One of the deepest questions we can (and perhaps the oddest) is: why are conscious, here, and living? I know. Abstract, right? Kind of. But pretty much everyone wants to live with a purpose. We might think, I live to rebuild cars or I live to craft beautiful art. So what makes us feel like we have purpose; what makes us feel like we even think about purpose.
I am not sure a dog can think about why he does what he does. He may love bones. But does he think, why do I love bones? Unlikely. Humans alone think about why. We all seem to want to know our purpose, want to know why we are here. And so it is not such a stretch to ask: why are we conscious at all—why can we even think about “why”?
The answer involves our relationship to God.
Image, Light, Being
Three passages give particular insight into God’s bestowal of being and existence to creation. They are:
- God created man in his own image (Gen 1:27).
- The true light … illumines every human being (πάντα ἄνθρωπον; John 1:9).
- In your light do we see light (Ps 36:9).
Why these passages?
Well, both the Hebrew creation account (Gen 1) and the Christian creation account (John 1) show how creatures, particularly human beings, relate to their Creator.
In the first creation account, humans image God as a reflection in a mirror—he moves and we move. The second tells us that humans live in his light as the Word illumines us all. Psalm 33:9 generically tells us how we all live: in God’s light, we walk.
The two creation accounts speak about one reality: the Word of God (John 1:1–3 with Gen 1:3) and the true Image of God (Col 1:15) speak creation into existence and illuminate it with being; the Image of God, Christ, defines our being, our self-hood. Hence, our purpose is to become as he is since that means we become who we were supposed to be.
These metaphors speak about how “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). In short, humans image God by receiving the gift of being from God; humans walk in the gift of God’s light, that luminous metaphor for God’s bestowal of life.
All of this sounds abstract and unuseful.
Fine. I get the critique. Theology needs to *do,* this much I affirm.
How does this *do*?
Answer: minimally, tracing our being to the God’s gift of being tells us that every human (all creation) relies on God’s donation of being, his good gift of life and existence. We are contingent.
We rely on him.
We are not our own.
He is our Maker.
We live as a gift.
So: practically, it leads us to give thanks always for the good gift of life which is “very good” (Gen 1:31).
All the harm and trauma we have does not come from God. We corrupt the good gift of God. We harm it. We wreck it. God loves what he creates. He loves us. He gave us life. Be thankful. Hate the corruption. Love the gift.
In the end, knowing why we are conscious at all by knowing that God gives us being helps us to start with gratitude. It lets us see life as a gratuitous donation of God’s goodness to us. It is a foundation, a start, a place to begin and, I should note, a place to end.
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