Often times in the discussions of philosophy and theology, one question that comes up is “Why are we here?” I think this is a question everyone should ask of themselves at some time. However, as I pondered this question recently, it occurred to me that I never see a prior question being addressed. That question is “Who are we?” or maybe even “What are we?”
It seems that if we want to know the purpose of a thing, it might help us to know what that thing is first. I could find a tool with a wooden handle and a top with a blunt end and a pronged end and wonder what that does. If I am told it is a hammer, I will then think “A hammer is used when building with nails” and can then understand the purpose of the tool that I hold.
Yet it seems that while we know what many things are in our world, we don’t really know what we are. Are we cosmic accidents just wandering along on this journey of life condemned to die a pointless and meaningless death? Are we parts of God who have forgotten our divinity and need to be reabsorbed back into the divine? Are we creatures created in the image of God? What are we?
Notice that how you answer this question will also change how you answer others. If man is an accident, then there is no reason to value him. He is only good as a tool. It is what he does that matters and not who he is. This can easily lead us to utilitarian ethics that will deny the value of man. This is what is going on when a baby is aborted because it’s “inconvenient.”
The same could apply if we are parts of God forgetting that we are divine. If that is the case, then we need to act like it. We can be the ones who are determining good and evil for instance. We will approach the world differently if we believe that it is all an illusion or that it is all divine.
If we are created in the image of God though, then we will see that our purpose is to reflect that image. If we are Christians, we will see that this is done by walking in the model of Christlikeness. (Well, hopefully we will see that.) We will see our fellow man as one who bears that image and based on that, he is one to be respected.
We will also see that morality has a basis. It is rooted in the triune God and that our ethics come from the love of the Trinity. Each person of the Trinity values the other person for who they are and not what they do. In that regards, I am to value my fellow man the same way.
I also see who I am. I am not an accident. I am a wonderful person that uniquely bears the image of God. I am made to walk as Jesus did and in the end, I will walk beside him for all time. I have been made as the crown of God’s creation and I am to live my life to give him glory.
Interesting isn’t it? Once we know what we are, it is easy to understand why we are here. If we are accidents, well who asks why an accident is here? It merely is. There is no higher purpose behind it. If we are deity ignorant, then our goal is to remove our ignorance which will focus largely on ourselves. (This is why in India, you don’t really help the poor. That messes with their karma which in turn messes with yours.)
If I am created in the image of God though, then I know why I am here. I am here to glorify God and I do that best by doing what John told me to do. I do it best by walking as Jesus did.