In reality though, these things still matter. Most of us would feel a certain amount of pride if we found out one of our ancestors did something heroic in war, but we would feel ashamed if we found out that one of our ancestors was a coward or a traitor. Why? Why do we want our nation to have been the good guys historically? Why are many adopted children curious about their biological parents? Why has the BBC series Who do you think you are? been so popular? The answer is because “no man is an island”. We are not disconnected from our past. Origins matter, and ultimate origins matter ultimately.
If we are, as atheist chemist Peter Atkins says, “just slime on a planet belonging to one sun” then it’s hard (i.e. impossible) to see how we could have any intrinsic value. That leaves us with very little basis (i.e. no basis) for condemning as wrong the taking of innocent human life. Only a psychopath lives as if that were true.
It would mean humans would only have extrinsic value, which means our value would lie in what we are able to do for others. On such a view, the weak, sick, poor, uneducated and old would have less value than the strong, healthy, rich, educated and youthful. Only the most obnoxious people live as if that were true.
"We are precious, not because of what we do but because of what we are"
However, if we have been created by God in His image then we have real value. We are precious, not because of what we do but because of what we are, which means that every human being is to be treated with dignity and respect.
Imagine you went to your friend’s workshop and he showed you something he was working on to give you. You had no idea what it’s for, so what would you do? You would ask him – the creator would be able to tell you the purpose of the creation.
But now imagine you picked a bit of wood up off the floor and asked what it was for. He would probably say, “It’s not for anything. It’s just a bit of wood I didn’t need.”
The gift he was making for you has a purpose. You can use it correctly or incorrectly. The bit of wood on the floor doesn’t have a purpose. You can use it as a paperweight or as a doorstop or anything you can imagine, and no one can say you are not using it correctly – it has no objective purpose.
If we have not been created by God, then we have no purpose. Sure, we can invent purposes for ourselves. Someone might say, “My purpose is to eradicate cancer.” Another might say, “My purpose is to eradicate humanity.” If we have no creator, then neither of those aims is right or wrong. No one can say to the person who wants to wipe out the human race, “You aren’t meant to do that.” We are meant to do anything.
However, if we have been created by God then we have a purpose – to know, enjoy and glorify Him. We don’t have to wander through life trying to find something to do to fill the years until our eternal annihilation. Every day we live and everything we do can have eternal significance.
"Every day we live and everything we do can have eternal significance."
There are three big questions every thinking person asks: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? The answer to the first is the answer to the others. If I came from nothing, then I’m here for nothing and going to nothing. But if I came from God, then I’m here for God and I’m going to Him to give account for the life I’ve lived.