Life’s Biggest Question
Often when discussing the concept of philosophy, sooner or later someone in the discussion will bring up the most important of all questions: What is the point of life?
This is partly done in jest. In Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” characters stumble on a quest to discovering the answer to “Life, the Universe, and Everything.” Ultimately, the answer they arrive at is “42.”
Though Adams satirizes the concept of trying to decipher the meaning of life, the subject warrants serious thought. The question is a valid one because the answer has many implications for a person’s life.
For those who have never had an opportunity to study philosophy, it may be helpful to have a brief primer on the concepts that philosophers consider. There is a dispute over whether these three branches are sufficient to cover all of philosophy’s considerations.
Although an independent study of philosophy will reveal alternative theories on the capabilities and contents of philosophy, the various questions that have vexed deep thinkers for millennia can generally be grouped into three main categories.
Metaphysics sounds like a science fiction term to the uninitiated, but it is a legitimate branch of philosophy. Metaphysics contains the largest in scope and most cosmic questions that philosophers debate.
Questions in this category include: Is there a God? What is the meaning of life? Where do humans come from? What is the definition of a human? What is the purpose of the universe? What is the origin of life and matter? What is reality?
Metaphysics is the least imminent of philosophical topics, but the consequences of its ideas are the most widespread in their effect. How a human being views the universe in which they participate has a great deal to do with how he or she lives daily. Answers to the types of questions that fit in this category help with discovering the purpose of life.
How does a person know what they know? This is the ultimate concern of the discipline of epistemology. The term is derived from the Greek word for “belief.”
Philosophers, who study this branch must ask: What is truth? How is truth determined? Is there such thing as truth? What is the role of a person’s perception of truth? Can anything really be known? What does it mean to know something at all?
Though this branch still deals with many abstract ideas, it is more relevant to daily life than many metaphysical topics appear to be at first glance. The source of truth affects everything a human being believes, including their thoughts on the meaning of life.
The final branch is the most obviously relevant to the everyday living of the average person. It is at this point that everyone is truly a philosopher whether they know it or not.
There is only one question asked by this branch: What if anything, must we do?
It is the goal of the ethicist to determine right behavior. If a person has considered metaphysical concepts and arrived at a certain conclusion, it will necessarily affect their opinion of how truth can be found.
If a human being has come to conclusions about metaphysical questions and has an opinion on where truth can be derived, he or she must develop a system for deciding what to do with that information.
Ethics are most easily observed when a person is faced with dilemmas. When confronted with a choice, people reveal their values, their source of truth and their core beliefs about their place in the universe.
When trying to determine the purpose of life a person must necessarily align their conduct with their beliefs. That is the very issue that ethics seeks to clarify.
With this information now in hand, the question can be approached afresh: What is the point of life?
Since this article appears on EndAbortionNow.com, the perceptive reader will assume that at some point the question will connect to the issue of abortion. In fact, some clues are already present that those connections are being constructed.
A wise reader ought to stop here and consider the question by themselves. If the reader is reluctant to give the issue much thought, why might that be?
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Since the concepts involved in philosophy are often hopelessly abstract and difficult to discuss succinctly, it will be beneficial to illustrate the real implications of certain philosophical leanings when faced with examples or situations that reveal philosophical underpinnings.
If a person concludes there is no God, that has profound implications for their entire worldview. How might an atheist answer the question of “what is the point of life?” This may be the most representative answer from an atheist:
For me, the major difference between the religious and the atheistic concepts of purpose is that the atheistic position leaves the specifics of individual purpose up to us. We get to decide what’s important to us. Atheism contains no demands nor consensi on purpose, nor does it enforce any universal meaning. There is no atheistic, existential reason for all human existence.
— Sean Breen, The Atheist Republic
This argument reveals that to the atheist’s mind, the individual is autonomous and selects his or her own purpose in life.
One need not be a master logician to see the issues that could arise with this worldview. What if someone decided to make it their mission to eradicate all or part of mankind in order to preserve nature?
What grounds would there be to oppose them? If a person does not believe in God then there appears to be no reason to place value on human life above the life of any other creature.
Furthermore, what if two people choose a purpose that is mutually exclusive or contradictory? Without the preexistence of a deity, can a person have a moral right to anything at all, even their own life? On what basis?
Atheists tend to lack consistency in answers to these topics. Why would an unbeliever get out of bed in the morning? Why live another day? What are the ultimate goals of the unbeliever in life? Is suicide immoral? Is murder immoral? Why?
