Tuesday, September 6, 2016

P1 - Why meaning, value, purpose and truth are impossible without God

1 Corinthians 15:30-34 "Why are we also in danger every hour? 31 I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”34 Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame."

The absurdity of life without God
What happens when people adopt a view of life that excludes God? Atheistic philosopher Albert Camus advocated a philosophy built around the concept of "absurdity of life". This concept of "absurdity" is defined by Camus as follows: "His (man's) exile is without remedy since he is deprived of the memory of a lost home or the hope of a promised land. This divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, is properly the feeling of absurdity". Camus' philosophy can be summarized in the following quote: "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy." 

The Apostle Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 15:32 express how absurd life would be if Christ had not raised from the dead. Christ's resurrection from the dead entails the existence of an all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere-present, all-good God. Although Camus' philosophy was bleak, it was an honest attempt to trace out the ultimate implications of his atheism. Paul's point in 1 Corinthians 15:32 is to show that if God did not exist, then the only alternative would be to "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die". Unless God exists, there is no basis for meaning, value, purpose and truth. 

An important clarifying point
Now let's make something perfectly clear: I am not saying that lack of belief in God means that one cannot discover meaning, value and purpose in this life. Many atheists and people who claim to have no belief in God can be good parents and fine citizens. The issue at hand is not whether belief in God or lack thereof determines objective moral values and duties. Rather, the point of Paul's words and, ironically, the philosophy of Camus agree: if there is no God, there is no meaning, value or purpose to discover in this life.  After all, on atheism, we should not expect to discover such values and duties. Yet, atheists themselves will still champion causes for justice, tolerance and the value of human life. Such universal moral values are exactly what people know to be the case. 

How we must have an "upper story" in order to have value, meaning, purpose and truth in this "lower story" world

Concerning Paul's comments, the Bible Knowledge Commentary notes: 

"Why face that if this life were all there is? The Epicureans (and less philosophical men before them; cf. Isa. 22:13) would be right—pursue pleasure and avoid pain (cf. Epicurus Letter to Menoeceus 128). But Paul knew there was more, and his life testified to that fact (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24–27; 2 Cor. 4:16–18)."

The people in Paul's remarks lived their lives as if there were no God. On their viewpoints (which would correspond to Atheism today), since there is no God nor God to regard, then there is no purpose, no value and no meaning to life. Worldviews that deny God and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead have no basis for which to assert the value, meaning and purpose of human life. 

Authors such as the late Francis Shaeffer and theologian and philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig have illustrated how value, meaning and purpose are likened unto an upper story in a house, with man living in the lower story:

Meaning, Value, Purpose
Human beings

Since meaning, value and purpose are immaterial objective features of reality, this material realm (i.e our universe) could not possibly explain their role and function in our world. If we were to construct an argument as to why value, meaning and purpose are only possible with God, it would go something like this:

Premise #1: If God does not exist, meaning, value and purpose does not exist

Premise #2: Objective Meaning, value and purpose exist as part of our world

Therefore: God exists

Tomorrow we will continue on by considering further this argument. For now, let's keep in mind that value, meaning, purpose and truth are impossible without God's existence and more specifically, withough the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.