There seems to be two general thoughts regarding this universe and the life it contains. Either it was intentionally and purposefully created. Or it just happened randomly, without purpose. While there may be some other broad category that I am unaware of, it seems like everyone I have ever discussed this with, read about, or listened to fell into one of these camps. And some of them quite adamantly so.
But does it really matter what you believe about how our universe, and life, came to exist? Is it more than just an academic question? While I believe that some aspects of the question are academic, I also believe that there are some real practical issues involved as well.
On the somewhat academic side, it is much easier for me to grasp that the universe was created with purpose, rather than just springing into existence from nothing, on its own and for no reason. I know there are many people who seem OK with the latter, but I suspect, at least in part, that it is because the alternative is unacceptable to them. If the idea of God is offensive to you, then the only alternative is to be willing to accept that you are the product of an endless sequence of random chances, and the implications that brings.
Those same people who find a creator to be unacceptable will often times accuse me of substituting ‘God did it’ for scientific discovery; as if somehow the two are incompatible. Personally, I see no issue with accepting that God did it, while at the same time trying to figure out the details of what he did. Accepting that the truck I drive was made by someone does not prevent me from trying to understand how it works.
The more science discovers about how the universe was formed, and how it functions, the more impressed I am with the creator who put it all together. This universe is complex, much more so that it appears on the surface, with an awful lot of moving parts that need to fit together with a great deal of precision. Why is that so? Why is there life in this universe? Why do we have the ability to think rationally? Could it all have happened by chance? I suppose so; but it makes much more sense to me to see it as the work of a creator who has a purpose for all that he does.
But ultimately, does it really matter whether or not we have a purposeful creator? I believe it does, and dramatically so. If the universe was intentionally and purposefully created, then it would stand to reason that I have a purpose; there is a reason for me being here. But if the universe is just the result of some cosmic happenstance, then there really is no purpose for my existence. the universe is no better off for my presence, and would be no worse off if I did not exist.
If I was created with purpose, and I have purpose, a reason for being, then what I do in this life matters. Now I may or may not invest much time and effort in trying to discover my purpose; and actually it appears to me that few really do. But at the very least I will live as if I matter, and that other people around me matter. That people have value simply because the creator made them. But think how much better it would be to have some understanding of what the creator’s purpose is for your life, and them living to fulfill that purpose. Rather than just existing, you could find fulfilment in being what you were made to be.
But what purpose could you possible have if the universe is simply a product of blind chance? You, or your society, might assign to you some purpose. But what makes that purpose any better than any other purpose? Or no purpose at all? If we have no real purpose, and we are just accidents, then we really have no value as people, and the implications for that are pretty frightening. Think about it. If you have no value, then does it matter how I treat you? Is it not reasonable to just live this life, enjoying it the best I can, without regard for anyone else? Fortunately, even most who believe we are a cosmic accident are unwilling to live as though life had no value; although I am uncertain why that is. Maybe they really don’t believe they are an accident.
Finally, if this life is simply the product of a long line of random events, and I am nothing more than one more link in the chain, then there is no reason to believe that I have any future. When this life is over, then I am done, and it would be foolish not to maximise my pleasure and satisfaction during the brief moments I have to experience them.
While having an intentional creator does not guarantee a future beyond this life, it does open up that possibility. And that is really at the heart of the gospel message of Christianity; that the creator made me for a purpose that extends beyond this life. And all who will walk before him in faith will experience life with him forever. And in that case it really is important how I life my life here. Sacrifice and self denial is not the foolish choice that they would be if I had no future. Rather they become key components to becoming what the creator made me for.
While I know that everyone will not agree with me, the only way I can make sense of my existence, as well as the rest of what I see around me, is by accepting that it was intentionally produced, that there is a purpose for my existence, and that my life has some meaning. And it would seem to me that even those who will deny this, actually believe it at some level, or why act as though their life had meaning and purpose?
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.- Revelation 3:20