God, Atheism, and the True Meaning of Life
I wonder how many casual atheists (and agnostics who teeter on the brink of atheism) have actually thought through the fact that atheism implies that life ultimately is meaningless. One of the world’s most celebrated atheistic, evolutionary writers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Dr. Richard Dawkins, confessed in a 1995 Scientific American article, “The Universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom…no purpose…nothing but pitiless indifference.”1 More recently, in September 2016, Graham Lawton, Executive Editor of New Scientist magazine, penned a one-page article titled, “What is the Meaning of Life?” What answer did this leading evolutionary agnostic give? Here was his heavy-hitting first line: “The harsh answer is ‘it has none.’”2 “Your life may feel like a big deal to you,” he wrote, “but it’s actually a random blip of matter and energy in an uncaring and impersonal universe.”3 Other than subjective feelings of meaning and importance, unbelief implies “we will never get objective data on the matter.”4 Atheism and agnosticism simply fail “to capture a ‘true’ or ‘higher’ meaning.”5
In light of such valid, but depressing, confessions about unbelief, I would simply like to point out two beautiful truths about theism, and specifically biblical theism. First, a person can logically come to know that the God of the Bible exists.6 If matter demands a Maker; if life on Earth demands a life Giver; if complex, functional design in the Universe demands a Designer; and if the supernatural attributes of the Bible demand a Supernatural Author; then the evidence demands this verdict: the God of the Bible exists. Second, the Word of God gives mankind the meaning and purpose that he inherently longs for. Please understand, rational Christians do not come to believe in God and in the Bible as His inspired Word simply because we want some objective meaning to our life on Earth. Rather, once we see the evidence for God and His Word and commit our lives to the Lord in obedience to the Gospel of Christ (Romans 6:1-17; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9), our admittedly innate but formerly uninformed desire for a “higher meaning” is at that moment made complete by the “perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25). In fact, God gave His inspired Word so that “the man of God may be complete” (2 Timothy 3:17). No doubt, part of this Divinely given, God-revealed “perfection” or “completeness” is one’s realization that the human life actually has real, objective meaning.
The best atheism can do is to ask people to choose for themselves what the meaning of human life is. But such meaning is entirely subjective. One person could just as easily conclude that the meaning of life is to reduce the population of human beings on Earth by any means possible in order to “save mother Earth,”7 as he could decide that the meaning of life is “to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones,”8 including having sexual relations with anyone, at anytime, anywhere.9 On the other hand, Christianity offers the world real, objective meaning. The Creator of mankind has informed us that we exist on Earth for the purpose of choosing (by the grace of God) where we want to live eternally (Matthew 7:13-14). As we prepare to meet our Maker (Ecclesiastes 12:7), He has instructed us to “[f]ear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
1 Richard Dawkins (1995), “God’s Utility Function,” Scientific American, 273:85, November, emp. added.
2 Graham Lawton (2016), “What is the Meaning of Life?” New Scientist, 231:33, September 3.
6 See Eric Lyons and Kyle Butt (2014), “7 Reasons to Believe in God,” Apologetics Press, https://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=5045&topic=93. For even more evidence, visit the “Existence of God” section of ApologeticsPress.org.
7 See Eric Lyons (2010), “Save the Planet! Kill the People!” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=3586&topic=94.
8 Charles Darwin (1958), The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, ed. Nora Barlow (New York: W.W. Norton).
9 Regardless of whether the person is willing. Cf. Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer (2000), A Natural History of Rape (Cambridge: MIT Press).