Life's Purpose and the Consequences of Ideas
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Evolution holds that we are here simply by chance, the result of a series of lucky accidents. If this is true, how does it affect how we live? History reveals the consequences of such thinking.
Does life have meaning without God in the picture? Is there a purpose for the earth and those who dwell on it? If so, what is the purpose and what are the ramifications of this? Or if there is no purpose, where does that leave us?
As was noted at the outset of this publication, when Stephen Hawking wrote his book A Brief History of Time, after explaining his view of the nature of the universe he concluded regarding the question of why we and the universe exist, "If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason—for then we would know the mind of God" (p. 175).
Yet the answer to that question will not come from human intelligence or reason, but only from the One who transcends our material universe. If we remove God from the equation, we lose all sense of purpose for man and the universe.
The meaning of life has been a question mark from the beginning of mankind. It is in our nature to ask such questions as "Why am I here?" and "What is the purpose of life?"
God indeed has a purpose for man, but few grasp what it is. Knowing that transcendent purpose, and really believing it, will infuse meaning into our lives. But we can understand our purpose only if we seek answers from the One who created life.
Purpose without God
Let us first consider the meaning of life if evolution were true and if there were no Creator God who has had any involvement with mankind.
If there were no God, there would be no possibility of life beyond the grave and certainly no possibility of immortality. Life would end in the finality of death. There would be no transcendent purpose to give meaning to our lives. Our lives would have no more significance than any animal or insect straining for survival until the moment it dies. All the achievements, the sacrifices, the good and wonderful things men and women do would ultimately be futile efforts in a universe awaiting its own dark and dismal end.
The late astronomer and author Carl Sagan didn't believe in God. After the death of his wife of 20 years, he believed he would never see her again. As his own death approached, he expressed a common human longing mixed with the futility inherent in atheism: "I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But, much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking" ("In the Valley of the Shadow," Parade, March 10, 1996).
When you remove the prospect and hope of an afterlife, your life is without value and without purpose. What difference would it ultimately make whether we lived like a Mother Teresa or an Adolf Hitler? Everyone's fate would be the same. The good contributions of people would make no difference to their fate or the fate of the universe.
This is the bleak outlook of those who base their beliefs on atheistic evolution, assuming that this life is all there is.
But if God exists, our lives have an eternal significance because our hope is not death but eternal life. If God exists, we have a standard of absolute right and wrong residing in the nature of God Himself. This makes our moral choices profoundly significant.
The major issues of life
Of all the creatures we see around us, man is the only part of the creation that can even address the subject of meaning, worship God and express a belief in life after death. Unlike animals, human beings can conceive of eternity and immortality.
Why are we different? Could it be that our faculty of imagining the future, hoping for life beyond our temporal hour, was thoughtfully placed within us by a Creator who Himself has assigned an eternal purpose for human beings?
Some 3,000 years ago, Israel's wise King Solomon wrote that God "has put eternity in [men's] hearts" (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God gave us the longing to ask the questions, but not the ability to know the answers unless we come to sincerely seek and rely on Him.
If we choose not to believe that God created the universe, then we must believe that desire for meaning beyond our physical life is futile. Ironically, if the principles by which evolution is assumed to operate were true, man wouldn't need to develop this aspect of his intellect.
But the fact is that we do think about it.
Human beings are God's creation. He had His reasons for putting us here. Our worth is not of ourselves but derives from the fact that that God created us in His image. It is God who gives value to human life.
The problem is that, since we have removed God from consideration, we have been desperately searching elsewhere to try to find self-worth. We have developed psychologies that emphasize our self-importance. A virtual priesthood of psychologists tells us we can rise above the problems we have created for ourselves by pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps.
Most of our system of psychology was designed to accommodate a godless view of existence. It rejects the concept that our worth comes from a Creator who assigned a purpose to man before He created any of us.
The moral principles of God are embodied in the laws He gave man. Contrary to the predominantly secular views of psychology, how we should live should not be determined by how our actions make us feel. God's laws were meant to work for man's own good. When we follow them, they lead not only to happiness and fulfillment in this life, but they give us a picture of what God Himself is all about. God's law is, in a sense, what He is. His laws reflect His character and nature.
