Reflections On Meaning In Life Without God -- By: J. P. Moreland

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 09:1 (Spring 1988)
Article: Reflections On Meaning In Life Without God
Author: J. P. Moreland

Reflections On
Meaning In Life Without God

J. P. Moreland

Liberty University Virginia

Rumor has it that Woody Allen was engaged in a philosophical discussion one evening at a dinner party when he was asked his opinion about the meaning of life. His response was equal to the occasion: “You ask me about the meaning of life? Good Lord, I don’t even know my way around Chinatown!” Questions about the meaning of life can appear to be so broad, and so difficult, that one may be tempted to adopt an attitude towards them like that of Harvard philosopher W. V. Quine: “Why the world began, or why life began … I think are pseudo questions, because I can’t imagine what an answer would look like.”1

On the other hand, questions about the meaning of life simply will not go away. Everyone, at one time or another, wonders whether or not life has any real point to it. In The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus expresses the urgency of the question in this way: “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worthy living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.”2

It seems to me that Camus is right. Questions about the meaning of life can, and must be asked, even if the answers we give cannot achieve apodictic certainty. But once we grant the appropriateness of these questions, it is natural to discuss issues about the existence and knowability of God in connection with them. In fact, in more popular versions of Christian apologetics, one frequently encounters the following sort of dilemma: either we accept the existence of a personal God, such as the Christian God, or we deny the existence of such a being. In the former case, we have a ground for the objective

meaningfulness of life. In the latter case, there is no such ground whatever, and one must settle for some sort of nihilism or some naive type of optimistic humanism wherein we identify the meaning of life with the pursuit and attainment of subjective satisfaction, leaving the definition of such an end of each individual.3

Prima facie, this dilemma seems reasonable enough. But in point of fact, the horns presented are not exhaustive. There are those who believe that a case can be made for life to be objectively meaningful, in a sense to be defined later, without the need to postulate a God to make such meaning possible. Let us call this position the Immanent Purpose view. For those of us who do believe that God is relevant to, and in some...

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