A fulfilling life without ultimate purpose

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

 

Comments

  • Evgenija Proevska | Mar 9,2019

    Efharisto

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