Nothing has a more direct impact on our moral choices than whether we believe in God. The moral choices we make determine the outcome of our lives and, collectively, of society. Our attitude toward law, respect for and acknowledgment of authority, respect for the unborn and even our sexual practices are determined largely by our belief or lack of belief in God. Our conduct toward others, as well as the love and commitment in our relationships, usually boils down to one issue: Do we believe God when He speaks?
Over the past few centuries we have come through a supposed age of enlightenment in which philosophers and other thinkers sent the clear message that we don't need God to tell us what is right or wrong. As a result, atheism and materialism are increasingly accepted as the norm. Those who believe in God and the truthfulness of the Bible often are seen as uneducated, unenlightened, superstitious and archaic—if not downright dangerous.
Says Richard Dawkins, the staunch defender of evolution introduced earlier: "It is absolutely safe to say that, if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)" (Review of Blueprints: Solving the Mystery of Evolution, The New York Times, April 9, 1989).
Academic and government institutions most responsible for determining society's thinking and behavior have for the most part banned God from their halls. Most philosophy, psychology, science and history classes begin with an evolutionary premise, that there is no God and life came into being spontaneously and by chance. Thus they include no universal purpose or ultimate meaning for human life in their courses of study.
What is really behind this societal shift, and what are the repercussions?
An underlying motive
What are the fruits of denying the existence of the Creator? Does it distort one's reasoning? The Bible tells us in two verses: "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God'" (Psalm 14:1; Psalm 53:1, emphasis added). The same verses describe the consequences of people thinking this way, the first declaring, "They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good." Their entire outlook is defiled.
God understands the motivations of people who deny the possibility that He is real. When they convince themselves that He doesn't exist, what is right and wrong no longer matters to them. They have no objective standard for behavior. They see no reason they shouldn't do as they wish.
The early 20th-century author and ardent evolutionist Aldous Huxley, member of one of England's intellectually distinguished families, admitted: "I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently I assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption . . . Those who detect no meaning in the world generally do so because, for one reason or another, it suits their [purpose] that the world should be meaningless" (Ends and Means, 1946, p. 273).
Where does such thinking lead? Huxley explains: "For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom . . . There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and at the same time justifying ourselves in our political and erotic revolt: We could deny that the world had any meaning whatsoever" (p. 270, emphasis added).
Huxley confessed it was his desire to be free from moral standards that propelled him and others who shared his thinking to devise a rational basis for dismissing the idea of any innate moral obligations.
How many students in our academic institutions have any idea such motives shaped the theories and philosophies they are taught as fact? Probably few indeed. But startling as it may be, the theory that life evolved spontaneously was spawned and fueled by hostility toward God's standards and values.
Exhilaration from denying God
Huxley's brother Julian, writing later in the 20th century, was even more blunt: "The sense of spiritual relief which comes from rejecting the idea of God as a superhuman being is enormous" (Essays of a Humanist, 1966, p. 223).
Aldous and Julian Huxley were grandsons of the 19th-century biologist Thomas Huxley, a close friend of Charles Darwin and vigorous promoter of evolution. Early in the debate over evolution, Thomas Huxley revealed his antireligious bias to a colleague: "I am very glad that you see the importance of doing battle with the clericals . . . I desire that the next generation may be less fettered by the gross and stupid superstitions of [religious] orthodoxy than mine has been. And I shall be well satisfied if I can succeed to however small an extent in bringing about that result" (quoted in The Columbia History of the World, p. 957).
More recently, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould asserted: "We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because comets struck the earth and wiped out dinosaurs, thereby giving mammals a chance not otherwise available (so thank your lucky stars in a literal sense); because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a 'higher' answer—but none exists. This explanation, though superficially troubling, if not terrifying, is ultimately liberating and exhilarating" (quoted by David Friend, The Meaning of Life, 1991, p. 33, emphasis added).
