Reasons to Believe

Life Without God

I just finished reading a book that has been on my shelf for some time. It is William Lane Craig’s apologetic for the Christian faith entitled Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (This is actually a newly published 3rd edition; I read the 2nd edition). It sat there as long as it did because I had the impression it would not be an easy read. I was right. But upon my perusal, it proved to be a rich source of material on a variety of apologetic topics. The summaries that he added to the end of each chapter are particularly helpful, giving suggestions to the reader on how to make use of the arguments presented.

Two sections in particular caught my attention. The first (found toward the end chapter 1) was his discussion of the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. It is unusual for a book this intently intellectual to call attention to this (in my view) most important argument for our faith. The second section (in chapter two) was his discussion of the absurdity of a life without God.

He opens this chapter summarizing the comments of a number of authors, including Pascal, Dostoyevsky, Kierkegaard, and Schaeffer, who have written about the “human predicament” of a life without God. All of these authors addressed the despair humanity faces in such circumstances.

Then Craig begins his assessment of what the human predicament entails: “If God does not exist, then both man and the universe are inevitably doomed to death.” Life has no ultimate meaning, value, or purpose. As he expands on each of these areas, he paints a grim picture of life without immortality and God. To communicate the power of his style, I quote from the text.

On meaning he says:

If each individual person passes out of existence when he dies, then what ultimate meaning can be given to his life? Does it really matter whether he ever existed at all? It might be said that his life was important because it influenced others or affected the course of history. But this shows only a relative significance to his life, not an ultimate significance.

On value:

If life ends at the grave, then it makes no difference whether one has lived as a Stalin or as a saint. Since one’s destiny is ultimately unrelated to one’s behavior, you may as well just live as you please…In a world without a divine lawgiver, there can be no objective right and wrong, only our culturally and personally relative, subjective judgments.

On purpose:

If death stands with open arms at the end of life’s trail, then what is the goal of life? To what end has life been lived?…Is it utterly pointless? If its destiny is a cold grave in the recesses of outer space, the answer must be yes—it is pointless. There is no goal, no purpose, for the universe…If there is no God, then our life is not fundamentally different from that of a dog.

In the closing sections of his chapter, Craig then addresses the practical impossibility of living, consistently, a life of atheism, and at the same time, to remain happy. It is either one or the other. Philosophers will say, in the face of this dilemma, we should create meaning by following a chosen course of action. But how can we, on the one hand, believe life is absurd, and on the other, try to create meaning? It makes no sense. It is a game of pretense. How can a person be a social critic, like Bertrand Russell, denouncing war and restrictions on sexual freedom, and at the same time admit that these things are just a matter of personal taste? If there is not God, then all the evil acts of men go unpunished and all the sacrifices of good men go unrewarded. Who can live with such a view? Craig argues that many who live a life of atheism, in fact, subconsciously borrow belief in immortality from those who held to it in the past. But they have no ground for believing now. In summary, he says:

Man cannot live consistently and happily as though life were ultimately without meaning, value, or purpose. If we try to live consistently within the framework of the atheistic worldview, we shall find ourselves profoundly unhappy. If instead we manage to live happily, it is only by giving the lie to our worldview.

Craig then points out that if the Christian worldview is correct, God does exist, life does not end with the grave, and we do have meaning, value, and purpose. Because of this, we can live both a consistent and a happy life!

Altogether, I find his discussion provides a powerful apologetic for biblical Christianity.

Subjects: Atheism, General Apologetics , Naturalism, Worldviews

Dr. David Rogstad

Dr. Dave Rogstad received his PhD in physics from Caltech and worked over 30 years for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Though now retired, Dave continues to serve as an RTB board member and participates regularly in several RTB podcasts.