people was not always good. As a result, I took to partying and using drugs.
My Search Takes Me to India
My study of physics gave me a deeper grasp of the natural laws of the universe. I had hoped that science would ultimately reveal to me what life is all about. However, my search for the meaning of life went beyond physics. In 1991, I traveled with a group to India to learn Oriental meditation. What a wonderful experience to see the country and its people firsthand! But I was aghast at the contrast between rich and poor.
Near the city of Pune, for instance, we visited a guru who claimed that cultivating the correct meditation techniques could help someone to become rich. We meditated as a group each morning. The guru also sold medications at high prices. He clearly earned a handsome living; his lifestyle suggested as much. We also saw monks who appeared to be living in poverty, in contrast with the guru. I wondered, ‘Why didn’t meditation also make them rich?’ My trip to India seemed to pose as many questions as it answered.
One of the souvenirs I brought back from India was a meditation bell. I was told that when struck properly, the bell gave off a musical tone that would help me to meditate correctly. Back in Germany I purchased a horoscope drawn up by someone who claimed to be able to foresee my future. But practicing meditation did not reveal to me anything about life. I discovered to my disappointment that a horoscope is just a worthless piece of paper. So my questions about the meaning of life remained.
I Found Answers in the Bible
Life took an unexpected turn in 1993. I had completed my study and research and was in the process of writing my doctoral thesis on quantum physics. To meet the deadline, I worked almost day and night, to the neglect of everything else. Suddenly one afternoon there was a knock at the door. I opened to find two women.
“Did you know that the year 1914 was a very special year according to the Bible?” they asked. The question dumbfounded me. I had never heard of such a thing; neither did I have the time to investigate. Still, the question intrigued me. How could they claim that the Bible long ago pointed to 1914 as a marked year?
“Would you like to know more?” they went on. ‘Surely,’ I thought, ‘if I listen to what they have to say, I will be able to find a contradiction in their arguments.’ Instead of contradictions, I found convincing proof of the Bible’s trustworthiness. I learned that Bible prophecy clearly indicates that God’s Messianic Kingdom—a heavenly government that will in time rule over all the earth—was installed in 1914.*
The women were Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they gave me a copy of the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth.* I read it within a few days and found everything logical and reasonable. The Witnesses showed me from the Bible that it is Jehovah’s will for mankind to live forever in a paradise on earth. According to Bible prophecy, this promise will soon be realized. What a wonderful hope for the future! This hope touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Could this be what I had been searching for these last 20 years?
I quickly recognized my purpose in life: to get to know Jehovah God and to serve him wholeheartedly. I continued my study of the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, sensing that what I was learning was the truth. My thirst for spiritual matters could hardly be quenched. While completing my doctoral thesis, I read the Bible halfway through within three months.
Finding More Than Answers
In May 1993, I attended my first meeting at the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses at a Kingdom Hall in Augsburg. The teachings I heard had the ring of truth. Furthermore, I felt comfortable with the Witnesses. They greeted me warmly and made me feel welcome, even though I was a stranger. An elderly woman sat near me and went to the trouble of getting a songbook for me. In the following weeks, a Witness man and his young son gave me a lift to the Kingdom Hall in their car. These newfound friends soon began to invite me to their homes. In time I felt the desire to share with others what I was learning about the meaning of life.
Taking to heart what I had learned from the Bible was already moving me to make changes in my life. For instance, I no longer wished to keep items connected with occultism. So I got rid of my horoscopes as well as the meditation bell and other religious souvenirs from India. My study of the Bible progressed, and I dedicated myself to Jehovah God, getting baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Munich in June 1994. In so doing I embraced wholeheartedly the true meaning of life.
In September 1995, I became a regular pioneer, a full-time minister of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This meant spending more time talking to people about God’s purposes. To do this I relied upon the strength that Jehovah gives. Many times I arrived home in the evening after several hours in the ministry, sensing a joy and contentment that I had never experienced before I got to know Jehovah. In January 1997, I was invited to continue my full-time service in the Germany branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Selters, called Bethel, where I now live. My parents have visited me several times, and although they do not share my religious beliefs, they have come to respect Bethel and are happy that I am here.
Science and the Bible
Some may wonder how a person who has spent years studying science can believe what the Bible says. Well, I find no contradiction between science and the Bible. As a physicist, I have studied the laws governing life, and these laws give evidence that they were designed by a superhuman intelligence.
For example, there are many theories in physics, chemistry, and biology. And although the theories may basically be simple, the mathematics associated with them can nevertheless be very demanding. Brilliant scientists suggest theories and are awarded the Nobel Prize for their work. How much more brilliant must be the intelligent Being who designed and brought into existence the universe, which scientists try so hard to understand!
To suggest, as many evolutionists do, that life developed by chance is stretching credibility too far. To illustrate: Place ten soccer balls in a straight line on a soccer field, each ball three feet [1 m] from the other. By kicking the first ball, try to make each ball hit the next one in line, so that all ten balls are hit. Furthermore, try to predict the final position of each ball. The probability of success is so remote that most people would likely regard the feat as impossible.
That being the case, how can anyone claim that the development of the human cell—involving processes far more complex than kicking soccer balls—could ever be achieved simply by chance? The most reasonable explanation is that a superintelligent Being created humans and all other forms of life on earth. Would this Being, who is the Creator, do such a thing without having a purpose? Of course not. He must have had a purpose, and that purpose is revealed and made understandable in the Bible.
As you can see, both science and the Bible helped me find answers to my long-standing questions about life. Can you imagine the huge sense of relief and pleasure you would experience upon finding something that you had sought over a period of 20 years? It is my heart’s desire to help as many others as possible to find what I finally found—not only answers to my questions but, more important, the proper way to worship the only true God, Jehovah!
For a detailed discussion, see chapter 10, “God’s Kingdom Rules,” in the book Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses, pages 90-7.
Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now out of print.
[Blurb on page 14]
As a physicist, I have studied the laws governing life, and these laws give evidence that they were designed by a superhuman intelligence
[Picture on page 12]
When I was 12
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In my search for the meaning of life, I turned to Oriental meditation
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Preaching to others gives me true joy and contentment
Cover of book: J. Hester and P. Scowen (AZ State Univ.), NASA