Monthly Archive March 2019

A fulfilling life without ultimate purpose

Life without purpose is difficult to imagine. But a fulfilling life without ultimate purpose is an impossibility. Of course, there are many people with purpose(s) in life. For instance, an athlete has a purpose. It is to win. To get a medal. To break a record. Also, a student has a purpose. It is to successfully complete her studies. To find a good job. To impact the world. Now, these purposes in life help us find direction and fulfillment at some real level. However, if we don’t succeed then these purposes can lead us to a life of resentment, a sense of failure, and total lack of fulfilment. Some times even to despair.

Therefore, university students in Utrecht asked me in 2018 to speak on the topic, “is a fulfilling life possible without ultimate purpose?” What follows is a summary of my talk. Worldviews present a comprehensive and total way of life and reality. Let us compare two of them as we try to answer this question of purpose and fulfillment.

A fulfilling life without “ultimate” purpose

From 1989 onwards many people from Eastern European countries were turning to God. A Chrisitan philosopher asked Andrei Grib, a known cosmologist, “How are we to explain this?” Andrei’s answer was short and to the point, “prove by the opposite.” He explained that “you can prove something is wrong by showing its opposite is false. Atheism didn’t work after being tried for 70 years. So everybody figured the opposite is true.” This was also my experience when I went to work in Albania in 1991. Many people were turning to God, a considerable number were young people. Albania was officially an atheistic country since 1967. But God would not go away!

Moreover, Nietzsche in “the madman” story makes the point that atheism would bring an age of nihilism. There would not be any meaning to life anymore, neither would there be value. This was insightful but also a sad conclusion. But he at least was consistent with his view of reality.

Furthermore, Richard Dawkins, known as an atheist but who stated in a debate that he was more of an agnostic than an atheist, said that “the universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but a blind pitiless indifference.” It is good that Dawkins admits that his “atheism” leads to a life without purpose. He also, like Nietzsche, is consistent in his view of reality. But what about existentially and empirically? Is his view of reality livable? Viability is one way to test a worldview. If a worldview is not livable then something important is missing.

Christian philosopher William Lane Craig pointed to the practical impossibility of atheism, individually and socially. He said that it is impossible to live consistently and happily in the atheistic worldview, “if you live consistently, you will not be happy. If you live happily, you are not consistent.”

A fulfilling life with “ultimate” purpose

Christianity consistently has pointed to the reality of the ultimate purpose of life. Jesus talking to a huge crowd once said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Another time, Jesus talking to a woman who was exploited and seen as an outcast in her society, said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Many people have said to this woman “go!” But Jesus says to this woman and to all of us “come to me and drink!”

Augustine, a Christian writer, talking to God said, “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you.” Others have pointed to the idea of a “God-shaped gap” in the human heart. Pascal once said, “this infinite abyss can only be filled with something that is infinite and unchanging — in other words, by God himself. God alone is our true good.” Someone said that “Life with God illuminates human nature, it interprets the widespread human experience of longing and helplessness.” Life with God, therefore, makes sense of the experience of life itself. Furthermore, it allows this human experience to be transformed. A fulfilling life is possible with God!

Finally, the well-known author of the Chronicles of Narnia, C.S.Lewis, used the “argument from desire” as a pointer for God’s existence. Every natural desire has its corresponding object. We have a natural desire for transcendent fulfillment. Nothing in the present world can help us experience this transcendent fulfillment. It can be satisfied only with something beyond the present world.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Leave a message and I will be happy to reply.

 

Notes

– On Guard, William Lane Craig

– Mere Apologetics, Alister McGrath

– NIV translation of the Bible

 

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My Activities

My speaking schedule for 2019

10th March 2019 Grace Church in Amersfoort.

  • An excerpt from this talk: Relationships are important because they define us as human beings. To be authentically human, someone said, is to exist in relationships. Happiness has to do with the knowledge of being loved. Relationships define our identity. Not any kind of relationships brings happiness. Only loving relationships bring happiness in our lives as nothing else can do.

