Winter 2018

People Matter Most

Book excerpt from 'Our Deepest Desires' by Professor Gregory E. Ganssle

By Greg Ganssle

September 11, 2001, marks our shared consciousness. We were all glued to our television sets. The memories are burned into our minds and hearts. We will never forget that day. On that day, no one grieved for the loss of the buildings. The World Trade Center Towers were magnificent, beautiful buildings. They were marvels of engineering. But we did not grieve for them. That day we grieved for the people. We commemorate 9-11 because of the value we place on people. We remember them — we feel we must remember them — because people matter. Our shared tragedies remind us that people matter most.

The fact that people matter most is something we rarely think about. It is a deep commitment that almost everyone shares. Reflecting on this commitment suggests a question about reality. Which picture of reality makes room for the fact that people matter most? The Christian story makes good sense of this aspect of our lives. A simple observation is enough to show this claim to be true: In the Christian story, the most fundamental reality is personal.

Personhood is at the center of the Christian story. To say that God is real is to admit that God is the ultimate ground of the universe. Everything depends on God, and God does not depend on anything else. This dependence is captured in the idea that God is the creator of the universe. The universe is the purposeful product of a personal being.

Not only is the universe a created thing, but human beings are also created things. God has specific reasons for creating us. No human being, on the Christian view, is an accident. God purposefully brought us into existence. The fact that we are made by God guarantees that each human life is both valuable and meaningful in an objective sense. Our value is a matter of our worth in the cosmic scheme of things. Our meaning is a matter of there being a point to our existence. Regardless of how we feel about our worth, God has bestowed great value on us. The value that any human person has is given to her. It is not something that she has to achieve. Each person has intrinsic value because each is made by God for his good reasons. The point to our existence is not a matter of our accomplishing anything or of our succeeding at some task. Our lives are meaningful simply because God has reasons for making us. We stand in relation to the fundamental meaning-maker of the universe. We have been made and placed in this world for God’s purposes. Although our accomplishments are fragile, our meaning is secure.

We find that people matter most. How deep are persons in our picture of reality? In the Christian story, the most fundamental reality is a personal God. Persons are central to reality. The fit between our deepest longings and the Christian story is compelling.


Adapted from Our Deepest Desires, by Gregory E. Ganssle (professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology). ©2017 by Gregory E. Ganssle. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426. | ivpress.com.

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