Why are we here? In short, we are here because an eternal God created us, so that we might be in union with him, and spread his glory. The 20s/30s ministry at my church is going through Mark Moore’s book Core 52 for the next year, in an effort to increase biblical literacy. To assist in my weekly preparation, I’ll be writing articles based on the topics. This is Week 1 of 52: Creation.
Why are we here?
The opening question posed by the Westminster Catechism is, “What is the chief end of man?”
Answer: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
Similarly, if we were to ask the question in today’s language, we might ask simply, “Why are we here?”
Answer: We are here because an eternal God created us, so that we might be in union with him, and spread his glory.
I Exist, and I Believe You Do Too
Of all the things that I know to be true, the thing that I am most convinced of is that I exist. I am almost entirely certain of it.
I am also pretty sure that you exist too, as well as my home, my place of work, and my wife, whom I kissed goodbye this morning when I left our home to go to my place of work. If she doesn’t exist, that would be a very significant bummer to my week.
If we can agree that these things exist, then at some point we have to grapple with the question of why. Why do we exist, instead of not existing? Do we have a purpose here, on earth? And if so, what is it?
What are we all doing here?
Why Do We Exist, Instead of Not Existing?
As we grapple with the first question, we have two pretty simple explanations for our existence.
One explanation is that we exist due to a cosmic accident of unbelievable proportions, wherein atoms started moving and spinning at such an incredible rate that, in bumping together, the sun, the earth, and intelligent life forms were eventually created.
You might believe in the cosmic accident theory, and you are entitled to possess this opinion, just as I am entitled to believe that someday, Tom Brady will stop playing football. Unfortunately, there are problems with both of our logics.
The issue with believing in the cosmic accident theory is that we have to confront the problem of the atoms. Where did they come from? Who put them there? Everything that exists had to come from somewhere, at some point, right? Without answering this question, this line of reasoning is left unresolved.
“The issue with believing in the cosmic accident theory is that we have to confront the problem of the atoms. Where did they come from?”
Of course, the problem with believing that Tom Brady will stop playing football someday is the possibility that, with the advances of modern medicine, Brady will be slowly replaced by bionic body parts and someday complete his transformation into a cyborg, which is bad news for the future of the human species, I think.
The other explanation is that we exist because someone or something put us here. This entity, unbound by time and space, transcends existence, and thus we do not need to account for its origin. We could say that this entity is uncreated, a deity. Or, we could be more direct and call this deity “God.”
If you have a better explanation, by all means, make your case. But to me, it seems infinitely more probable that we are here because something decided it should be so, rather than accounting for the existence of atoms that shouldn’t exist, which then randomly exploded to form the sun, the stars, all the planets, eventually down to you and me.
Why are we here? “To me, it seems infinitely more probable that we are here because something decided it should be so.”
One of my favorite internet personalities is a YouTuber and podcaster named Matt Whitman, of The Ten Minute Bible Hour. In his words, one of the biggest reasons that he is a theist, and not an atheist, is because of the existence of stuff. If there is no Creator, there shouldn’t be creation. But there is stuff–it exists–so the likelier option is that there is a God who created it.
The Anthropic Principle: Why The Things Are The Way That They Are
Not only is there stuff, but that stuff is so intricately put together that it seems that the most likely option is that it was, well, designed.
The Anthropic Principle, in other words, is the Law of Human Existence. It is the scientific principle quantifying the why behind our ability to exist. Essentially, our existence as living creatures in the universe, as well as the conditions that make earth inhabitable for life, are dependent on an incredibly large number of factors falling within an incredibly small range of values.
“Essentially, our existence as living creatures in the universe, as well as the conditions that make earth inhabitable for life, are dependent on an incredibly large number of factors falling within an incredibly small range of values.”
One example is that the earth orbits in what has been termed as “The Goldilocks Zone,” which is the distance from a star wherein planetary temperatures allow liquid water to exist. Much closer, and the water on earth would boil. Much farther, and the water on earth would freeze. The same principle applies to earth’s reflectivity of ultraviolet light. And it extends to the unique properties of water, upon which all life forms depend.
Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field protect the planet from cosmic radiation. The very place that the solar system is situated in the Milky Way Galaxy does as well.
