Does Life Have Meaning?

What is the meaning of life? Can we have meaningful lives without God? In this episode of Ask Away that originally aired in the fall of 2018, Drs. Jo and Vince Vitale draw on philosophy and their personal experiences to consider how different worldviews respond to these questions. They suggest that Christianity has a unique perspective and one that makes a practical difference, especially when life seems meaningless.

After you’ve listened to the podcast, join our discussion about it! Here are some questions to jumpstart our conversation:

  • In your own words, what is the meaning of life according to the Christian worldview?
  • Do you think that someone can have a meaningful life without God?
  • What practical difference does meaning from a Christian perspective make in everyday life?
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I’m still uncertain what I would say if someone asked me, “What is the purpose of life?” I like the way the Westminster Shorter Catechism answers the question.

Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31; Romans 11:36) and to enjoy Him forever (Psalm 73:24-26; John 17:22, 24).

I’ve wondered, though, if the verses cited fully support the answer. (See the catechism at A Puritan’s Mind for more Scripture references.) 1 Corinthians 10:31 says we should glorify God. Does this automatically mean that is the primary reason God created me?

The Bible also teaches we should please God (2 Corinthians 5:9; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; Psalm 147:10-11). I’ve considered saying that God created us for His pleasure because He wants to enjoy us. Is this Biblically accurate?

What verses specifically state why God created us?

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Hi Olivia

Thank you for providing such an interesting podcast :slightly_smiling_face:. I agree with you @Jennifer_Wilkinson that this is not always an easy question to give an answer to. I believe Jo and Vince Vitale are right with their analogy of it being like starting a sports game without any ideas of the rules or objective of the game. Just thinking about being in that scenario would be so frustrating, which I imagine many of us feel when trying to work out the purpose for the many, so-called, monotonous aspects of our lives.

I think the meaning of life is to know God, primarily in a relational context, as opposed to knowing about God at a theoretical level. I draw this conclusion partly from the verse of John 17:3 which was quoted in the podcast. If the purpose of life does not lead to an eternal outcome, in the case of Christianity reflected in eternal relationship, then everything we strive towards is ultimately without hope and value. Also, if God exists eternally in a Trinity, and we have been created in His image, then part of our design must also be relational. This would also seem to make sense of why Jesus said that the greatest command is to love Him with all our being, as well as also to love our neighbour as we ourselves are loved. However, I do think that understanding what it means to love and grow in love for God can be a hard concept to grasp. Like most people who are in a love relationship, love seems better understood in an experiential way. So, in loving God and conforming to His design (Romans 8:29) and purpose for our lives, we in our conformation also bring Him glory. I can only see God being truly glorified by us becoming who He always intended us to be. It is why giving sacrifices in the Bible without having a heart posture of love and mercy meant nothing to God (Hosea 6:6). He wanted the heart transformed. Giving praise is a part of glorifying and honouring God, but extends out of a heart that acknowledges our love and need for Him. God also receives glorify by us becoming His inheritance, which in Christ He paid for (Ephesians 1:18-20).

This means that God’s act of creating us is completely altruistic. God is the most fulfilled, and thus, complete being in existence. God did not need to create humanity. God did not need to create anything. The reason God wants us to obey Him and love Him is because only “in Christ” do we find our greatest joy, peace, fullness and freedom (Galatians 5:1, Romans 14:17, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18). We think that following the world and our flesh will give us greater freedom, where God knows it does the exact opposite. It is why the Cross was not only about forgiving sins but about defeating sins power so as to make us “New Creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). Through this renewing and sanctifying process, we are not only reborn into His inheritance (which is an unbelievable honour), but God created us to be sons and daughters to likewise inherit Him. Remarkably, the God who was fully without need, chooses us as His inheritance and takes pleasure in us, not because of our works, but because of His great love for us. And our value is revealed in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

I think that it is possible to have a meaningful life apart from God. As people we can find meaning in anything we choose. However, apart from Christ I do not think it has specific eternal value for us, though, God can still use the events of our lives for His plans and purposes. Being in fellowship with God from an everyday perspective has incredible practical outworking’s. We can know God now, have individual as well as communal fellowship with Him (Ephesians 5:19-21), overcome temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), no longer be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:6), know His will (Romans 12:2), have His Spirit, love others more fully with His love (1 John 4:11-12), be made living temples (2 Corinthians 6:16), have the joy and peace of God, be made disciples (John 15:8) and undergo continues sanctification to conformation to the image of Christ. In other words, set free to new life in the identity for which we were always created. Everything we do, or don’t do, has eternal significance one way or the other, but, for those in Christ, we have the opportunity to bring glory to God now that will last for eternity. It is for reasons such as these why I think proclaiming the gospel and seeing people put their faith in Christ is such a privileged work that God has included Christians to partake in.

Those are just a few thoughts from an incredibly important and broad topic. I would love to learn from others thoughts on these questions.

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Wow! It’s so nice to know that there are many like-minded believers in this community. I think you did a great job summarizing and unpacking the big picture idea of the purpose of life in Christ. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Following you!!

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