Chapter 3: Meaning of Life

14 March 2006

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In this chapter, Krueger attempts to support two beliefs; that theism has not been successful in providing a meaning to life and that atheism can support a meaning to life.

In order to show that Christian theism is unsuccessful in producing a meaning to life, Krueger objects to many commonly held doctrines. For example, he argues that predestination robs life of purpose. However, many Christians do not believe in predestination- and it is certainly not a necessary doctrine. Next, Krueger takes issue with the doctrine of original sin. He asks:

“Should the purpose of one’s life be founded on the notion that he or she is vile and despicable? How can one aspire to be noble and great if one’s most fundamental belief about humanity is that we can never be anything other than worthless, offensive, and disgusting?” [70]

Several responses can be made to this. First of all, the doctrine of original sin needn’t imply that human beings are completely and utterly worthless. In fact, the Bible seems to imply in many places that human beings are much more than worthless- for God Himself loves them supremely.

Secondly, even if original sin implies we are absolutely and utterly worthless, Christian theism still provides an important meaning to life. The meaning to life could simply be to find Christ, accept Him, and thus become full of worth (particularly in the afterlife).

Finally, life is not robbed of all purpose even if we know that the best we can offer is still horrible. An unsuccessful track athlete can try his hardest even though he knows he will never come close to winning the race. He can find purpose in trying his best, improving, simply competing, etc. These three considerations easily show that the doctrine of original sin is not a barrier to the meaningful life.

Krueger then discusses the doctrine of salvation by grace. He apparently considers salvation by grace to be an “arbitrary decision” on the part of God. However, according to Christian theology, this is an absurd view. God’s decision is not at all arbitrary, but rather is based upon a universal standard. Namely, accepting Jesus Christ as Savior. Krueger continues further by arguing that there is no impetus to act morally if God gives you salvation by grace. However, Christ claims that true faith leads to great works anyways. Furthermore, moral choices made in this world will affect one’s reward in heaven or punishment in hell. Therefore, it is still wise to act morally even if you are not compelled to do so because of the love of Christ. Nevertheless, Krueger’s complaint that there is “no reason to act morally” since heaven will already be the destination of the believer is confusing, given his critique of selfish ethics elsewhere in the book. Krueger is simply being inconsistent here.

Is Performing God’s Will a Satisfactory Meaning to Life?

Krueger contends that simply serving God’s will is not a worthwhile meaning to life. He claims: “Mindless obedience is praiseworthy in dogs and horses, but in humans it is repulsive‚Ķ” [71] Krueger makes several mistakes here. First of all he calls serving God “mindless obedience”, but this is simply a rhetorical statement. Serving God need not be “mindless”. Suppose that God consistently displays benevolent behavior towards you. It would not be “mindless” to serve such a being, in the same way that it would not be “mindless” to serve parents that are extremely kind to you. Secondly, Krueger is making a false analogy. He is comparing dogs that serve humans with humans that serve God. But according to all Christians, God and man are very different. God is all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing, while humans do not even come close in any of those categories. Therefore, it is a false analogy to compare dogs obeying humans and humans obeying God. God is infinitely more worthy of praise, admiration, and service than even the best human being. 1

Krueger next argues that God’s will cannot really be determined, and that this means one cannot have a life of meaning by serving God, for one can never really know if he or she is actually obeying God’s will. However, his claim here is very questionable. He states: “The bible provides vague, inadequate, immoral, and contradictory principles.” [72] However, these complaints have already been addressed in CHAPTER 2 of this critique.

In any case, Krueger fails to really specify exactly why such supposed obscurity implies that serving God is a futile effort. A person does not need to know every detail of God’s will in order to attempt to fulfill it. One need only try his or her best to give meaning to their life by way of serving God. Additionally, a person’s meaning to life could simply be to determine God’s will and then fulfill it. It is just as meaningful to try to find or understand God’s will as it is to actually complete it, and the purpose-filled Christian can do both. Thus, Krueger’s objection hardly manages to show that serving God is meaningless.