On even a subatomic level, the details of existence betray the handiwork of a designer. The ratio of proton size to neutron size, as well as their opposing charges, are perfect for forming the molecules required for life forms.
Critics of how believers in an intelligent designer employ the Anthropic Principle will argue that it does not attempt to explain why we exist, only that we exist. They contend that this principle supplies evidence not for an intelligent designer, only that our existence has occurred. In other words, this universe exists because it was, in an infinite number of possible universes, the only one wherein existence was possible.
Or, in other words, circular reasoning. We exist because it was possible for us to exist, and in other universes, we don’t exist because it wasn’t possible for us to exist.
“According to this line of thinking, the problem of a First Cause remains unresolved.”
Still, according to this line of thinking, the problem of a First Cause remains unresolved. I would subscribe to the argument that, since this universe is finely-tuned for life to exist, it seems most likely, that there was a fine-tuner.
If We Were Created, Then Why?
My intent in this article however, is not to write a bullet-proof treatise on why an intelligent designer is the only reasonable explanation for our existence in the universe. What I hope to do is start with the well-founded assumption that we were created by an intelligent designer, and discuss the implications of that.
Or, if we were created, then why were we created? By what motive? For what purpose?
The answers to those questions lie in the identity of the Creator.
In the Beginning, God Created the Heavens and the Earth
The Judeo-Christian worldview holds that, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).
That’s quite an opening line. Here, we have a God who pre-exists time and matter, making him the creator of time and matter. In the original Hebrew, the idea of “the heavens and the earth” roughly translates to “everything.”
Why are we here? “We have a God who pre-exists time and matter, making him the creator of time and matter.”
The theme of creation and re-creation extends throughout the entire Bible–which ends where it started. In Revelation, God makes a new heaven and a new earth for his children to live in, with him, for all of eternity.
But I digress. In the Genesis story, if you can fathom it–physically or spiritually–God created it. This is the view that Judaism and Christianity share. But through the lens of the New Testament, Christianity expands on the Jewish view of God.
One God, Three Persons
There’s a joke in the niche world of Christian theology (at least amongst those with a sense of humor) where you try to explain the Christian God’s Trinitarian nature in communicable terms, without stumbling into some sort of heresy.
In short: very difficult. The Trinitarian view of God is that God is three-in-one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. But the Father is not the Son, who is not the Holy Spirit.
“The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. But the Father is not the Son, who is not the Holy Spirit.”
Clear as mud, right? This is important though, because as pastor and author Mark Moore points out in Chapter 1 of Core 52, we see all three persons of God in the first three verses of the Bible.
We see God the Father in verse one, as the designer of all of creation. He’s the one who thought up the things, and declared that they should be.
The Holy Spirit is also obvious in the opening verses. Genesis 1:2 reads, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.”
In the early chapters of Genesis, the Holy Spirit is painted as the life-giving being. When Genesis 2 says, “God formed man out of the dust from the ground, and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being,” the Holy Spirit is the same idea as “the breath of life.”
In Genesis 1:3, the Son shows up. “Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”
“Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”
Jesus’s involvement here is not explicit. This is where a few important New Testament passages help us out. The first passage is John 1, which offers a philosophical look at the creation story. John 1:1-3 states,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through him, and apart from him, not one thing was created that has been created.”
Sound familiar? You’re smart; of course it does. John writes the opening lines of his account of Jesus to parallel the creation story in Genesis. Later, John is more explicit about who the Word is, when he writes in verse 14,
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The Gospel According to John was written in order to combat a popular heresy that Jesus was not God, and John dispels this with his opening lines, linking Jesus’ existence to the beginning, with God. He also asserts that Jesus is God, and that he was the agent through which God fashioned the creation of all things.
Why are we here? “For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions, or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through him and for him.”
We see the same idea in Colossians 1:16: “For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions, or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through him and for him.” Also in Hebrews 1:1-2,
“Long ago God spoke to our fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. God has appointed him heir of all things and made the universe through him.”
So, as Moore explains, God the Father is the Architect, who designed the world. God the Son is the Builder, who fashioned the world. And God the Spirit is the life-giving means that moves through all living things.
So, What Does This Mean For Us?