In an effort to contribute some consistency to the discussion, some philosophers have approached these issues honestly.
Albert Camus was the most noteworthy adherent to a philosophical school called “absurdism.” Though he was born into a Roman Catholic family, Camus rejected their religion and later embraced atheism. Camus believed that nothing mattered. He wrote a short novel called The Stranger to illustrate his philosophy in the life of a character who lived out his ideas.
Camus had a few goals with this work, but one of the most important to him was to show that his philosophy could not be tolerated by a society that craved a larger or deeper meaning. The protagonist was amoral and performed both good and bad deeds for others in the course of the novel.
Ultimately, the protagonist kills a man. The novel is ambiguous on whether this action was murder or self-defense, but to the protagonist, it did not matter because there was no purpose in life.
Due to his strange outlook and his disdain for finding meaning in life, the court determined him to be a danger to society who must be guilty. Ultimately, he is put to death for the crime which they view as aggravated by a lack of any apparent remorse.
Camus himself died in a car crash when he was still a young man when his sober friend lost control of his car on a straight, dry, and well-maintained road colliding with a tree.
A common refutation of atheism is to point out the inconsistency in the atheist’s philosophy and the lack of any compelling excuse to believe one truth over others. Atheists generally believe in some version of truth.
The question is: why? Where does it come from? The most common and compelling answer from atheists is that the belief system emerges from human reason.
If God is merely an agent advocating some universal morality, then morality exists independently of God and, given enough time, humans could discover it through reasoning. In this case, we would not need God—the only role for God would be to help speed up the process of discovery. God would be unnecessary.
In spite of the confidence in this answer, one needs simply continue the question one step further and ask, “Why is human reason the standard for what is correct?” How are those determinations made?
There is a gaping hole in the epistemology of the atheist. This brings the concept of God down to a simple help along the inevitable road to moral discovery. This quote includes a glaring non sequitur—a logical fallacy that seeks to connect a conclusion to a premise that does not naturally connect. The term literally means “it doesn’t follow.”
In this case, the claim is that given enough time, morality existing independently of God could be discovered by mankind. Why? That is not a logical conclusion to make. This makes certain assumptions about the power of intuition that are unwarranted.
There are no answers here for how truth is determined aside from an appeal to reason. An atheist would likely argue that Christians are in a similar predicament.
Why should God be the ultimate moral foundation? The answer lies in how the Christian understanding of who God is as He is revealed in the Scriptures. God is not merely the object of worship for the Christian; He is the Creator and Sustainer of all life. He is the undisputed King of all creation. His will must be obeyed.
Atheists generally accept that reason is not perfect, but they claim that it is the best source of truth available in the absence of an omniscient deity. The Christian views reason with deep suspicion.
It is a way in which human beings reflect God’s glory, but in a sinful condition, reason is a splintered reed that pierces the hand of the man who leans on it too heavily.
Given the fallible nature of human reason, it is not difficult to fathom how abortion came to be so accepted in the atheist community.
More recently, the phenomenon of “standpoint epistemology” has emerged. This idea is identical to what used to be called “moral relativism.”
In standpoint epistemology, the identity and experience of an individual are the chief factors in determining what is true. In this way, two people with different identities can both have unique “truths.”
Though a woman may interpret a situation she witnesses differently than a man, the facts of the event are independent of the perspective of witnesses regardless of their experience or standpoint.
Truth exists outside of lived experience and is independent of it. If someone does not believe that truth exists outside of people, it is easy to see how standpoint epistemology could be a viable conclusion.
So morality must be about how humans are affected by human actions. But what is right and what is wrong? Some actions seem to be clear-cut. It would be perverse to argue that bathing your baby daughter in battery acid is morally right. No doubt, we could think of a long list of actions that are equally wrong. It would also be easy to make a list of actions that are unequivocally good.
This is an interesting assertion considering that 87 percent of professing atheists believe that abortion is fine. This argument is delivered as if it is self-evident. There is no ethical basis for this claim in the absence of an objective source of morality.
Many cultures have submitted their young ones to horrific rituals similar to the example of the battery acid bath, which is thrown out as if it were some kind of unbelievable hyperbole.
It is also noteworthy that even this definition of morality is based on fallen reason. In fact, all the definitions in this quote are derived from human reason: human, affect, clear-cut, perverse, equally, unequivocally, good.
