‘It is commonplace for contemporary scientists and philosophers to give lip service to the principle that science decides only the how questions and leaves the why questions to religion’ (italics mine), writes Phillip Johnson (The Right Questions, p.68).
However, he continues, ‘the epistemic authority of science is so overwhelming and the standing of theology so precarious that “outside of science” effectively means “outside of reality”, and the premise that science is taken to entail the conclusion that the world has no purpose is effectively a non-existent purpose; how could we know of the purpose if science cannot discover it?’
Johnson rightly adds, ‘The concept of ultimate purpose is probably inseparable from the concept of divine revelation… The right question is not whether God exists but whether God has revealed the nature of the ultimate purpose of the world’ (pp.68f).
To begin to provide some answers to this question as well as some keys to opening up the ‘right questions’ with people in the wider community, let me touch on two New Testament statements.
In John 1:1-2 we read: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
And in his Letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul writes: For he (Jesus Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation;…(Colossians 1:15)
The Apostles St. John and St. Paul are telling us that Jesus is the projection into our world of the God who exists beyond space and time. Furthermore, we come to understand that out of his very nature, God the Father lovesand gives life. Throughout eternity he has given life to a Son – a Son whom he loves and delights in.
This is what the orthodox creeds mean when they speak of the eternal nature of the Son of God. And Article II of the Thirty-Nine Articles states: The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father,…
The fountain analogy. A helpful way to understand this is to think of a fountain. In the same way that the essential nature of a fountain is to pour out water, so God the Father is eternally flowing with life and love, eternally begetting his Son. Indeed, the prophet Jeremiah (2:13) tells us that the Lord says of himself that he is the ‘spring of living water’.
God the Father and God the Son are distinct persons, but they are inseparable from one another. They always love one another, and they always work together – in perfect harmony. Indeed, God the Father is always pouring the fullness of his own nature into His Son.
The source of life. Furthermore, in John 1:3 we read: All things came into being through him (the Word), and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
And in Colossians 1:16 Paul writes: For in him (Jesus Christ) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities — all things were created through him and for him.
We need to catch the flow of both John’s and Paul’s words: Throughout eternity God the Father’s nature gives life and love which we see in his one and only eternal Son who came amongst us as one of us. Furthermore, the Father hands over to His Son the task of creating others and loving others. God doesn’t need to do this to make up something lacking in his nature. This is who he is and what he does. He loves and he gives life.
Meaning. Drawing these threads together we come to understand that Jesus Christ, the eternally begotten Son of God, is the eternal image and radiance of God. We are created in the image of God and designed to conform to the image of God’s eternal Son – in our love for God and our love for one another. Our existence is part of ‘the continuation of that outgoing movement of God’s love’ (Michael Reeves, p. 43). Here we begin to find the answer to meaning and purpose.
Is all this fiction? Consider the observation of Dr. john Lennox, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, Oxford, UK: “To the majority of those who have reflected deeply and written about the origin and nature of the universe, it has seemed that it points beyond itself to a source which is non-physical and of great intelligence and power.”
For in him (Jesus Christ) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities — all things were created through him and for him (Colossians 1:16).