Prominent Evangelical apologist Ravi Zacharias recently posited:
Having killed God, the atheist is left with no reason for being, no morality to espouse, no meaning to life, and no hope beyond the grave (p. 98).
I unfortunately did not receive this memo from the grand atheist conspiracy council. Is it possible that Zacharias is mistaken?
By making this statement, Zacharias is making the implicit claim that he, as a biblical theist, has a reason for being, a morality to espouse, a meaning for life, and hope beyond the grave. Despite the dogmatism of his claims, the Bible does not present a unified voice on the reason for human existence, ethics, and life beyond the grave.
The Bible presents neither exhaustive nor explicative ethics—it is not an ethical workbook. Whatever ethics are packaged in the Bible are buried in arcane case law, outmoded social conditions, and innumerable translational and exegetical obstacles. The reader must construct ethical meaning from the Bible. That is, she must interface with the biblical texts, a process that is fraught with human subjectivity, in order to translate the arcane to the present.
The ethical worldview of Zacharias, or any Bible believer, is merely a selective and fragile psycho-social application of the Bible. I doubt, for example, that his Christian ethical construct allows room for slavery, selling off of daughters, charging usury selectively to non-Jews, the application of theocratic sabbatical and jubilee conventions, the donning of head coverings by women, or the disapproval of women teaching men. All of these milestones are ethical exemplars in the Bible, but his psycho-social interpretive matrices gloss over their relevance to his ethical construct. He is little different than the atheist in his culturally-contingent meaning construction despite his claims to a Bible-God grounding.
Morality does not require a God or a scripture. Morality is the result of natural selection operating in social organisms. Behaviors such as reciprocity, altruism, and contingency are exhibited in social primates. They do not arise from the instruction of a god—they are the result of evolutionarily selective pressures on the phenotypic (or memetic) behaviors of social organisms. Zacharias makes a foolish straw man to posit that humanity requires the instruction of God in order to exhibit ethics.
The Bible does not give a uniform voice about life beyond the grave. There are multiple passages that deny any life or consciousness beyond the grave. There are others that present humans as departed spirits, detached from the body. How Zacharias determines which personal eschatology in the Bible to espouse is purely a result the stream of cultural evolution to which he is attached. In the future I hope to develop some of the biblical exegetical exemplars of the divergent post-mortem paradigms in the Bible. However, for now, let me note, that the Bible believer is no more solidly grounded on a divine revelation to deny conscious existence after death than to accept the idea of disembodied spirit existence.
Zacharias, R. (2004) The real face of atheism. Grand Rapids: Baker House