What’s the purpose of existence?
Question: Assuming God knows all beforehand, how is this existence justifiable? It’s easy for people of faith to become complacent to the suffering of others when they themselves do not have to endure it, or they simply see it as a test of God. When you think about all the atrocities that have existed in history’s past, how is there a good reason to have allowed any of it to occur?
Response: Here are a few thoughts that I have:
1. If life is purposeless, it makes little sense that we’d be talking about purpose, or even think of denying its existence. That’s a long philosophical discussion, but I believe your heart already knows the answer. If there is only random chance, how would you even have a concept of randomness (that’s not random)?
2. I think the purpose of life is to learn to love, forgive, and receive and show mercy. It is to choose the Good in freedom. Currently we are feeling the effects of the tree of knowledge of Good and evil – that is we are coming to know the Good by experiencing the evil–and being created in the image of God. Time and eternity are insanely difficult concepts for the human mind, and we don’t know what we will be, except that we will be like Jesus (1 John 3:2), the incarnation of Love… it’s not just what we will be, but what we most truly are and are learning to desire to be.
3. Your comments about allowing suffering for your children is what gives me the most hope. If someone would’ve come to me the day that any one of my four children were born, and said, “Would you like me to keep your child from ever being picked on at school, never having a learning disability, suffer any serious illness, or experience the pain of loss,” I would immediately think, “Well of course.” But upon reflection I would say, “Hell NO! If you were to keep my child from ever suffering evil, they would never learn to love the Good.” What if our entire life in this world is like a bad afternoon for a two year old? And that bad afternoon was arranged for the two year old by a father who deprived that two-year old of something like the ability to eat all the Christmas candy.
4. If people suffer and are endlessly tortured, this argument (that suffering is a temporary discipline) makes little sense. But if you are being created to Love (desire the good in freedom) the Logos (reason, purpose, meaning) in flesh, it would make sense that you might experience some confusion, purposelessness and despair for a time – and even ask is there such a thing as purpose; you ask because you desire – you desire what you at one time did not desire so earnestly. I’ve let my children run away from me, in order that they would desire to be with me – and remember our Father’s Word is Logos (purpose), He is Light, and he is Love. We run from those things all the time.
5. Once I have knowledge of evil (not simply head knowledge, but existential knowledge), perhaps I can constantly choose the Good and never have to experience evil again – yet “never” may not be a word that has much meaning in eternity; maybe my knowledge of evil is transformed into Good (eternal Good) somehow…like the feeling you have after eating a cheeseburger, not having eaten, for several days. That feeling can’t be felt without the knowledge of hunger. And maybe the Cheeseburger is God himself?
6. The big point of the Genesis books (particularly the third, which still must be written) is that we are being created through the tree in the garden (the cross) on the sixth day of creation. We must die and rise with Christ to be who it is that we truly are. That process takes a lifetime. And just like Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation.” I’ve seen amazing miracles, but I can’t control them. So they tell me that God is in charge of not only the healing, but also the tribulation. Modern American religion seems to almost always depress me, for I conclude, “What the Hell? It’s not working.” But when I go back to Scripture (all of Scripture), I realize that it’s all going exactly according to plan. Check out Jeremiah 45 or Zephaniah 3:8-9, for instance. To be a Christian is to agree with the process, the purpose, the Logos, the Reason, the Judgment of God. I believe that everyone will, but it’s a blessing to have faith now, just as it’s a blessing to trust a good earthly father and not sell your inheritance to live like a slave for a time in a distant land (or a bitter big brother in religious bondage that turns into hell).