Very good things.
First, the fact that we were created intentionally imbues us with indelible, inherent value. If we are not the product of an intentional design by an intelligent creator, then our existence is ultimately meaningless. We are stardust, bumping into each other.
But if we are created, then our existence has purpose, and our lives have incredible meaning. What we do in our time on this spinning rock matters, and matters eternally.
Why? Because the value of a thing is bestowed by its creator. Rembrandt’s paintings are valuable because Rembrandt was the one who painted them. When the Father created mankind—the crown of his creation, according to Psalm 8:5—he designed us after him. A God of infinite power and wisdom and goodness made us to reflect his image (Gen. 1:26). He made us, and therefore he loves us, and that astonishing fact bestows in each and every one of us immeasurable worth.
Why are we here? “He made us, and therefore he loves us, and that astonishing fact bestows in each and every one of us immeasurable worth.”
Because the Spirit is embedded into all of creation, we see evidence of God’s glory all throughout the earth. In mountains and beaches, in the sun and the moon and the stars, in blades of grass and flakes of snow, in the beasts of the earth, in the birds of the sky, in the creatures of the sea, and in human beings like you and me.
And because the Son was the one fashioning all of creation, this gives us great hope. We can have confidence that the Creator of the world—a world filled with limitless potential that we broke because of our rebellion—is saving this world. Not only when he returns again and sets everything right, but also presently, in this very moment. Jesus does the hard work of redemption and restoration, and is doing it in our world even now.
Created For Communion
Because God is three persons, he is by his very essence, communal. He is relational! And he created us for relationship, both with him, and with each other.
A perfect relationship between the members of the Godhead spurred God, out of love, to create human beings in his image, so that they could participate in relationship with him. In other words, there was so much love between God the Father, Son, and Spirit, that he was compelled to create beings to share that love with.
He created us to be in union with him. To give ourselves fully to him, just as he has given himself fully to us.
Why are we here? “He created us to be in union with him. To give ourselves fully to him, just as he has given himself fully to us.”
And to reflect his union, three-in-one, he gave us fellow human beings to be in relationship with—so that we could practice the love God has for us, with others.
Created to Spread His Glory
If God had a perfect relationship going between Father, Son, and Spirit, then why would he create human beings whom he knew would reject him, mess things up, and break the good things that he created?
Because somehow, it spreads his glory.
Glory is one of those Christian words that has so much religious baggage attached to it that it has lost its meaning. And quite frankly, unpacking the meaning of glory is an article series all to itself. Let’s take a shortcut and think of glory as value and splendor.
First, if God is the greatest architect to ever exist, then everything he has made points back to his awesomeness and his perfection. When we look at a sunset, the interior world of a cell, or the Great Barrier Reef and marvel at its beauty, we give praise to its Creator for its splendor. Thus, when we enjoy what God has created, we enjoy the Creator, and God’s glory spreads.
Why are we here? “When we enjoy what God has created, we enjoy the Creator, and God’s glory spreads.”
Secondly, if God is love (1 John 4:8), then expanding his love beyond three persons would increase his love. And if his creation loves him back, that would increase the amount of love in this universe, and thus God has created value, spreading his glory.
Building off of that idea, because God created us in his image, he gave us marching orders to rule and reign over creation (Gen. 1:28) as he would. To steward well the things that he created. When things work as God designed them to work, his glory spreads.
If that sounds narcissistic, it would be, if God weren’t the one who created everything. But as the creator, he gets the credit—and he should. God is not an enhanced version of you and me—he is completely other. And if he designed creation to run on him, and glorifying him is the best thing for creation, then demanding that we spread his glory is actually a selfless motivation.
To Glorify God and Enjoy Him Forever
If we accept the premise that there is a God who created everything, then what we are all doing here comes into focus very quickly.
We are to know the one who created us. We are to love him and do what he asks of us so that we may be in union with him and spread his glory.
Why are we here? “If we accept the premise that there is a God who created everything, then what we are all doing here comes into focus very quickly.”
We are to enjoy the things he created for us—lakes and oceans, trees and mountains, friendships, and dogs, and baseball.
And we are to enjoy him forever, because all of these things are gifts that come from the Father of heavenly lights.