Christians will often point out to atheists that if there is no God, then there is no objective meaning and purpose to life. Atheists will typically respond by saying that they create their own meaning in life. They find meaning in what they do, in family, etc. There are at least four problems with this, however.

First, they are substituting subjective, proximate meaning for objective, transcendent meaning. When people ask what the meaning and purpose of life is, they are not asking for advice concerning what meaning and purpose they should invent for their life. They are searching for something transcendent. They are looking to discover something that is already there, not invent something new. By substituting objective, transcendent meaning for subjective, proximate meaning, the atheist is referring to an entirely different understanding of meaning.

Second, but related to the first, when it comes to meaning and purpose in life, people are looking for something that is bigger than one’s own will and preferences. The self is not big enough to fulfill our longing for meaning and purpose. That’s why the atheist’s own invented meanings cannot satisfy the soul. Something more is needed – something transcendent.

Third, finding meaning in such things as family is understandable because such relationships are objectively meaningful. So the atheist is not wrong to find meaning in family. He simply can’t make sense of why family is meaningful.

Fourth, if meaning and purpose are invented by the self, does that mean anything and everything can have meaning? If one chooses to find purpose in stamp-collecting, does that make stamp-collecting meaningful? If one chooses to find purpose in torturing people, does that make torturing people meaningful? Clearly something more than the human will is required for something to have meaning and purpose.

Meaning and purpose are not inventions of the human will, but objective features of the world God created. We can only find meaning and purpose if we choose to live the way God created us to live and do the things God desires for us to do.