Day 4: Made to Last Forever – 40 Days of Purpose-Driven Life

What on Earth Am I Here For?

Point to Ponder: There is more to life than just here and now.

Verse to Remember: “This world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever.” — I John 2:17 (NLT)

Question to Consider: In spite of all the advertising around me, how can I remind myself that life is really about living for God, not myself?

[Read More] thoughts on Day 4 of Rick Warren‘s Purpose-Driven Life* thoughts reaching to infinity and beyond!

I must admit, life after death is the Christian doctrine with the least empirical support — based as it is on a single data point! Sure, there’s many “resuscitations” (to use the technical term) in both Biblical and medical history, but those people all “lived to die another day.” There’s only one “resurrection” where the subject provides any concrete information and evidence about what actually happens after death.

Just to be clear, I am not claiming the historical evidence for the resurrection is weak, nor even that He is unavailable for comment. However, I can safely say that nobody alive today is up to repeating the experiment! This is in contrast to other Christian doctrines — even relatively esoteric ones, like the Holy Spirit — which I believe can be tested (non-destructively!) by personal experience.

Does it matter? I’m not quite sure. To be frank, I strongly disagree with Rick Warren’s claim that “You could forget about being good and ethical” if “your time on earth were all there is to life.” First of all, I do think it is possible to believe in God without believing in an afterlife (it may not be entirely consistent, but few things in life are). More importantly, ethics are clearly important in the here-and-now — even for atheists — both for our personal sense of guilt as well as our ability to live in community.

That said, I do agree that it is hard to go from ethics to morals without a God, and hard for morals to be completely meaningful without an afterlife to balance the scales. In some ways, I feel that eternity plays the same role in theology that infinity does in mathematics: you can ignore it most of the time, but eventually you run into problems (like Zeno’s paradoxes) that can’t be solved without some sense of infinity (or at least, the infinitesimal). And once you grant the existence of the transfinite (however poorly understood), it fundamentally impacts how we view “ordinary” numbers.

So it is with eternity (which, to be precise, is not quite the same as an after-life, but we’ll gloss over that for now). One can get quite a lot of theology and ethics without having to appeal to an after-life, but the end result is somehow incomplete. Eternal life “rounds out” the picture — at the price of introducing its own paradoxes and “weirdness”! Yet, somehow that very strangeness adds a richness to ordinary life that we would be loath to live without.

Prayer: God, I can’t claim to have all the answers — or even understand the questions! — but I believe there is more to life than this life. I believe you have set eternity in our hearts, and that we have a purpose greater than mere mundane survival, or even localized happiness. Teach me to live my life in light of the infinite and eternal, that I may elevate this world in preparation for the next. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.