Unwavering faith in human intuition is generally accounted for by faith in evolution. Many atheists would assert that people today are morally better than they were in the days of child sacrifice due to our technological advancements. It is demonstrably false to make this claim in an era that sacrifices millions of babies under the protection of the secular law.
In fact, virtually no besetting evil in the entire journey through human history has been eradicated. People are just as lost as they were thousands of years ago. Human reason has resulted in a population that believes men can choose to be women. Humans cannot even figure out which bathroom to use without help from an outside source of truth.
There are examples of atheistic ethics that are in agreement with much of what a theist would propose. Plato proposed four cardinal virtues before the time of Christ: prudence, courage, temperance, and justice. Nothing about this list is objectionable.
Benjamin Franklin also compiled a famous list of virtues:
Temperance: Eat not to dullness. Drink not to elevation.
Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.
Order: Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.
Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.
Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e., Waste nothing.
Industry: Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.
Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and if you speak, speak accordingly.
Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes, or habitation.
Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
While these lists initially appear admirable, they still beg the question of how the virtue was ever determined. What are the consequences of this list of morals in reality? How would the world look if these were adopted across a wide population? Why these and not others?
Also, how are these terms to be defined? What is “justice”? How is it to be practiced? Franklin’s definition of chastity seems rather liberal. How did he come to that conclusion?
The Bible explains that God’s law is written on the hearts of men and that all men have an active conscience. Nevertheless, this knowledge is only sufficient for condemnation and not for salvation. The only clear goals that atheists appear to affirm are to constantly justify their unbelief to outsiders and undermine the faith of those who are not like them.
The Impact of Atheistic Philosophy on Determining the Point of Life
Atheists do not appear to have a robust argument for why life should exist. There is no transcendent point to life. Death is an inevitability that cannot be resisted or defeated.
This predictably leads to depression. Purpose is subjective and ethereal, and dying after living a life devoid of meaning is a very real possibility. Atheists admit that there is a problem in their ranks with suicide.
This is explained in a variety of ways, including blaming Christians for bullying them into suicide, for which there appears to be no evidence other than secondhand anecdotes.
For a group that prides itself on logic, death seems like a logical answer to life’s struggles and suffering, especially if there is no afterlife to consider.
Given the vacuous nature of the atheistic worldview, abortion makes complete sense. Aborted children can be inferred to be “unwanted,” at least by the mother. Unwanted children will not have good lives. Therefore, unwanted children are better off having never lived at all.
The mother, since she is able to express self-determination, is able to secure her right to choose abortion over and against the unborn child who cannot protest at all. There is no apparent evil here to the atheist.
The Christian View
The Christian answers metaphysical questions through a biblical understanding of God. The universe was created by God, and it serves His designs.
When a Christian is faced with the task of defining the point of life, the answer is fairly easily found in Scripture. The point of life is to glorify God. The efforts to crack the meaning of life and discern the mysteries of that concept seem odd and confusing to someone raised with a biblical worldview.
The Scriptures answer how one may live to God’s glory. Obedience to God’s commands glorifies him. Repentance from sin glorifies him. When God saves undeserving sinners, He is glorified. Even judging the unrepentant brings God glory.
Depending on God for daily provision and security glorifies him. In fact, all things must bring God glory. When Christians are tested on what the point of life is, they need merely recall the first line of the Westminster Catechism: “To glorify God, and enjoy him forever.”
Christians are often challenged on the perceived inability to prove the existence of any God, much less the biblical God. Atheists will often disengage at this point since, without sufficient proof, they are unwilling to stipulate any scriptural truths, meaning that there is no common ground to share in the debate.
The amount of evidence needed to prove God’s existence to an individual is mostly determined by that individual. If someone has a reason to hate God, they may prefer to disbelieve in His existence in spite of overwhelming proof.
It is a common claim that atheists choose to disbelieve God because pure, unemotional reason leads them to this conclusion based on calm and careful consideration of the known facts.
In reality, atheists often become atheists due to emotional causes, embarking ex post facto on a quest to disprove God’s existence. Some resent God for a perceived failing; they may have been egregiously sinned against by religious people in the past, or they cannot reconcile God’s behavior with their personal standard of goodness.
Atheists may refuse to allow enormous amounts of evidence to convince them of the truth of God’s existence, but they also have no ability to prove that there is no God. The Scriptures contain many examples of Christ’s encounters with those who observe a sensational miracle performed by Jesus in their presence, yet are still skeptical of His claims to divinity.
