This isn’t your stereotypical blog post about the purpose of life or life being worth living. In fact, in some regard it’s the opposite of that. In this post, I want to be clear that life is definitely worth living, but frankly, it isn’t worth living if we think about it in the philosophical framework of life that a majority of the world thinks is true (and whether that’s an active or passive belief doesn’t seem to matter either).
I propose that there are two reasonable explanations for the purpose of life: nihilism and Christianity. This is a bold claim, but given the following points, I’m convinced of its truth. Nihilism is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless” and “a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths.” Now, Christianity is different than other religions and that is core to why I believe it is the only other viable option. Granted, that claim is not much of a shocker: if there weren’t differences amongst religions and belief systems there wouldn’t be different religions and belief systems in the first place. So, I want to explain why in comparison to other religions, Christianity may be more reasonable and arguably the only reasonable explanation to life having purpose.
To begin, we have to explain the real state of the world. If the world is how most would say it is, then there is no hope in life. We die, humans will eventually cease to exist, the world will eventually cease to exist, and the universe inevitably will cease to exist too. This is a fact of science and reason that in the grand scheme of things, everything ends or dies. This leads us to the overwhelming realization that if all things eventually end, our works and legacies and “goodness” ultimately have zero impact because they will be wiped out in the end. What ultimate good does it do for there to be a society of good people if eventually they all die and the earth ends anyway and there is no real consequence for anything? (For more detailed thoughts on this, see the post The Fear of Death; The Death of Fear.)
If this is the case, then comes the question of why are we living each day? We aren’t ultimately impacting anything. If we say we are “living for others,” this makes no sense. “Others” do not ultimately matter either because they will die and eventually cease to exist. In fact, all things we do do not matter, so even being a “good,” “selfless” person doesn’t matter. Therefore we’re left with the fact that we ought to live for ourselves in every moment, regardless of social, environmental, spiritual, cultural, financial, or emotional consequences. But that’s what science based solely on evolution would argue anyway, correct?
BUT WAIT. There’s more to this thought because inevitably we will be and are at odds with people and circumstances in our life. We are not 100% content our whole life and at any age we are able to identify this. We suffer while we’re alive and we cannot be satisfied. We eat and we are hungry again, we drink and we are thirsty again, we resolve conflict and inevitably another fight rears its ugly head. Bad things happen. So (this is dark, but true), this means that ultimately this nihilistic world we live in only has one plausible outcome: Death. The only way to get out of this unavoidable cycle of suffering, longing, discontent, arguments, loss, emotional turmoil, broken relationships, et cetera is Death. Other close friendships don’t matter in the end so they are not even considered. Again, when we realize this, the only real thing that matters is our ultimate satisfaction and this can only be achieved through Death because there is no purpose in life. Because of this, we deny the feelings that others might feel in our loss because eventually they will die too and our death won’t actually have any net impact on the world.
This is nihilism. This is truth outside of God.
At our core, however, we do not see that “nihilism” is true, or else we would all be dead. The reason nihilism is the only other viable option to Christianity is because no other religion DESTROYS death. No other religion can be true, period, unless they claim to defeat death and this earthly realm we live in. For philosophies and religions that exist purely in the physical, scientific, naturalistic realm, “truth” would end when humanity and the world end. Not only this, but existing purely in the physical realm brings us right back to the cycle of suffering and pain until we die. But truth, in its ultimate nature*, cannot end because “ultimate” truth cannot only be “ultimately” true only part of the time (AKA until the world ends).
