My latest post at Evangelical Realism seems to have attracted the attention of a self-described “New Evangelist” named David Roemer. It’s an odd response, though. My post was about William Lane Craig’s problems with the doctrine of Hell and Christian exclusivism, and, well, see if you can tell what (if anything) Roemer’s response has to do with the post he’s responding to.
There are three theories about our purpose in life: 1) To serve God in this world in order to be with Him in the next. 2) Life has no meaning. Man is a “useless passion” is the way Jean Paul Sartre put it. 3) To achieve self-realization and serve our fellow man.
There is a considerable amount of evidence for #1, some for #2, but none at all for #3. # 3 is irrational because we can achieve self-realization in different ways. The problem of life is deciding how to achieve self-realization. Concerning # 1, we are not guaranteed salvation. It is something to hope for with “fear and trembling
That’s the whole post response, including the two missing punctuation marks at the end. But what does he mean by this odd response?
This looks like a classic case of someone reading something that disturbs them, and rushing to put up a response—any response—so that they can feel like the problem has been dealt with. It doesn’t matter whether the response is relevant or even correct, as long as they can feel like there is an “answer.”
We can see the rushed and inattentive nature of this response both in the missing punctuation and in the fact that he has accidentally fallen into preaching salvation by works. Evangelical Christianity teaches that we are saved by grace through faith, not by serving God in this life so that we can be with Him in the next. We are supposed to serve Him (they say), but this is supposed to be a response to salvation, not the means of obtaining it.
Then there’s the matter of his shallow philosophizing about “purpose,” as though it would necessarily be a good thing for someone else to impose a goal that’s not necessarily in our own best interests. “Purpose” is a code word for the idea that it’s really all about me: I’m so important that God Himself has to focus His energies primarily on making sure that I end up in a state of eternal bliss. You never hear Christians bragging about what a good thing it is that God intends for most people to end up suffering the eternal torments of Hell, even though Biblically speaking that’s the “purpose” most people are ultimately subject to. No, when believers talk about “purpose,” they mean the nice things God is necessarily going to intend for themselves, and never mind about the damned. Yet the damned are allegedly the vastly greater majority, so if it were God’s purpose to save us, He’s going to fail in that purpose far more often than He succeeds. And that’s a pretty poor excuse for a God.
The good news is that we are actually free to pursue our own purposes, and there’s no divine decree that says our personal goals and intentions are necessarily futile and irrelevant. Sure, it would be nice if the most powerful being in the universe had nothing better to do with His/Her/Its time than to make sure we were always happy, but any serious examination of the real world will document the fact that happiness and blessing are not the result of sitting around waiting for some higher power to do all the work. True blessing comes from men and women setting their own goals, and working together to improve life for themselves and those around them. That’s a purpose that’s inherent in our nature as material beings, and it’s all the purpose we really need.