What a frank and candid admission! But why would anyone feel exhilarated and liberated by convincing himself that God does not exist?
The problem lies with the heart. The prophet Jeremiah explained, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9, New American Standard Bible).
God exposes the dark intent of those who deliberately set themselves against Him: "For when they [those who despise God's authority] speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage" (2 Peter 2:18-19).
We must guard our minds against those "great swelling words of emptiness" that bombard us with unsubstantiated evolutionary thought. Such thinking has a gradual and insidious effect on us and on our society—an effect the Bible equates with slavery.
Analyzing the motive
God's Word pulls no punches in identifying the motivation for denying His existence. The apostle Paul explains that some people reject God so they will have no qualms when it comes to satisfying their selfish desires.
Notice the process and tragic results: "What can be known about God is plain to them; for God himself has made it plain. For ever since the creation of the universe God's invisible attributes—his everlasting power and divinity—are to be seen and studied in his works, so that men have no excuse; because, although they learned to know God, yet they did not offer him as God either praise or thanksgiving. Their speculations about him proved futile, and their undiscerning minds were darkened" (Romans 1:19-21, Twentieth Century New Testament).
Paul explains that when we look into the skies and examine the world around us, the creative hand of God should be self-evident. A reasonable person will recognize that God exists because of the evidence he can see with his own eyes. Paul says a person should logically and naturally conclude that there is a Creator God and recognize many of His attributes by observing the wonders He has made. To conclude otherwise—that the sun, moon, earth and stars came into existence on their own from nothing—is utterly nonsensical.
Some, however, carry such a passionate anti-God prejudice that they conclude the opposite—that the physical universe doesn't require God. Paul continues his description of the process that takes place in their thinking: "Professing to be wise, they showed themselves fools; and they transformed the Glory of the immortal God into the likeness of mortal man, and of birds, and beasts, and reptiles" (Romans 1:22-23, TCNT). They attribute godlike powers to the physical creation and reject the Creator.
Have you been misled by this false reasoning into assuming that the thinkers of this world are wise just because they can observe similarities in animal and plant life on this planet and elaborately hypothesize that these originated from a common ancestor? This reasoning is one of the basic foundations of the evolutionary concept.
Paul continues: "Therefore God abandoned them to impurity, letting them follow the cravings of their hearts, till they dishonored their own bodies; for they had substituted a lie for the truth about God, and had reverenced and worshiped created things more than the Creator, who is to be praised for ever" (Romans 1:24-25, TCNT).
Where does such thinking lead?
Paul analyzes the fruits of the thinking that leaves God out of the picture: "That, I say, is why God abandoned them to degrading passions. Even the women among them perverted the natural use of their bodies to the unnatural; while the men, disregarding that for which women were intended by nature, were consumed with passion for one another. Men indulged in vile practices with men, and incurred in their own persons the inevitable penalty for their perverseness" (Romans 1:26-27, TCNT).
Paul gets to the crux of the matter: People don't want God to stop them from gratifying their selfish lusts. "Then, as they would not keep God before their minds, God abandoned them to depraved thoughts, so that they did all kinds of shameful things. They reveled in every form of wickedness, evil, greed, vice. Their lives were full of envy, murder, quarreling, treachery, malice. They became back-biters, slanderers, impious, insolent, boastful. They devised new sins. They disobeyed their parents. They were undiscerning, untrustworthy, without natural affection or pity" (Romans 1:28-31, TCNT).
These are the predictable results of removing God from our thinking (Romans 1:28). They describe a society that does not recognize God and moral law, nor does it acknowledge absolute principles of right and wrong.
The God-is-dead movement
One of the acclaimed philosophers of the modern world, Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote in the latter half of the 19th century, was influential in the attack on God as the source of moral standards. His ideas had a radical impact on some of the most influential men of the 20th century, particularly Adolf Hitler.
Nietzsche sought to replace the religion of Christianity, with its belief and reliance on God, with a new world built on a godless foundation. He sought to redefine human life without God. He claimed that Christian ideas weakened men and women and prevented them from rising to the true greatness that lay within them. To him, Christianity's concepts of morality, repentance and humility were self-debasing ideas that had to be discarded before humanity could break free, soar to greater heights and scale the mountains of individual accomplishment.
