Interview with

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Audio Transcript

What if this life is really vanity? What if this life, all our work and homework and loves and friendships and activities and everything we spend so much time on — what if it’s all really pointless in the end? It’s a question we get from a listener named Blake. “Hello, Pastor John. I was wondering if it’s possible to be saved and to be a nihilist? There’s a big part of me that just feels like nothing in life really matters, everything is just temporary anyways. The end result for everyone is death. But at the same time, I don’t feel like Christ would want me to feel that way. I do though, and I’m not sure what to think about it. Thanks for the help!”

That word comes from the Latin nihil, that means “nothing.” So, the idea is that everything amounts to nothing. Wikipedia — and I checked two or three dictionaries and encyclopedias of philosophy, and this is the simplest — says, “Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Moral nihilists assert that morality does not inherently exist, and that any established moral values are abstractly contrived.”

Now, given both those definitions, it is obvious that they are contrary to what the Bible teaches and what Christianity has meant for two thousand years. God does give meaning and purpose and value to human existence. He himself is the ultimate value, and his purpose gives meaning to life. His holiness defines what is good and beautiful so that morality does inherently exist, and moral values are not merely abstractly contrived. So, nihilism is the opposite of what the Bible reveals to be true. And to embrace nihilism as true would necessarily mean rejecting what the Bible presents as truth about God and Christ and their purposes for the world. And that rejection would mean that a person would be choosing to reject God’s offer of salvation.

“It is possible to feel like a nihilist and be saved — if you don’t stay feeling that way. So, pray for deliverance.”

But I can’t bring myself to believe that Blake was asking something so obvious. He says: Can you be a nihilist and be saved? The answer seems so obvious to me. I don’t think he means that merely. Here is his own definition of what he is talking about: “There is a big part of me that just feels like nothing in life really matters. Everything is just temporary anyways. The end result for everyone is death.” So, here is Blake’s definition of nihilism: (1) It feels like nothing matters. (2) Everything is temporary. (3) Because the end result is death for everybody. So, let me respond objectively, biblically, and very briefly to each one with a bullet, and then turn around and get at what I think the issue is; namely, he says: It feels like this.

1. It feels like nothing matters. Actually, Blake, everything matters, because God created everything with a purpose. Proverbs 16:4, “The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.”

2. He says, everything is temporary. No, Blake. It is not. Paul says, “The things that are seen are temporary [or transient], but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). That means, you and me. You never met a temporary person. They all live forever. Life is infinitely significant.

3. He says, the end result is, for everyone, death. Blake, no. It is not. Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” Death is not the end for anyone.

So, my last response is: What about Blake’s feeling? What he says is: There is a big part of me that just feels this way. And my response to this is: It is possible, Blake, to feel this way and be saved, if you don’t stay feeling this way. Feelings are fickle, and they can become deep, settled positions that destroy you. Satan may have shot a fiery arrow of doubt and disillusionment at you. It lodged in your mind and your heart. God allowed it in order to test you. So, fight through the feeling. Confess it to God. Admit it. Hate it. Set yourself against it. Pray that God would deliver you from it.

“Death is not the end for anyone. God’s judgment is.”

Then immerse yourself in the truth, because there is another feeling in you. You said so. You said: I don’t feel like Christ would want me to feel this way. Well, that is good. That is good. That is real competition in your heart. And it didn’t come from the devil. No, Christ wouldn’t want you to feel this way. And he is not arbitrary in what he wants. He has his reasons, and he wants to give them to you. So, give yourself no rest until you find Christ’s reasons for not being a nihilist.


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