To paraphrase Vince Lombardi: “If no one is keeping score, why is winning important?” Without trophies and record books, why play, why watch, why cheer?
If today is the only reality, why set goals? Why explore? Why ask questions?
If all art crumbles and all beautiful music fades away forever, why paint, why design, why compose, why perform?
If man is an arrangement of chemicals that always has existed in some form and has its current form due to some impersonal cosmological impulse, how does anything that I think or do matter, ultimately?
If only dust is left when we die, why cooperate today? Why love? Why care? Why accommodate social convention at all? Why not just live for self?
King Solomon once considered the meaning of life without God. Then he wrote a book on the subject. It’s very dark. You could get depressed reading it.
On the subject of work, Solomon wrote: “What’s the point of working your fingers to the bone if you hand over what you worked for to someone who never lifted a finger for it? Smoke, that’s what it is. A bad business from start to finish. So what do you get from a life of hard labor? Pain and grief from dawn to dusk. Never a decent night’s rest. Nothing but smoke.”
It takes many people a lifetime to crack the myth that climbing the corporate ladder and making lots of money is a sure route to utopia. Author Jack Higgins said: “The one thing I know now but wished I knew as a small boy is this: When you get to the top, there’s nothing there.”
What makes work significant? What makes life meaningful? What makes it worthwhile to get up in the morning?
What works for me, and has for 35 years, is the evidence-based conviction that a kind, personal God created the cosmos, is fully aware of what’s happening here, and is preparing to return, repair, restore and rule with justice — establishing forever all that is good.
“Without Jesus Christ man must be in vice and misery; with Jesus Christ man is free from vice and misery; in Him is all our virtue and all our happiness. Apart from Him there is but vice, misery, darkness, death, despair.” So said the brilliant French mathematician and physicist, Blaise Pascal, (1623-1662).
OBJECTION: Wait — what is Pascal saying?! That life without God is meaningless and miserable? Not according to one humanist who responded to my recent column. He said that for him “most of the time [life is] bright, joyful, and dazzlingly beautiful.” He said, “I see mind-shattering, heart-bursting, sumptuously gorgeous wonder. Incomprehensibly vast unknowns just waiting to be discovered. Possibilities without end.”
All of that?! Let it never be said, then, that humanists never profess optimism or that all atheists are always negative. Actually, all that I have ever previously said is that no one who denies the existence of God has a rational basis for objective morality, ultimate significance, or lasting joy.
William Lane Craig: “If each individual person passes out of existence when he dies, then what ultimate meaning can be given to his life? It might be said that his life was important because it influenced others or affected the course of history. But this only shows a relative significance to his life, not an ultimate significance. [Without God] mankind is a doomed race in a dying universe [and] thus no more significant than a swarm of mosquitoes or a barnyard of pigs, for their end is all the same.”
Ravi Zacharias: “Outside of Christ there is no law, no hope, and no meaning. You, and you alone, are the determiner and definer of these essentials of life … You, and you alone, risk everything you have on the basis of a hope you envisage.”
OBJECTION: “By advocating Christianity alone, Christians exhibit superiority, condemn two-thirds of the world’s population (who are not Christian), and engender segregation.” That was the charge of another recent reader.
First, every faith system is exclusivist. Second, no Christian has any grounds for ever imposing his beliefs on another by force. If our testimony is true, it becomes strong by conviction, not smugness. Was the inventor of sliced bread arrogant to promote his discovery? One humble disciple of Jesus said, “I’m just one beggar trying to tell another beggar where to find bread.”
Before that other beggar will listen, though, he must first come to understand that what he now holds is not bread at all.
The Rev. Daryl E. Witmer is founder and director of the AIIA Institute, a national apologetics ministry, and associate pastor of the Monson Community Church. He may be reached through the Web site aiia.christiananswers.net or by e-mail at email@example.com. Voices is a weekly commentary by Maine people who explore issues affecting spirituality and religious life.