Why? It’s a question that comes up in everything we do. It’s something that can consume us and something that can drive us, sometimes backwards and sometimes forwards. We have this insatiable quest for understanding the reason behind things. It starts as early as we can speak. I field the question on a constant basis about everything with my toddler. “Don’t hit the cat.” “Why, mommy?” “Don’t put your fork in your nose.” “Why, mommy?” So sometimes I don’t feel the question “why” really even needs to be answered. But still, he wants to know the reason behind the imperative. Then again, I find myself as the mom often asking the child that: why did you hit your brother? Why did you tear the pages out of your book? Sometimes those questions we may not really want to know the reason behind it, yet we still find ourselves needing to ask it.
How did we come to be such curious creatures? I think we must first determine if we are the only creatures with this kind of curiosity. The old adage says that “curiosity killed the cat” but mankind’s curiosity goes much deeper than just an inquisitive moment of an animal. The cat may want to know why there’s a spot of light on the wall, but the human mind is going to want to know why that plastic device can bring forth light, why that light is a ray and a particle, why the light looks that color, why the light cannot operate indefinitely, or why the light reaches the wall faster than the sound of our laughter. But then we’ll also ask ourselves why the cat is chasing that light and why we are so amused by it.
The human search for answering why is something completely unique in the animal kingdom. Lions don’t investigate why the gazelle comes to the river to drink; the lion just knows that it does. The cow doesn’t research why the grass grows when there is more rain; the cow just knows it has plenty to eat. The dog may know it is cooler in the shade than in the sun, but it doesn’t understand why, nor does it really care. Therefore this can’t be some evolutionary advancement. Evolution doesn’t require the organism to understand the reason behind things, just whether they are better suited to survive.
But humans have this drive for understanding why. It is that quest for “why” that leads us to discover: why do plants grow in the sun? It’s what pushes us to explore and research: why are the pyramids here? Why does the sun move across the sky? But mostly, it shows our drive to understand the rest of mankind. This quest for why has generated entire fields of study in philosophy, psychology, sociology, anthropology. Why do we do the things we do? Why do we behave the way we behave? The one question asked at the end of a relationship: why? The one question asked to people risking their lives to climb Mt. Everest: why? The one question we want answered when convicting a killer of his crimes: why? The one question we demand from God in the face of tragedy: why?
Should we then stop to consider, why do we ask why? What is it about mankind that compels us to understand the reason behind things? We want to discover more about the world around us. We want to explore what is beyond us in the universe. We want to understand where we have our beginnings. But why? Because it is what makes us uniquely human. Nature itself cannot account for the existence of this inquisitive feature. This quest for understanding why must come from somewhere outside of nature because nature doesn’t care why. People do.
We have philosophers and theoretical thinking, things that have no use in an evolutionary sense. Evolution is only concerned with survival, not theorizing about the cosmos or mathematics. Evolution would not drive our desire to discover reason. The very fact that we’re pondering why we ponder things goes to show that there is something more to us than an evolved set of rearranged matter. Something outside of us, outside of nature, must have given us that feature. It gave us this drive to discover, to explore, and to create so that we would have tasks to go accomplish above the simple nature of survival. We could dream things to do and invent and imagine. But then, not only were we as humans given this unique quest for why, but we were placed here with so many different why’s to explore. We were given this amazing earth with vastly different landscapes, more variety than any other planet. We have oceans with amazing creatures and snow-capped mountains with their own atmosphere. We have deserts, tropics, plains, and icebergs. We have huge mammals and microscopic bacteria. We’re comprised of complicated organic molecules, proteins and enzymes, organized into systems. The earth is uniquely placed so that we are able to see beyond our galaxy and send devices to explore the solar system and the universe. We’re able to seek for the whys in the cosmos and in microbiology. We have a need to discover and we have things given for us to discover.
Evolution could not suddenly generate this kind of awareness and theoretical thinking on its own. Something cannot arise from nothing. If in the beginning there were only particles, the spirit for discovery could never have arisen. If in the beginning there were a Divine Mind, then we can explain the existence of particles and mind. Ironically, many people want to use the quest for knowledge in their effort to disprove God. But, the very quest for knowledge itself cannot be explained apart from the existence of God.
As we embark on a new year, many people will take stock of where they are in life and what their goals for the new year are. Some may make plans to finally use that gym membership or read one of those books that’s been sitting on the shelf for a while. Some may plan to quit a bad habit or to start a good habit. Some may decide to spend more time with family or make time to travel more. Whatever the goals for the new year may be, they are always in an effort to make an improvement, striving to better ourselves. So we ought to stop and ask ourselves: why? Why are we trying to better our lives? It goes straight to the heart of the meaning of life. We are trying to improve ourselves because we believe that life has meaning somehow. Otherwise, why bother trying to improve?
But trying to find that meaning of life and purpose for improvement can’t be done in an atheist mindset. According to the atheist, we are just an accidental by-product of matter, chance, and time. There is no real reason or purpose in our existence. All we have is this life now and nothing afterwards. All we face is death-nothing more. Is death truly all we have to live for? If there is no immortality there is no purpose. Live as you please in the moment for after all, what difference does it make? So why would we still feel this innate compulsion to improve our lives, to live good and justly? It is because we are aware of an immortality whether we choose to believe in it or not. That immortality is necessary for life to be meaningful.
But having immortality alone does not give us the significance that we seek. For an eternity of a useless and purposeless existence is torture. That explanation to our significance, or lack thereof, without the existence of God is terrifying and depressing. Mere duration of existence does not make that existence meaningful. If man could live forever but there were no God, man’s existence would still have no ultimate significance. So it’s not just immortality man needs for significance, he needs God and immortality. If there is no God, then life, even an eternal life, becomes meaningless.
See, modern man thought he was oh so clever to get rid of God because he thought he was finally free to do as he pleases. Man could live without being inhibited by God’s existence. But what he only succeeded in doing is creating a miserable and insignificant life for himself. Without God and without immortality, man’s life is absurd. William Lane Craig says, “One cannot live happily and consistently on an atheistic worldview. In order to be happy, one must believe in objective meaning, value, and purpose.” And you can’t have objective meaning, value, and purpose without the existence of God.
So while you are making your plans for a better life in 2016, remember what it is that gives that new and improved life purpose. And rejoice that we do have a God that gives our lives meaning and purpose as well as the opportunity to have an immortal life with Him, if we would only trust in His gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.