Returning to the question of man’s purpose, Christians define human life in the way that the Bible defines it: those born to human parents and made in God’s image. It is due to this definition that Christians have been the most vocal and consistent opponents to abortion.
Christian epistemology is also rather simple. Truth exists and can be found in the Scriptures. In contrast, pure human intuition is fallible at best and downright backward most of the time. Jeremiah 17 says that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
The answer is, of course, that no one can understand the heart, least of all its owner. Truth cannot be known outside of Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit that illuminates the text of Scripture to those who come to it seeking answers.
While Scripture is the clearest and most comprehensive record of truth, natural revelation also reveals some truths about God. Natural revelation is not sufficient to bring people to the ultimate truth of the universe, which is the Lordship of Christ and the Almighty, never-ending reign of God the Father.
This is apparent because nobody has ever stumbled upon the truth of who God is from observing God’s creation because God is supernatural. His creation does reflect the fact that a Creator exists, but it cannot bring a person into intimate relationship with God.
Atheists may also point to “Euthyphro’s Dilemma” as a way to stump Christians on epistemology. Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God? The answer to this is not hard: both are true.
This is a false dilemma. Christians accept that whatever God declares righteous is morally right. Christians also assert that God will not ever command anything which is morally wrong. These are not mutually exclusive. This is an example of a failure of reasoning to reach the real truth.
In this case, logic—which applies to all the natural realm—is applied to a supernatural being. Since God is supernatural, logic does not apply the same way to Him as it does to the created order.
A similar example of this is God’s trinitarian nature. How can God be both “one” and “three”? With created things, this is not possible, but God is trinitarian and Christians accept this because it is clearly taught in Scripture, which is the ultimate source of truth.
Even truths which appear contradictory to common perception or to each other are all true. Apparent contradictions are merely apparent. Further study and the passage of time reveal them to be consistent after all.
Since the Christian source of truth is available to all and has not changed in thousands of years, it is a consistent place to seek meaning in life.
The world is a fallen place. This is sometimes a reason given for doubting God. Christians recognize that the existence of evil and sin in the world is due to people choosing to sin. In order to know this, Christians must necessarily have a way to determine what sin is.
The word that is often translated as “sin” can also be translated as “missing the mark.” Christians understand that sin is falling short of God’s standard for behavior. Similar to the source of Christian epistemology, the judge for all correct behavior and practice is the entire Holy Bible.
Christian ethics are informed by a deep study of the Scriptures, which is sufficient to answer all moral questions. While an atheist may stumble over accounting for the immorality of murder, a Christian knows it is wrong because God’s law declares it to be so.
Common Objections to Christian Ethics
It is a typical stab at Christian ethics to point out its perceived inconsistency. For instance, a commonly heard accusation in some circles is to note that Christians do not abstain from shellfish and sometimes wear clothing with blended fabric types. Both of these acts are prohibited in the Old Testament.
Christians believe that the Old Testament is valid, inerrant, and still essential to Christian faith and practice today. So why do they not observe many of its regulations today? The answer lies in the fact that God’s revealed law in the Old Testament can be broken up into three types of laws: judicial, ceremonial, and moral.
Judicial laws were primarily for the government of the nation of Israel. Since that nation does not exist in the same form, those laws are not needed, though the principles behind many of the laws are still valuable for study and understanding.
Ceremonial laws had to do with individual Israelites and the nation as a whole standing before a Holy God. In order to maintain that standing, they had to observe a long list of rites and ceremonies to adhere to God’s demanding standards of holiness.
This type of law was ultimately fulfilled by Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection satisfy God’s standard of holiness. Christians are permitted to enter into the presence of a holy God not because they have earned it, but because Jesus has earned it and given it to Christians. Ritual purification has been replaced by spiritual purification.
The moral law of God exists because of God’s moral character. It is dependent upon His existence. God graciously chose to explicitly reveal His moral law to the world, but even if He chose not to do that, mankind would still be on the hook for those infractions.
Stealing is wrong because God is sovereign and provides for the needs of His people. Coveting is wrong for the same reason. Adultery is wrong because it pollutes the picture of Christ and His Church that marriage gives to mankind, while also deviating from God’s stated design for human flourishing. Homosexuality is wrong for the same reason.
Why love others? Because the Bible unequivocally says to do so. Murder is wrong because God is sovereign over all life and death, and because the judgment of death is solely His to render.
