Dialogue in Calvin and Hobbes comic strip:
Teacher: If there are no questions we’ll move on to the next chapter.
Calvin: I have a question.
Teacher: Certainly Calvin, what is it?
Calvin: What’s the point of human existence?
Teacher: I meant any question about the subject at hand.
Calvin: Frankly, I’d like to have that issue resolve before I expend any more energy on this.
Brad S. Gregory in his The Unintended Reformation; How A Religious Revolution Secularized Society builds the second chapter around the subject of “Life Questions.” The name of the chapter is “Relativizing Doctrines.” The Life Questions (Gregory capitalizes this throughout the book) he speaks of are the following:
‘What should I live for, and why?’ ‘What should I believe, and why should I believe it?’ ‘What is morality, and where does it come from?’ ‘What kind of person should I be?’ ‘What is meaningful in life, and what should I do in order to lead a fulfilling life?’
As he develops his argument, he points out that historically the majority of Westerners since the Middle Ages have answered the Life Questions through some form of Christianity. He states that however these claims work themselves out, they must involve doctrinal claims of one sort or another.
And this, according to Gregory, is the rub. Because over time, and especially since the Reformation
Christian truth claims vary greatly across different individuals, congregations, churches, and traditions. In countless ways they conflict with one another. … Somewhere, at some time, by some congregation or individual, almost anything has gone or still goes under the adjective ‘Christian’. Combined with this vast pluralism is the widespread (but not unanimous) view that whatever its particular content, religious conviction is a highly personal, individual matter, such that only each person can determine what is right and best for her or him.
Then, as a result, each person becomes his or her own sovereign.
… truth is whatever is true to you, values are whatever you value, priorities are whatever you prioritize, and what you should live for is whatever you decide you should live for. In short: whatever.
Even though we may reject religious answers to the Life Questions, one cannot be absolved from answering them, even if implicitly. Gregory spends the remainder of this chapter exploring the root philosophical-theological causes, implications and complications of this moral relativity.1
This is what Calvin wanted answered, before moving on. Good for Calvin.
- Brad S. Gregory, The Unintended Reformation; How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012), 76, 77 ↩