Monday 8 February 2021

What is the meaning of life for those who reject Jesus Christ's offer of resurrection?

This is a simple question with a simple answer. 

Life has no necessary meaning at all, for those who reject Jesus Christ's offer of resurrected life eternal in Heaven. 

It is the outcome of resurrected life eternal that gives meaning to this temporary and entropic mortal life. Without this outcome, mortal life lacks the context which gives it meaning. 

To reject Jesus Christ's offer is in the power of each and every person. Everybody chooses whether of not to be resurrected. 

But if a person chooses Not to be resurrected, one inevitable consequence is that his mortal life on earth will be meaningless. 

This is because mortal life is designed as a necessary phase en route to resurrection. One cannot have resurrection without going-through the phase of mortal life. 

And each individual person has an unique experience of mortal life - some die almost immediately and are not even born, others survive to become babies, others to various stages of childhood... and some live for many decades. Plus, of course, each person has an unique mind and body, an unique family (or other) circumstance, an unique social experience - and makes his own choices which affect all of these...

What any specific person's mortal life means; depends on that person's nature which he brings from pre-mortal spirit existence. These range very widely from those who are born greatly good or with great abilities; to the vast majority who are born with strong tendencies to choose evil, without much (or any) apparent capacity for love, and with all kinds of deficits, pathologies and disadvantages - presumably some are innate to that person, some are intended by God. 

What we make of life, whether we fulfil our primary destiny; is up to each individual. But we can be confident that God will (sooner or later, somehow or another) provide the necessary situation, present each with the vital choice that he needs to make.     

In sum: when a person who has rejected Jesus's offer of resurrection to life eternal in Heaven then complains that his life is meaningless and has no purpose; he is correct. 

His life is indeed meaningless and has no purpose. 

But that has been his own choice. 


jana gatien said...

Well said! I was reading Ecclesiastes recently and the word "vanity" perfectly encapsulates life without Christ's offer--without this truthful context. It is sad to see people just putting on more lipstick while circling the bottom of a flushing toilet.

John irwin said...

Dr. Charlton, the only references I'm aware of that might hint at some kind of "pre-mortal" existence that appear in Scripture are in Jeremiah 1:5 and in Psalm 139 but there may be others. Can you elaborate on what our pre-motal existence might be and what it might indicate? thanks

Bruce Charlton said...

@JI -

WTQuinn said...

“What any specific person's mortal life means; depends on that person's nature which he brings from pre-mortal spirit existence” is a significant statement in terms of its possible future outcomes.

It implies Acausality – that which pre-exists having no cause. Even pure materialist’s “believe” in this idea, that the Big Bang was the explosion of “the One” pre-existent finite thing. As if there couldn’t be “Two”. Or more.

Science also speculates that energy is indestructible, that it takes form, disintegrates, and takes on some form again, as in the astronomical observance of star birth chambers:

If energy is uncreated and indestructible, perhaps also is the soul. And if a soul awakens in some future place in a state of remorse and regret, perhaps that memory is washed clean for a new opportunity to make restitution. This was an idea explained in Plato’s Republic Myth of Er:

There is value in this heretical idea. It communicates future hope for those that now reject Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, regardless of the faith channel from which they were made a salvation offer to accept or reject.

John Irwin said...

I think it's reasonable to believe that energy, whatever that may mean in relation to human life, cannot be destroyed but the idea that the soul is given one or more opportunities to make restitution isn't acceptable to the doctrine of a Christian's playbook, i.e., the Bible. Matter of fact the idea is refuted in Scripture.

Hebrews 9:27 - It is appointed for man to die once and after that, the Judgment.

Matthew 26:28 - For this is My blood of the Covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin.

Acts 13:38-39 - Let it be known unto you, therefore, brothers that through this Man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you and by Him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the Law of Moses.

These Scriptures, and most certainly others, state that men die once and are judged for their sins and that those who believe in the name of Jesus are forgiven for their transgressions.

C. S. Lewis addressed the question of whether Christianity is hard or easy. When approached from MY own purely human nature I tend to think it's very difficult and the actions of becoming or evolving into what the Lord seems to desire of me has been an uphill trudge, sometimes enjoyable and other times not so much, but I keep at it because He commands it and I simply want things to be His way. And, in the end, I believe you either are, or, you are not on His side.

People always look for easy outs but for Christians and for those who would accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, only one avenue exists. He was a man who was begotten of God and who died a brutal and vicious death as a blood offering for the sins of His creation. He forgives us in our living but His offer of eternal life for our souls is a one time thing and those of us who are sane with faculties to choose either embrace it or reject it and for humans there are no 2nd chances via reincarnation. And why should it be otherwise?

Bruce Charlton said...

@JI - "who died a brutal and vicious death as a blood offering for the sins of His creation. " That is one interpretation of the 'atonement' but I think it is false, because God is our loving Father - and would not require one of his children to be tortured and sacrificed 'even if' it benefitted all the others and was voluntary. That is exactly the kind of end justifies the means, reasoning which evil Men deploy here on earth - but is not Heavenly justice.

I have a completely different understanding of what Jesus did and how, which I have partly derived from Mormon theology, partly for the Fourth Gospel (in my book Lazarus writes) and partly from my own thinking.

