Are We Nothing More than Material, Chance, and Time?
The Common View
That human life and our planet has come about by chance, that we are nothing more than material come into being by an accident of circumstances and time, is a widely held view. It proposes no God, only a naturalistic view of life. If a force or Being outside of ourselves exists, we are pretty much on our own and hold ambivalence to ideas beyond our senses. When faith is considered at all, it is fine for the weaker-minded who don’t want to acknowledge reality. If you hold this, or similar views, I am posing a few questions.
It is readily observable people universally wish respect and a level of dignity. I suspect, if one has a spouse or significant other, most understand a “love” for them. I would also assume friends to be in their circle, with whom one has regard with respect and "love". For those who have a pet, I am sure there would be “love” for this pet. Someone may answer that such feelings and values are self-preservation or social constructs. That is why I put “love” in quotes here. I did not put respect in quotes, because even a hardcore atheist desires this. I could say, if you hold an atheistic view, why bother with any of these feelings and values? Yet, I want to take a step deeper here. I suggest, were anything to happen to ourselves or a loved one, our reaction would probably be a negative one-deeply and viscerally so. Anyone would be quite upset. We commonly hold the view that others, including ourselves, should be protected, appreciated, and valued.
That character traits exist for each of us, which others recognize, is true. We have capabilities, feelings, and aspirations. Most all of us do. Though one may have a material view of life, most consider yourself to be a person. That sounds like a rather obvious point. If we do, however, this leads us to the idea of personality. Each of us are beings. Though a materialist and relative view of life lead us to believe no bottom-line value for anything, we don’t seem to act like it even if we hold this view. We do not live out the resulting implications of the view held. We care, have desires, and crave significance. Our life and the personal connections we have are dear to us. Day-to-day experience is not lived as though we are animated tissue destined for a black void, even if we believe it to be true.
May I suggest the reason such a tension is there is that existence is not material, time, and chance? The experiential consequences of our views are not totally lived out because of an inability to do so. We are personality, not merely tissue. Deep inside we cry out against futility. To resist the implications of meaning, a fatalistic depression must be adopted to suppress it.
Modern humanity is trying to escape the idea there exists a Being beyond us who is not finite like ourselves, and that if we have personality, our Cause must also have personality. The moment these ideas are entertained, of course, the issue of accountability comes to the fore. This makes us uncomfortable. For the moment, however, I would like to set aside this connection. I would like instead, to consider that you, the person, have relevance. That you know you matter, you want others to respect you have value. Why is this so? If it is because we are accidents of time and chance, we are left in emptiness. Why should I love, care, or respect anything at all if this is reality? Do I matter? Do I have objective significance, or am I just material? Each view leads to an inevitable, unavoidable outlook.
If we consider this soberly, we may well discover as a person and a personalty, we desire dignity because it is the truth value is there. It is so compelling because this reality does not come about by the dry fact we simply exist. No matter how hard it is pushed away, our significance is not from our own humanistic definition, but from something much greater than ourselves. Existence has an ultimate Cause with Personality.
Buried under scientific rhetoric, a personal God who is there seems so simple to the current worldview. Yet, in reality, it is a profound truth with eternal ramifications, full of significance. Will we live in fatalistic depression or face the implications of a God?
I owe a debt of thought in some of my explorations to Francis Shaeffer's writing, particularly from The God Who is There. I am also indebted to R.C. Sproul's teaching on such topics.
You can explore more at:
The Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy: Three Essential Books in One Volume.
Not a Chance: The Myth of Chance in Modern Science and Cosmology by R.C. Sproul.