What Is Man’s Purpose?

dddWe live in an age of “consent.” The prevailing Western ethic approaches moral issues not on the basis of what God has ordained, but on whether the behavior in question is agreeable to the adults who are involved. The golden rule has become “just as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone,” without anyone really bothering to define what “hurt” or “anyone” actually means. It’s a “feel good” philosophy that says, in essence, “I won’t judge you if you don’t judge me.”

Unspoken in all this is that an assumption that we are autonomous beings – independent actors with unfettered control over our own destiny. Children may still need to mind their parents – although even with children their set of “rights” is now much greater and ever expanding – but when that magic age of “adulthood” is reached, we’re pretty much the one “in charge.” But why should this be so? People don’t create themselves, so from where does this authority derive?

If asked how they came to be, many people today would probably point to their parents, and if pushed on the issue, might make reference to some fuzzy notion of evolving from the “primordial soup.” But we are not “created” by our parents; we are simply begotten. They form part of a chain of life that goes back to the beginning, but they have no real choice in how we are assembled. DNA, of course, is the source code of our existence. Having received a package of “instructions” from each parent, we are assembled over the course of nine months as millions of lines of detailed instructions are implemented, covering everything from the size of our feet to the operating software of our brains.

Human beings are quite familiar with creating things. If I desire to build my dream home, I will set to work with an architect who will incorporate into his set of instructions every detail that I would like to see built into the home. Workers will take that set of instructions and begin the task of fabrication, taking care to lay out the wiring, plumbing and other working parts so that the home is not simply a shell but a functional whole. The dream car I park in the garage is similarly obtained: I set forth a list of specifications that I want the car to possess – size, styling, color and interior features to name a few.

Now, whenever we create, we do so for a purpose. The purpose may be functional, which may include simply for recreation, or it may be aesthetic. But we don’t “create” without some purpose in mind. From this, the following syllogism flows:

  • Created things have some purpose
  • The purpose of a created thing is defined by the creator.
  • Human beings are created things
  • Human beings have a purpose defined by their creator.

This conclusion, however, is in direct conflict with the prevailing “wisdom” of our age. Each of us, as a recent Supreme Court decision said, is apparently free to define our “own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of life.” This is a marked departure from our past, and certainly from the Christian worldview. If my syllogism is at all valid, the ashtray would be free to define itself as food, and the car to view itself as an airplane. The intended purpose of the thing, and the will of the one who created it, would mean nothing.

So, what is the purpose of the thing we call “human life?” Christianity provides an answer: it is not to accumulate wealth or material possessions, or to attain worldly power or fame, although some or all of those things may come. It is to glorify God by living in conformity with His will and to spend eternity in relationship with Him, with all the joy that connecting with perfection entails. We have tremendous freedom within that role to make many choices, and to live a life that is full and robust and satisfying.

But defining our own ultimate purpose is not one of those choices. We were made for a purpose, and redefining things to suit our own views is not only counterproductive – in the end it may prove deadly, at least in an eternal sense.

Posted by Al Serrato

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