Creation: The Value of Man

If the human race passed through the world as a ship through the sea or the wind through the desert, a thoughtless and fruitless whim, if an eternal oblivion always lurked angrily for its prey and there were no power strong enough to wrest it from its clutches — how empty and devoid of comfort would life be!
–Søren Kierkegaard

The Value of Life

Although Kierkegaard died four years before the publication of Origin of Species, his reflection on the emptiness of temporal life may very well be applied to evolution by natural selection. During the long history of the Earth, countless species have come into existence and then become extinct; during the history of mankind, countless peoples and generations have lived and died out. It would be an enormous waste of life, if all should be gone and forgotten as if they had not lived at all. Many evolutionists have argued against Creation on this ground.

A limerick that explains George Berkeley’s idealism, viz. to be is to be perceived, addresses this issue from a different angle:
There was a young man who said “God
Must find it exceedingly odd
To think that the tree
Should continue to be
When there’s no one about in the Quad”.

Dear Sir,
Your astonishment’s odd;
I am always about in the Quad;
And that’s why the tree
Will continue to be,
Since observed by
Yours faithfully,
God.
Everything in the long history of the universe has intrinsic value, which is given by its Creator. “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these; If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you” (Luke 12:27-28). The adornment of a wild lily is greater than the pomp of a king, because of the greatness of the One who adorns and values it. Even if the lily lives for only a moment in time, its value is not thereby diminished. A human life lasting less than a hundred years is absolutely nothing compared to the universe in length of time, but it is great in value, for his Creator has “crowned him with glory and honor”.

The Pursuit of Immortality

The life of the dead is set in the memory of the living.
–Cicero

It seems to me the most common and noble pursuit among mankind is not the pursuit of happiness, but the pursuit of immortality, in various forms and disguises.

There is in the heart of every man a sense of something that transcends the temporal and material, something worth striving and even dying for. Heroes have sought immortality in noble and glorious deeds, as the Greek historian Thucydides observes, “each of them individually received that renown which never grows old, and for a sepulchre, not so much that in which their bones have been deposited, but that noblest of shrines wherein their glory is laid up to be eternally remembered…For heroes have the whole earth for their tomb”; artists seek immortal fame in their art, as Ovid proclaims at the end of Metamorphoses, “let that day come which has no power save over this mortal frame, and end the span of my uncertain years. Still in my better part I shall be borne immortal far beyond the lofty stars and I shall have an undying name”; scientists also seek immortality in their work, as Einstein is quoted to have said, “Politics is for the moment, but an equation is for eternity.”

We catch a glimpse of eternity when we understand truth and appreciate beauty; we derive a sense of immortality when we cherish the memory of our departed loved ones. Cicero put it best, “The life of the dead is set in the memory of the living.”

The pursuit of immortality is twofold, on the one hand, it seeks to know eternal Truth — the Platonic ideal, on the other hand, it seeks to be known in eternity — the heroic ideal. Immortality as such has its limitation, however. For it only lasts as long as knowledge and remembrance lasts, or as long as there is someone to know and remember. If the human race doesn’t last, all shall be lost.

It is written in the Scripture, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts”. Only in God is the twofold condition of the immortality of man fulfilled. For in knowing the living God, man knows the Eternal Truth, and being known and remembered by God, man is known in eternity.

When asked about the resurrection of the dead, Jesus said, “Have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” The patriarchs, though dead to man in the temporal world, are alive and known to God in eternity. As St. Paul writes of the Perfection to come, “Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known”.

References:

  • Cicero, Marcus Tullius. Cicero: Philippics. Trans. Walter C. A. Ker. London: William Heinemann, 1926.
  • Thucydides. The History of the Peloponnesian War. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. Oxford: Clarendon, 1881. Perseus Project. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0105
  • Hawking, Stephen. The Universe in a Nutshell. New York: Bantam Books, 2001.
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13 thoughts on “Creation: The Value of Man

  1. I just wanted you to know that I’m reading along and mulling over your thoughts. Sadly I missed a post or two because Blogger doesn’t always update my followed WordPress blogs immediately and therefore the posts can get buried. I’m going back to read them now and get caught up!

      1. I’m insane, I admit it. 😉 Actually I just have a problem with saying no. And there are so many classics that I still want to read (or re-read in depth) that I just jump right in. It’s not always sensible, but I can’t say that I regret it. 🙂

  2. “If the human race passed through the world as a ship through the sea or the wind through the desert, a thoughtless and fruitless whim, if an eternal oblivion always lurked angrily for its prey and there were no power strong enough to wrest it from its clutches — how empty and devoid of comfort would life be!
    –Søren Kierkegaard

    The Value of Life

    Although Kierkegaard died four years before the publication of Origin of Species, his reflection on the emptiness of temporal life may very well be applied to evolution by natural selection.”

    I think it has been pointed out before that, although an atheistic worldview is comfortless, that does not necessarily make it untrue. Looking forward to seeing where all of these posts lead. 🙂

    1. There is a twist here. Atheists use the apparent lack of comfort in evolution to deny the existence of God. My point is that nature seems comfortless to them because they are looking at it through the lens of unbelief.

      1. Atheists, in general, believe that you can create value for yourself, family, culture,etc, right?

      2. I don’t know about “in general”, but yes, the atheists I know believe in ideas like freedom, justice and equality, etc.

  3. I am in a huge discussion with David right now about this. I simply don’t see how it is possible to “create” values where none exists (in an atheist worldview). But he insists that you can. Maybe we are at an impasse. Or maybe I am too far removed from my former atheistic thoughts. Anyway, can you shed some light on how they think they can be created without a higher source? Every way I look at it (and granted, everything I read that agrees with me :O), and every way he describes it to me, seems to devolve into incoherence….

  4. Here is one of his responses with a list of values he says is possible.
    “If anyone cannot find meaning in their lives outside of spiritual values, like most of us do every day in other common-ground places like their personal values, family values, community values, social-cultural values, moderate material values, moral values, pursuits of happiness, friends, children, pets, music, art, poetry, charity, reading, hobbies, simply trying to make the world a better place, small acts of kindness, etc., I sincerely suggest seeking professional psychological help.”

    He states that there is no intrinsic meaning in life, but that that is not nihilism, it is just a reality. I am trying not to argue with him, but that seems to me to be a contradiction. He says there is no meaning in life but that life is what you make it. (He likes to quote Dawkins and Harris a lot). I think just listing values and saying you have them doesn’t show how it is logically possible in your worldview???

    1. I think just listing values and saying you have them doesn’t show how it is logically possible in your worldview???

      From the discussions I’ve had with David on GR, I think he knows deep down that the materialist worldview is logically inconsistent with his sense of values, but he also feels that his personal values are not supported by Christianity. His rejection of it is more emotional than rational, and the empty rhetoric of the New Atheists resonate with him.

      Having grown up in a legalistic church environment, you can relate to him better, and are in a better position to minister to him “according to the gift of Grace”. 🙂

      1. I am encouraged to hear that you think so, Nemo. I am definitely praying for grace as I talk to him, as well as that the Spirit will continue to work in his life to draw him to Him.

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