Human Nature and the Purpose of Existence
Written by: Beth Davies-Stofka
Christianity teaches that the universe was created through love by an intelligent power, namely the God of the Bible. Creation was purposeful, not arbitrary, and therefore the universe is not morally neutral, but fundamentally good. In this purposeful creation, everything and everyone is intrinsically valuable. God's design or purpose for creation reflects God's intention that all creatures enjoy perfect love and justice. God works in human history to fulfill that purpose. God created human beings in the divine image, enabling humans to have some understanding of God and of God's vast and complex design. The purpose of life is to love and serve God in order to help bring about God's glorious plan for creation.
Reason is a unique gift bestowed by God on humans and enables them to reflect on their own nature and conscience, and from that derive knowledge of God's will for creation. But a complete understanding is beyond human reach. To fulfill the goal of wholeness in an existence perfected by both justice and love, something more is needed. Humans are not expected to accomplish the divine plan alone. The fulfillment of God's purpose depends on God's grace. For Christians, grace is God's freely-given favor and love.
Reason is a good gift, sometimes misused for selfish, willful, or prideful purposes. The substitution of selfish ambition for God's will is a condition that Christians call sin, meaning separation or alienation from God.
The Christian concept of sin originates in the story of Adam and Eve found in chapters 2-3 of the Book of Genesis, a story that has central importance for Christians. The story relates the creation by God of the first humans, a man and woman. God placed them in a beautiful garden called Eden, which provided for all their physical needs, as well as companionship with each other and fellowship with God. For these first humans, God had but one rule. In the garden stood "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil," whose fruit Adam and Eve should not eat. When Adam and Eve later broke the rule and ate the fruit, God banished them from the garden, condemning them and their descendants to a life of hard work, pain, disease, and eventual death, and submitting the earth itself to "bondage." Christians call this humanity's "fall" from innocence.