Dear Dr. Craig,
I was born Muslim and throughout my childhood, faith in God was extremely important for me especially because I lost my father at a very early age and I found solace in the idea that I am a child of an absolutely loving God (which is inherently a non-Islamic concept). As you could imagine, as I grew up and learned more about Islam, I found that my personal beliefs collided with orthodox Islamic teachings. Eventually, I lost faith in the religion, and by extension, God. I cannot say I was atheist, but I definitely behaved as if God probably does not exist.
Just about I turned 40, I had a severe mental health crisis which prompted me to reconsider my intellectual and philosophical positions on various issues and, at the helm, the question of why there is something rather than nothing.
I found the arguments that you put for the existence of a personal God quite persuasive and reasonable especially in relation to God being timeless sans creation (because the idea of God being changeless and yet making decisions was a headache for me). However, this created another problem for me, which is the question of meaning. If we were to be with God in the afterlife (an actual infinite), would this not make this earthly world meaningless (save for the sole purpose of reaching salvation)? I find something subtly nihilistic about this and I would love to hear what you think about it.
I would greatly appreciate your response as I continue to embark on my personal journey towards the truth with the hope of truly finding God.
Thank you for your work.
William Lane Craig’s Response
It’s wonderful to hear of your remarkable spiritual journey, Abu, and I hope that as a fellow pilgrim I can be of help. I also find the arguments for the existence of God quite persuasive, and it delights me that you, too, find the notion of God’s being timeless sans creation to be helpful!
A couple of thoughts occurred to me in answer to your question. First, since the future does not yet exist, we never have all of the eternal life that we shall live. Rather, at any point the life we have experienced will be finite in duration, though potentially infinite in extent. That is to say, for any point in the future that you pick, that point will be only a finite time from now, even though the series of events will proceed endlessly. Another way of putting this is that you will never arrive at actual infinity. Your life will always be finite, though growing without end. What that means is that this earthly life will always bear some finite proportion to what we live in the afterlife. It is not as though our finite earthly existence is overwhelmed by an actually infinite future existence, for our lives will always be at every point finite.
Second, it is the decisions that we make during this life that determine our fate in the afterlife. It is here that we set our feet on the course that will take us either into everlasting union with God or separation from Him. Thus, far from robbing this life of meaning, it is the afterlife that infuses this life with meaning. What we do during this life is of paramount significance because it determines where we will spend eternity. It is the person who has no hope of an afterlife whose earthly life becomes objectively meaningless because the choices and actions he undertakes have no ultimate consequences. No matter what he does, he will wind up the same. It is no wonder that atheism leads to despair!
May God continue to guide you along your journey toward Him!
- William Lane Craig