During a yearlong journey through North America, my wife and I attended many different churches. One of them was a Methodist church in rural Louisiana. Early in the worship service the pastor insisted—not once but several times—that "the meaning and purpose of life is to have a personal relationship with Jesus."
The claim irked me. As a child I was taught, in keeping with the Reformed bent of my tradition, that the purpose of human life was found in the cultural mandate: it encourages us to rule the garden and love each other to the glory of God (Gen. 1:26). This take on the meaning and purpose of life suggested that creation was somehow incomplete and culturally raw, and both needed to make progress to become all that God wanted them to be. In a sense, the cultural mandate made humans co-regents, even cocreators with God.