John Irwin said...

Dr. Charlton, the reports of the crucifixion of Jesus don't go into great enough detail to give anyone a blow-by-blow account but recorded history does detail the fury of Roman soldiers who reportedly beat the Lord with whips that cut deep into His skin and destroyed skin, tendon, muscle and bone.

Their mode of dealing with convicted prisoners was gruesome, degrading and without mercy. On the road to Golgatha He was beaten so badly that He could not carry His cross and he was kicked and spat upon by crowds who had screamed for and demanded His death instead of that of convicted killer, Barabbas.

After beating Him nearly to death, Roman soldiers, to the delight of the Jews, hammered a crown of thorns into his skull and His hands and feet onto beams of a cross. And after the brutality of that and of hanging on that cross for hours, just to make sure he was dead, one of the lads jammed a lance into His chest, likely His heart and no blood flowed. Jesus was beaten to death and crucified.

Isaiah 50:6 - I gave my back to the smiters and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.

Isaiah 52:14 - They shall see the Servant of God beaten and bloodied, an object of horror; so disfigured many were astonished. His face and His whole appearance were marred MORE than any man’s, one would scarcely know it was a person…

I fail to see how one could not interpret these reports and others from the Gospels as descriptive of a violently brutal, vicious and humiliating death for anyone, much less the Son of God.

God is our Loving Father but He says throughout Scripture that He hates sin and He has destroyed nations and likely the known world because of it and more importantly, because He values our souls so much, He has expounded multiple times that the soul that sins will die. Had Jesus, as a sacrificial lamb ordained by God, not died as He did for our sins, none of us would be having this conversation.

I don't know if any of us have the right to state that a 'loving God would require (or not require).....(this or that)..". Truth is, we have been given Holy Scripture with plenty of information on what the Lord expects and desires of us but most of the time little or no information to explain the Lord's reasoning.

When I first began the arduous task of turning my back upon my old ways to try to become a believer in and follower of Jesus, the most difficult hurtles I faced was that of learning to believe that God cared one whit for me and to then trust that Scripture is the unalterable Word of God and that it had meaning for contemporary life. I had to put aside everything else I thought I knew and go with His directions; oddly enough I've actually learned to love seeing where He will lead.

Bruce Charlton said...

JI - If your Christian assumptions are currently sustaining your faith then I see no problem. But they may come a time when contradictions interfere or when you lose confidence in your assumptions - this seems to have happened to most Christians this past year. (Catholics who suddenly find they don't need to attend Mass; Protestants who suddenly find that they do not need to gather for praise and prayer.) Then it is worth knowing that there are other and different ways of following Jesus to the same destination: other abstract-summary schemes for explaining what you are doing.

John Irwin said...

Dr. Charlton - I do not believe that Biblical testimony (Scripture) are Christian assumptions. Scriptures might not tell the entire story in the great detail that a thoroughly sifted news report might provide but for 2000+ year old history that has been subjected to more intellectual investigation than has any other branch of history that I'm aware of, the reports have not been altered or redacted to any degree that have occasioned a re-write or a write-off for truth or authenticity.

People do lose comfort or confidence in assumptions but the work of the Holy Spirit, for those who receive it and who have been even more fortunate to have experienced His actual presence in their lives and who realize (but may not completely understand what has occurred) do not live under assumptions because such events, although they do not happen to everyone who believes, leave an indelible mark in the recipient. And, it's reasonable to assume that those with a less robust faith, evidenced through fear of the unknown or by depression or fatigue, etc., are fully acknowledged by the Lord, particularly in moments of weakness, as were Peter and Thomas.

Faith in the Lord Jesus tends to grow if nourished and throughout history church attendance has varied but I tend to think that when the Protestants or Catholics depart from the teachings and directives of well known and time honored doctrine, that people respond accordingly. People want the truth and they know when it's not being taught or when pastors and priests depart from the faith. New communicants can easily be misled but those who have been involved for years certainly recognize departures from reason and doctrine.

I agree that there are many ways to follow the Lord but I reassert that reliance upon the truth and accuracy of Biblical scripture in the first instance and surrendering one's life to Jesus, particularly when you know you need to and as often as is required, are paramount for any kind of growth and understanding of God or His plans for us. He seems to prefer followers more than leaders.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JI - Well, I am pretty familiar with the idea of a Christian life based upon the inerrancy of the whole Bible - since I attended a conservative evangelical Anglican church for about a decade - with varying intensity. But there surely are many assumptions in this way!

Some I discuss in my book Lazarus Writes (linked in the sidebar), relating to how to read the Bible (on what 'scale'), and whether it is all instructional, and the relation of Old and New testaments, and the authority of different 'Books'.

Others relate to translation - and whether there is a need for such to be divinely inspired (as I believe), or based on modern secular historical and linguistic scholarship (as most Bible-based Christians believe).

Aside, I once said that there are probably only four genuinely divinely-inspired Bibles - the Septuagint in Greek, the Vulgate in Latin, Luther's German Bible, and the English Authorized Version. But even then, there are different versions of each.

Assumptions cannot be avoided!