How Does God Give Your Life Value?
Ed. Note: this article is excerpted and slightly modified from our series, “Does God Exist?”
Dr. John Ankerberg: You say that if God does not exist, then life has no ultimate value. Explain.
Dr. William Lane Craig: By value I mean good and evil, right and wrong. And the claim here is that if there is no God to serve as the absolute standard for right and wrong, good and evil, then objective moral values and duties do not exist. On the atheistic view, moral values are just the accidental spin-offs of the evolutionary process and social conditioning. But there really is no objective good or evil. As the French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre puts it, we are simply confronted with the bare valueless fact of existence, and there’s no one to say that you are right and that I am wrong.
Ankerberg: You’ve said, if life ends at the grave, that it makes no ultimate difference whether you live as a Stalin or a Mother Teresa. Explain that.
Craig: Well, again, if God does not exist, there is no hope of immortality, and therefore there is no moral accountability for how you live. Even if there were objective moral values under atheism, they’re hollow abstractions, because Stalin and Mother Teresa ultimately meet the same fate; extinction in the heat-death of the universe.
Ankerberg: Yes, and you had a great illustration of, even if you had immortality, you still need God. You had this science fiction illustration. Talk about that.
Craig: Well, I once read a science fiction story as a boy where an astronaut is marooned on a barren asteroid in outer space all alone. And he had with him two vials. Once was a poison; the other was a potion for immortality. And seeing his predicament, lost in outer space on this barren chunk of rock, he decided to commit suicide. And he gulped down the vial of poison. And then, to his horror, he realized he had swallowed the wrong vial—he had drunk the potion for immortality and thus he was cursed to exist, a meaningless, valueless, endless existence. So it’s not just immortality that we need if life is to be ultimately meaningful, valuable and purposeful; we need God and immortality.
Ankerberg: Yes, and you say the problem gets even worse, because without God we have no objective way of saying what’s right or wrong. No objective morals.
Craig: Yes. Without God there is no absolute standard of right and wrong, good and evil. Everything becomes socio-culturally relative, and there is no one to say whose values are right and whose are wrong in the absence of this transcendent, absolute standard for good and evil.
Ankerberg: And that would describe our culture today, wouldn’t it?
Craig: I don’t think actually, John, that our culture is relativistic; although many people think so. I think what’s happened is that there’s a new set of absolutes in place: Things like the absolute value of personal autonomy, tolerance, acceptance of other viewpoints. And this looks like relativism, but in fact, really it’s a new absolutism that rejects traditional values in favor of these other values.
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