Under our now Christian model of metaphysics as established by my seven previous posts on this topic, we must now better understand purpose. It has been established that we, as humans, are made to serve a purpose created for us by God which is equal, in some sense, to the purpose he has for himself. That is, God made us for the purpose of existing in the state that He is in “presently.” The strange thing about this purpose is that, on the simplest level, we are not presently fulfilling it. Instead of being infinitely loving, infinitely good, infinitely real beings, we are hate filled, imperfect, mortal ones. So does this mean we have failed?
In many eastern philosophies and religions, it is believed that souls are subject to a tireless cycle of vain reincarnation until they finally perfect the act of living, and in so doing, achieve some perfected state of being which frees them from the cycle of birth and death. In some cases, this whole processes is viewed as utter vanity, like Prometheus’ rock, striving after the unachievable only to return to the starting point, and thus the perfected state of being is a state in which an individual does not act and perhaps does not even exist. In other cases, the journey is seen as valuable based on the fame and honor that can be achieved throughout the process (e.g. the cycle of heroism in greek and roman epic). In reality, it seems to me that fame and honor would hardly be worth an endless cycle of birth, death and pain.
I bring all this up, because under our current model, it may well seem that life is much like that. We are born, we sin, we are reborn. Over and over again. Constantly striving for perfection, but never getting it. So why? Why does God see it as fitting for us all to be sentenced to somewhere between zero and one hundred and twenty years of this aimless strife? It is not an easy question, and I fear the answer I leave us with, while hopefully intellectually satisfying, will not sit well with us. But that is well. Such is a part of the nature of living in an unperfected order (a fallen order).
I turn to our model: we are beings that were given a choice to love God and to exist or to hate Him and die, and we have chosen the latter option. Upon so doing, we were given a second chance, and this life is our decision process. All this is as such, that a risen humanity might have a perfected understanding of what a joy it is to exist in God and the perpetually fallen may justly be allowed to creep away from that joy as they have chosen to do even with a “second chance.” It is absolute nonsense for humanity to be given the perfected understanding of Heaven without experiencing Hell. Wisdom is by definition the result of experience, and God could not have made a humanity that has the wisdom gained by the experience of Hell without having the experience of it. For by doing so, He would defy the very structure of reality, i.e. He would defy Himself.
Thus earthly living is our second chance. But why does it seem like an endless cycle of chances and ruins? And why is it so long?
I feel quite confident that the answer to these questions is that neither of these things are the case: life is a single decision, a single second chance, and it is very short. It does not really make sense for God to give the same eternal being multiple chances to make the decision between life and death (that is, without anything occurring in-between to change the being). Even if we imagine the process from a chronological perspective, it is utter nonsense. It is as if one were to ask an atheist if he believes in God and upon receiving his negation, re-ask the same question after no debate or persuasion. It’s just silly. Instead, when any of the faculties of the soul are being exercised (whether it be the intellect, as it is in this example, or the will as it is in the matter at hand), in-between prompts, the soul must go through some sort of transformational processes if we are to expect a different result. Therefore, it is necessary that there exists our decision-making process, where we are allowed to experience a distance from God such that His very existence does not compel us to choose Him. The length of this process, though it may not seem so at present, is negligible when held in perspective of eternity.
I am quite sorry to say that the doctrines don’t go much farther than that, and while they may provide a model of sufficient functionality as to feed the intellect, they are intrinsically destined to leave the rest of us in a state of uneasiness. It does not satisfy the heart that its sole purpose of being would be merely to make a single decision. And that is where the misunderstanding lies. All of us, no matter how strongly convinced of the necessity of supernatural reality, are prone, at times, to naturalism. The better half of the mind might know that sheer joy awaits us after death, but the will cannot help the dread of something after death, the undiscovered country from whose bourn no travel returns. And so also, while one may know very well that a better purpose awaits us in Heaven, it is almost impossible to not be bothered that nothing so grand exists in this life alone.
And in a sense it doesn’t, “Vanity, vanity, said the preacher,” but there is still much reason to live, for that single decision which summarizes the entire occurrence of our earthly lives is so very important that it is worth an entire lifetime of toil to make it properly. It is worth every drop of sweat, blood, and tears that goes into everything you do from creating a work of art, to playing a sport, to taking out the trash. In fact, it was worth infinitely more than all that, for the decision to live would not even be yours to make had the Infinite God not first decided to die.