Friday, October 20, 2006

Meaningful Living: God, Creation, and Humans

Our own creativity and meaning is ultimately tied to God's activity in creation. At the very foundation of this assertion, lies a chain of incremental propositions about God:

1. He is (God).
2. God created.
3. God created us.
4. God created us in His image.
5. God created us in His image to glorify Him.

The first proposition simultaneously gives us very little information and very much information, in differing senses of course. Saying "He is" is reminiscent of God's name, Yahweh, which essentially means "He is" (3rd person) and also the name He provided to Moses "I Am" (same name, just 1st person). In this statement we infer God's self-existence. We are limited to using a "to be" verb, because no dictionary-style definition that says "God is like unto [noun]" will do justice to the Supereme King of the Universe. This is very meaningful. However, it leaves a lot of questions to the one who has not had any further revelation imparted. It doesn't specify if God always was or if He came into being at some point in time (although Rev 1:8 and other passages in the Bible resolve that question). It doesn't specify what sort of "being" God has. It doesn't specify whether His existence is knowable or personal. These inquiries are not resolved by the statement "He is", but they can be answered with further information (revelation).

The second proposition, "God created", increases our knowledge of him. It informs us that there is some sort of relation between God and matter, and that God is creative. It also implies that God has some sort of purpose, some sort of end in mind, else why would He create? This is key, and it really sets the stage for this series. However, the two word statement before us is also quite vague. It does not specify when God created, if He did so within time that is. It does not specify why He created. It does not specify what He created or how He did it or whether it was performed from something pre-existent. Of course, these questions are answered in some degree through further revelation (in the Scriptures).

The third proposition, "God created us", narrows creation to humanity, so in that sense it is anthropocentric. It presupposes that "we are" and not only that we are limited beings, namely within God's creation, deriving our existence from Him. Notice how it took three propositions for our attention to get to us. First the spotlight is on God. Then it proceeds to His creation in general, and only after that the spotlight focuses to a particular act of creation, the creation of humans. This is wonderful fact of reality which places us in our place and shatters any illusion of human ego=centricism. However, it still leaves a lot unsaid, which again must refer us back to revalation for further details. While the phrase "God created us" gives us some hints as to our relation to God, it doesn't give any further details about how we relate to Him. And it doesn't give any further details as to how we relate to the rest of creation or even what the rest of creation is. And it doesn't give any basis as to why we are different than the other creatures.

The fourth proposition "God created us in His image" is a direct answer to the dilemma which proposition #3 raises, "Should we be distinguished from the other creatures? If so, why?" This is a nagging question and I believe it is so because it is the "achilles heel" in regard to a quest for human significance, purpose, and meaning. If there is nothing which distinguishes us from creation besides an order of magnatutde of skills and knowledge, then why should we experience any greater planes of existence than the most base creatures? And yet, this proposition, too, isn't exactly explicit in all matters. Why would God create us in His image?

The fifth proposition, which ends with " glorify Him" is not an exhaustive answer, but it really does address the question which flows out of the fourth, "Why would God create us in His image?" The answer is to glorify Him! This is the loud cry of Rev 4:11.

I'm convinced that in order to have any rational hope to find meaning in life, we must:

A. Have a "universal" big enough to order the "particulars" of our life.
B. Have some balanced way of affirming both the humans place in creation and his/her distinctiveness from the rest of creation.
C. Have some balanced way of affirming both individuality and collectivity in regard to humanity.

I believe the Christian world-view is the only satisfactory solution to A, B & C. Evidence of this is, in my view, that propositions 1-5 satisfy A, B & C. The universal of God's existence, especially His will and the attributes that are revealed about Him in Christianity, is certainly a "universal" large enough to provide order to the "particulars" of life. Man is a part of God's creation, and therefore there is certainly oneness with creation in that sense. Yet, man is given special revelation from God in regard to his special status within creation as an image bearer of God, which gives a durable reason why man can claim distinctiveness from the rest of creation. And the balance between individuality and collectivity can be understood to proced from knowing that God, who formed man in His own image, is triune and relational, thus creating man as relational beings, interconnected and yet distinct from one another. And, through further revelation, we are taught that God deals both with people collectively and individually, speaking both of God's chosen people as a group and God's chosen men and women individually (and this applies to God's enemies as well), hence giving us further reason to have a balanced view of both collective significance and individual significance.

I don't suppose there is anyone who could honestly say that their life always seems to be full of meaning. And at the same token, I think everyone perceives some sort of meaning in their life. If you reject propositions 1 through 5, you will still find meaning in life. But it will likely be elusive, and it will always be to some extent irrational. The same is applicable to those who accept the first few propositions but reject the rest. The one who excepts propositions 1 and 2 (and maybe even 3) but rejects the rest has little advantage over the one who rejects them all. The existence of a "god" who creates but doesn't create us, or a "god" who creates us but not in his image would leave us destitute of the foundations for a meaningful life. Only the existence of a God who has created man in His own image for His glory can allows us to find a rational (non-irrational) basis hope and meaning.

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Blogger Luke said...

Good stuff!

12:37 PM  

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