30-31 March 2019 Connexxtion student retreat

  • At the Connexxion retreat, there will be three main sessions, two related to Christian apologetics and one to evangelism

19th May 2019 Grace Church in Amersfoort.

27th October 2019 Grace Church in Amersfoort.

17th November 2019 Grace Church in Amersfoort.

September – December 2019 Christian Apologetics PA610 at Tyndale Theological Seminary

 

Faith is just a fantasy and a crutch for the weak

The main issue is not faith itself

Some say that faith in God is just a fantasy. This means then that a few billions of people are led astray. Moreover, faith is something we all use to make sense out of life. Human rights, for instance, is a value based on faith. I cannot prove human rights to be objectively true. The issue then is not so much, is faith part of my life, but, rather, is my faith “justified belief?” Can I support my faith with reason and evidence? More importantly, will I follow the evidence wherever it leads? That’s the main issue.

Things that keep people from faith

What keeps people from believing in God? Many times it is not a rational but more a psychological barrier. Will your academic environment reject you? Your colleagues may think that faith is irrational. Will my colleagues write me off because I believe in God? Besides, I may need to change my lifestyle if faith in God is real. This may not be convenient at all. I may not want to change my lifestyle. It is not easy to give up some pleasures and commit our lives to God. Therefore, atheism or agnosticism may be a good policy. I can live my life without external restrains. I can keep my autonomy and do what I want.

Faith is a crutch for the weak

Sigmund Freud said that religious beliefs are just “illusions, fulfillments of the oldest, strongest, and most urgent wishes of mankind.” People feel helpless and therefore are looking for a father figure to protect them. There is nothing more to faith in God than this. But are people right in saying this? Let us have a closer look.

Faith is not a crutch for the weak

First, not many used the father figure for God before the coming of Jesus. In this sense, Jesus was the first to make this concept a central part of his teaching.

Moreover, you can turn the argument around. People don’t want to lose their autonomy. Therefore, they might project the idea that faith in God is just a fantasy, a crutch for the weak.

Furthermore, this confuses the “origin of a belief with its epistemological warrant.” This is the genetic fallacy, “faulting the belief because of its origin.” For instance, 2×2=4, but my teacher is an evil person. Therefore, I am not so certain that 2×2=4.

Someone rightly said that the God of the Bible would not be a good candidate for a father figure that provides protection. This is a holy and just God. He calls people to follow his ways. Also, many Christians have to suffer more because of their faith instead of less. In many places, there is hostility against Christians. Why should someone follow a God that will make life more difficult?

Finally, some people really wish that there is no God. Thomas Nagel once said, “I want atheism to be true … I hope that there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

An honest way forward

One of the most famous atheists of the 20th century was Antony Flew. For Flew, “to follow where the evidence leads” was very important! Admittedly, he never became a Christian. But he came to the conclusion that there was enough evidence that there is a theistic God. He said, “the most impressive arguments for God’s existence are those that are supported by recent scientific discoveries.” He was impressed with the intelligent design argument. An honest person would follow Flew’s advice and “follow where the evidence leads.”

Evidence for the existence of God

It is worthwhile to look at some pointers for the existence of God. Let me name a few. The fine-tuning of the universe is appealing to many people. The universe is fine-tuned so that life is made possible on planet earth. Here is a short clip that explains in more detail the amazing precision with which this universe is functioning. Here is a link with more pointers for the existence of God.

There is also good historical evidence that God exists and that the Christian faith makes good sense.  Jesus was a real historical person. He claimed to be the son of God and predicted his resurrection from the dead. This practically means that God showed up in history in the person of Jesus. Moreover, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is a well established historical fact. It is based on the New Testament documents. These documents are some of the most reliable ancient documents we have.

Finally, faith in God explains better many things we observe around us and within us. The power of the Christian faith to explain the universe, in particular, makes it very attractive to me personally.

Leave a comment or ask a question. I will be happy to respond and share my thoughts with you.

 

Notes

– A place for truth. ed. Dallas Willard

– Scaling the secular city. J.P. Moreland

– Reasonable Faith animated videos

– Is Christianity a psychological crutch? Daniel Rodger

– Christian Apologetics. Douglas Groothuis

 

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