Why Do We Care?
Care is not a material property or a material thing that we can touch. It is not composed of material stuff. It cannot be quantified, touched, weighed, or tested in a science lab. Nothing in brute materialism accounts for or explains the concept of “caring.” Of course, we can say the same for many other non-material concepts: love, joy, peace, anger, justice, jealousy, kindness, mercy, intelligence, etc. Most of what humans consider important are non-material concepts.
Why do we care about anything at all? What explains this interesting, non-material feeling that we ought to care about anything, and why does that matter at all?
Have you ever had someone tell you, “I really don’t care what you think,” then continue to argue with you in order to 1) explain why you are wrong, and 2) try to get you to change your position? That person cares about their own position, and they care about what you are saying, even in their denial. When we don’t really care about something, we move on without giving it the time of day.
The point, though, is that the fact that people care about anything demonstrates the empty nature of materialism as having explanatory value about what matters most to us. We don’t care about people and things as a result of being products of mindless, purposeless, chance processes that accidentally arose from raw material, which in turn came from nothing. We care because we reflect the image of a Creator who cares. This is not “material stuff,” but “mind stuff.” Raw material does not account for it.
If we really don’t care about anything, then we know there is something horribly wrong, and the effects of sin have been hardened over a calloused heart. If that is the case, then we might as well have been products of brute materialism because we certainly aren’t acting like honorable human beings.
Not only do we care, we also believe that others ought to care about particular ideas and situations. We tell people that they should care. But why? With God, concepts expressing should and ought are rooted in ultimate intelligence and reason, expressing concerns that are universal and necessary. Without God, concepts like should and ought are arbitrary matters of personal preference with no universal standards and no ultimate reason why such care is needed or even why it would be part of the fabric of our material being.
People often judge others on the basis of what they care about. If we act like we do not care about something considered important to others (e.g., human rights), then we are judged to be immoral and evil. But why? This can only make sense if there is an universal moral standard by which to judge and make moral decisions. With this, a case may rightly be made that all people ought to care about particular issues. Otherwise, judging people for not caring when there is no universal standard and no final reference point for moral matters means that we are just using our own opinions and preferences to say that others are wrong. What hubris! If we are mere products of mindless, purposeless, accidental, chance processes, then there is ultimately no reason why anyone should care about anything at all and we are hypocritical for demanding that others care just because we have a preference.
The question, then, is this: which worldview makes sense of the moral ought that is associated with the responsibility to care about anything? Even responsibility is not a material product and so rests upon a greater moral foundation. Other than saying, “that’s just the way it is” (which is not an answer), how can a worldview absent God or any final, universal standard explain what is a non-material, moral ought? In the end, caring or not caring would make no difference. Caring would be no more meaningful than not caring.
Yet, we care. We care deeply about what we consider to be the most important matters of life. We care about being on the right side of significant issues. We care about the fact that others are wrong, that they disagree with us, or that we might possibly be wrong about something. We care at an emotional level. We have feelings of compassion, pity, and love. We hurt when we see others hurting; we have joy when those around us experience joy (unless we are bitter and envious, in which case pretty much everyone would say that was wrong… but why?). We are also respond with deep concern if we are charged with not caring about what matters most. Do we really think that all of this is just material, chemical processes messing with our minds (and what in the world would a mind be?)? Has material stuff deluded us into thinking that some things really matter and that we ought to care about them? Does this make any sense? (And what is sense? On we can go.)
We believe that God is the answer. We are made in God’s image, and we care about important matters because we are made in the likeness of a caring God. To be human is to care, and to care is to reflect the divine … “because He cares for you” (1 Pet 5:5).