Life – simply what you make it?

By Dave Henning / February 16, 2024

“Life isn’t simply what you make it.  Often it is what it is.  We are not fully free to impose our meanings on life.  Rather, we must honor life by discovering a meaning that fits with the world as it is.”- Timothy Keller

In Chapter 3 (“A Meaning That Suffering Can’t Take from You”) of Making Sense of God, Timothy Keller stresses that this might be the most important, fundamental question: What is the meaning of life?  Yet, Pastor Keller observes, many thinkers regard this as a bogus query.  Because, they assert, meaning only refers to what we humans happen to feel at the moment.

However, Timothy notes, as Martin Heidegger argues convincingly in Being and Time, human beings alone possess “the capacity to put their own existence into question.  They are creatures for whom existence as such, not just particular features of it, is problematic.”

Furthermore, Timothy states, in common usage the term “to mean” contains two overlapping senses:

  1. purpose – something has meaning if intention exists behind it.  Did you mean to do that?
  2. significance – something points to something beyond itself.  Like a medal for bravery above and beyond the call of duty.

But contemporary secular people tend to cringe at the phrase “the meaning of life.”  They feel it liberating to relinquish meaning.  Because to accept meaning in life assumes a moral standard of right living and being to which all must conform.  As a result, that takes away the freedom to make meaning for ourselves.

Therefore, postmodern culture sees any claim that a Meaning to all life equates to a form of bondage.  Hence, this view proclaims that no one — and certainly no religious institution — possesses the right to tell us how we might live.  Thus, they see this freedom as exhilarating.    That you make life happy and meaningful.

Consequently, as Timothy asks in the next blog, is such a position cogent and consistent?  On a practical basis, does it work for your life?

Today’s question: Do you agree with Pastor Keller that life isn’t simply what you make it?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the February Short Meditation, ”

Tomorrow’s blog: “Inherent meanings – not created”

About the author

Dave Henning

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