Krueger asserts that the purpose to life could not simply be staying out of hell. However, few Christians state that this is the only purpose to be found in life. Indeed, it may be a very important part of the meaning of life, but it is surely not the sole reason. Krueger questions the morality of God for supposedly “torturing” and “threatening” people, but these claims are mere assertions and don’t even begin to address the issues about God and hell (in particular, they don’t begin to address the actual nature of hell, which, in my opinion, does not imply endless physical torture).

Overall, Krueger does not make much of a case for meaningless theistic existence. Serving God is a very meaningful existence, especially since God is the embodiment of all desirable traits and attributes. Receiving salvation is also a purpose to life as well as, consequently, helping others to receive the same. Furthermore, acting with love and compassion are meaningful under the Christian theist view (since morality has a positive foundation with Christianity, as shown in CHAPTER 2 of this critique.) Moreover, our choices in this life have a lasting effect in the afterlife. It is hard to imagine a more meaningful life.

A Life of Purpose Under Atheism

In this section, Krueger attempts to argue that one can have a meaning to his or her life even if there are no gods. Not surprisingly, his arguments center around questionable definitions of a “purposeful life.”

For example, he argues that “the life of purpose includes improvement of both oneself and the world.” [79] However, why should we assume that life is actually meaningful when one pursues goals and works toward self-improvement? Since their lives will eventually end forever, it seems that such a pursuit is trivial at best and pointless at worst. Even more troubling for Krueger’s argument is the fact that science shows that the universe and all life will eventually end. 2 This makes all our efforts to improve our world and ourselves completely meaningless- for they can do nothing to avert the eventual end of all life.

There is a similar problem with Krueger’s other suggestion of what makes the purposeful life. He claims that the utilization of one’s talents can lead to a life of purpose, but this claim suffers from the same fallback as the previous one- under an atheistic view our own lives and the collective lives of anyone and anything that has ever lived or will ever live will die out in a relatively short time period. This leaves little room for doing anything truly meaningful. Surely, one may be able to trick themselves into thinking that their lives are meaningful, but in actual fact they result in nothing.

Krueger next mentions lists of names of atheists who purportedly had “meaningful” lives, but this is unimpressive for two reasons. First of all, as has been shown above, he does not really offer a satisfying means of achieving a meaning of life under the atheistic viewpoint. But, even if he had, his argument that “many atheists have led lives of purpose” is completely useless, for many Christians could boast similar or better accomplishments as those atheists he mentions. So, if Krueger just supposedly got finished refuting the potential for a purposeful life under a Christian theist viewpoint, how on earth is he going to respond to the hundreds of extremely accomplished Christians of past and present? There is simply no way for him to do so without being hypocritical, so he should drop the argument.

What is the Point about Finding the Point?

Near the end of the chapter, Krueger mentions that reasoning to God’s existence by means of the lack of meaning in an atheistic life is invalid. Just because someone wants God to exist does not mean that he does. For the most part, I agree with Krueger on this point, and I feel that many theists need to revise their arguments when dealing with the meaning of life. However, I think there is a very powerful argument that can be formulated based on the meaning of life, and I have formulated and defended that argument HERE.

Conclusion:

Krueger fails miserably to refute the possibility of meaning under a theistic viewpoint. Not only can meaning be found in the current life, there can also be found meaning in the fact that there is an afterlife in which our decisions in this world have direct consequence. Furthermore, he has not ably defended his contention that the atheistic viewpoint can provide a purpose to life, particularly in light of the evidence that all life will collectively be extinguished under such a viewpoint.


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NOTES:

1. Krueger does register the complaint that God is “a being who orders genocide and other horrible acts”. [71] His goal here is to show that God is no more praiseworthy, if not less so, than humans are to dogs. However, this is an entirely separate issue and is dealt with HERE in this critique.

2. See my article HERE for documentation of this fact.




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