Further, other religions claim we have to do works and be good people or follow pillars and laws to achieve eternal life with God. This too makes no logical sense. We as humans break the pillars and laws daily, if not every minute. We cannot live perfect lives that are to the standard a perfect God demands of us. Therefore, we deserve to be separated from God, especially if he is a just, perfect, and holy God that Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and most major philosophers claim He is. This is because eternal life would require us be bound to an eternal being since we ourselves are not eternal. To be in oneness with an eternal, perfect being and in an eternal, perfect paradise would require that we too be perfect like this paradise and being. If we find ourselves even remotely imperfect, flawed, sinful, bitter, angry, resentful, arrogant, selfish, greedy, fearful, deceitful, (you get what I mean) we corrupt both the perfect being and the perfect paradise. We cannot enter into oneness or even relationship with a perfect God because He himself is perfect in every way and we are not. He cannot be one with imperfection (the inability to follow pillars and laws) or else He compromises His own perfection. Because other religions preach we have to earn our way to oneness with God and eternal life, they have to be false teachings. The second we do one wrong thing, we can never be in the presence of God and his perfection because we are imperfect from that one flawed moment forward. Even if we were to work off or pay for that imperfection, there still exists a moment in our history that our imperfection exists. No matter how many good works, we are separated forever from perfection by our imperfections and there is no hope – therefore, nihilism.
In this case, it is interesting to think about why even have ideas of goodness and badness in the first place. If there is no ultimate “good” then it would be pointless to have language to describe what is “good” and what is “bad.” The very words “good” and “bad” insinuate there is a comparison that is happening between beliefs and ways of living and in order to have a comparison there has to be a ultimate truth to compare it against. (To read more on this, read this article: A Theory of Relativity: Why Everyone Cannot Believe What They Want to Believe.)
Christianity, however, is different than the religions and belief systems mentioned earlier. Christianity claims that we cannot be perfect – no matter how hard we try. We cannot follow the law nor God’s will nor morality. It acknowledges our imperfection in Romans 3:23 and the depravity of our situation in Romans 6:23 because we cannot be one with God nor achieve eternal life. Then it makes a bold claim that God, himself, lived as a man (Jesus) and lived a perfect life. He was then killed through crucifixion on a cross and rose to life three days later. Now the major differences here are that God acknowledges we cannot be perfect. He then acknowledges that because we are not perfect, we can therefore never be one with Him. He then comes to earth as a human being, dies, and comes back to life – this might be the most important difference to understand.
This is ultimate and of the most-high importance: if Jesus is God and He only died, nihilism would still be true. Death would have conquered God who was claiming to be “the way, the truth, and the life.” Death would then be the ultimate source of truth because it defeated the God who claimed to be truth.
But that is not what occurred.
Instead, Jesus (God) rose from the dead and proved He could in fact overcome Death. He proved through His physical resurrection that there is real, possible life after death. Therefore, nihilism is also defeated and the purpose is restored to life. Our legacy becomes eternal; our relationships regain care for the emotions and personalities of others because they can join us eternally. But it is only possible through the death AND resurrection of Christ in our own lives that this eternal victory over Death occurs.
So how do we achieve that for ourselves? Easy. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that it is a gift freely given to us through our faith in Christ, not by works. Jesus simply and plainly says “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself,” AND that He is “the way, the truth and the life,” and that “no one comes to the father except through [Him].” Those words are eternally significant and ultimately reasonable. He is the way, the truth, and the life and He offers those three things to us through His death and resurrection. When we accept this about Christ and accept His death and resurrection as our own, we enter into oneness with a perfect God. Christ bore the weight of our imperfections and separated Himself from God the Father by dying. He took the consequence of our imperfections and was no longer one with the Father. To prove, however, that He could overcome the power of nihilism and Death, He came back to life and this is the life He calls us to enter into. Therefore, because of Christ’s resurrection, we can see that Christianity gives meaning and purpose to Life, rather than Death. Our lives move from remarkably purposeless to infinitely purposeful.
There is either Death leading to nihilism or Life through resurrection. The choice we live by has the capacity to rid us of any impact on this world or equip us to make eternal, never-ending impact that never ceases to exist.
*There are some points I make throughout this post that make logical jumps, but I’ll also note that I acknowledge those jumps in logic because they are widely accepted truths that most individuals would make. For instance, assuming that there is an “ultimate truth” is a jump, however, based on our human tendencies, many of us do believe and act as if there is an ultimate truth. It would only distract and muddle the post to go into greater detail about why I personally believe there to be an ultimate truth and not simply a relative truth. I also detail these thoughts in other posts on my blog page and would love to point you to other sources that defend these ideas. For further clarifications or questions about any logic you’re curious about, please reach out and contact me!