God’s moral law is violated by abortion. God gives life. God gives babies to parents, and they are accountable for any decision they make regarding the care of that baby.
Another common objection to Christian ethics is the argument that some biblical dictates should be set aside because the world has moved on from them. This is commonly argued in favor of women preaching and embracing homosexuality: “Paul was writing his letters in a patriarchal society, so he knew that churches needed to mirror their surroundings in order to win converts.
That’s why he forbade women preachers. Now, people understand that women can do anything men can do, so it is acceptable to jettison Paul’s teaching on this matter.”
Defending homosexuality is trickier for theological liberals because it is included in several of Paul’s lists of sins. Many of the sins on the list are not acceptable to the world just yet, so it is difficult to lift homosexuality out of the list without justification.
The current tactic appears to be redefining the sin itself to encompass a certain kind of homosexuality, while also granting a pass to another kind. In war, this maneuver is known as establishing a “foothold.” It is noteworthy that these “vice lists” in the Pauline letters often include “murder.”
Abortion is in the same class as these sins, and a movement is afoot to normalize it and gain Christian acceptance of it using the same argument that considering abortion to be a sin simply does not reflect the reality of the modern world.
This argument must be resisted. Changing the definition of sins is an obvious sign of a desire to skirt God’s clear revealed will by obfuscating the issue.
What Has Jerusalem to Do with Athens?
Tertullian, a church father, uttered this rhetorical question when he was trying to make the point that Christians need nothing outside of Christ to understand all the concepts contained in all the philosophies of the earth. Christianity itself is a philosophy.
It is the true philosophy. If Tertullian is right, should Christians spend their time studying this discipline? Can studying philosophy help Christians arrive at a deeper knowledge of the truth?
When Paul preached in Athens on his missionary journey through that land, he did so at one of the centers of philosophical discussion and training. He chose this place partially because the philosophers were concerned with getting answers to questions that Christianity is uniquely able to answer.
Their philosophy involved many considerations of religion. Paul’s sermon, found in Acts 17, is received with a mixture of interest, belief, and unbelief. Much of the interest, which fell short of real faith, was sparked by the novelty of Christian philosophy to the Greek mind.
No one has ever been saved by philosophy. No one has ever been saved without philosophy either.
Philosophy and Abortion
Human beings need their world to have a deeper meaning. Everyone needs something more important than themselves to be a part of their reality.
When discussing abortion, entire philosophical worldviews clash. It is impossible to maintain a consistent Christian philosophy while assenting to abortion. Conversely, abortion is a natural consequence of the atheistic philosophical worldview.
Everyone on earth must reckon with the major questions of life, religion, and reality. Most people do not fit neatly into any given category, so it is beneficial for the abortion abolitionist to use philosophy as a means to enter into meaningful conversations to help clarify moral issues like abortion.
A glance at American culture reveals that it is in conflict with itself. Many people are staunchly anti-abortion. A few are vehemently pro-choice. Most people are in between and are struggling to find a philosophical justification for drawing moral lines about the kind of abortion that could be tolerated.
This is visible in polling, which shows that most Americans are inconsistent in support of abortion, believing that it depends at least partially on the totality of circumstances.
Life has a point. It is not arbitrary. People are made to glorify their Creator, who is infinitely worthy. Abortion is always wrong because God is always God. His law is always His Law.
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Numbers 23:19
The Point of Life, Your Life
Anyone reading this article may find that they have been confronted with a number of confusing ideas and concepts. If no other meaning can be discerned from this article, then let it be this: God made you to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.
God is within reach because He sent His Son to the earth to die the death sinners deserved, making a way for sinners to be in communion with God. The point of life is to accept this truth, turn from your sin, and place your faith in Jesus.
This is the same reason that God made your unborn children. The Lord has a special regard for children, orphans, widows, and those who are sojourners in foreign lands. He loves them and He wants them to be protected. Some of the most horrifying punishments in the Scriptures befall those who mistreat these groups.
Perhaps if you have read this far, you have had an abortion or helped others to secure one. Know that the death of Christ is sufficient to cover that sin. You can be forgiven and be a part of a community of believers that will support you and demonstrate the love of a true family.
If you are considering abortion, please contact End Abortion Now and speak to someone about other options. We desire to love you and your child. Our God loves you, and He only does what is right and good. We seek to be like Him. He is the God of the Living.