The Meaning of Life: Where Did We Come From?

Where did we come from? In our quest for the meaning of life, that’s the first of five consequential questions. But before we can answer that we must ask where did the universe come from? For this we must delve into some science. (For those of you whose eyes glaze over at this kind of thing, bear with me. We will only have a few such posts before we return to our regularly scheduled broadcast.)

galaxiesGenesis 1:1 declares: “God created the heavens and the earth.”

There’s something very interesting about this statement: God existed before anything else. He was first.

The other thing it tells us is that everything that exists now arose from nothing. One moment there was only God. The next, there was God, the heavens, and the earth. Now we ask, does science agree with this?

For the answer we look to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. einstein_1723638cNow don’t panic. We don’t have to understand every detail of this most important theory of physics. All we have to know is what astrophysicist Hugh Ross tells us about it: “Today it can be said that no theory of physics has ever been tested in so many different contexts and so rigorously as general relativity.” He also tells us the theory has been verified to five decimal places. Do a Google search for relativity and you will find even more proofs for this theory than when this statement was written.

What does relativity have to do with Genesis 1:1? One of its important conclusions, for our purposes, is this: The theory tells us that all time, space, and matter are interdependent. One cannot exist without the others. The brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking says this: “The theory of relativity forces us to change fundamentally our ideas of space and time. We must accept that time is not completely separate from and independent of space but is combined with it to form an object called space-time.” For us mere mortals, our minds reel. But bear with me.

Hugh Ross again: “According to the space-time theorems of general relativity, such effects as matter, energy, length, width, height… and time were caused independent of the time dimension of the universe.” This statement has profound theological consequences. This is saying that space, matter, and time were created from a place that was independent of, outside of, and apart from the universe. The creating agent, if you will, was in another dimension. It also tells us that there was an absolute beginning for the universe, and that before this creation, there was—nothing.

This sounds a lot like Genesis 1:1. In fact the Theory of Relativity is one of the best proofs for the existence of God. The theory gives us the Big Bang and a universe that is some 14 billion years old, give or take, and an earth that is about 4 billion years old. In his book, Creator and Cosmos, Hugh Ross describes thirty scientific evidences supporting the Big Bang creation event.

Please note, this in no way contradicts the Bible. The “days” of creation in Genesis 1 & 2 come from the Hebrew word yom, which has three translations: a 12-hour day, a 24-hour day, or a longer, indeterminate length of time. This author subscribes to the Day Age view of creation proposed by Hugh Ross, which reconciles the Genesis Hebrew text with modern science. (See for a detailed look at this viewpoint.)

The Second Law of Thermodynamics also proves that the universe had a beginning. And whatever had a beginning had to have a cause. And the First Cause of everything was God.

When scientists looked at the cosmic background radiation from the Big Bang that supported relativity, they knew it proved the universe had an absolute beginning. For some, the data was upsetting. The astronomer Robert Jastrow was once an agnostic. He founded NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies. He was the director of the Mt. Wilson Observatory. In God and the Astronomers, he wrote, “…it should be understood from the start that I am an agnostic in religious matters.” But this is what he wrote after seeing the data: “Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: The chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.”

The evidence is so strong it convinces even agnostic scientists. God created the heavens and the earth. Yes, God created everything. And science agrees.

So where did the universe come from? From the hand of an all-powerful God, in a blinding instant, in a flash of light, heat, and energy.

Next time we’ll look at how science just gave us some important attributes of God.

Answering the Questions for the Meaning of Life

Our search is for the meaning of life, but to find the answers we must start with the right questions.

In their book, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek  give us the five most consequential questions we could ever ask. When answered, they give us the meaning of life. To be valid every religion or worldview must provide coherent, internally consistent answers to these questions. But the answers must be based on truth.

The five questions:

  1. Where did I come from? (Origin)
  2. Who am I? (Identity)
  3. Why am I here? (Meaning)
  4. How should I live? (Morality)
  5. Where am I going? (Destiny)

To this we must add: What is at the center of our worldview? meaning-of-lifeWhat do we see as the ultimate reality?

Let’s look briefly at our list:

  1. Where did we come from? Did God create us? Or did we evolve through a process of the random mutation of genes? Or are we on an endless cycle of birth and rebirth (reincarnation) and if we’re good enough, eventually join with and become one with the cosmos?
  2. Who are we, really? Are we immortal persons who will live forever? Or are we just a collection of atoms, the result of a random accident, a meaningless result in a universe devoid of meaning?
  3. Why are we here? Are we supposed to live our lives with some purpose? Has God told us what that purpose is? Or do our lives simply hold no meaning at all? Is there no purpose for our existence? Are we simply adrift and alone in a cold, uncaring universe?
  4. How should we live? Should we care about anybody other than ourselves? Should we spend our time and energy reaching some theoretical, higher plane of existence that only benefits ourselves? Or should we live in such a way to glorify God and do his bidding? In other words, should our existence be other-oriented or self-oriented?
  5. Where are we going? At the end of this life, will we just return to a pile of atoms and exist no more? Is this life all there is? Or will we find ourselves on an endless cycle of birth and rebirth, possibly inhabiting the bodies of lower life-forms? Will we end up in a place of endless torment, separated from God? Or will we find ourselves in a realm of blessed peace and happiness where God himself dwells?

