Wednesday, November 12, 2008
The Meaning of Life
Our 13.7 billion year cosmological history and four billion year evolutionary journey on Earth have caused me to rethink Christianity. The Christian faith I inherited has been focused on meaning that is beyond our earthly existence. All of the symbols, rites, and doctrines are oriented toward transcendence. The central question concerns the fate of my personal consciousness, soul, resurrected body, or what have you. In my less self-centered moments, I, the Christian believer, am to hope in the transformation of Earth (the Universe?) toward some transcendent vision.
I have tried and failed to make that purpose meaningful. There are far more theologians I have not read than I have read. Who knows? Maybe one day the right theologian will come along and help me make sense of a transcendent purpose. So far, none has. While I find great value in the esoteric traditions from the East and the West, they don't seem to do the trick either. I do not find meaning in transcendence. Maybe it is because I have a hardened heart and am lost in my sins. I have certainly been told that enough. A good revival meeting could be in order to help me discover the light of meaning beyond my earthly existence. I doubt it. I am an Earthling to the end. If there is going to be meaning and purpose it will be here and now in this life.
So what of Christianity? Is Christianity by definition oriented to a transcendent purpose? I think the vast majority of Christians would say that is the case. It is possible that Christianity is hopelessly transcendent and that Earthlings like me and Christians will need to part ways. Many Earthlings have done that of course. They go by many names: agnostics, atheists, rationalists, naturalists, humanists, or simply, Earthlings. But I am stubborn. Christianity has much to offer that I don't want to give up. For instance, the doctrine of reconciliation is of immense value to a meaningful life.
The purpose of human life is the same as that of all species: eat, survive, reproduce. It has been life's purpose on Earth since life began. It is not likely to change. It seems to me that Christianity could enable us to eat, survive, and reproduce with style, grace, and dignity. Christianity (and other religions and philosophies for that matter) could orient itself to that purpose. Our symbols, rites, and doctrines could be formulated in such a way as to reconcile ourselves with our earthly existence rather than with an imaginary transcendent one.
My personal faith is one of contented agnosticism regarding what may follow my own death. To use Christian language, "whether I live or die, I am the Lord's." The only afterlife I care about (and maybe even be able to do something about) is the life that follows my death on Earth. That is the life of all living things who follow me. I care about that deeply.
Thus, my quest. I wish to discover a Christianity whose purpose is earthy and earthly. In this quest, all of the symbols and rites associated with Christianity will have one purpose--to help me live fully with integrity in this life with an eye to being a positive influence on the lives of all living things who follow.
May we eat, survive, and reproduce with style.