Nietzsche strongly espoused the idea that, as he put it, "God is dead"—referring to the biblical conception of God as a source of meaning and morality. He wrote his philosophy in a style that stirred the emotion and imagination. He argued that since God is dead we human beings must be worthy to take His place. However, he wrote that man was not ready for such an exalted position, and until man was able he must live through a temporary time of upheaval and revolution. The day would come, nevertheless, when this godless world would be welcomed into the arms of a philosophical deliverer.
Enter the superman
Nietzsche's predictions in part came true. His nihilistic teachings were ready to be taken seriously by a rapidly changing world already influenced by the 18th- and 19th-century philosophers who preceded him: David Hume the skeptic; Immanuel Kant, who exalted the authority of human reason; Sören Kierkegaard the existentialist. There arose in the 20th century powerful men, atheists and despisers of religion, who sought to become what the world was waiting for—the new superman. Men like Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and Pol Pot were products of that experimental philosophy.
Historian Paul Johnson wrote: "Friedrich Nietzsche . . . saw God not as an invention but as a casualty, and his demise as in some important sense an historical event, which would have dramatic consequences. He wrote in 1886: 'The greatest event of recent times—that "God is Dead," that the belief in the Christian God is no longer tenable—is beginning to cast its first shadows over Europe.'
"Among the advanced races, the decline and ultimately the collapse of the religious impulse would leave a huge vacuum. The history of modern times is in great part the history of how that vacuum had been filled. Nietzsche rightly perceived that the most likely candidate would be what he called the 'Will to Power' . . .
"In place of religious belief, there would be secular ideology. Those who had once filled the ranks of the totalitarian clergy would become totalitarian politicians. And above all, the Will to Power would produce a new kind of messiah, uninhibited by any religious sanctions whatever, and with an unappeasable appetite for controlling mankind. The end of the old order, with an unguided world adrift in a relativistic universe, was a summons to such gangster-statesmen to emerge. They were not slow to make their appearance" (A History of the Modern World From 1917 to the 1980s, 1983, p. 48).
Looking back on the 20th century, Johnson observed: "We have lived through a terrible century of war and destruction precisely because powerful men did usurp God's prerogatives. I call the 20th century the Century of Physics, inaugurated by Einstein's special and general theories. During this period, physics became the dominant science, producing nuclear energy and space travel.
"The century also brought forth social engineering, the practice of shoving large numbers of human beings around as though they were earth or concrete. Social engineering was a key feature in the Nazi and Communist totalitarian regimes, where it combined with moral relativism—the belief that right and wrong can be changed for the convenience of human societies—and the denial of God's rights.
"To Hitler the higher law of the party took precedence over the Ten Commandments. Lenin praised the Revolutionary conscience as a surer guide for mankind than the conscience implanted by religion" ("The Real Message of the Millennium," Reader's Digest, December 1999, p. 65).
It was Charles Darwin who gave the philosophers what they wanted to hear. Before Darwin the ideas were abstract, perhaps reactions to earlier abusive and corrupt institutions and governments. Darwin gave life to the nihilistic and existentialist philosophies. With his theory of the mechanism of natural selection, it was now possible to explain scientifically—at least in theory—that no Creator God was necessary after all. Life could have come about on its own and then evolved without God.
Science and philosophy now teamed up to shatter the hold religion had on the populace. With the acceptance of the theory of evolution—and the ramifications of that thinking—would come the bloodiest century in human history.
The great moralist Victor Frankl, a survivor of Auschwitz, wrote: "If we present man with a concept of man which is not true, we may well corrupt him. When we present him as . . . a bundle of instincts, as a pawn of drive and reactions, as a mere product of heredity and environment, we feed the nihilism to which modern man is, in any case, prone.
"I became acquainted with the last stage of corruption in my second concentration camp, Auschwitz. The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment . . . I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers" (The Doctor and the Soul: Introduction to Logotherapy, 1982, p. xxi).
