This is the website of Nils von Kalm. I am a writer and teacher of Christian theology. I live in Melbourne, Australia, which I think is the best city in the world.
On this site I offer you my thoughts on life – soul thoughts. These thoughts come in the form of a blog, articles, sermons, book reviews and movie reviews, among others. My thoughts about life arise from a foundation of faith and how it can be manifested in everyday life. See below for more about where I’m coming from.
Many people have influenced me in my life so far. Some are public figures and some are people I know personally. Whether it be by the extraordinary things they have done or the things they have said, they have all had an impact on me, for which I will be forever grateful. As John Lennon famously sang, “some are dead and some are living. In my life I’ve loved them all”.
My life is based around faith in a God who I am convinced is revealed in the Bible. Some of you may stop reading right there and I understand if you do. Followers of Jesus have waged wars and committed the most horrific abuses in his name. If you are someone who has suffered that sort of abuse in the name of God then I understand and, for what it’s worth, I am sorry.
There are various reasons why I remain a believer after 30 years or so. I have experienced serious doubt, wondering whether all this stuff I believed is really true. After all, who can really imagine the second coming in which this guy comes down on the clouds? And shouldn’t we have given away imaginary friends when we became adults? However there is something deep in the human heart that cries out for significance in life. We seem to be wired to need relationship, to need to give and receive love. Scientists tell us that if a baby is given all the right nutrients in its first months but does not receive love and affection, it will die.
Scientists also talk about the fact that we seem to be wired for morality. We seem to have an inbuilt sense of what is right and wrong. Every culture that the world has ever known has had a sense of right and wrong. They might have different views on what is right or wrong, but every single one has had a sense of right and wrong, good and bad. This transcript from the ABC’s Radio National talks about the scientific basis for morality. On top of this, our DNA contains specific information about the way we are put together. We seem to have been hard-coded to function in a certain way.
Could it be that the fact that we are here is more than just a coincidence? Are we really more than what Carl Sagan described us as once, as a meaningless “lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark”?
One of the books I recommend on this website, Simply Christian, by N.T. Wright, talks about the fact that we seem to have this innate sense of justice, a need for relationship, a sense of the beauty of things, and a desire for spirituality. As far as we know, human beings are the only creatures on earth that have a sense of the religious, a sense of worship of something outside of ourselves.
There have been many studies on happiness over the years. Here is one by Clive Hamilton, formerly of The Australia Institute. Time after time, research of this kind has shown that our affluent way of life is not making us any happier. Should we be surprised then at the research findings of American psychologist Martin Seligman, that the rate of depression in western nations has risen tenfold since the Second World War? Long ago it was said that life does not consist in the abundance of one’s possessions. Nothing seems to have changed.
Jesus of Nazareth was the one who made that statement 2,000 years ago. Since then many have sought to discredit the gospel accounts of the man who claimed to be God incarnate. I am convinced that when all is said and done, the four gospels that we have present Jesus as a completely believable character in 1st century Palestine. I am also convinced that the account of his physical resurrection from the dead is the most likely and logical explanation for the explosion of the Christian community in the early 1st century.
I have read widely on this from all sides. The best book I can recommend on this topic is again by N.T. Wright, in his expansive account, The Resurrection of the Son of God. No stone is left unturned in this tome as he sifts carefully through ancient resurrection stories of different religions, and then goes into the accounts we have of the resurrection of Jesus himself. To paraphrase Bono when it was suggested to him that believing in Christ was a bit outrageous, “think of the alternative – the fact that millions of people through the ages have had their lives turned upside down by a madman, now that’s outrageous!”. It was C.S. Lewis who said that we should stop this nonsense of seeing Jesus as a great moral teacher. He did not leave that open to us. And as journalist Bryan Patterson has said, it is not very moral to claim to be the Son of God, unless it’s true.
If this is all there is, then we can say along with one of the men hanging on a cross in The Life of Brian, “life’s a piece of shit, when you look at it”. We can put all our meaning that we like into life; the atheist can say that just because there is no God does not mean that our lives cannot be significant, and indeed many an atheist does live like this. However millions of people down through the ages have had a sense of something deeper, something that is real. If you have to create your own meaning, you know deep down that it is not real, it is only determined by you. We need an anchor to live by. Everyone lives by something, we all have faith, believer and non-believer alike.
Finally, there is love. Three things remain – faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love. So spoke the apostle Paul to the Corinthian church in the first century. Deep down, once again, we know that if we live by love, life works best. It really is better to give than receive. When we surrender to a personal power greater than ourselves, we gain strength, energy for living, and life. This is the great paradox of faith – we die to live, we surrender to gain victory, we humble ourselves to be exalted, we suffer to gain glory. According to Larry Crabb, the road to joy feels like the road to death. And as John Smith once said, “I don’t want to live any other way”.