How does the atheist, naturalistic worldview answer these questions? Their answer is that we came to be here as the result of unguided processes without purpose or design. So our existence is meaningless. Under such a philosophy we are all accidents, the result of the random collision of atoms. Because there is no God, we have no one to answer to for our conduct. So morality is what we make of it. Thus it matters not if everyone is out for themselves. And our destiny? We will simply return to the pile of atoms we were before we were born—to nothingness.

Surely, this is a philosophy of despair and hopelessness. What meaning there is in life, if any, becomes what we ourselves make of it (existentialism). In this pursuit we are totally alone. In this worldview the ultimate reality is an empty, uncaring universe. There is no meaning in anything. We might as well pass the razor blades.

On the other hand, the Christian worldview proclaims that we were created by a loving God who has a plan for our lives. We exist with purpose, meaning, and hope. We know why we’re here, how we should live, and where we are going. The Christian bases his belief in the promises God gives him and in God’s Son. Here we find hope, joy, peace, love, and eternal life.

It’s the Christian worldview we will explore in subsequent posts.

Ideas Matter. Worldview Matters.

Ideas that inform a person’s worldview matter a great deal. We see that clearly in the worldview of Karl Marx, whose ideas led to the deaths of 20 million Soviet citizens in Stalin’s reign. The communist philosophy is basically nihilist and naturalistic. It’s nihilist because it believes life is without meaning. And it’s naturalistic because it believes, like Darwin, that we came to be here only because of random, unguided processes, without purpose or design. So their worldview is grounded in evolution and atheism. Karl Marx once said, “We make war against all the prevailing ideas of religion, of the state, of country, of patriotism. The idea of God is the keynote of a perverted civilization. It must be destroyed.”

Did you know Stalin once trained for the seminary? But somewhere along the way, he rejected God and became a Darwinist. Then he became a Marxist. Svetlana Alliluyyeva, Stalin’s daughter, said of her father and of Beria, the Soviet minister of interior affairs: “Beria seems to have had a diabolic link with all our family… Beria was a frightening, wicked demon. A terrible demon had taken possession of my father’s soul.” Her father, she said, considered goodness and forgiving love to be “worse than the greatest crime.” She also said that on his death bed, Stalin rose up and shook his fist in anger at God.

Like many atheists, Stalin’s creed seemed to be: “There is no God. And I hate him.” Stalin’s atheism informed his worldview. And the result? Twenty million dead. Many more lives ruined.

We can contrast Stalin’s worldview with that of William Wilberforce, a native of Yorkshire, England. In 1780 he entered politics, eventually becoming a member of parliament. Five years later he became an evangelical Christian and experienced the transforming power of Christ.

WHM112034 Portrait of William Wilberforce (1759-1833) Aged 29 (oil on canvas) by Rising, John (1753-1817) oil on canvas 220x130 © Wilberforce House, Hull City Museums and Art Galleries, UK English, out of copyright

WHM112034 Portrait of William Wilberforce (1759-1833) Aged 29 (oil on canvas) by Rising, John (1753-1817)
oil on canvas
© Wilberforce House, Hull City Museums and Art Galleries, UK
English, out of copyright

Then in 1787 Wilberforce saw firsthand the evils of the slave trade. He learned how they packed men shoulder to shoulder in the cramped, reeking holds of the Liverpool slave ships and how they fastened the unfortunates together with leg irons. During the transit from Africa to the colonies, slaves died in such numbers that the seamen would throw overboard the carcasses of one third of their “cargo”. Not often mentioned is that the slave ships were so unhealthy even the seamen on those vessels died in the same proportions. (From: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, by Marcus Rediker.)

Wilberforce saw this evil. He couldn’t reconcile it with the teachings of Christ. Against the advice and warnings of friends and allies, he took up the cause of abolition. He became its most ardent activist. For twenty six years, year after year, he introduced a bill in parliament to outlaw the buying and selling of human beings. But every year his bill was voted down. The other parliamentarians began to view him as an outcast. At times he felt nearly alone in his fight to end the abomination of slavery. But he persevered. Then in 1807 Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act. This was the beginning of the end for the slave trade in Britain. If you haven’t seen “Amazing Grace”, the movie chronicling his life, it’s worth a look.

William Wilberforce held a Christian worldview. And he changed the world.

Our search is for the meaning of life, but it’s also for a consistent, coherent worldview based on truth. Of the worldview examples we’ve now shown, wouldn’t we want ours to be a force for good in the world like William Wilberforce’s?

Next time we’ll ask the questions that, when answered, will give us the meaning of life and form the basis for our search.