It occurred to me the other day that Nietzsche is right. The only thing I could possibly have faith in, if God is dead, is me. This thought, I must confess, is rather unsettling (namely, because I know myself far too well). But, if there are no transcendent values, if there is no meaning, what else is there to put my faith in?
I suppose I could put my faith in “science” or in some abstract notion like “humanity” or “the universe”—but these things are only meaningful, in a world devoid of intrinsic value, if I consider them meaningful. In such a world, I, the subjective knower, am the arbiter of truth, meaning, and value. It is clear, therefore, that, in actuality, “I” (and not some objective reality outside of myself) am what I truly have faith in. I have faith in my beliefs, my intentions, and my desires (e.g., my affection for science is the source of my trust in science; for science in and of itself has no objective meaning or value).
This, however, is truly a miserable, and hopeless, state of affairs. I am finite; I am mortal; I can be (and will be) destroyed. My existence is a temporary blip—a shifting shadow like the shadows on Plato’s cave wall. I am merely the byproduct of cold, impersonal, meaningless, physical processes which blindly, and uncaringly, march on without direction until the final death and collapse of the universe. In such a world, I am not a subject; but, merely, an object—a passive object. All of my thoughts, longings, desires, and emotions, as well as my ability to reason, are merely physical happenings—unimportant, undirected, predetermined, events. Thus we see the sickening irony of the situation: there is no “I”—at least, not in any traditional sense of the term.
To make matters worse, I am unreliable. I fail to understand or to comprehend or to communicate effectively. I am forgetful and can easily be deceived. I fail to keep my promises. I tell lies and cheat and steal and have pity parties. I lack self confidence and lack the power to change anything about the laws of nature which completely hold sway over my fate.
As I ponder these things I realize that, in the absence of God, there is no hope; because I am my only hope . . . and I have no delusions of grandeur.
When we recognize that placing total faith in ourselves is utterly useless and ultimately futile, we are finally in a position to understand the paradox that Truth presents us with: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:24-25).
“I” is an absurdity—a meaningless illusory object—operating under the delusion that the world has value. Life is hopeless; the universe is impersonal; I will end; I can’t save myself. This is because I live in a fallen world disconnected from Truth and estranged from the Giver of Life. I remain in this despairing state so long as I worship “self”; so long as I pin my hopes on a temporal, finite, feeble, dying blip in the universe. This is why Truth tells us to deny ourselves and to follow Him. Only He can give us life; only He can restore meaning and value. Apart from Him, we remain in the void, in the darkness, and held captive by death.