The Meaning of Life

Rev. Chip Hammond

I was stunned. I kept checking the LCD display to make sure it was the Christian radio station I thought I had put on. It was.

I was hearing a commercial for a local college. I'll have to paraphrase the ad, but it went something like this:

For centuries, institutions of higher learning have helped people with one Big Question: "What is the meaning of life?" We don't know. But come to our college, and we can help make you successful [with a degree in Religious Systems Management no less]. Stop pondering the meaning of life, and come and give your life meaning.

If this commercial had come on the Atheist News Network, or had been aired on American Idol, I would not have even blinked. But this was a Christian radio station. And there, hitting me right in the face, were the tenets of the faith of Existentialism.

Existentialism is near about as hopeless a philosophy as one can adopt. It says that there is no meaning to life, but we can all at least pretend that there's meaning to life --- everyone can force and impose his own personal, artificial meaning onto life, and therefore pretend to make it worth living. One ought to go to college for absolutely pragmatic reasons (to earn a lot of money, to "get ahead"), but in the end it's all meaningless anyway.

As hopeless as Existentialism is, it pales in comparison to Post-modernism. Post-modernism is the next stop along the road built by Existentialism. It says in effect, "There is no meaning to life. So let's stop pretending. Just accept things the way they are, and the way they are is meaningless."

I suppose I shouldn't have been so surprised. The Church in America (broadly speaking) has embraced Post-modernism, some very consciously, and some because they seem to lack the spiritual capacity to evaluate what the philosophers of the age are force-feeding them. So why should it seem strange that a commercial on a Christian radio station is marketing to people a philosophy that is tame compared to what they are being taught to embrace from the pulpits?

Many modern American Churches are seething with Existentialism at best, and with Post-modernism at the worst. That's what's behind much of the pragmatic drive of church advertising today:

"We'll teach you Twelve Steps to Recovery. We'll teach you how to have a better marriage, better kids, or better yourself in your career."

Of course, none of these things are bad, and in fact the Bible speaks to all of them (although I'm not sure I can biblically quantify a number of steps to recovery). But none of them are central. They are all peripherals to a godly life and a mind that has, by God's grace, learned the meaning of life, and has embraced it. Without wanting to sound simplistic, those who strive to live consistently Christian lives, by presenting their bodies as living sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, and who are being transformed by the renewing of their minds by bringing every thought captive to him, will find that most of these other issues take care of themselves.

That's not to say that we don't all need help from time to time, and in different areas. But it is to say that without figuring out the answer to the Big Question, the little ones are unanswerable as well as meaningless.

"Come to our college. Get a degree in Religious Systems Management. Don't waste your time pondering the meaning of life. Instead, just be successful."


I'm still not sure what they meant by "successful." I keep hearing the words of Jesus: "What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?"