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People Matter Most

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By: Paul M. Gould – worldviewbulletin.substack.com – December 2022

People Matter Most | Psalm 84:11

I have a deep intuition that I matter. You matter too. You are significant because you are an object of great value. Scratch the object talk: you are a person of great value. People matter. My intuition, and I bet yours too, as the philosopher Greg Ganssle puts it, is that people matter most.[1] Consider times of national tragedy. When 9/11 happened, we didn’t lament the loss of the World Trade Center Towers (at least not initially). We lamented the loss of people. When a hurricane hits the coast of Florida, a tornado sweeps through North Texas, or a blizzard through Colorado, leaving a path of destruction, we are saddened by the loss of property but grieve deeply any loss of life. This intuition, I submit, is one that nearly everyone shares. So, people matter most.

This fact about people raises a pressing question. Ganssle asks: “What kind of picture of reality makes room for the fact that people matter most?”[2] This is a great question. In fact, I think there is an argument from the deep, objective, supreme intrinsic value of persons to God. It could go like this:

On theism, it is not surprising that people matter most. On naturalism, it is surprising that people matter most. Therefore (by the likelihood principle), the fact that people matter most strongly supports theism.

Of course, this argument is not airtight. But it does suggest that the reality of persons fits best within a theistic framework. Why? The reason, as Ganssle writes, is because “In the Christian story, the most fundamental reality is personal.” God is a personal being and creates this universe, including finite persons, for reasons. What those reasons might be are hotly debated, but for my money, I think it is best to think that God created human persons out of love. His perfect love spills out in creating, bringing into being creatures like him that can enter into meaningful relationships with God and others. On theism, it is not surprising that a God of love creates persons for reasons. Humans are not accidental by-products of mindless physical processes. On naturalism, however, (at least on more austere versions of naturalism, such as Russellian naturalism), the fact that there are human persons is late, local, and accidental. We would not expect human persons, beings that “matter most,” to arise by blind processes. Thankfully, a happy accident occurred and so we exist. As Ganssle writes, on Russellian naturalism, “whatever personal meaning or value we find . . . is there in spite of the nature of reality rather than because of the nature of reality.”[3] Hence, on naturalism, the existence of persons (beings with deep, intrinsic, supreme value) is surprising.

As you contemplate the biblical story this new year, reflect on the fact that you matter most. God demonstrates this deep and abiding value, as well as his love, by sending his Son so that we can find union with the God who created us in love for a purpose.


[1] Gregory E. Ganssle, Our Deepest Desires (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2017), 21.

[2] Ibid., 22.

[3] Ibid., 29.

— Paul M. Gould is an Associate Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Director of the M.A. Philosophy of Religion program at Palm Beach Atlantic University. He is the author or editor of ten scholarly and popular-level books including Cultural Apologetics, Philosophy: A Christian Introduction, and The Story of the Cosmos. He has been a visiting scholar at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School’s Henry Center, working on the intersection of science and faith, and is the founder and president of the Two Tasks Institute. You can find out more about Dr. Gould and his work at Paul Gould.com and the Two Tasks Institute. He is married to Ethel and has four children.

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Read MoreSource: December Issue of The Worldview Bulletin-Pt. 1