The words of Hitler, posted in Auschwitz in hope that the human race would never again descend to such savagery, are a sobering reminder of what happens when we reject God's moral absolutes: "I freed Germany from the stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience and morality . . . We will train young people before whom the world will tremble. I want young people capable of violence—imperious, relentless and cruel" (quoted by Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God? 1994, p. 23).
Survival of the fittest
Looking back on recent history, we can understand how the ideas of a godless universe, of the human species emerging and persisting by running the gauntlet of the survival of the fittest—evolving and rising to exalted levels of power—led inevitably to the shameful fact that in the first half of the 20th century more people were killed by other people than in all history until that time. The justification for a greater part of this carnage was the idea of natural selection inherent in Darwin's theory of evolution.
The application of the survival-of-the-fittest principle to human affairs came to be known as social Darwinism. Although Darwin apparently did not condone the extrapolation of his natural-selection theory into social relationships, he did argue that human evolution proceeded through warfare and struggle.
One observer noted: "There are few evolutionists who have been embarrassed by the social implications of evolution and who have stressed cooperation (instead of struggle) as a factor in evolution. Others have said that it has been improperly applied when it is used to defend militarism and social abuses.
"Of course the application of Darwinian survival of the fittest to human affairs by unscrupulous men has no direct bearing on the question of whether human beings and other creatures evolved from simple forms of life. But these abuses have been sanctioned and abetted with evolution as an excuse, and if evolution is not true it seems all the more tragic" (Bolton Davidheiser, Evolution and Christian Faith, 1969, p. 354).
The future of evolution
The evolutionary principle, having produced its deadly fruit throughout much of the 20th century, will no doubt continue to flourish in the 21st. The emphasis now is on improving mankind genetically. Research-ers speak of extending life-spans and eradicating diseases with gene therapy and genetic implants. There is common talk of improving physical and mental abilities and bestowing individual natural talents through genetic manipulation. At the moment, we struggle with the ethical, emotional and legal issues involved with such practices.
In short, many think man is able to direct his own evolution. Maybe that's not such a strange thought. It is the natural outcome of man trying to find his own way to a superior life without God—perhaps even including the notion that through artificial evolution humanity can overcome death and at last attain immortality.
It would be much simpler and surer to believe God in the first place. Man can achieve everything that is good for him now—a happy and fulfilled life—and, in the future, immortality in the divine family of God. But man tries to achieve it on his own terms, without acknowledging or obeying his Creator. His selfish nature leads him to satisfy his cravings, thus bringing on himself the physical, mental and emotional penalties that result from breaking God's laws—but he turns around and uses the intellect God gave him to try to circumvent paying the price.
It's ironic how firmly man holds to belief in absolute physical and natural laws but vigorously objects to the very idea that the spiritual laws of God are just as immutable and absolute. When it comes to human behavior, somehow humanity finds a way to explain that God doesn't exist, thinking that will remove the consequences. Make no mistake: When mankind breaks any of God's law, denying that God exists in no way removes the price that must be paid.
Priceless privilege or cheap substitute?
Of all His earthly creation, God gave human beings alone the ability to choose whether we will live by His laws or by whatever values we assign to ourselves for our own satisfaction. God's laws are not mere duties, but He designed us so we will be most happy, satisfied and fulfilled by doing what He says. Since God made us, He knows what is best for us. He gives us instructions that will benefit us.
Man is not a mere puppet in God's hands. We have the choice of whether or not to do what He says (Deuteronomy 30:19). We can either recognize Him as the Creator and Lawgiver of the cosmos, or we can deny that He exists. We can choose to live a meaningless life or we can choose a life with purpose.
If we exalt ourselves by imagining that we are the highest form of life in the evolutionary process, we in reality are robbing ourselves of the priceless value God places on us. Our existence and future are devalued from being sons and daughters of God to being only one of many species of animals. It is tragic that man has substituted the cheap feeling of self-importance for the priceless privilege of becoming God's own children, of sharing the awesome universe with Him in glory and immortality.