Monday, January 06, 2020

Does God have a purpose in life?

 On a theistic view, there is no objective purpose of God’s life: there is no ‘Super-God’ to give God purpose in God’s life. Poor God has to choose His own purpose in life. @RFupdates is simply pushing the problem back a step.

This is Jeff Lowder's attempt to be clever and turn tables on the argument. But his arguments aren't improving with age. It's such a confused, and simplistic riposte. 

1. On the face of it, Jeff is laboring to mount an argument from analogy. Either the principle holds true in both cases or not at all. But what could that mean?

2. Human beings are contingent, needy creatures. Physically dependent on their environment. For instance, we can only survive and thrive within a very narrow temperature range.

In addition, we're social creatures with emotional needs. Including the need to touch and be touched by other human beings. 

Human beings are not self-contained units whose needs are internally supplied and satisfied. In the nature of the case we require things outside ourselves to provide for our emotional needs and personal fulfillment. 

3. How is that supposed to be comparable to God? A self-contained being who is complete in himself? An being who needs nothing outside himself to supplement himself? A timeless agent who has no unrealized potential. No longings. No impediments. 

4. To say humans need to have a purpose in life doesn't imply that God needs to have a purpose in life, as if God needs something to give his life direction or satisfaction from one day to the next. In classical theism, God isn't that kind of being. 

5. In addition, while the debate is typically framed in terms of what makes life "meaningful," there's more than one concept in play:

There's the question of what, if anything, makes an individual life important. That's distinct from personal fulfillment. Your life can be important even if you're unfulfilled or dissatisfied. 

Is life worthwhile? That's ambiguous. In one respect life is potentially worthwhile, but some people treat the gift of life as worthless because they have nothing adequate to live for. 

6. Is immortality a necessary condition for life to be important? 

7. What makes life fulfilling? What ought to make life fulfilling? If I lose everything I care about, is that fulfilling?

And if what I care about is merely the way my brain was wired by a mechanical process without wisdom or benevolence, is that meaningful? Or is that hollow and arbitrary? 

What makes anything good? Is it just an illusion we project onto an indifferent reality? 


  1. Taking the Westminster Shorter Catechism's question regarding what the chief end of man is and its answer, John Piper has applied the same question to God and said, "I would like to try to persuade you that the chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy himself forever. Or to put it another way: the chief end of God is to enjoy glorifying himself."

    As I understand it, this is just a rephrasing/rebranding of the basic "perfect being theology" that has been in the Christian tradition for the longest time. Going back to Jonathan Edwards, and further to Thomas Aquinas (and other medieval theologians) and to some of the church fathers like Augustine.

    God, possessing the attribute of aseity, is all sufficient and isn't dependent on creatures to find ultimate meaning, purpose, joy or satisfaction. First Timothy 1:11 states, "the gospel of the glory of the blessed God." Piper expands "blessed God" to also mean the "Happy God". Each person of the Trinity delights in and delights to glorify the other two persons.

    As I understand it, Edwards speculatively argues in his Unpublished Essay on the Trinity that the Father has such a perfect eternal and necessary knowledge of Himself that's so real and intense that that brings about the eternal and necessary generation/begetting of the Son. And the mutual love between the Father and Son results in the eternal and necessary procession of the Holy Spirit who is Himself the personal Love between the Father and Son. Thus explaining the traditional doctrines of the eternal generation of the Son and procession of the Holy Spirit [assuming the Latin "filioque" understanding of procession]. The traditional doctrines may be false, but it's an intriguing way of metaphysically accounting for the possibility of the truth of the doctrines.

    1. //On a theistic view, there is no objective purpose of God’s life: there is no ‘Super-God’ to give God purpose in God’s life. Poor God has to choose His own purpose in life. //

      God's purpose is eternally transcendent. There was no time in which God had to, for the first time, think up a purpose for Himself. Before which He didn't have a purpose. No, God doesn't think discursively in time. God's knowledge and acts of will are eternal and atemporal. In God ultimate objectivity and ultimate subjectivity meet at the eternal and necessary top, who is, God Himself. Lowder doesn't either know or understand "perfect being theology" or isn't taking it seriously, and so attacking a strawman representation of God.

  2. When I was ten, I thought about this and struggled to find an answer, but eventually I came to see the correct position on the matter. Too bad atheists can't do what a child can.